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Planting Our Future

Most of us are familiar with the story of the old man who planted a tree seedling and was chastised for it: “Old man, why are you planting that tree? The time to plant it was in your youth, to bear fruit for your old age. It’s too late now. At this stage of life, you won’t live long enough to eat the fruit of this tree.” To which the old man responded, “My ancestors planted  for me, and now I plant for my children.” People who create endowments at the Jewish Community Foundation of Central New York are also planting for their children – and for all the children of our community. Whether you plant the tree when you are young or when you are older, doing so sends the message that you are a person who looks at the long term

and works to create the assets essential to future sustainability. It shows that you are dedicated to the long-term support of the mission of our Jewish Federation: to build a strong Jewish future in Central New York and Israel and worldwide through philanthropy, engagement, education and advocacy.
Since the seeds of the Foundation were planted by visionaries Linda Alexander and Alex Holstein two decades ago, we have seen tremendous growth. The initial couple of million dollars of assets are now $25 million, and the amount of money the Foundation gives to the Federation each year has grown from thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. In fact, nearly a quarter of the Federation’s income each year comes from Perpetual Annual Campaign Endowments and the Foundation’s own General Unrestricted Endowment Fund.


There is no question that the American Jewish community, as well as our own local community, is undergoing significant change. Nationally, we read about an 18% drop in the number of Reform congregations and a 36% drop in the number of Conservative congregations. Locally, our rabbinic leadership is in flux, and the heads of several of our major agencies are leaving their positions.


As a people, we will be smaller in the future, with fewer institutions and resources and with even more diversity than we know today. Our Judaism will redefine itself with the emergence of new forms of religious and social expression, as it did during the pandemic when “Zoom,” “hybrid” and “live-streaming” suddenly became adjectives modifying “services.” We may find ourselves torn between individualized, privatized forms of Jewish expression and the traditional frameworks of collective expression. But Judaism will survive, reshaped by its adherents, as has always been the case.


For those in leadership positions and those who are committed to a Jewish Central New York – and this includes the hundreds of people who support us through their annual donations, their volunteerism and their Foundation endowments – it is clear that we cannot wait to plant the seeds of our future. The time to assure tomorrow is today. The Foundation is ready and able to ensure that our community, through the Federation and its partner agencies, will always be able to meet our community’s needs in the areas of education, wellness, safety, support for Israel, seniors and those less fortunate. As you read our annual report, please join me in thanking those whose foresight will sustain the generations that succeed us and, if you have not already done so, please consider opening up your own endowment fund. It’s easy to do. It’s up to you. It’s up to all of us. Let us plant the seeds for our future now, so that our values and our legacies will live on.

Michael Balanoff

Executive Director

Most of us are familiar with the story of the old man who planted a tree seedling and was chastised for it: “Old man, why are you planting that tree? The time to plant it was in your youth, to bear fruit for your old age. It’s too late now. At this stage of life, you won’t live long enough to eat the fruit of this tree.” To which the old man responded, “My ancestors planted for me, and now I plant for my children.” People who create endowments at the Jewish Community Foundation of Central New York are also planting for their children – and for all the children of our community. Whether you plant the tree when you are young or when you are older, doing so sends the message that you are a person who looks at the long term.