How You Help — Stories of Impact
A Continuing of Our Jewish Traditions: How the ‘Create Your Jewish Legacy’ Program is Thriving in Cincinnati
“This shows firsthand the pride of individuals in our Jewish community and our commitment to sustaining the work of our organizations,” said Jewish Federation of Cincinnati President Danielle V. Minson. She was reflecting on the Create Your Jewish Legacy program, which recently completed its sixth year.
“Leaving a legacy is an inspiring example for how we will be remembered,” she continued, “and a beautiful way to manifest our core values with organizations whose missions are aligned with those very same values.”
The Create Your Jewish Legacy (CYJL) initiative began in Cincinnati in 2014. The CYJL program helps train and support 23 local Jewish agencies, congregations, and day schools in the area of legacy giving. The ultimate goal is to build endowments to help sustain these organizations and ensure a vibrant future in our Jewish community. Funding for CYJL came in part from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF) Life and Legacy™ program, along with funding from The Jewish Foundation and the Jewish Federation.
The HGF initiative is a highly selective grant and, since its creation, it has motivated 17,000 donors in 69 communities—including Chicago, Miami, Atlanta, and Washington, DC—to commit more than a billion dollars in current and after-lifetime assets to the Jewish organizations that shaped their lives.
Cincinnati was the first community to reach a thousand legacy commitments and, during the pandemic, secured 40 more legacy commitments than any other community. In total, Cincinnati has over 1,800 legacy commitments, many supporting multiple organizations. These commitments are a true testament to the desire to keep our community strong for future generations.
One recently received legacy commitment came from Margie and Steve Adler. Margie grew up in Cincinnati and Steve moved here almost 40 years ago. Steve graduated from a high school with only two other Jewish students in his class. He felt isolated, yet his Jewish pride and identity stayed strong.
Part of that pride was born of Steve’s family background, as his father left Nazi Germany in 1935 at the age of 19 and immigrated to the United States, later joining the US Army and returning to Germany with the Allied forces.
Margie and Steve attribute their core value of giving back to the community to their fathers, Harvey Bergman and Ernest Adler. “Our fathers were involved in their Jewish communities and taught their children to do the same,” they said. Margie and Steve have been involved with Adath Israel and the Jewish Federation, cochairing Super Sunday twice, as well as giving annually to the Jewish community.
The legacy gift is just one more way that Margie and Steve are involved in our Jewish community. They continued, “our children grew up participating in community service projects, being involved in our synagogue, creating Jewish homes, and understanding how critical it is to preserve and enhance the Jewish community.” One of their children has also committed to a legacy gift.
“We want to have an impact on the future of our Jewish community to remain strong for many generations to come and that is the beauty of a legacy gift,” said Margie and Steve.
Another reason for the success of CYJL in Cincinnati is the support of passionate community members who volunteer their time to have legacy conversations with interested individuals. Fran Coleman embodies the characteristics of an effective leader for CYJL; she is passionate about the Jewish community of Cincinnati, enjoys relationship building, and understands how gratifying it feels to make a legacy gift. She also understands something else that’s important, “The number one reason people do not make legacy gifts is because they were not asked.”
Coleman has been involved with the CYJL program from the beginning, serving on the CYJL Steering Committee. “Legacy for me is the continuing of our Jewish traditions, my family traditions, and the spirit of living Jewishly that we have been able to enjoy in our lives. We want that to continue for future generations”, she said. “To be able to have a legacy conversation with someone is an honor and a privilege because it allows me to learn about what that person values most in life and how they want to be remembered. And it’s an incredibly fulfilling feeling to know I am helping ensure that the organizations I care so deeply about will be vital for the future.”
Coleman likes to think of the “C” in CYJL as “continue,” she said, “The Create Your Jewish Legacy program offers you the ability to continue your Jewish legacy in a meaningful and easy way, and I am so pleased that this is part of my legacy.”
Many around the country ask why the CYJL program has been so successful in Cincinnati. The answer begins and ends with the people. “Our community members feel so strongly in preserving and enhancing the future of the community,” said Minson. “The people who comprise the organizations who shaped our education, friendships, and values—the people who feel so strongly about securing the future that they want to spread the word and make sure everyone else knows about this opportunity to give back and make a difference. I am so proud of the success of CYJL in Cincinnati.”
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