Happy 25th to Koret Foundation

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this month, the S.F.-based Koret Foundation is looking good. We would be hard pressed to find any other philanthropic organization, Jewish or non-Jewish, that has done so much good for so many for so long.

One inventive way the Koret Foundation will celebrate the anniversary is by opening the doors to several local museums and zoos on Sunday, May 9. Admission will be free to all, courtesy of the Koret Foundation. If you visit these facilities, chances are you’ll see the Koret Foundation listed on their plaques along with other foundations and individuals who donated the money to help build the facility.

Joe and Stephanie Koret, the namesakes and creators of the foundation, exemplified the American dream perfectly. Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, they married and established a small clothing business, building it up into an enormously successful enterprise. By the end of their long lives, they had no trouble determining the best thing to do with their vast fortune: Give back to the community that sustained them.

Stephanie Koret died in 1978. After Joe Koret’s death in 1983, longtime Koret family friend and associate Tad Taube, along with Joe’s second wife, Susan Koret, hit the ground running with the foundation. Over the years, Koret has distributed close to $300 million to a remarkably broad array of Jewish agencies, from the three local community federations to the Jewish Home to Traveling Jewish Theatre.

Yet the foundation also recognized an obligation to support worthy causes outside the Jewish community. Thus, the United Way, the Oakland Zoo and several charter schools in public school districts across the Bay Area (to name only a few) also have benefited from generous Koret grants.

Moreover, Koret has been one of Israel’s most stalwart supporters, having given tens of millions of dollars to various projects there, including grants to every major Israeli university and many other organizations.

In the accompanying article in this week’s j., Taube recalls the day he and his colleagues wrote their first checks. “We thought, ‘Isn’t it wonderful, we can give away all this money.'”

Not everyone has the good fortune to accumulate the wealth of the Korets. But we can all cheer loudly the foundation they created, and be grateful that under the leadership of Taube, Susan Koret, Sandy Edwards and the board, the foundation will continue to spread the wealth for years to come.

We wish Koret a happy 25th anniversary.