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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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Two women lead Jewish Community Foundation into the future

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From left, the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal’s Kathy Assayag, Bobby Kleinman, and Brenda Gewurz.

MONTREAL — For the first time this fall, two women – president Brenda Gewurz and incoming executive director Kathy Assayag – will make up the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal’s leadership tag team.

The 43-year-old JCF manages the $350-million endowment fund – donated through bequests, gifts, and other means – adroitly, and is determined to keep itself responsive to 21st-century demands, and to the signals it gets from the Jewish community.

That translates as building capacity, legacy building, responsible governance, and responsiveness to established and potential donors who, more than ever, want more control over where their money is going.

“Those are the signals we are getting. People want to know where their impact can be the greatest,” said Gewurz, a prominent community volunteer for years with Federation CJA, March of the Living, the Bronfman Jewish Education Centre, and others. “Things are much more donor-centred than they used to be.”

Outgoing executive director, Bobby Kleinman, who was joined by Gewurz and Assayag for a CJN interview, said, “Over the last few years, we have also been seeing more interest among younger people in philanthropic giving.”

Interest derived from the JCF endowment fund is used for a wide and varied range of grant allocations for community agencies, institutions, Israel, human services, individual scholarships, programs for younger people, and much more.

Last year the allocations totalled close to $30 million.

While the search for new donors never abates, a main reason they choose JCF is because, “they know our only agenda is to fulfil their philanthropic dreams,” said Assayag, a one-time director of the Combined Jewish Appeal campaign who went on to positions at Deutsche Bank and Concordia University before coming to the JCF.

Kleinman, while no longer serving as executive director, will continue working at his true forté at JCF, donor service. “Nobody does it like him,” Gewurz said.

As described in its 2013 annual report, JCF has put into place through 2016 a strategic Roadmap to the Future involving a mission to “inspire, promote, and innovate philanthropy with the overall vision to maintain a strong and sustainable Jewish community.”

That is to be accomplished using the Jewish values of tzedakah (charity); tikkun olam (healing the world); dor l’dor (generation to generation); kavod (respect); and derech eretz (transparency).

Besides the aforementioned increased capacity and improved engagement with donors, another strategic pillar involves seed funding for new, innovative initiatives.

For example, JCF recently announced a new scholarship in environmental studies established by the Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Foundation to support two one-time, environmental scholarships totalling $10,000 to be awarded annually.

Assayag, Gewurz and Kleinman noted that there also now is more interest in seeking donors from the ranks of the Sephardi community.

Last fall, the Communauté Sepharade du Québec announced a partnership with the Banque Nationale and JCF which is allowing the CSUQ to establish its own foundation for projects within the structure of the JCF.

This “constitutes a first step in a collaboration that really promises to bear fruit,” Gewurz told La Voix Sépharade at the time.

“It’s all about building wealth and building the Jewish community,” Assayag said.

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