Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Update ...

As reported in today's New York Times it turns out Starr Foundation had divested much of its AIG stock but in May still had 15.5 million shares of its corpus parked there. So instead of losing 90% of its 3.3 billion value (in 2006) it lost only two-thirds! All commitments will be honored according to foundation president Florence Davis. A tough break for many charities around the country but especially in New York which was particularly favored in Starr's grantmaking.

The piece goes on to note that many other foundations funded with Wall Street excess wealth are now having to downsize but because of its size Starr really sticks out.

The market continues to gyrate and charities are understandably nervous. This morning the letter below came across my desk:

"Dear Colleagues:

When I was growing up on Long Island, we would go on school trips to the United Nations. I can still recall the awe with which I entered the building as a young child. Looking down from the balcony of the General Assembly Hall, I considered myself in the "inner sanctum," where major international events — most vividly, the vote on the creation of Israel — took place. So you can imagine in a week that began with a rally to protest the appearance of Iran’s president at the General Assembly, I was deeply moved to sit on the assembly floor as President Shimon Peres spoke. It felt like he was returning something good to this inner sanctum.

President Peres approached the podium shortly after Hamid Karzai, president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. President Karzai spoke of the huge challenges facing the international community and explicitly recognized the need for Israel to live in peace and security. President Peres followed, communicating the readiness of the people and government of Israel to reach peace with its neighbors. He concluded with wishes for the Jewish New Year, placing a yarmulke on his head, and invoking a prayer in Hebrew from our tradition. As the hall broke into loud applause, several people shared the same sentiment: What a privilege to witness this moment — the president of Israel, a Nobel Laureate, speaking in Hebrew on the 60th anniversary of Israel before the very body that created the Jewish state.

It was a similar feeling of privilege that infused Alan "Ace" and Kathryn Greenberg’s home on Thursday evening when our major donors came together to launch our 2009 Annual Campaign, as they have for the last 22 years. Guest-speaker, Governor David Paterson, surveyed the challenges facing New Yorkers and was eloquent in extolling the leadership role of UJA-Federation.

We are framing this year’s campaign as one "for those who can," recognizing that while virtually everyone has been impacted by the tumultuous economic events that continue to unfold — and some will not be able to make gifts or will have to reduce them — most of our major donors still can. Anticipating the difficult campaign ahead, campaign chairs Howard Milstein and Linda Mirels proposed, and the Executive Committee authorized, that increases leading up to the Greenberg event will be placed in a matching challenge fund to encourage new and increased giving.

While every dollar has not yet been counted, I am pleased to report that the philanthropic leadership of the New York Jewish community pledged $43 million to UJA-Federation’s 2009 Annual Campaign, surpassing last year’s record-setting level by $2 million! The challenge fund raised close to $3 million. In one evening, 110 people came together and proclaimed, "Despite this economic environment, we are among the most privileged men and women on the planet, and we are certainly the most privileged generation of Jews." The recognition of blessings filled the room, together with appreciation of the indispensable role of UJA-Federation and its network of agencies, particularly during these times.

Colleagues, this will be a challenging year. My hope is that each of us, and those close to us, will enjoy a year of health and will be able to stay connected to the blessings of life, which are, at the end of the day, the most important assets we have.

Shanah Tovah to you and your families. May this be a year of peace for Israel, our people, and for all men and women throughout the world.

Shabbat Shalom


I have no sermon to preach - except that your passion for a cause will show you the way!

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