Koret, Taube jointly award Palo Alto campus $15 million

When soliciting a lead gift for a building project, one can do worse than coming away with what is one of the largest ever bestowed upon a local Jewish endeavor.

That’s the happy situation for Palo Alto’s Campus for Jewish Life, the recipient of a $15 million combined grant comprised of a $7.5 million donation from the Koret Foundation and the same amount from the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life and Culture.

“We’ve gone from a handful of volunteers trying to do what many people said was impossible, to having a major foundation behind us, and that’s mind-boggling,” gushed Shelley Hebert, the campus’ executive director.

“All the worrying, the agonizing, the hand-wringing — the things the Jewish community does so well — it’s paying off.”

In droves, it would seem.

Tad Taube, Koret’s president, said the huge grant wasn’t meant to make a statement but simply to fill the coffers of a project he feels is vital to Jewish life in the South Peninsula and beyond.

“Jewish institutional life outside of the city has been, I would say, anemic at best in terms of facilities,” he said.

“It’s been felt for a long time by the leadership here in the South and mid-Peninsula that we needed a focal point for the Jewish community. I think people here, including myself, are very excited about the possibilities.”

In fact, noted Carol Saal, the campus’ vice president and fund-raising chair, Koret and Taube have been involved from square one. It was a Koret grant that helped buy the property for the campus, which will serve as the future home of the Palo Alto JCC, a Jewish Home for seniors and other Jewish organizations.

And the negotiations between Koret and the campus have been a lengthy procedure — as Taube put it, “we didn’t wake up one morning and decide to plink down a lot of money in the mid-Peninsula.”

But Saal’s timing was fortuitous. In

the midst of the process, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation’s population study was released, quantifying the huge influx of Jews into the south Peninsula.

“That demographics study came in the nick of time to help us push this over the top,” she said.

The $7.5 million grant is Koret’s largest ever in the Jewish community. Combined with the matching $7.5 million from Taube’s family foundation, it becomes the largest ever given in one gift to a Bay Area Jewish project.

Koret has previously given the JCC of San Francisco a $6.2 million capital grant and a $3 million programming grant, a $2 million capital grant to the Foster City JCC and an $800,000 gift to the JCC in Los Gatos.

Jeff Farber, Koret’s executive director, says he hopes the campus — now to be named the Taube-Koret Campus — will be as much of a community focal point as the Osher Marin JCC, which is located on the Lanee C. Hoyt campus in San Rafael. Koret helped fund that project, too.

The budget for the campus is estimated at more than $200 million. Taube said he hopes his gift, and Koret’s, shake the tree for potential donors.

“By no means can I say at this point we have identified all funding sources,” he said. “I do feel the Taube-Koret gifts certainly set an example, and other large philanthropists can join with us to complete the work we need to do to make this a huge success.”

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi is the managing editor at Mission Local. He is a former editor-at-large at San Francisco magazine, former columnist at SF Weekly and a former J. staff writer.