I love the Jewish News. They do a pretty good job of accurately reporting what goes on in the Jewish community here in Phoenix. So, last week I saw that they reported that Mr. Lahr, the past president of the Federation, has announced that they are going to raise $10,000,000 for an endowment for the JCC, which will then get spent down to zero over twenty years (the law requires that most endowments spend a minimum of 5% of their assets each year).

From the article in the Jewish News: “What became clear as the presentations progressed is that the cost of managing and operating the campus has been a drag on community resources because the original plan to establish an endowment to help offset those costs was never completed. As David Goldman, who chairs the VOSJCC board, said about current plans to establish an endowment that could “reduce or eliminate” occupancy costs at the campus, “All of us can’t wait for that to happen.”

He also mentioned that, with the consolidation of staff, there is now empty office space on the campus that “we can rent or use for other purposes.”

Lanny Lahr, a former federation president who is working on fundraising for the campus operating fund endowment, said that it is time to complete the job that was left undone since the $35 million capital campaign to build the campus concluded.

Lahr, who had headed the two-year capital campaign that began in 1999, said he has a goal of raising $10 million in the next year for the campus endowment. He said that $1 million already has been pledged by a single donor and that he is talking to at least two more donors about similar pledges.

He also said that the endowment would be spent down to zero over about 20 years, so that new generations would have to make similar investments in the community in the future. He described this as a new model of philanthropy among donors who want to see the fruits of their donations at work, not deferred to some later time.”

Basically, the Federation is going to raise $10,000,000 to fund a health club that can not be operated profitably, and $500,000 of that money will be spent each year to prop up this health club, so that it can continue to operate unprofitably for another 20 years and then the cycle of fundraising will have to be repeated. So that’s it – the community leaders believe that it is prudent to spend $10,000,000 on this Golden Calf for the Jews of Phoenix. Our shining idol, a monument to Jewish sports power, something to be contributed to at the expense of supporting the agencies in the community who were left high and dry when our Federation reneged on their promises. When the money is raised for our idol, will there be a bacchanal like the one depicted in that movie of the ten commandments? Although I will not contribute to the calf, I will definitely try to get an invite to the party. I confess to being a badly educated Jew, but didn’t G-d do a big smackdown for building the golden calf. Don’t we get punished for worshipping idols? Maybe that’s why this Jewish Taj Mahal keeps failing.

Here is what our peerless, sagacious leaders of Pardes do not realize: there are only a certain amount of Jewbucks to go around. I know a wee bit about this because I served as the endowment campaign co-chairman for the Foundation for Blind Children for close to a decade with John Dewane, who was the Chairman Emeritus of Honeywell, and we struggled to raise seven million dollars because Lattie Coor had drained the community dry on behalf of ASU. So when our Federation’s leadership attempts to raise an endowment for their monument to themselves, there will be precious little left in the way of donations for Pardes Jess Schwarz Academy and for aid to those who need it most. Hillel and Kivel may collapse, and I am guessing so will Pardes, but we will have the best Jewish Gym in town.

I am pretty sure this is a big mistake. I know this because Jews are historically not so great at sports. Yes, we have had Koufax, Hank Greenburg, Moe Berg and Mark Spitz, but aside from the list of NBA players who convert to play in Israel, I do not exactly see the list growing. But if our leaders want us to invest in a health/sports club, then we should follow, blindly, like we always have.