BY RABBI BENJAMIN SINGER
Here in Jerusalem, the last two days have been rainy. Very rainy, with thunder and lightning. As a native Portlander, I’m used to May showers (frankly, June and July showers too), but here in the Holy City it’s unusual.
Our Portland Jewish community, and indeed our nation, faces a multifaceted challenge of massive scale. There’s the health component, and that comes first. There’s also the human well-being component and the financial component. I’m pondering this third point on this rainy Jerusalem day.
Our Jewish organizations, from religious to community to social service and more, are just beginning the struggle with the fallout from this unique economic crisis. It is clear that revenue streams like memberships, programs, event tickets, and donations will be impacted. To date, the community has stepped forward with unprecedented support, and those who have given their time and funds have saved many organizations from the first wave of financial fallout. All who have participated deserve a heartfelt yasher koach.
And to date, the government has gone to bat for our businesses and organizations with an unparalleled outpouring of funds, to our community and around the country.
Yet, the Covid-19 rainy day is still here and its floodwaters seem to be rising. Many more funds will be needed, and now is the time to put our heads together and continue brainstorming about how to weather the storm.
Endowments, foundations, and donor-advised funds might be a crucial source of funds for this next stage. These entities hold and invest tens of millions of dollars to generate ongoing revenue. The proceeds generated are distributed to community organizations, thereby supporting a thriving Jewish community now and for generations to come.
Future-mindedness ensures the long-term stability and viability of our community and its institutions, and those who support this end are to be applauded. Endowments and donor funds are impactful and they’re here to stay.
Endowments and donor-
advised funds also serve to store resources for a rainy day. This is a very, very rainy day – not just a recession or cyclical time of need – and perhaps a greater portion of these long-term resources should be activated to stem the tide.
Some may argue that activating these funds is short-sighted, or that that current market conditions do not allow for equities to be sold. Others may counter that this approach actually sacrifices the future by allowing present organizations and individuals to drown. We all agree that investing for the future is crucial. Perhaps it’s time to invest in the future by securing our present, and put a meaningful percentage of these endowments and donor advised funds to work now when our organizations and people need them to survive.
This is a question that begs open community-wide dialogue, and I invite our leadership to get together and consider the proper role of endowments and donor-advised funds on this very, very rainy day.
Rabbi Binyamin Singer is a fifth-generation Portlander who loves the Rose City from his Jerusalem home. He is active in adult education while maintaining a role in Portland Jewish philanthropy. He is the son of Peter Singer and Sharon Stern, brother of Jonathan Singer and Anna Kodesch.