Capital campaign saves Jewish history nonprofit

By Miriam Kreinin Souccar

(Crains New York Business) – The Center for Jewish History, a nonprofit that houses the largest repository of Jewish history outside the state of Israel, announced Monday it has raised $30 million to pay off its longstanding debt.

The debt was accrued 10 years ago when the Center built its home on West 16th Street. The organization had been paying around $1.5 million in debt service costs each year, but in September 2009, at the height of the economic downturn, their letter of credit expired, and renewing would have meant signing up for a higher interest rate.

The board decided to launch a capital campaign to knock out the debt in one blow and skip paying some of long-term interest costs. Led by trustees William Ackman and Joseph Steinberg, it raised the money in less than 18 months with the help of the Fairholme Foundation, which gave nearly $6.8 million, and 19 other donors.

“The Center for Jewish History has emerged from a difficult financial situation stronger than ever, thanks to the donors who recognized the significance of this essential institution,” said Bruce Slovin, chairman and founder of the Center.

The organization, which operates on a $5.5 million annual budget and has a $10 million endowment, is now financially sound and can get back to focusing on its mission.

“Our goal for the future is to continue to expand the Center’s resources and reach, making it a focal point and a magnet for research, education, discussion, and artistic creation that informs and inspires the public in all aspects of the Jewish experience,” said Michael Glickman, chief operating officer of the Center. The nonprofit houses the collections of five institutions, including the American Jewish Historical Society and the Yeshiva University Museum.