Bonds help Bay Area nonprofits while supporting Israel

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Although the San Francisco Library, which is about to open its new building, doesn't commonly lend books to people in other countries, the money it received from the Koret Foundation will produce benefits 7,400 miles away.

That's because Koret is giving the library $1.2 million in Israel Bonds. The money "works twice on both sides of the world," said Sherry Thomas, executive director of the Library Foundation of San Francisco.

The library is only one community cultural and educational institution to benefit from Koret's Israel Bonds program. Since 1980, Koret has given away approximately $14 million in Israel Bonds to organizations from the American Conservatory Theater to the Hoover Institution. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which opened its new facility last year, will receive a total of $3 million in Israel Bonds from Koret.

Out of 11 groups that received Israel Bonds last year from Koret, only one was a Jewish agency — San Francisco's Jewish Home for the Aged. Koret made a $4.1 million grant to the home, half of which will be paid in Israel Bonds. The money helped finance the Howard A. Freedman Pavilion, a 120-bed facility with skilled nursing for the frail and elderly.

"I feel grateful for the support," said David Saltzer, the home's controller.

A number of agencies and nonprofit groups invest their grant money, using the interest or dividends to help support programs or operations. Instead of cash, Koret often sends these groups Israel Bonds, money that has already been invested for them, according to Mike Papo, Koret's executive director.

The board determined that when it donated funds to organizations that invested such donations, "we might as well help Israel in the process," Papo said.

As a result, Israel gets the money, the receiving agencies get interest from the bonds, and when the bonds are redeemed, the receiving agency gets the full face value of the certificate.

Koret holds onto approximately $11 million in Israel Bonds that it has kept for itself.

Over the last three years, Koret gave $500,000 in Israel Bonds to ACT's $27.5 million campaign to retrofit and renovate its historic Geary Theater, which was damaged in the 1989 earthquake. ACT's fund-raising effort represents the largest capital campaign in the history of American regional theater, according to ACT's manager of institutional giving, Jerome Moskowitz.

"The bonds have generated substantial interest payments that help in the project cash flow," said Moskowitz. "It really helped enormously. It has significantly increased the value of their gift over time, the longer we hold onto it."