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 Leadership Briefing 
The Jewish Federations of North America - The Strength of a People. The Power of Community.
JFNA Investment Institute Looks at Big Economic Picture 
February 22, 2013

Roz Goldberg, the Investment Committee chair of the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee, vividly remembers the moment four years ago that crystallized one of the major values of the biennial JFNA Investment Institute.

Goldberg, a former managing director at Merrill Lynch, was trying to help maximize her community’s foundation investments while minimizing risk to the portfolio. At the Institute, she learned of a JFNA investment pool for Federations that offered access to more diverse assets at a lower risk and historically higher return than her community could manage alone. She also connected with a network of Federation leaders and prominent financial experts and money managers, and heard many outstanding speakers.

“The complexity of managing an endowment has erupted,” said Goldberg. The Institute “gives people insights about the broad spectrum of investment opportunities. This is a wonderful opportunity to meet other people, get ideas and give them ideas, and to talk about the future of the Jewish People.”

That’s why Goldberg made sure she attended the 2013 JFNA Investment Institute, a three-day sold-out gathering of more than 300 planned giving professionals and volunteers from across the Federation system and beyond. The event, co-chaired by Alan Leifer and Michael Horvitz, was held in Palm Beach at the PGA National Resort & Spa.

Some 60 communities, 15 private foundations and 15 local Investment Committee chairs, representing some of the largest Federations, participated in the Investment Institute. Across the system, Federations and associated endowments manage more than $13.5 billion in assets.

This year’s event, with the theme “Access to Success,” was aimed at creating a dynamic forum of Federation and foundation investment committees, endowment professionals, chief financial officers, leading financial services and academics to share best practices and focus on market trends for Federations.

The JFNA Investment Institute featured thought leaders and experts including best-selling author and New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin; philanthropist Charles Bronfman and Jeff Solomon of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies; Howard Marks, chairman of Oaktree Capital; Sharna Goldseker of 21/64, a consultancy for nonprofits; Eli Groner, Israel’s Minister for Economic Affairs to the U.S.; Sandy Cardin of the Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation; Andres Spokoiny of the Jewish Funders Network; JFNA President and CEO Jerry Silverman, and many other notable figures.
 
The Investment Institute explored a range of critical challenges, from the health of the economy, to the need for nonprofits to secure professional investors, to the investment scene in Israel (the Institute also received a congratulatory letter from Shimon Peres, President of Israel).
 
Sorkin, author of “Too Big to Fail” and a co-anchor on CBNC’s “Squawk Box,” took a long view of the economy. While many voices caution we are standing on shaky economic ground, said Sorkin, market conditions are not dramatically different over the historic long haul. “We are not living in uncertain times,” said Sorkin. “The world is not that much different than it was before.”
 
To underscore that point, Sorkin pointed out that between 1929 and 2010, despite peaks and valleys, the market yielded average returns of 8.8 percent. Meanwhile, many who consider the unemployment rate to be the key economic benchmark say we must reach our “last normal” of 2006 levels of 6.5 percent to consider the economy healthy. Yet Sorkin added that in the post-war boom of 1952, unemployment remained at only 2.5 percent – while jobless rates eventually skyrocketed to 10.8 percent in 1982.
 
Meanwhile, day traders and others continue to dip in and out of the markets, he said, without taking the long view. The average stock today is held 22 seconds, he added.
 
“The only way we are going to get to wherever we want to be is to be a little more patient than we are today,” said Sorkin.
 
Bronfman, meanwhile, has been a leader in Jewish philanthropy for decades and has consistently taken a long view of the Jewish future. It was Bronfman and others who first invested in Birthright Israel, the Israel experience venture that has proven to be a major success in connecting younger Jews to Israel and their heritage.
 
Bronfman and Solomon, who co-authored the book “The Art of Giving: Where the Soul Meets a Business Plan,” engaged in a dialogue moderated by Neil Nisker of Toronto, dubbed “Passion Meets Action.” Bronfman said he wanted to tell people that you don’t have to be wealthy to be a social entrepreneur who engineers change in people’s lives.
 
“Anybody with passion and courage can do something that is meaningful and can make a difference,” said Bronfman.
 
Like Goldberg, the many Federation professionals and volunteers attending this year’s Investment Institute welcomed a program they said will help their communities make a greater impact for the Jewish future. “This is really giving me a good overview of how Federations invest and the tools they use,” said Abby Flamholz of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey. “It’s a great education.”
 
Donna Blaustein of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, current chair of JFNA’s Planning Giving & Endowments Committee, said the Institute is geared to providing a “high level” knowledge mix of investment experts from the Jewish community and the business world.
 
“The interaction has been tremendous,” said Blaustein. “I wish we could do more of this!”
 
For more information about the JFNA Investment Institute, please contact Joe Imberman or Steve Gross.

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