JCEF shows

With the S.F.-based Jewish Community Endowment Fund surpassing $2.8 billion in assets, the Bay Area Jewish community’s power to do good in the world has increased exponentially.

The number $2.8 billion is impressive, a figure that vaults JCEF to the upper reaches of the national rankings of Jewish community endowments. In truth, the number itself is just a matter of bragging rights. Much more important is what it says about the philanthropic largesse of Bay Area Jews.

The milestone forecasts robust fiscal health for the community over the long term. JCEF unrestricted funds total many tens of millions, ensuring local Jewish institutions will always be there no matter what financial or natural disaster may occur.

In recent years, the Bay Area has become a center of gravity for American philanthropy, and we are proud that Jews are among the most generous givers. Donors to JCEF make a vital statement: Whether charity dollars go to a Jewish day school, an art museum, a university or a hospital, those institutions receive checks from a Jewish entity. Recipients will know the Jewish community cares.

Much of the credit goes to Executive Director Phyllis Cook, who for more than 23 years has steered JCEF to its present success. But she’s the first to say she didn’t do it alone, and congratulations are due to the many professional staff and lay leaders, past and present, who have kept JCEF on track.

Across the bridge, the Jewish Community Foundation (part of the Jewish Community Federation of the Greater East Bay), though smaller, has also made great strides over the last year, growing $22 million to total $98 million in assets. Executive Director Lisa Tabak and foundation President Moses Libitzky likewise deserve congratulations.

There is more work to be done. While the figures are impressive, most of the money is in donor-advised funds, meaning the dollars go to specific charities of choice. Unrestricted funds — reserves that may be disbursed at the discretion of foundation and federation leaders — remain a fraction of the total. Some argue that these funds are too tightly controlled.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to subsidize synagogue dues for financially strapped Jews, to fund more capital projects or fund a Jewish education for every Jewish child? One way to help do that is to grow those unrestricted funds.

We are confident the Bay Area Jewish community will answer the call. Meanwhile we salute JCEF for its historic achievement.