Jewish community gears for growth

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Over the past 10 years, the Jewish population of the Charlotte region has grown by at least a third to an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 individuals.

To help agencies serving the Jewish community cope with that growth, three key organizations have stepped up their fundraising.

The Foundation of Shalom Park has just completed an eight-year campaign that raised $40 million to nearly triple facilities on its 54-acre campus.

In the wake of an annual fund drive that raised a record-high $3.03 million this year, the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte is allocating more dollars to Jewish agencies in the region and abroad.

And Foundation for the Charlotte Jewish Community, a supporting organization of Foundation for the Carolinas that has 84 funds totaling nearly $39 million, has launched an effort to spur Jewish donors to create endowments and planned gifts.

“Ultimately, our goal is to get in front of everybody in the community and ask if they’ve considered putting some of our institutions in their estate plan,” says Phil Warshauer, director for planned giving at Foundation for the Charlotte Jewish Community.

Warshauer, who provides planned-giving advice to the nine agencies represented on the foundation’s board and represents them in visits to prospective donors, also has formed a “legacy” group, known as The Book of Life Society, to recognize donors who have made deferred gifts and inspire other donors to do the same.

The group already has 16 members whose gifts eventually would have a total estimated value of roughly $5 million, Warshauer says.

Butch Rosen, executive director of the Foundation of Shalom Park, says facilities on the campus have grown over the past six years to 225,000 square feet from 85,000 square feet.

Funds raised in the campaign, spearheaded by Hal Levinson of law firm Moore & Van Allen and retiree Harry Swimmer, included $7 million for an endowment to support operation of the campus, a total expected to grow by up to $2 million.

The campus includes two synagogues and their religious schools; a day school, pre-school and high school; community center; library and resource center; athletics facilities and meeting space; and other Jewish agencies.

Sue Worrel, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte, says gifts of $10,000 or more represent 72 percent of the annual drive, which was chaired by Todd Gorelick, managing partner of Gorelick Brothers Capital and the federation’s incoming chair.

This year’s campaign, chaired by Eric Lerner, owner of Action Plus, a printing and novelty shop, aims to “broaden and expand the donor base,” Worrel says.

The campaign also will be the first to promote “supplemental” gift opportunities targeted to interested donors.

“We recognize our responsibility as an organization,” Worrel says, to offer individuals donors “opportunities that are important to them.”

The focus on supplemental gifts, which would let donors make gifts in addition to their support for the annual fund, is part of a larger effort by the federation to work with Foundation for the Charlotte Jewish Community to develop planned gifts and endowment gifts.

Working through a committee of 17 volunteers who spend 30 to 35 hours each over six weeks reviewing community needs and agency requests, the federation this year is distributing 70 percent of its funds to roughly 20 local agencies, and the remainder to Jewish agencies overseas.

Developing leaders within the Jewish community and serving as a voice on Jewish issues are the focus of two federation initiatives.

Formed 10 years ago, for example, the Bernstein Leadership Group offers an 18-month program to cultivate emerging leaders for the Jewish community.

And in August, the federation launched its new Community Relations Council, a group of up to 20 members charged with representing the Jewish community and developing working relationships with the media, government, nonprofits, civic groups, the interfaith community, schools and academia.

The federation also is likely to commission a survey, following one 10 years ago, to gauge the growth of the Jewish community and develop a strategy to address its needs.

“Growth creates a dynamic community,” Worrel says, “but with growth, if not properly planned for, will come strain and drain on agencies and on the ability to serve newcomers and the established community.”

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