Jewish Community Endowment Foundation shuts its doors

Jewish Community Endowment Foundation shuts its doors
By Cindy Mindell

STAMFORD – After nearly 30 years providing funding to Jewish and other non-profit organizations throughout Fairfield County and beyond, the board of directors of the Jewish Community Endowment Foundation announced plans to dissolve the charitable 501(c)(3).

“We had been operating at an accumulated deficit which we thought we had under control, but we had an additional deficit in 2008 and 2009,” says board president Henry Feuerstein. “Our revenues were not sufficient to continue paying for the operations of the fund, and the foundation became untenable. We didn’t want, and we felt that the community didn’t want, to make up that shortfall by seeking new donors from within the community.”
In February of this year, officers made the decision to close down.
The foundation was established in 1983 as a vehicle for donors to establish permanent funding for member organizations and other charities, via charitable annuities and trusts, lead trusts, and bequests; life-insurance gifts; and real estate remainder trusts. Housed at the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan and Darien, the organization was led by executive director Joel Feerst and a board of officers and committee chairpeople. Feerst retired from the organization at the end of 2009, when his appointment was terminated.
At the time of the board’s decision, the foundation had approximately $25 million under management, in approximately 100 donor-advised funds, 200 Teen Tzedakah funds, 60 annuities and trusts, and the accounts of 16 membership agencies.
There are no models for how to dissolve such an organization, Feuerstein says. Because the foundation’s deficit, whose size is yet unknown, comes from the donor-advised funds, holders were encouraged to move a substantial portion of their money to other institutions of their choice. Teen Tzedakah fund-holders were instructed to gift their money elsewhere.
The board is investigating similar foundation-type organizations to take over the administration and funding of the foundation’s trusts and annuities, a task Feuerstein describes as the “thorniest” part of the process.
“Dissolving the foundation is a lot of work and very complicated, but I have full confidence that we’ll get there,” he says.

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