Where do non-profits go when they die?

Jewish organizations rarely disband or die. Many that have outlived their original, and even subsequent, missions frequently hang around, eating up valuable fund raising dollars that could go to start-up, innovative or just more useful groups.

I’m not going to go into a list. I think that most Jewish leaders, professional and lay, could spout off their “Top Ten” list at any moment.

Instead I’d like to offer what organizations can do when they become unable to sustain themselves:

During its 80-year history, The Jewish Community Center, Congregation Ohr Yisrael of Spring Valley, New York, marked the lifecycle for generations of Jews. At its height, it had a Hebrew school with over 600 students. But after years of changing demographics, and a four-year struggle to repurpose its facility, the synagogue was unable to continue and the congregation’s leadership decided to dissolve.

The synagogue is disbursing $2 million, approximately one-third going to charities in Israel including the Technion, Jewish National Fund, Hadassah Hospital and the Israel Cancer Research Fund. Money for other Israeli charities is being distributed through the PEF Israel Endowment Fund. American charities include the JCC-Y in Rockland, the Reuben Gittleman Day School, Bikur Cholim, Camp Ramah, Camp Simchah, Taglit-birthright israel, Hatzollah Ambulance Corp., Jewish Family Services, JTS, Ohr Vadas School for Special Needs Children, Holocaust Center of Spring Valley, and Jewish War Veterans. (MORE)

Legally, they did exactly as non-profit regulations dictate. Depending on how this congregation was set up, it was bound to give money either to organizations with similar missions or in the same geographic vicinity. It seems that this shul did both.

But Jewishly, it seems the board members did the right thing as well. They enabled other organizations to carry out meaningful work in their honor. And, to borrow language from the sports world, they left while they were ahead.

If only the rest of the Jewish community would take notice.


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