The adage “two Jews, three opinions” does not always hold true, as was demonstrated at the Nov. 8 kick-off meeting for the launch of the Life & Legacy program where 80 leaders from 13 distinct local Jewish organizations all agreed that to secure the community’s future, financial planning needs to start now.
The Life & Legacy program is a partnership between the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and the Jewish Community Foundation of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
Its aim is to start a communitywide giving program through collaboration with local organizations, providing coaching, training and incentive grants to encourage the solicitation of legacy, or after-life, giving.
Steve Hecht, executive director of Beth El Congregation of the South Hills, learned about the Life & Legacy program, and the success it has achieved in other Jewish communities, while attending a conference of the North American Association of Synagogue Executives.
He urged Pittsburgh’s Federation to apply on behalf of the Steel City’s Jewish community to join the program.
Now Pittsburgh is part of a nationwide 2017 Life & Legacy cohort, which includes nine communities.
Beth El is one of the Pittsburgh participants “because we strongly believe in the need to expand endowment as a means to help ensure our sustainable future,” Hecht said. “We are extremely thankful to the Jewish Federation who has undertaken this endeavor to help strengthen the broader Jewish community.”
Other participating organizations include: Community Day School; The Edward and Rose Berman Hillel Jewish University Center of Pittsburgh; Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh; the Jewish Association on Aging; the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh; Jewish Family & Community Services; Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh; Jewish Residential Services; National Council of Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section; Rodef Shalom Congregation; Temple Emanuel of South Hills; and Temple Sinai.
The Jewish Community Foundation, upon investing $200,000 in cash and resources, will receive $100,000 per year for up to four years from the Grinspoon Foundation to contribute to the program, according to Sharon Perelman, director of planned giving at the Jewish Community Foundation.
Perelman and Dan Brandeis, Jewish Community Foundation director, will assist local participating organizations as they embark on their own legacy giving campaigns.
“We — the Jewish Community Foundation — are excited to bring this successful national program to Pittsburgh to help local Jewish organizations build sustaining endowments that will strengthen the community for generations to come,” Brandeis said.
While every Jewish organization in the Pittsburgh community was invited to participate in the Life & Legacy program, only 13 have opted in so far, Perelman said.
Each organization was required to pay $1800 to join, but will recover those funds, along with an additional $5000, upon securing 18 legacy commitments within the next 16 months.
Each participating organization also must commit to a formal “brit kodesh” of requirements, including establishing a legacy team of at least three people, attending all training sessions and developing a written legacy plan specifying goals and identifying potential legacy donors.
At the kick-off meeting last week, which was held at Rodef Shalom, Dena Kaufman, a Life & Legacy community coordinator from the Grinspoon Foundation, led the group through a power point presentation of strategies concerning how to approach potential donors, what and what not to say when soliciting legacy commitments and what types of bequests and financial instruments are included when talking about endowment gifts.
Kaufman will continue to visit Pittsburgh in the coming months to provide additional training to the program’s participants.
The Life & Legacy initiative has been implemented in 43 communities across the country so far, according to Kaufman, and has engaged 465 distinct partner organizations.
“We are very excited about participating,” said Debbie Winn-Horvitz, president and CEO of the Jewish Association on Aging. “The program will give us an opportunity to work with professionals at the Grinspoon Foundation to create a very intentional, goal-oriented plan in support of our endowment, to ensure long-term sustainability of high-quality Jewish senior services in our community.
“It is also a wonderful opportunity to involve lay leaders and volunteers from multiple agencies to tell our story and create a community legacy,” she added.
Although the program is already underway, the Foundation is open to considering additional participants, according to Perelman.
“The training provided by this program will create a cadre of volunteers who are equipped to speak to others in the community about making legacy gifts,” she said. “We can really secure the future of the community by increasing the endowments of all these organizations.” PJC
Toby Tabachnick can be reached at