‘Create a Jewish Legacy’ to sustain our community


We’ve heard it bandied about in headlines and in ads: Anyone can create a Jewish legacy with a bequest. Become a Jewish philanthropist and help ensure the future of our community.

What does this really mean?

It’s not a new idea. In fact, it’s a concept that’s been around for decades. “Creating a Jewish Legacy” with a bequest in a will is really about trying to ensure the continuity of our Jewish agencies, organizations and congregations for the next generation. Think of it as an insurance policy that kicks in after we are gone that will help sustain our Jewish institutions.

Many people haven’t even thought about creating a Jewish legacy to leave a permanent gift to our community. Surprisingly, when we ask donors if they want to plan ahead – to discuss leaving money to all the organizations they give to annually after they are no longer here – the answer usually comes back: “How do I do that?”

To spread the word to donors about how easy it is to continue to support the causes they care most about, Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Foundation (JCF) launched a program, “Create a Jewish Legacy.” As a starting point, JCF brought together Jewish leaders and professionals from several Jewish groups, agencies, organizations and congregations to stress the importance of creating Jewish legacies through a bequest. These groups were given the tools to pass information on to donors to help them take that first step to becoming Jewish philanthropists.

Why, suddenly, is our community so bullish on bequests? A bequest has multiple appeals. Setting up a bequest is gaining a foothold in the current economy as an easy and efficient way for donors to perpetuate their Jewish values and Jewish name when they are no longer here. It’s versatile – it can be set up as an endowment or other financial vehicle. It can be modified in your will during your lifetime, anyone of any age or giving level can do it…and there is no immediate outlay of assets.

Both of us are champions of this type of giving. I (Paul) believe in this effort so much that I agreed to chair the “Create a Jewish Legacy” initiative to make sure that every donor in our community has an opportunity to leave a legacy gift in his or her own name.

And long before I (Sherri) became a financial planner, I invested and planned for the future. I care deeply about our community and was not willing to let my dedication to the community die with me. That’s why, in my estate plan, I established a perpetual gift that benefits two organizations. When I die, the proceeds will be used to establish a permanent self-sustaining source of income for the two organizations. By doing so, I can repair the world when I’m not physically in it any more and meet the new demands of the future.

Today, many donors who have created Jewish legacies through bequests – and other planned gifts – are realizing the impact of their savvy estate planning and generosity. Case in point. Recently, because of the economic meltdown, many of our Jewish families have been facing financial crisis. So, Jewish Federation created the Lifeline Fund to help these families and individuals with hundreds of thousands of dollars in emergency grants and loans to help pay their bills. Much of that money came from bequests, endowments and special gifts given to our community for unanticipated needs.

If we continue to educate our donors about the ease and efficiency of bequest giving, we can help everyone meet their philanthropic dreams; dreams they might not even know they had. Our community’s future depends on us asking our donors: Will you leave a Jewish legacy? We cannot afford not to ask.

If each of us created a Jewish legacy, the impact would be felt exponentially. Collectively, each legacy would weave a gigantic financial safety net around our community for generations.

Paul Flotken is Chair of the “Create a Jewish Legacy” Program and a partner with Strategic Employee Benefit Services. Sherri Frank Weintrop, CPA, CFP ®, Wealth Management Advisors, Inc., is Jewish Federation’s vice president of Planning and Allocations. She was the catalyst behind the “Create a Jewish Legacy” Program.