By Todd Cohen
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Backed by one of the most generous constituencies in the U.S., Jewish leaders in Greensboro aim to get the Jewish community even more involved in philanthropy.
“Our biggest challenge is maintaining, enhancing and increasing the level of support from year to year, not only financial, but also people support,” says Marilyn Chandler, executive director of the Greensboro Jewish Federation.
The 61-year-old umbrella group, which serves the region’s 1,100 Jewish families and includes Jewish Family Services and the Jewish Foundation of Greensboro, kicks off its annual fund drive in October.
While not yet set, the goal is expected to total $1,567,200 – a slight increase from last year that recognizes the Jewish year of 5672 that began Sept. 17.
With the economy still stumbling, Chandler is counting on a strong drive from a community that donated $597 per capita last year — trailing only Tulsa, Okla., and Chattanooga, Tenn., in per-capita giving among the roughly 190 Jewish federations in the U.S.
About 55 percent to 60 percent of money raised in the drive supports local Jewish groups and causes, with overseas causes getting the rest.
The biggest local beneficiaries are B’nai Shalom Synagogue Day School, Chapel Hill-based North Carolina Hillel and Jewish Family Services.
Jewish Family Services, headed by Phyllis K. Jerome, offers programs ranging from support groups and emergency financial assistance to activities for elderly citizens, cultural programs and a resettlement program for Russian Jews.
Stephen Shavitz, a partner at real estate firm Easter & Eisenman, chairs this year’s men’s drive, while the women’s drive is co-chaired by Cathy Levinson, executive director of the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools, and Ellen Fischer, president of the board of trustees for North Carolina Hillel.
Kathy Manning, a partner at Smith Helms Mullis & Moore, chairs the federation.
Building long-term endowment for Jewish groups and causes is the focus of the Jewish Foundation of Greensboro, a five-year-old arm of the federation with $14 million in assets, including endowment raised by affiliated groups. All but $1 million of the total has been raised in Greensboro.
Affiliated groups include Jewish community foundations in Asheville, Durham/Chapel Hill and Raleigh/Cary, as well as North Carolina Hillel and Greensboro-based Temple Emanuel, Beth David Synagogue and B’nai Shalom Synagogue Day School.
The foundation also has secured commitments for future gifts worth at least another $2.5 million.
Susan Gutterman, director of planned giving for the Jewish Foundation of Greensboro, works with donors, professional advisers and the affiliated groups to spread the word about making planned gifts through wills and estate planning.
The foundation’s goal, says Mike Berkelhammer, chairman of its board and president of United Brass Works in Randleman, is to “provide long-term endowment for Jewish institutions and the betterment of Jewish life.”