Geared for growth – Boosting local services

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte’s Jewish community is looking ahead.

To serve a growing population that doubled from the mid-1980s to mid-90s, three initiatives are building resources available to area Jews and the larger community.

“Growth and change are a big component of what we are all about at the moment,” says Eric Sklut, who is helping to wrap up two big Jewish fundraising drives.

Those drives — a $2.3 million annual campaign by the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte and a $30 million capital campaign by the Foundation for Shalom Park – aim to boost local services.

A third undertaking, the Foundation for the Charlotte Jewish Community, targets planned gifts and endowments for Jewish groups and causes.

Cary Bernstein, the foundation’s planned giving director, says its $14 million in assets – up from $1.2 million in 1997 — represent only  “the tip of the iceberg.”

The three fundraising efforts reflect a long-term strategy to coordinate Jewish resources and services – a strategy embodied in Shalom Park, a 55-acre campus in southeast Charlotte that houses two synagogues, a Jewish community center and a handful of Jewish schools and agencies.

Seeded with a few acres donated by Jewish business leaders in the 1970s, the park grew dramatically in the early 80s but has not kept pace with the demand on groups there.

With Temple Israel and Temple Beth El, the campus’ heart is an 80,000-square-foot building housing the Leon and Sandra Levine Jewish Community Center, Jewish Federation, Jewish Family Services, Charlotte Jewish Preschool, Consolidated High School of Jewish Studies and Blumenthal education facilities for both synagogues’ religious schools.

The capital campaign, which has raised $26 million, will add 120,000 square feet, including a new home for the Charlotte Jewish Day School now located in a house on the campus.

It also will create an endowment, initially totaling $8 million to $10 million, to operate Shalom Park.

The expansion will give dedicated facilities to groups now sharing space and let them design programs to meet their own needs, says Alan Feldman, executive director of Shalom Park and the Jewish Community Center.

The federation campaign, which contributes to both Jewish and non-Jewish causes, expects to set a record this year after increasing gifts from major donors and reaching out to new donors and volunteers.

“We wanted to make it accessible to everybody,” says Sue Littauer, campaign director and the federation’s acting executive director.

Targeting new donors also is the focus of the Foundation for the Charlotte Jewish Community, a supporting organization of the Foundation for the Carolinas that holds endowment funds for a growing number of groups, including the two synagogues, federation and community center.

Bernstein, who in May met with two-dozen professional advisers to talk about giving opportunities, plans to help individual Jewish groups begin to generate planned gifts.

“All these organizations,” she says, “are working toward building a solid foundation for the future.”

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