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2.28.14 Issue

by Mary Bort, Jewish Federation of Omaha Foundation

Tucked away in a garden-level office area under the northwest wing of the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home is an organization that has worked in support of Omaha’s Jewish community for over thirty years. Its mission is to help assure the stability and continuity of Jewish life and to support Jewish communal services in the Omaha area by establishing and accumulating enduring assets for permanent funding resources. The organization? The Jewish Federation of Omaha Foundation Foundation.

“We’re used to giving directions to people so that they can find our location on campus,” said Foundation Executive Director Howard Epstein, with a smile. “We’re also used to encountering some confusion between the Jewish Federation of Omaha Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Omaha, since our names are similar.”

While the Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Omaha, Inc. (Federation) are both located on the same campus, and both operate to support Omaha’s Jewish community, they are not one-and-the same organization. The Foundation and the Federation are two distinct and separate non-profit corporations. The Federation has been serving Omaha’s Jewish community for 108 years.  It is the “umbrella” organization responsible for overseeing the following agencies on the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Omaha campus: JCC; Jewish Social Services (which encompasses three divisions: Rose Blumkin Jewish Home, Jewish Family Service, and Jewish Senior Outreach); Jewish Press; Center for Jewish Life; and Community Relations Committee.

Howard Epstein, left, Laurie Peatrowsky, Janet Henthorn and Mary Bort

Howard Epstein, left, Laurie Peatrowsky, Janet Henthorn and Mary Bort

Over the years, several generous donors endowed programs and buildings operated by the Federation and its agencies. Approximately 40 years ago, several forward-thinking Federation board members determined that Omaha’s Jewish community could best be served by separating the endowment funds from the Federation’s day-to-day operating funds. And, the Foundation was born.

In 1983, the Foundation became a separate legal entity; a non-profit corporation, classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a supporting foundation of the Federation. This means the Foundation was established primarily to support the Federation.

The Federation raises funds for annual operations. The Foundation operates differently through ongoing discussions with prospective donors. The Foundation provides various ways for donors to establish legacy funds that will be permanent, or at least long-lasting. These permanent funds are generally called “endowment” funds where the principal is retained permanently with the annual income being spent for a pre-defined purpose. The donors, in consultation with the Foundation staff and board members, define the purposes.

Endowment funds have been established at the Foundation to help fund the Federation’s annual campaign (PACE and LOJE funds); provide camp and college scholarships to Jewish students; provide scholarships to the Pennie Z. Davis Child Development Center and Friedel Jewish Academy; provide funding for counseling, outreach and financial support to needy Omaha area Jews through Jewish Family Service and Jewish Senior Outreach; help fund day-to-day operating needs of the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home; and help maintain the building and grounds of the JCC. These are just some of the many needs of Omaha’s Jewish community that are funded by the over 260 endowment funds at the Foundation.

“If you attend a musical at the JCC, listen to musicians performing at the Rose Blumkin Jewish Home, attend the annual community Yom Ha’Atzmaut event, or enjoy watching an Israeli film at the JCC theater, then you have generous donors at the Foundation to thank,” noted Epstein. “A least one Foundation endowment fund helped pay for each of these community entertainment events.”

In addition to endowment funds, over 100 generous donors have established donor-advised funds with the Foundation. A donor-advised fund is a personal charitable tool that helps a donor organize his or her charitable giving in one account. The Foundation invests donor-advised fund assets; income is reinvested and grows tax-free. While the Foundation owns the assets in these funds, the donors retain the right to recommend contributions from their funds to IRS recognized 501(c)(3) charities. Charities may be Jewish or secular, local or national.

The Foundation also manages three supporting foundations. According to Epstein, “A supporting foundation is a separate legal entity with a separate board of directors. The Foundation manages and invests the funds, administers operations and makes disbursements so that the supporting foundation board can focus on allocation decisions.”

Today the Foundation manages over $72 million in assets.

The Foundation also coordinates the new LIFE & LEGACY Program in partnership with the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF). This effort will benefit all participating local Jewish organizations and synagogues by working to obtain legacy gift commitments.

“Please feel free to stop by or call to learn more about what the Foundation can do to help you leave a lasting legacy through a charitable endowment or donor-advised fund,” said Epstein. “Call or email me at 402.334.6466 or”