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Posts from the ‘Endowment’ Category

An Investment in Hope

Vera and Sophie Pesotchinsky

In 1976, at the height of the Cold War, Sophia Pesotchinsky and her family fled the Soviet Union. They arrived in the U.S. as refugees with a toddler, significant language barriers, no place to live, nor jobs awaiting them, and about $300 to start their lives over. And yet, with one obstacle larger than the next, they overcame them all. Sophia went on to co-create three life science companies and her husband Leon became a professor of mathematics at UCSB and San Jose State University.

Indeed, theirs is an inspiring American success story, but when you ask Sophia about life’s challenges she immediately shifts the conversation to the most courageous person she knows, her daughter, Vera.

Vera was diagnosed with Late Onset Tay-Sachs disease eleven years ago. Since that time, despite the unrelenting toll of her illness, she has received undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wellesley College and Santa Clara University, worked in marketing for her family business, and has embraced life with dignity, great humor, and not a trace of self-pity.

“She is an inspiration to everyone – and I mean everyone she meets,” said Sophia. But mercilessly, her condition rages on. So Sophia decided to do whatever she could to help in her daughter’s fight. Thus, she established a Donor Advised Fund, dedicated to the eradication of Tay-Sachs and other degenerative neurological diseases. “If there is one thing I want people to know about our DAF it is that I believe it is helping us get closer to combating this disease. I’m an engineer, I analyze things. I don’t work in dreams. And the scientific breakthroughs we’ve had in the last six years, particularly with gene therapy, have given us real hope – not just for a cure for my daughter, but for people who struggle with any genetic neurological diseases. The first clinical studies are scheduled for the beginning of 2013.”

Of course, running a business, being involved with the Tay Sachs Gene Therapy consortium, and tending to the needs of her family doesn’t give Sophia a lot of time to take on the responsibilities of operating her own philanthropic foundation. “I’m a very busy person,” said Sophia. “So that’s why I set up my DAF with JCF. It was incredibly easy and it has allowed me to focus on what I need to focus on to stop this disease.”

To learn more or contribute to Sophia’s Fund #797 call 650.248.9630 or email

As Sophia has done, supporting causes that are personally meaningful through DAFs has become increasingly popular. Today more and more donors are using DAFs to honor loved ones and celebrate lifecycle events such as weddings, b’nai mitzvahs, memorials and graduations.

For information on DAFs contact Ruth Bender at 415.512.6205 or email

JCF Announces 2012 Haas Koshland Award Winners

Each year we invite students to apply for the Haas/Koshland Memorial Award, which provides up to $20,000 to support a year of study and personal development in Israel. The award is open to college students, from sophomore year through graduate school, either from or attending school in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Oren Kroll-Zelden and France (Sissy) Geballe

This year’s Award winner, Oren Kroll-Zeldin is a doctoral student at the California Institute of Integral Studies in a program that stresses the connection between scholarship and activism.

“I focus my work in Jewish-Palestinian alliance building movements. This focus is one way I can commit myself to the work of justice. The Haas/Koshland Memorial Award is giving me the incredible opportunity to conduct my dissertation fieldwork in Jerusalem, working with and researching both Jewish and Palestinian communities.  A year in Jerusalem will help me realize my aspiration to be an educator who integrates scholarship and activism by enabling me to conduct my dissertation fieldwork. Though I know that it is not my responsibility to finish the work of justice, I also know that I cannot abstain from the work.  I owe a great deal of gratitude to the Haas/Koshland Memorial Award for giving me the opportunity.” Read the rest of Oren’s statement.

Supplementary awards were also given to other highly qualified students Monica Deeb, Daniel Romero and Eliana Sudikoff. 

The men who inspired the creation of the award would have been impressed by the interest and motivation expressed by all the candidates this year.  As Frances Geballe, Daniel E. Koshland’s daughter and chair of the Haas/Koshland Committee, stated, “There are no strings attached to the award. We simply want to create a program that is of value to students, their universities and Israel — all of which were important to Daniel Koshland and Walter Haas.”

The Haas/Koshland Memorial Award was established in 1982 in memory and honor of Walter A. Haas, Sr. and Daniel E. Koshland, Sr. In their life-long generosity, these men shaped the structure of our Jewish community.

Scholarships Available for Overnight Camp, Summer Israel Experience Trips and College!

JCF grants over $1,000,000 a year in needs-based scholarship assistance with the goal of helping young people obtain Jewish experiences and educational opportunities.

Overnight Camp Scholarships

JCF’s overnight camp scholarship program provides scholarships for Jewish children from most of Northern California to attend any Jewish overnight summer camp in the United States, Canada or Israel.

Thanks to a generous grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation, additional scholarship funds for Jewish overnight camp are available for Bay Area residents, while the Jewish Federation/The Jewish Community Foundation of the East Bay offers overnight camp scholarships for residents of its Federation service area.

Apply Now for overnight camp scholarships. The deadline is April 24th.

If you are interested in applying for a scholarship to Camps Newman or Tawonga, please contact the camps directly for information on how to apply.

Summer Israel Experience Scholarships

JCF offers scholarships for first-time teen trips to Israel. To qualify, Jewish teens must be in grades 8 – 12 and live in the Federation service area and be traveling on an organized teen trip to Israel for the first time.

Apply Now for summer Israel experience scholarships. The deadline is April 24th.

College Scholarships

JCF’s College Scholarships are funded by 11 different scholarship funds, each with their own eligibility criteria and requirements. Most (but not all) scholarships are for Jewish students from the Federation service area to attend an undergraduate program, based on a combination of financial need and merit. Students may reapply each year as long as they continue to meet the eligibility criteria.

Apply Now for College Scholarships. The deadline has been extended to May 1.

Family Specialty Camp Scholarships

The JCF provides needs-based scholarships for Jewish children who live in the San Francisco Bay Area to attend a qualified family specialty camp. There is no single deadline for specialty camp applications, as these camps are held throughout the year. Families may apply for scholarships for one or more children through a single application.

Apply Now for family specialty camp scholarships. Applications must be submitted at least 12 weeks prior to the start of the date of camp.

Preschool, Day School and Day Camp Scholarships

JCF makes block grants directly to preschools, day schools and day camps for scholarship assistance. Please inquire with these institutions directly for information on how to apply for scholarships.

In Memoriam: F. Warren Hellman

July 25, 1934 - December 18, 2011

The Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund mourns the loss of Warren Hellman, one of our community’s greatest leaders. His passion for philanthropy and dedication to improving life for San Franciscans and for the Jewish community locally and worldwide is a proud legacy and a virtuous model for civic engagement. Warren once said to his grandchildren, “There’s no such thing as being too philanthropic.” If everyone gave their time and resources like Warren did, the world would truly be a better place.

Warren was Chair of the Jewish Community Federation’s Endowment Fund and a member of the Executive Committee of the Board. His contributions to our organization were vast. He enriched our lives and our community beyond measure, helping Federation evolve for success in the 21st century, working tirelessly by our side, never shying away from a good challenge. The JCF is but one of many organizations and causes Warren touched so significantly.

As a dedicated student of the Torah, Warren was always finding inspiration and discovering life lessons, particularly in regards to how we treat others and use philanthropy to express our values. For Warren, the flaws and mistakes of the human condition were important to appreciate and to contrast with the tremendous potential for decency.

We will miss our leader, our mentor and our dear friend.

May he rest in peace, and his memory be a blessing for all time.

Warren Hellman, the 1 percent exception, SFGB, December 19, 2011Warren Hellman, financier and philanthropist, dies at 77, SFGate, December 19, 2011

The Billionaire Who Loved Bluegrass, The Bay Citizen, december 18, 2011

VIDEO: Warren Hellman on Torah and Philanthropy, YouTube, April 22, 2010

Honoring the life and legacy of Mildred R. Snitzer

Mildred R. Snitzer, a forceful presence in the Peninsula senior scene, passed away on September 9, 2011, at age 103. She attributed her longevity and vitality to her passion for dance, philanthropy, and Northern California, all of which provided opportunities for staying active and meeting new people. A professional dancer, she danced the foxtrot and taught country western line dancing at senior centers. Mildred’s generous legacy to the Jewish Community Endowment Fund will provide educational opportunities for Jewish students in the Bay Area for generations to come. Mildred shared her perspective on living and giving in the Federation’s Book of Life: “As highly as I recommend the Jewish Community Endowment Fund, I also suggest dancing. That is the secret to a long life. My motto is, “if you don’t keep movin’, they’ll plant ye!”

What will your legacy be?
Our planned giving options apply investment principles to your charitable giving and help you achieve your financial goals as you empower future generations. Learn more

Board of Trustees approves exciting new changes

We are excited to share with you the progress our Board of Trustees has made in developing new strategies for the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund.


This process began with the Board approving three roles for the organization which both build on Federation’s unique strengths and focus our efforts on the collective action needed to support a thriving community:

  1. Investing Strategically: Raising financial resources, facilitating community collaboration, and investing through high-impact grants consistent with JCF’s mission.
  2. Building Capacity: Building the capacity of our Jewish community organizations by leveraging pro bono and JCF resources to strengthen their effectiveness.
  3. Developing Jewish Philanthropists and Leaders: Providing a continuum of innovative leadership development programming, individualized philanthropic services, and education.


The process continued with the creation of a family of four funds which together comprise the essential components of a thriving Jewish community. The four funds are:

  1. Community Core Fund: Ensuring a thriving community by caring for the vulnerable, promoting Jewish culture, and strengthening education and identity.
  2. Israel and Global Fund: Strengthening Israel by advancing social justice and equal opportunity; and providing for Jews in need worldwide.
  3. Bay Area Initiatives Fund: Addressing current community-wide challenges through targeted initiatives.
  4. Innovation Fund: Seed-funding innovative projects in emerging and traditional Jewish organizations.


In establishing the four funds, the board also created a donor choice program. For the first time, donors will have the opportunity to designate their giving by selecting one (or more) of the four funds for a portion of their gift.

Federation will continue to provide expertise and services to Legacy donors, donor advised fund holders, and others who seek multiple avenues for their philanthropy.


And most recently, the Board approved the first three initiatives to be funded under the Bay Area Initiatives Fund:

  • Reducing Barriers to, and Increasing Participation in, Jewish Life: Helping Jews in our community participate in Jewish life by addressing affordability, quality and inclusiveness. Examples of the projects and initiatives here are:
Affordability Project: Providing more than $1,000,000 in Jewish school and camp scholarships to our community’s families.
Early Childhood Education Initiative: Increasing the quality of our preschool programs, developing the next generation of Jewish educators, building the Jewish identity of our children (e.g., PJ Library program), and making this vital entry point more accessible for interfaith and other potentially marginalized families.
Special Needs Initiative: Helping 47 Bay Area Jewish organizations become more accessible to over 6,000 special needs children and their families.
  • Bay Area Jewish Service Network: Connecting Bay Area Jews to a compelling menu of meaningful service opportunities that will make a significant impact on community needs and deepen engagement in the Jewish community. The board directed staff to engage in the development of specific projects that will address this important work.
  • Regional Impact Grants: A new model for regional grantmaking focused on local challenges and designed to re-invigorate this important role of the Federation throughout our service area.

These are historic decisions by the Board of Trustees who have recognized the need for the Federation to adapt and evolve in order to succeed in a changing and challenging environment. Focused roles, strategic grantmaking to address community-wide issues, and donor choice will ensure that we continue to build, and sustain, a vibrant, connected, and enduring Jewish community for the next 100 years.

We look forward to continuing the dialogue with you, our donors and the community in the coming months.

See a list of all our current grantees.

Partner with us to achieve your philanthropic vision

The Jewish Community Endowment Fund, founded over 85 years ago, builds the vibrancy of our Jewish community – for today and tomorrow – and ensures Jewish continuity. JCEF goes beyond connecting your investments to your charitable goals. It is an expression of your Jewish values. By partnering with us on your gift planning you can achieve your financial goals and make a real difference in your Jewish community. Your legacy can help Jews struggling with poverty, aging and discrimination. It can help launch new programs in Jewish education and culture. It can help us respond to emergencies of every kind. And, it can support new building projects in our community.

What distinguishes our donors is their commitment to securing the future of the Jewish people. Their gifts help ensure that no matter what happens in the world, our community will have the resources it needs to sustain and enrich the lives of generations to come. Hear first-hand how our clients benefited from our philanthropic expertise.

Our philanthropic services include:

  • Donor Advised Funds
  • Philanthropic Advising
  • Intergenerational Philanthropy
  • Legacy Planning
  • Strategic Grantmaking
  • Philanthropic Education

Let us help you develop and realize your philanthropic goals. Please contact Amy Rabbino, Ph.D., Director of Philanthropic Services at 415.512.6212 or

Celebrating and elevating our collective impact

Our first-ever Day of Philanthropy convened more than 550 community members, professionals and lay leaders at the InterContinental Hotel on November 16. Only as a cohesive community could we have pulled it off so successfully – thank you for attending and for your continued partnership!

Below are brief interviews with three of the workshop leaders: Phyllis Cook, Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, and Ed Beckwith. You may watch these videos, and many more, including Day of Philanthropy musical guests David Grisman and Andy Statman, on our YouTube Channel. Enjoy!

Philanthropic consultant and former Executive Director of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund (1983-2008).

Rabbi at Congregation Emanu-el, San Francisco

Partner, Baker Hostetler Tax-Exempt Practice, and nationally recognized expert in tax and estate planning.

The Day of Philanthropy provided the opportunity to explore philanthropy from a variety of different angles – the technical, the personal, and the cutting edge issues that impact charitable planning and giving today. From the informative morning tax seminar, to the standing room only workshops, to the heart-felt tribute to John Goldman, to the recognition of our Quarter Century Circle and Living Legacy Society members, to the toe-tapping Klezmer/fusion sounds of the David Grisman Andy Statman Quartet, all capped off with a lovely BLC Wine Tasting – it was an event in which our organization, and our entire community shined!

Haas Koshland Award offers life-changing Israel experience

Are you a college student? Want to spend a year in Israel?

Adam Strater

Adam Strater

Applications are now being accepted for the Haas Koshland Memorial Award, a grant of up to $20,000 to support a year of study and personal development in Israel. The annual award is open to college students from sophomore year through graduate school, who are from – or attend school in – the San Francisco Bay Area and wish to broaden their personal life, academic life, or both.

Just ask Adam Strater, the most recent recipient to visit Israel.  “I can honestly say my life has been changed because of the Haas/Koshland Award,” he writes in a recent thank you letter to Federation staff. “I’m writing to tell you how thankful I am for the amazing opportunity you gave me.”

Adam used his award to study in Israel, working on his master’s thesis for Graduate Theological Union.  “If I had researched and written [it] while in the US, I know that it would have been a completely different work,” he writes. “The resources I had at my disposal while in Israel were vital to the success of my project.” 

And Adam is not alone in his praise for the opportunities he had as a result of the award.  During Nili Yosha’s trip she reported to staff, “I have spent the past months traveling around Israel . . . from Metula to Eilat with my camera and notebook, meeting people and discussing their thoughts and hopes for the future of Israel.”  Nili used her trip to continue studying Arabic with the intention of being able, someday soon, to communicate with Palestinians in their native language.  “It is now up to my generation,” she wrote, “to realize the much-anticipated peace in Israel.”

See a complete list of past award recipients and their stories, and if you want to follow your dream, apply online for the 2012 Award! Application deadline is February 1, 2012.

An inspiring evening with Dr. Debbie Findling

On September 22, 11 graduates from the first cohort of the Certificate Program in Jewish Early Childhood Education through Gratz College proudly accepted their diplomas. Funded by the JCF’s Endowment Fund along with the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the program began two years ago under the Jewish Community Federation’s Early Childhood Education Initiative, and marks the first endeavor in professionalizing the field of Early Childhood Jewish Education in the Bay Area. Dr. Debbie Findling, keynote speaker for the evening, inspired everyone in the room with her moving speech. We share her remarks below in hopes that it will ignite within you what was felt that evening. Special thanks to Dr. Findling for allowing us to share her words.

Dr. Debbie Findling:
I’ve worked in the field of Jewish education for over 25 years. I have so many degrees that at one time my student loans were nearly the size of the national debt. And yet, I am an accidental Jewish educator.

When I look back at my career, I’m not sure how I ended up here. I grew up in an assimilated home. My Holocaust survivor father didn’t reject Judaism because of the Holocaust; he was robbed of it by the Nazis. He became an orphan when he was 8 years old, hid in the forests of southern France for several years until he was rescued and brought to the U.S. and placed in a foster home where he was not exposed to Judaism or Jewish life. He didn’t know what it meant to be a Jew or how to practice Judaism. And so he didn’t.

My mother grew up in Casablanca, Morocco where the culture and politics of her country forced Jews to hide their Judaism. When she moved to the United States after marrying my father, she too didn’t know how to be Jewish. So, my parents raised my brothers and me in a suburb of Detroit where they practiced the Judaism they saw around. It had two major premises:

  1. Go to synagogue once a year on Rosh HaShana. Buy an expensive new outfit and a fabulous hat; spend most of the time in the lobby chatting with friends.
  2. Send your kids to religious school no matter how much they complained. But I was clever and convinced my parents to let me drop out when I was in 3rd grade. That ended my Jewish education.

In my early 20′s, fresh out of college with a highly unmarketable degree in Women’s Studies, I was hired at a Jewish Community Center as the director of the teen program – a job for which I was totally unprepared. I was responsible for a region spanning three states, involving more than 500 teens, supervising three paid staff and 20 volunteers. My job description included overseeing a six figure operating budget, representing the community, planning all Jewish educational programming, and serving as a spiritual guide and Jewish mentor. I knew absolutely nothing about budgeting, supervision, organizational development, management, educational theory or pedagogy. More importantly, I knew almost nothing about being a Jewish educator. My Jewish content knowledge was limited to the handful of things I remembered from my childhood, including the dreidel song and eating round challah on Rosh HaShana, though I wasn’t quite sure why it was supposed to be round.

My only qualification was that I had a natural rapport with teens, but, while I was good at connecting with teens, I was fairly ineffective at inspiring, encouraging or helping them to explore their own Jewish identity. I didn’t have the knowledge or skills. I didn’t even know where to start.

After feeling like an imposter for nearly 10 years in the field of Jewish education, in my late 20′s I decided to get real. I applied to graduate school at the University of Judaism. One of the questions on the application was to describe my Jewish educational background. I wrote about Mrs. Pont, my nursery school teacher at Congregation Shaarey Zedek – the synagogue preschool I attended when I was three years old. I wrote that my preschool felt like home and Mrs. Pont was like comfort food.

I went on to receive three graduate degrees in Jewish education. Last year, I took my then nine year old daughter to Detroit to spend Rosh Hashana with my family. We went to services at Sharey Zedek. I walked in and there was Mrs. Pont who I hadn’t seen in nearly 45 years. Although I didn’t know it when I was three, she had planted in me the seeds that would become a fundamental guide in my Jewish journey.

Each of us has followed a different path on the road to becoming a Jewish educator. Sometimes we knew where we were heading. We had a clear plan and knew the routes to get us there. Other times, we wandered. Not quite sure which path to take or where it would lead, but we trusted the instinctual GPS in our mind.

All of us go on journeys. Some are intentional. Some unintentional. I was a Jewish educator by accident. And I wasn’t very good at it, until I intentionally decided to become a Jewish educator, and then I actually started to succeed. But Judaism, Jewish life, Jewish identity are too important to be left to accidents. Participating in the Gratz Certificate program in Jewish ECE was your road map. Each of you chose to follow the map and to walk intentionally on the path of your professional journey. Over the past two years, you have put in countless hours and effort engaging in a rigorous course of study to transform you from preschool teacher to Early Childhood Jewish Educator; from learner to scholar; from participant in the community to leader. But I suspect you didn’t do it just for yourselves. In becoming early childhood educators, scholars and leaders, YOU elevate the entire field of Early Childhood Education. You went on a journey, so that you can help guide other people’s children on their Jewish journeys. Your commitment to Jewish education is no accident. And your commitment to planting the seeds that will grow inside the children in our preschools to guide them on the path of their own budding journey is no accident. Today we celebrate and honor you at this siyyum.

Siyyum in Hebrew means completion. As you graduate from the Gratz College program, you complete one journey – of professional and personal development. But unlike 25 years ago, I know why the Rosh Hashana challah is round. It’s a metaphor, for the continuous cycle of life. As one year ends, another begins. As this Rosh Hashana approaches, one journey for you ends, and its dawn brings a new journey. As one door closes, another opens, and the key to opening the door is to do it with kavanah – with intention.

Mazal tov to you on your siyyum – your completion of one journey. All of us here this afternoon look forward to the remarkable impact you’ll make in Early Childhood Jewish Education on whatever path you take on your next journey.

Shana Tova u’metukah – I am confident that the New Year will be sweet.


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