This is July 6, 2005, and my name is Naomi Schottenstein. I’m here at the
Federation Building, 1175 College Avenue. We are continuing our interview with
Jackie Jacobs which we started on March 23 of this year. We had a little
mechanical problem and so we are continuing on another tape at another time and
I’m going to ask Jackie to give us a little recap at this time.
Jacobs: I was raised in Middletown, New York, where I attended Hebrew school
along with my brother and sister at the only synagogue in town, Temple Sinai.
There was a full-time rabbi. The principal’s name was Nathan Green. He was a
terrific educator. It was there that I got my basic Jewish training, learned
elementary Hebrew, and studied for my Bar Mitzvah. My Bar Mitzvah
was held in the Summer months. My brother’s January Bar Mitzvah was not
held at the Temple because we had relatives who were shomer Shabbos. Our
home was too far to walk to during the winter months. My parents rented a small
kosher bungalow-colony facility for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah so that my
relatives would be able to attend services. I wouldn’t admit it to my friends,
but I rather enjoyed Hebrew school, and was particularly involved with junior
congregation and all the Hebrew school activities. There also was a USY at
Interviewer: Was this a Conservative synagogue or . . . .
Jacobs: It was a Conservative synagogue. Girls were Bat Mitzvahed there
on Friday nights and it was a “one size fits all” shul. They
had daily minyan. The old timers were essentially Orthodox. So it was one
size fits all for all the Jewish residents of Middletown, New York.
Interviewer: It sounds like you have pleasant memories regarding your Jewish
background, your Jewish education, unfortunately which sometimes did not happen.
Jacobs: I was one of the lucky ones. I did enjoy it a great deal. When I left
for college, I also got involved in Jewish activities. Binghamton had a larger
Jewish population than Middletown. Many of the students came from the New York
Metropolitan area. While there, I got involved with the Jewish student group
called Jewish Fellowship and became its President. When I arrived, there also
was a kosher kitchen. I was already saying Kaddish for my father in my
freshman year. I gravitated to Jewish Fellowship and the kosher kitchen because
it was easy to organize a minyan for Kaddish.
Interviewer: You developed a camraderie with fellow members, didn’t you?
Jacobs: Yes I did. Being that the student population on campus was larger
than the Binghamton Jewish community, town-gown relations were strong. The commu-
nity was very supportive to the Jewish student body. In fact, as a student, I
remember appealing to the Federation for some financial assistance during their
annual allocations process and asked them for a grant in order to support our
fledgling Jewish student activities on campus.
Interviewer: That was an experience that seemed to prepare you for your
Jacobs: It was. I knew as a supplicant for Federation funding how important
it was to get to know the community and be part of the community. They were very
supportive and interested in our well-being. Many of the Binghamton residents
frequently opened their doors to the students. They were always most welcoming.
I distinctly remember the then-President of the Federation, N. Theodor Somner, a
very prominent attorney, was really encouraging during my presentation on behalf
of the students. Another fellow, Sy Klionsky, a local stockbroker, was also
supportive. A number of years later he suggested that I be recruited to serve as
the next Federation Director. Binghamton attorney, Bruce Becker, contacted me
when I was at United Way to become Broome County Jewish Federation Director,
beginning my career as a Jewish communal professional.. Through my student
activities, I discovered that I had some leadership skills. I was a resident
assistant in the dorms, later became a Dorm Director. I was involved in the
Student Movement for Soviet Jewry. During that time, I learned an important
lesson. I was very emotionally connected to the Soviet Jewry movement. We knew
that the national efforts to enhance awareness of the issue of the Soviet
Refuseniks was very important and somehow I connived to get a radio interview at
the campus radio station to talk about the subject.
Interviewer: Do you remember a dateline of when this was happening?
Jacobs: This was some time in the early 70s. I remember going to the
interview. The station was run by students. A student named Phil Dietch, another
Jewish Fellowship member, was the M.C. I remember him announcing on air during
my first radio interview that we would be talking about the plight of Soviet
Jewry. Phil asked me, “Can you tell us about the situation of Jews in the
USSR?” With no elaboration, I said, “It’s very bad.” He said,
“Can you provide us any details?” I had absolutely no facts other than
an emotional response. He said, “Can you give us more details?” And I
said, “Yes, it’s very, very bad.” He must have asked the same
question three or four times and I just added some more adjectives to dramatize
Jacobs: The interview didn’t last much longer. Emotion without substance
has little value. It was an embarrassing lesson but important lesson for me. As
I said, that prepared me for my future activities.
Interviewer: I’m sure it did.
Jacobs: My public speaking skills were non-existent. So I joined a
Toastmasters group. It was extremely helpful. It was for fun and it and it
helped me develop some confidence in public speaking.
Interviewer: Is it a learning organization? Is that what they do, prepare you
Jacobs: That’s exactly what Toastmasters does.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Jacobs: In cities across the country, they have breakfast meetings, lunch
meetings and get-togethers of some sort. In the syllabus the first
public-speaking activity is called the “ice breaker”. It’s just
biographical. People talk about themselves. They know the subject matter better
than anything. That generally is the first assignment. Then they have different
assignments on different kinds of topics and help people hone up on their
Interviewer: You gain confidence with that kind of experience too, don’t
Jacobs: Yes, I’m a nervous speaker and not comfortable in those situations
but you learn how to deal with that.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Probably being nervous is good. It keeps you really
Jacobs: Well if nervous is good, then I must be very good because I never
take it for granted. With public speaking, you have to be prepared. You have to
do your best to connect with your listeners and the audience. I mentioned on the
last tape that when I became Federation Director, it was a very important
learning experience for me. One of the most dramatic activities that we were
involved in during my tenure as the Binghamton Jewish Federation Director was
the issue of Ethiopian Jews. In 1984, the plight of Ethiopian Jewry was no
longer a secret. In fact students nearly caused the cancellation of the opening
plenary of the Council of Jewish Federations General Assembly in Toronto to call
attention to the cause of the Ethiopian Jews. There was a severe drought in the
Gondar region of Ethiopia. A great political turmoil under the Mengista regime.
This was a . . . .
Interviewer: Can we have the spelling there?
Jacobs: Major Mengista Hails Mariam was the Socialist Dictator of Ethiopia,
M-E-N-G-I-S-T-A. The Ethiopian political situation became a major news item and
there was an impetus to help the Jews of Ethiopia, sometimes called the Falashas,
but better known as the Beta Israel. “Falasha” is a pejorative term.
Critical voices charged at the time that the organized Jewish community was
deliberately ignoring the black Jews. Seemingly out of nowhere in Binghamton, a
vocal Ethiopian Jewry committee was formed. I remember some of the most visible
people were Nathan Bell, Miles Krohn, Rabbi Barry Starr from the Conservative
synagogue there. They were outspoken. One of my fellow students, David Becker,
traveled to the Gondar region of Ethiopia, where the Jews had resided in
isolation for centuries, to provide direct assistance. On his return, he began
mobilizing campus focus groups and fund raising efforts. In 1984, the Federation
organized an Ethiopian Jewry Committee to sponsor an educational forum featuring
Dr. Graenum Berger, who was the founding President of the American Association
for Ethiopian Jewry. He drew a packed house at the Jewish Community Center.
After months of what seemed to be unresponsiveness to the Ethiopian Jewish
situation, UJA National finally sent out an urgent appeal to Federations across
the country telling the Federations that a fund raising effort had to be
organized to raise $60 million nationwide for a secret airlift of the Ethiopians
to Israel. Actually, the Ethiopian Jews were being ransomed for $10,000 per
person. We were told that the actual airlift and exodus would take place from
refugee camps in the Sudan. We at the Federations were instructed by UJA that
there should be no publicity or the entire effort, which was called
“Operation Moses,” would be jeopardized. We were told that Broome
County’s share of the national fund raising goal was $48,000. Unfortunately,
with only maybe 18 months of on-the-job experience, I didn’t know how to
mobilize the community without any P.R. and since the UJA had given the campaign
a name and a logo on our briefing papers, I rationalized that they really weren’t
serious about a news blackout. Besides, the Washington Jewish Week
had already run a feature by Michael Berenbaum on the refugee camps and the
covert Israel rescue opeation. Reasoning that nothing could possibly be thwarted
by an expose in tiny Binghamgon’s anglo-Jewish press, we publicized the heck
out of “Operation Moses”. Shortly afterwards I received a call from a
man named Abe Bayer. Abe Bayer was with the National Jewish Community Relations
Advisory Council. He was the Director of their International Affairs. He told me
that years of behind- the-scenes efforts were at risk but he was not at liberty
to elaborate or divulge details. Charges of inaction, insensitivity and inertia
by Graenum Berger were well meaning but totally off base, he stated. He insisted
that despite the Washington Jewish Week publicity, we
should not participate in any further publicity. I reminded Abe that the Long
Island Jewish Week was also leaking a story and that the
secret was out ever since the Washington paper broke the silence. I told him
that if UJA wanted Broome County’s money, we would have to raise it without
outside interference. At that point, Abe Bayer turned on the heat. “You and
I never met,” he said, “but I know that your parents are Holocaust
survivors. Do you want Jewish blood on your hands?” He ended the
conversation with a final plea for no more publicity.
Interviewer: Was this a protection measure to . . . .
Jacobs: Right. If the Sudanese cooperation in the Ethiopian airlift were to
be disclosed, no doubt the operation would have had to end. And that’s exactly
what happened. As more papers covered the story, including the New York
Times, the Sudanesebecame embarrassed by the stigma of saving
Jews and they halted the airlift. Abe Bayer and I met for the first time less
than a year later. It turned out that he knew my bride-to-be’s family, having
attended Habonim Zionist Youth Camp with Cheryl’s father and her uncle. In
fact, he was also the best man in her uncle’s wedding in the 1960s. And
several years later I found myself working together with Abe’s wife Ellen at
UJA Federation in New York. She never told me how her husband knew that my
parents were survivors and Abe never told me how many Ethiopians were left
behind once the airlift was halted.
Interviewer: Well it certainly was an emotional experience, wasn’t it?
Jacobs: It was very exciting. It was emotional and the national effort was a
real credit to the American Jewish community.
Interviewer: And they pulled it off?
Jacobs: They pulled it off. Now 20 some years later we’re getting word from
UJC, United Jewish Communities, that they’re going to make every effort to
finish what remains undone in terms of bringing Jewish Ethiopians in Ethiopia to
Israel and completing the absorption process. As we speak, plans are being
developed by UJC to organize and fund raise for Operation Promise . . . .
Interviewer: So there’s still many of those people to be rescued yet?
Jacobs: Correct. The ones left behind are called “Falasha Mura”.
Many of them converted or hid their Jewishness and they didn’t practice
Judaism openly. Some of their credentials are more suspect then those that came
in during the initial airlifts. But I’m sure that once again, communities in
America and across the world will make every effort to do what has to be done
with regard to the Ethiopians.
Interviewer: Can you tell us anything about the integration of the Ethiopians
in Israel? How is that working out to this date?
Jacobs: It’s a very good question. Going from their life in Ethiopia to
Israel and the Western world is a very difficult transition. On a number of
visits to Israel, I visited the refugee camps and the schools. It’s been a
very difficult integration.
Interviewer: They didn’t really have formal education before did they, in
Jacobs: No, there’s some question whether they even were literate in their
native tongue of Amharic, so it’s been very difficult. I remember speaking
with a number of the teachers who told me about some of the challenges that they
faced. Some of the teachers commented that the kids were not respectful. They
didn’t even look them in the eye when they were being taught. The teachers
were unaware that that’s a sign of disrespect, to look at an adult directly in
the face, bad manners.
Interviewer: So it’s a cultural . . . .
Jacobs: So there was a real cultural issue.
Jacobs: Another example given was that in the Beta Israel culture it’s
disrespectful to disagree with an adult when questions are asked: “Is two
and two 15?” Or “Is the sky green?” An affirmative answer would
be given and teachers initially jumped to the conclusion that the kids were not
very bright. To the contrary, they were just showing their respect and good
Interviewer: So the teachers had a a lot of learning ahead of them too?
Jacobs: Absolutely. Major acculturation issues remain to this day. The
Foundation just provided a grant to help through the Atidim program that’s
being organized to help the best and brightest young Ethiopian students continue
their integration in Israeli society and further their education. They’ll be
the leaders of the next generation. Although it’s been a lengthy integration
process, this will happen. This was characteristic of all the other airlifts and
prior waves of immigration. But this one is particularly difficult and costly.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So it’s been a challenge for the Israelis too to
accept a new culture and to accept a new type of people that they have to deal
Jacobs: It’s been challenging for everyone.
Jacobs: They’ll get through it.
Interviewer: Yeah. Well they’re still with it so that’s optimistic right
Jacobs: At the Binghamton Federation, we published a weekly anglo-Jewish
paper called The Reporter . We were the smallest Jewish Federation
in the country to have a weekly. I would share the editorial each week with the
editor of the paper, Marc Goldberg. It was an excellent tool for mobilizing and
educating the community. It was also fun to write on timely topics and have a
Interviewer: And the community was receptive and apparently very successful?
Jacobs: Yeah, it was fun.
Interviewer: Uh huh. It worked for both of you. And do you want to continue
your experience in Binghamton or do you want to continue . . . .
Jacobs: Well my experience after Binghamton in Stamford was very short-lived
and I touched briefly in our first interview on my experiences at UJA Federation
in New York. During that time I learned a great deal about stewardship of
endowment funds, the importance of donor relations, and accountability with
regard to the permanent funds that donors had provided for the community, honing
my fund-raising skills. I had the opportunity to try new projects and different
experiments in fund raising including direct mail, trying to endow annual
campaign gifts. Learned a lot about charitable remainder trusts. Gained some
attention for setting a goal of ten charitable remainder trusts a year,
something that hadn’t been done before, and exceeded that goal. So by the time
that Cheryl and I arrived in Columbus with our two young children, I had a
pretty good experience base to draw on.
Interviewer: So were you comfortable with your integeration into the Jewish
community here, the Foundation in particular? Let’s start there.
Jacobs: It was a very warm reception. Alan Gill was Director of the
Federation at the time and Irving Schottenstein was President of the Foundation.
Irving and Frankie Schottenstein held a reception for Cheryl and me in their
home shortly after our arrival. We got to meet a lot of community people and of
course I landed on my feet and got to know the Foundation’s lay leaders.
Without exception, everybody wanted me to succeed and the community was very
warm and eager to make sure that my transition was smooth and successful. I
remember Herb Schiff calling within days of my arrival, questioning why I hadn’t
stopped by his office already. Actually, I was summoned to his office. It was a
command performance. But who could ask for anything better than to have a major
community leader . . . .
Interviewer: He was a strong leader too, very determined.
Jacobs: Absolutely. Herb immediately offered to be my “father
confessor”. He said he knew the community like the back of his hand, which
of course he did.
Jacobs: And he’d give me any background information, any sort of briefings,
any support, any form of assistance that he could offer; he would always be
there for me. And he was. And others were like that also. Many of the volunteers
at that time practically worked at the Foundation office. I remember Ed Grayson,
Bob Aronson, Billy Glick, Helene Lehv, Judy Swedlow, Myer Mellman and Ernie
Stern’s support. Everybody wanted the Foundation to flourish so that we could
continue the successes that had been launched by Ben Mendelkorn and the
volunteers at the Foundation.
Interviewer: Were there a lot of changes in the progress of the Federation,
of the Jewish Family Service function here?
Jacobs: Well when I arrived, the infrastructure, thanks to Ben Mandelkorn,
was very well established. Ben, as good a fund raiser as he was, actually should
be best remem- bered as a brilliant community planner and organizer. He had the
infrastructure in place. He had the framework and the operations down pat for
all the community organizations. That’s how Columbus got its well-earned
reputation, Ben always worked behind the scenes, motivating and educating the
Interviewer: He didn’t take “no” for an answer.
Jacobs: The Foundation was established in 1955. It was recognized that annual
campaigns are the lifeblood of the community but that additional resources would
be necessary, like savings accounts, to provide stability for the agencies and
to provide resources in the event of emergencies, to address unmet needs, and
launch programs that might not otherwise be possible without compromising or
jeopard- izing operations at the agencies and beneficiaries.
Interviewer: Can you give us more in depth description of what the agencies’
projects actually are?
Jacobs: Well every agency has a basic operation budget to keep the lights on,
to keep the doors open, to sustain their program. As new needs within are
identified, you need to have the flexibility to try and address them. There’s
no magic formula for how to do that.
Interviewer: What are some of the needs, for instance?
Jacobs: Oh I remember being approached, for example, by the Jewish Community
Center on behalf of many young couples, two-parent working families. A need was
identified for some form of infant day care services. In the traditional model,
the June Cleaver model, mom stays home, dad goes to the office and mom raises
the kids and provides for them. Nowadays . . . .
Interviewer: Not today.
Jacobs: Doesn’t happen today. It really doesn’t. And the Center wanted to
be responsive to the needs of working couples. They didn’t have the resources
to start up a new program for six month old children and for infants. They
approached the Founda- tion for a seed grant. I remember the dismay voiced by
some that parents would discharge their parental responsibilities to a social
service organization. And yet that’s a reality of modern life. The Foundation
provided the seed money and of course that program became a very successful
program. It still continues, will continue to last for a long time. It wouldn’t
have happened without the Foundation’s seed money, without which the rather
radical notion of serving infants and toddlers at the JCC couldn’t have
occurred. When the Foundation was founded, nobody would have imagined that that
might be one of the requests that would come up.
Interviewer: What were the needs when the Foundation was first started?
Jacobs: Upon the Columbus Jewish Foundation’s establishment in 1955, I don’t
think that the Foundation could articulate what the community’s future needs
would be. Israel was a new nation. They knew that Israel had great needs and
would require enormous levels of support to survive. Everybody was shocked by
the Holocaust and recognized that vast sums would be needed to rebuild, support
the Zionist state, take care of resettlement work, whatever. I don’t think
people could forecast what the future community needs would be, but they knew
that the annual Jewish Federation campaign would be inadequate to support all
future local and overseas needs down the road and that the community would need
to build reserves for those unmet, unknown needs in the future.
Interviewer: And what about the exodus of the Russian immigrants?
Jacobs: “Operation Exodus”, was conducted as a special “second
line” fundraiser to the Federation annual campaign. There were a number of
such special appeals over the years. Operation Moses for the Ethiopian airlift,
as I mentioned earlier, was another one. Over the years, there were a number of
Israel emergency campaigns. In terms of organizing the Jewish community and
addressing the financial needs of the time, annual operating campaigns are
important. Supplemental campaigns will always arise. These point to the need for
some form of reserves so that we can have flexibility in responding on a prompt
basis to the needs that arise in the com- munity.
Interviewer: Uh huh. So there’s forever a challenge, even ahead of us.
Jacobs: Absolutely. And that’s why the Foundation exists.
Interviewer: Sure, sure.
Jacobs: In the early years of the Foundation development, when Troy Feibel
was the President of the Foundation Board, the primary activity of the Columbus
Jewish Foundation was land acquisition on College Avenue. Developing the Jewish
Community Campus was the Foundation’s most important achievement during the
early years. In the early 60s, the Foundation took title to the Columbus Jewish
Home for the Aged, now known as Wexner Heritage House and Wexner Heritage
Village, and the Foundation leased the facility to the Home for a dollar a year.
By 1963, the Foundation had assets of about $700,000. The most likely source of
permanent endowment funds as gifts that would materialize were from wills and
bequests. To encourage these gifts, Foundation launched a “letter of
intent” program. It was called the Bingswanger Plan. Not that I know who
Bingswanger was, but it was adopted to encourage bequests through non-binding
statements of testamentary support. This “letter of intent” program
was chaired by Herman Katz and Stanley Schwartz. As people began putting bequest
provisions in their wills and including the Jewish community in their estate
plans, Foundation assets grew. By 1969, the Foundation Board adopted a policy
that Israel bonds should always be part of its investment portfolio. That
established a strong tradition at the Foundation to support the Israel Bond
Campaign. But the biggest boost to the Foundation’s development efforts came
through the Tax Reform Act of 1969 that placed restrictions and tax
disincentives on private foundations. And in response, Jewish foundations like
ours launched what was called a “philanthropic fund” program which
became the most popular form of Foundation giving throughout the years. These
are donor-advised funds which the Foundation, as public charity, manages like
donors’ charitable checking accounts. IRS was very favorably inclined to
donor-advised philanthropic fund programs like ours. Knowing that there had been
abuses with private foundations, IRS recognized that the level of volunteer
involvement and professionalism at community foundations like ours could prevent
the improprieties that had occurred at some private foundations. Our local
program is so successful that we now have hundreds of donor-advised funds that
the Foundation manages for the benefit of donors. We are able to develop
relationships with donors and get a better understanding of their philanthropic
interests. It gives us an opportunity to work directly with individuals to
fulfill their charitable ambitions and also to plant the seed about providing
long-term support through testamentary gifts and planned giving to support their
special charitable interests in perpetuity.
Interviewer: Well it sounds like you’ve been successful in coming this
direction to community involvement and more secure fund raising.
Jacobs: It’s been a very successful program but it really is a testament to
the Founda- tion’s many volunteers and donors.. In the early 1970s, Myrtle
Katz established the first Foundation endowment to perpetually support the
Federation’s annual campaign. Her fund still exists and now there are many
others like it. Each year at the onset of the Federation’s annual campaign,
the first gifts that are posted come from endowed gifts established by like
Myrtle Katz, Sam Melton, Morris Skilken, Raymond and Pauline Kahn, among others,
who established perpetual annual campaign endowments. These “forever
gifts” provide a stable funding base now and for the future.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Jacobs: This concept intrigued me at United Way when I worked there, to see
that there would be a reliable source of funding for the annual fund drive.
Myrtle Katz was the first one who did this locally..
Interviewer: So the endowments really are a key for fund raising, aren’t
Jacobs: Absolutely. In 1972, Jack and Eleanor Resler launched a challenge
grant to the community of $750,000 to construct Congregation Beth Tikvah. They
also provided of land on which Temple Israel and Torah Academy are now housed.
Jack Resler was among the founders of the Columbus Jewish Foundation. He
understood the need for a permanent infrastructure for the Jewish community. You
can see his beneficial, long-term impact on the community.
Interviewer: Columbus has a proud campus here on College Avenue and Jewish
agencies. And it keeps growing.
Jacobs: Ed Schlezinger, another founding board member, tells me that he was
involved in selecting the site for the current Jewish community campus. At one
time, I believe it was the garbage dump for Bexley.
Interviewer: Oh I hadn’t heard that.
Jacobs: Ed and Abe Yenkin would take Sunday trips to look at possible sites
for a future Jewish community campus and ultimately selected College Avenue as
the future home for the Jewish community campus. Over the years the campus has
grown and expanded. The Esther C. Melton Building was established there.
Initially it housed not only the Federation but Anti-Defamation League and
Jewish Family Services. Jewish Family Services recently got its own home, the
Ebner Building, right across the street from the Jewish Community Center. That’s
also part of the Jewish community campus.
Interviewer: That’s turned out to be a very successful coup. For
years we’ve stared at that island and couldn’t imagine that that was going
to house an important building like that and it looks like it’s worked out
Jacobs: Murray Ebner is a real hero. I remember questioning why he purchased
that small, irregularly-shaped parcel across from the Jewish Community Center.
The parcel was owned by a fellow who was going to build some sort of strip mall
there. Murray knew that that would be adverse to the Jewish community campus. A
drive-in liquor shop or some sort of bodega, some sort of ugly, unseemly
develop- ment right across from the gem of the Jewish community campus, would be
inap- propriate. Murray told me that when he purchased the vacant parcel, it was
his dream to have a Holocaust memorial park there, perhaps with a statue of some
sort. He asked my thoughts about it. I complimented him on his foresight in
acquiring the property and preventing development that wouldn’t be in the
Jewish community’s best interest. I also asked him, probably too bluntly, if
the erection of a statue would satisfy his interest in Holocaust education or if
it would possibly be just an inert, cold magnet for vandals to wreak havoc.
Interviewer: I’m going to ask you to stop for just a second while we turn
this tape over. We’re ending side A of this tape. We’ll continue in just a
second. Okay, we’re contin- uing on side B and continuing your thought of your
conversation with Murray Ebner and he was talking about erecting a statue on
the, I keep calling it an island.
Jacobs: An irregularly-shaped island.
Jacobs: Very few people saw that the potential of that ugly site for anything
of use to the Jewish community. I cautioned Murray about erecting a statue or
monument. We talked about how much more important it would be have interactive
education, making it a real live, living — education and human services can’t
be provided by an inert statue. Murray quietly nodded his head and I guess he
thought about it for a long time. Years later, it turned out that Jewish Family
Services, which at the time rented space at Wexner Heritage House on the lower
level in back, was notified that its quarters would be needed by Wexner Heritage
House for other purposes. When JFS began looking for a suitable home, I
remembered my conversation with Murray. Murray ultimately constructed the
facility that is now home to Jewish Family Services. In fact, it has adequate
space for another non-profit organization also, the March of Dimes. The entire
parcel of land and the building housing both of those organizations are now
associated with the Columbus Jewish Foundation through a charitable entity known
as the Ebner Family Support Foundation.
Interviewer: And also there’s a Holocaust museum on the first floor and I
think we still have room on the property for a statue, that that might happen
Jacobs: Best of all possible worlds.
Interviewer: Absolutely. Well I was very proud of Murray for being so strong
in his convic- tions about that.
Jacobs: The Jewish community campus also houses the Victor Weinstein Shalom
House North, a facility for developmentally-disabled Jewish adults. It also
houses Heritage Towers for seniors. That’s a HUD facility. Most recently we’re
seeing Creekside go up. This is an assisted-living facility for
financially-independent seniors. It complements the services that the Jewish
community offers to our elders. It’s going to be a magnificent facility.
Interviewer: There’s a lot of excitement about it.
Jacobs: It’s essentially all pre-leased. They’ll be opening their doors
in Fall, 2005. I believe it’ll be a home run.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Jacobs: So Heritage House has evolved over the years from a provider of
skilled-care, intensive services to seniors to what is now Wexner Heritage
Village, a full-service provider for seniors as they go through the aging
process. To its credit, the Heritage Village now provides a continuum of more
sophisticated at-home and on-site services than most nursing homes.
Interviewer: I think we’re very fortunate to have all of this within a
short span of distance, right within the heart of the Jewish community.
Jacobs: It all goes back to proceeds from the 35-acre site that Jack and
Eleanor Resler provided in 1973, for Heritage House expansion.
Interviewer: Well they certainly would be proud of the way it has developed.
Jacobs: That’s for sure. Eleanor Resler never failed to visit Heritage
House residents on a weekly basis. She surely would be very proud . . . .
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Jacobs: of what she and her family did. In the late 1970s, as the Foundation
continued to grow, Isadore Harris chaired a Foundation committee called the
Legal and Tax Advisory Committee to provide community-wide legal education and
tax seminars for professionals who advised clients with their personal finances
and estate-plans: primarily accountants, financial advisors and attorneys who
understand people’s estate plans. Iz Harris, Jim Feibel, Stan Shayne, Alan
Acker, Jim Bowman and others on the Legal and Tax Advisory Committee sought to
familiarize skilled advisors with the Foundation so they could provide their
clients information how to incorporate charitable giving in their estate plans.
The first classes held on the campus of Capital University perhaps had only 25
people. That program has grown to a major community educational event attended
by hundreds of professionals annually. Simultaneously the Foundation established
a Womens’ Committee that was chaired by Augusta Frank and Judy Swedlow on
topics like “Money Management for Women Series”. There was a Building
and Property Real Estate Committee that was chaired by David Roth to manage
several donated office buildings and rental properties and to develop formal
guidelines governing real estate gifts. Some of the early gifts probably wouldn’t
be accepted today. Beachfront property in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was donated. The
parcel was under- water for about half of the year. Now the guidelines are much
more sophisticated. . . .
Jacobs: really inure to the benefit of the community. In 1979, Ben Mandelkorn
retired as the Director of the Columbus Jewish Federation and served for the
next ten years as the Foundation’s first full-time Director. The Foundation
had been a bit of a stepchild of the Federation. It was an active committee but
it didn’t receive the full-time attention of any professional staff. But from
1979 to 1990, Ben devoted his full-time undivided attention to the Foundation
and it became his second career. During this period the Foundation really,
really began to grow. The major incentive was the 1969 Tax Reform Act and the
committee structure that I referenced earlier. But it really took Ben’s
leadership and more lay involvement and structure to help the Foundation begin
to mature. Ben did that most successfully. During his ten-year tenure as
full-time Director of the Foundation, over $27,000,000 in grants were made
through the donor-advised funds and direct Foundation grants. The Foundation
also began to centralize its operations and services to all the community
agencies. Heritage House, for example, transferred its endowments to the
Foundation for professional investment management during that period and the
Federation transferred $200,000 of its own reserves to strengthen the Foundation’s
community-wide Grants Program, in order to address unmet community service needs
and for pilot programs and seed projects. The grants program for seeds projects
that was conducted by the Foundation, thanks to that Federation infusion of
dollars, became the impetus for the Foundation Grants Program, which has
successfully grown over the years, and it wouldn’t have happened without
Federation’s intial investment that provided some spending capital to start
the Foundation’s Community Grants Program.
Interviewer: I remember sitting in on committee meetings with the Jewish
Historical Society that then certainly encouraged the growth and the need for
the Historical Society and Peggy Kaplan was the Director at that time of that
organization and I just was in awe of Ben’s insistence and determination and
helped us really get on our feet, encouraged us to continue.
Jacobs: Correct. First there was a lovely part-time director, Barbara Schehr,
and Ben just insisted that there had to be more of an agency presence. The
Historical Society was his baby from the get-go. He promoted its establishment,
organized the board, and planted the dream, recognizing how important a Jewish
historical society would be. I remember Ben going to the Foundation, I’m not
sure which hat he was wearing, saying that the Historical Society needed a
full-time Director and asking for a grant to make that happen. A three-year
grant was provided. Peggy Kaplan, who actually had worked at the Foundation,
just moved to another part of the building and became the Historical Society’s
first full-time Director. And she did a very good job.
Interviewer: Yes she did. I enjoyed working with her.
Jacobs: In order to build the Foundation resources during that period, Norman
Meizlish, one of the most active volunteers in the Foundation and the
Federation, a real community leader, proposed the establishment of a special
campaign for the Foundation to build its unrestricted reserves, to enhance its
grant-making ability. He branded it as the “Founder’s Fund
Campaign”. He and a group of volunteers, such as Ernie Stern, and later
Gary Robins and David Glimcher, along with Ben, cultivated over a hundred
founders within a very short period of time, each of whom set up $10,000
endowments minimally to augment what the Federation had deposited with the
Foundation to support the Community Grants Program. And that was how the
Foundation really began to build its endowments, not only being custodian for
other agencies, and not only running the donor-advised program, but actually
marketing the Foundation and selling the dream of building unrestricted reserves
to address future, unknown community needs that would arise. In order to make
determinations about the best use of Foundation grants dollars, the Grants
Committee was established with priorities set under the chairmanship of Billy
Glick. The early priorities of the Foundation, driving its grants-making
process, were threefold: leadership development, Jewish education and preserving
the integrity of the Jewish family. In 1985, under the presidency of Irving
Schot- tenstein and the chairmanship of Herbert Schiff, a campaign was launched
to raise $10 million dollars in endowments for the benefit of local agencies and
synagogues. Part and parcel of that campaign, Agudas Achim, the Columbus Torah
Academy, the Leo Yassenoff Columbus Jewish Community Center and OSU Hillel
transferred their endowments to the Foundation for professional investment
management. And simultaneously, certain planned gift provisions that had been
made in earlier years, began to mature. Two of the earlier wills providing
monies to the Foundation came through the estates of Al Schatenstein and William
C. Brown. Don Garlikov spearheaded a Wills and Bequests Program and Myer Mellman
simultaneously launched an Insurance Program, again to build resources for the
community under the auspices of the Foundation. And then, after a ten-year
second career, Ben Mandelkorn retired in 1990. The Foundation’s book value was
$11 million dollars and the market value was $46 million dollars and that’s
when . . . .
Interviewer: And today?
Jacobs: We have about $83 millions in assets.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Do you anticipate changes in the very near future?
Jacobs: We have expectancies of double that amount. We have a lot of gifts in
the pipeline as we continue to pursue the Foundation’s mission.
Interviewer: It’s never a closed book, is it?
Jacobs: Never a closed book. And we’ll continue to build the Foundation.
Jacobs: That’s our mandate.
Interviewer: Sure. I’m going to ask you, unless you have some further
information that you want to provide in this direction, I think I’ve got to go
back and establish the framework of your family here in Columbus. I want you to
tell us more about your children, how old they are and names and schooling and
so forth. We have to fill in on your family.
Jacobs: Well thank you for asking. I have two children, Ben and Arielle, whom
we call Ari. Ben is 18 years old now, is entering his senior year of college.
Jacobs: Excuse me, of high school and looking at college.
Interviewer: Yeah. That’s on your mind, the college part.
Jacobs: The college is certainly on my mind and on his mind. And we look
forward to doing various visits to potentials that hopefully will be as
interested in him as he is in them.
Interviewer: Uh huh.
Jacobs: Ben presently has a strong interest in architecture and wants to
pursue that route. He’s a student at Bexley High School and during the past
year, he’s actually been in a pre-architecture program that’s housed half
days in the Gahanna School District. He’s found it very enjoyable and
rewarding and he still has an active interest in architecture.
Interviewer: Well it’s nice that he has kind of established a possible
future for himself.
Jacobs: It’s amazing, it really is, that he’s that focused.
Interviewer: Yeah, a lot of kids at this stage have not a clue. They just
want to go to college.
Jacobs: Equally nice is that Ben and his younger sister, Ari, who’s 15, are
the best of friends. It’s a great joy to Cheryl and me that they are so close
with each other.
Interviewer: That’s great.
Jacobs: Ari, like her brother, is also a student at Bexley, entering her
sophomore year. She’s very involved in athletics. She’s a terrific student.
Very outgoing. And extremely pretty. She hasn’t yet identified what her career
path is but that will come in due time.
Interviewer: Yeah, she has a couple years yet for the thought out.
Jacobs: Both of the kids attended Columbus Torah Academy for a while and then
trans- ferred to Bexley. Our home is within walking distance from their school.
Ben forgets that ’cause he now has a driver’s license and Ari actually has
her learner’s permit. They forget how close it is and lose no opportunity to
get to school on wheels.
Interviewer: Where’s your home now?
Jacobs: We live on Bryden Road in central Bexley.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well that’s right in the heart of all the action. That’s
good. How have you as a family spent your holidays and vacations? Kind of give
us a picture of that part of your family.
Jacobs: We celebrate our holidays as commuters. My mom still lives in
Middletown, New York, and my in-laws live not far from there. So on the
holidays, if they’re not here in Columbus, we go back out East. We usually
drive. It’s a long drive but that’s how we generally spend our holidays.
Vacations are a bit of a sore subject with my family because I don’t take
them. I’m afraid that the kids got shorted out on that to a large extent. We’ve
occasionally had some really nice vacations when they were younger, but for the
most part, summertime for me, when most people go on vacation, is my busy
season. If there’s not an upcoming Annual Meeting for the Foundation, it’s
time to renew acquaintances with many of the snowbirds that come back from out
of town, and do Foundation work. The kids now spend a good deal of time at
Summer camp. They both are very, very fond of Camp Livingston, which is a JCC-affiliated
camp in Bennington, Indiana. Ben is the swim counselor and director there this
year and Ari’s there as well. So that’s basically where they spend their
happiest time, during the Summer.
Interviewer: Well that’s great. They’ll have wonderful memories as they
grow up and go back. I know I still remember, have fond memories of my Jewish
Center camping days in our home town and I can say that it really is a great
thing to remember as an adult. Continuing with your Foundation work, you might
mention some of the bench- marks along the way that you can provide us with.
Jacobs: One of the issues that the Foundation had to contend with during my
early years with it was confusion between what the Federation does and what the
Foundation does. One, with its focus on the Annual Campaign drive, and the other
with its unrelenting focus on building permanent community assets, on building
endow- ments. The Foundation, the community’s endowment arm, is known for
devel- oping strong inter-personal connections and relationships, as opposed to
a one-time-a-year ask for the annual campaign. In building and branding the
Foundation, we thought it was important to distinguish ourselves as the
endowment arm of the central Ohio Jewish community and Mel Schottenstein
proposed that we no longer be merely a department of the Federation but a
stand-alone entity with our own unique identity, although we always had a board
and a separate audit and a strong committee structure. Jack Wallick was another
strong proponent of Mel’s model.
Interviewer: Is this unique to the Columbus community or is this something
that happens on a national basis?
Jacobs: It’s a mixed bag. All Foundation-type endowment programs have a
relationship with their Federations. But now about a third of the planned-giving
programs, while associated with the Federation movement, are independent with
their own separate tax ID, lay leaders, infrastructure, and grants-making
policies. That’s exactly the framework and infrastructure that Mel
Schottenstein and Jack Wallick proposed to the Federation and to the Foundation
boards. It made perfecly good sense at the time and still does. Branding is
important. The different strategies for raising Federation and Foundation
dollars makes it self-evident that this is a good course of action, certainly in
our community. There have been some ups and downs over the years. Some people
have expressed concern that the Foundation and Federation might fall out of
love, may chart new paths and go off in different directions. But that has not
occurred. We share so much of the same leadership. We share the same values. We
have the same hopes and wishes for the community. I don’t think that would
happen and community leadership understands the risks of not working together.
Adversity would not be bene- ficial. So we work arm in arm together. Mel
deserves a great deal of credit for helping the Foundation build its own
identity and for seamlessly making that transition.
Interviewer: So that’s a comfortable situation now, isn’t it?
Jacobs: Absolutely. I’ve seen three local Federation directors come and go.
That’s not unusual in the Jewish communal professional field. I think the
stability provided by the Foundation, its sense of community history, and our
strong donor relationships has been beneficial even as Federation leadership and
priorities have changed or evolved. We have been focused and a reliable and
stabilizing influence, in my estimation. Another landmark achievement was
launched by Alan Wasserstrom and Norman Traeger in 1995. After a year of
planning, they launched a unified endowment community development campaign with
Ernie Stern as the first chair, followed by Irving Baker. It was called
“Vision 2000”. A $100 million dollar endowment goal was set for the
Foundation, which was achieved in 18 months, ahead of schedule.
Interviewer: Wow, that’s quite an accomplishment.
Jacobs: We won’t see many of these gift for many years because I would hope
that every donor or prospective donor has a long life and lives to 120. But in
terms of procuring those commitments it was a very successful campaign and a
credit to everybody who was involved in soliciting, procuring and donating
outright and deferred-endowment commitments for the community good.
Interviewer: I want to thank you for providing us with a very complete
history of the Federa- tion and all of the branches, Foundation, and a pretty
complete picture of the Columbus Jewish community. And I also appreciate the
names that you’ve mentioned along the way, the leaders. They certainly all
deserve credit and I know that there were probably hundreds of people that were
on committees in the past. We certainly can’t mention all of their names but
at least we do have a pretty good roundup of the leadership in these last few
years, especially during your realm and before and I’m pretty satisfied that
Columbus is certainly going in the right direction. Are there any further
thoughts that you want to end with?
Jacobs: Not to be self-serving in any way, but it has really been an honor
and a pleasure to be in Columbus for 15 years and to be associated with the
Foundation and the wonderful people who support it. I wholeheartedly believe in
the Foundation mission. Donor-centered giving must be the cornerstone of a
fiscally-viable and vibrant Jewish community. We all share the hope that there
will be a good life in the future for all of us and that there will be Jewish
continuity. We’ve been able to unify all the Jewish agencies and synagogues
under the Foundation umbrella in endowment-building efforts. We do our best to
provide donors with opportunities to perpetuate their charitable interests
through a variety of outright or deferred planned-giving opportunities, to
support the community now and in the future. I hope that the community continues
to be as supportive in this effort as it has been in the past. If so, it bodes
well for all of us.
Interviewer: Yeah. I just had a thought. It’s not an afterthought but it’s
a thought that keeps coming back to me. We haven’t really talked much about
what Cheryl is doing now. She’s somewhat involved in her profession, isn’t
she? Now let’s just fill in with that. I want to give credit to her
occupation, her profession.
Jacobs: Cheryl deserves a lot of credit. She’s a graduate of the NYU Tisch
School of the Arts where she learned her profession, video production. She
continues here in town as a free-lance producer, sometimes doing commercial
pieces for various corporations, sometimes volunteering her talent on agency
videos. She’s done her share of them for Torah Academy, for Israel Bonds,
certainly for the Foundation and others. She’s a very capable and successful
professional. She certainly has done it, probably without sufficient support or
encouragement from me.
Interviewer: And manages to be a hands-on mom.
Jacobs: Absolutely. She runs the household. She’s been able to always find
the time, that’s one of the benefits of being a free-lancer, for the family
when we need her. She’s been able to juggle all that most successfully. I’m
really proud and appre- ciative of that.
Interviewer: Uh huh. Well it sounds like a very satisfying profession for
Jacobs: It is.
Interviewer: And the community. Well on behalf of the Columbus Jewish
Historical Society, I want to thank you. It’s been very enjoyable and
informative to me and we really appreciate the time that you’ve given us, and
the patience with our malfunctioning machine here. But hopefully we have a very
complete interview at this point.
Jacobs: Well I know there’s been a method to the madness with the allegedly
malfunction- ing equipment. This gives everyone an opportunity to be more
supportive of the Columbus Jewish Historical Society in its efforts to record
the history of our community. It makes a pretty compelling case to have the
proper resources for equipment to record and preserve our history, treasures and
archives, which is what CJHS does so well.
Interviewer: Well we believe in it and we will continue the best we can.
* * * *
Transcribed by Honey Abramson