GELT COMPLEX: Foundation’s Plans Foiled by Success, Biggest Jewish Gifts Elude Jewish Causes, Court: Chabad May Boot Rebels From 770

Published January 09, 2008, issue of January 11, 2008.
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Foundation’s Plans Foiled by Success

The Avi Chai Foundation has the sort of problem most people dream about: It’s making too much money. Founded and endowed by a successful financier, Avi Chai has made it a policy objective to spend itself out of existence by 2020. But despite its best efforts, the foundation keeps growing.

According to Avi Chai’s most recent annual report, the foundation’s assets grew by nearly $52 million in 2006, to almost $691 million. That was a result of a gain of close to $90 million in revenues versus expenses of $38 million, including $31 million in disbursed grants. Avi Chai intends to eventually disburse $55 million per year, but even if it had spent the extra $24 million, it still would have finished 2006 in the black.

Avi Chai is one of the largest Jewish foundations, operating in North America, Israel and the former Soviet Union. Dedicated to Jewish education, the foundation’s financial clout has allowed it to help raise the profile of such issues as day schools and camping.

Avi Chai was founded in 1984 by Wall Street investor Zalman (born Sanford) Bernstein. Since Bernstein’s death in 1999, the foundation has continued to benefit from his financial acumen. His investment firm, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., has continued to play a role in managing the foundation’s investments; the board of trustees is packed with financial talent, and chairman Arthur Fried, who has played an ongoing role in financial decision-making, is a former managing director of Lehman Brothers.

Avi Chai officials declined to comment for this story.

— Anthony Weiss

Biggest Jewish Gifts Elude Jewish Causes

As Jewish donations grow larger, a smaller proportion of them goes to Jewish causes, according to a newly released study. The study, which analyzed “mega-gifts” of over $1 million by Jews and Jewish foundations, found that Jewish organizations were most successful at attracting gifts under $10 million, but less so as gifts surpassed $10 million, and an even smaller proportion of gifts over $50 million. In total, Jewish causes attracted $635 million in Jewish mega-gifts, or 9% of the $6.9 billion total.

The study was authored by Gary Tobin and Aryeh Weinberg and published by the Institute for Jewish and Community Research.

— Anthony Weiss

Court: Chabad May Boot Rebels From 770

A New York Supreme Court judge ruled that the main governing organizations of the ultra-Orthodox Chabad Lubavitch Hasidic movement have the right to eject a rebellious messianist congregation from the basement of the movement’s world headquarters at 770 Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.

The December 27 ruling is the latest development in a more than three-year legal battle that has divided the movement and put its messianist strains on very public view. The congregation that worships in a synagogue that spans the basement of two buildings has declard that the late leader of Chabad, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, is the messiah.

— Anthony Weiss

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