Longtime endowment chair to leave committee

When Dick Rosenberg took over as chair of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund committee in 2002, his predecessor, Bernard Osher, had one farewell request.

“He said, ‘I want you to get [the endowment] to a billion dollars before you leave,” Rosenberg recalls.

Rosenberg and his colleagues did a favor for Osher three times over. Since he began his nearly six-year term, total endowment assets hovered around the $3 billion mark.

Now, as Rosenberg prepares to step down, he looks back on a gratifying tenure. He will chair his last endowment committee meeting May 15. Warren Hellman, who runs a private equity firm in San Francisco, takes over as chairman at the beginning of the new fiscal year this July.

Rosenberg says the JCEF is in good hands, not only with Hellman, but also with Lisa Gurwitch, who takes over from retiring executive director Phyllis Cook next month.

“Lisa has been such an integral part of the success of the past five years,” says Rosenberg. “I’m delighted to see her taking over. Phyllis is not only a great fundraiser in her own right, but many people don’t realize she is a great teacher and manager as well. Obviously Lisa was her star pupil.”

Hellman has nothing but praise for his outgoing chairman. “He’s a real disciplinarian,” he says. “I think he has a very good grasp of the numbers.”

As for the highlight of his years on the committee, Rosenberg says nothing topped working with Cook. On the job for more than a quarter of a century, Cook built the endowment into a financial powerhouse. “There’s a real reason she’s a legend in her own time,” he says.

While $3 billion is an impressive number, Rosenberg says he gained more satisfaction putting that money to work in the Jewish community. As an emergency fund, the endowment often steps up to deal with crises. Rosenberg cites as a prime example the security improvements made at Jewish institutions in Sacramento following a string of arson attacks there a few years ago.

Providing seed money for ambitious community projects makes up another major part of the endowment’s mission. Rosenberg points with pride to the JCEF role in funding the rebuilt Jewish Community Center of San Francisco and the Campus for Jewish Life, soon to open in Palo Alto.

“Supporting foundations do wonderful work, and we’re delighted they’re part of the endowment. But the [$130 million] unrestricted fund is in many ways critical to the success of what the endowment can do for the Jewish community.”

Just because he’s stepping down from the endowment committee doesn’t mean Rosenberg is ready for the rocking chair on the porch. He continues to chair the UCSF Foundation and USCF Medical Center board.

And just to keep things hectic, the former senior Bank of America CEO also sits on the Naval War College board, which meets in Newport, R.I.

“I made a vow, which I have broken,” he says, “which is to keep all my boards in the same time zone.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.