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As parents’ assets flow in, Goldman heirs deciding which Jewish causes to fund

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When mega-philanthropist Richard Goldman died in November 2010, the big question in the Bay Area Jewish community was what would become of the Jewish causes supported by the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund now that both Richard and his wife, Rhoda, who died in 1996, were gone?

That question is still unanswered, although some clues are beginning to emerge.

The fund, one of the largest Jewish philanthropic institutions in the Bay Area, is shutting its doors this December, and has already begun transferring its assets — some $280 million — to the separate foundations belonging to the couple’s three children, John Gold-man, Doug Goldman and Susie Gelman.

Considering that the Richard and Rhoda Gold-man Fund has given out about $700 million since its founding in 1951 — including $12.6 million to Jewish causes in 2010 alone — and also considering that the three recipient funds will each absorb nearly $95 million by the time the transfer is complete, nearly quadrupling their previous assets, the decisions the Goldman heirs make about their local Jewish giving will have tremendous impact for grantees.

John and Marcia Goldman   photo/steve castillo
John and Marcia Goldman photo/steve castillo
And those decisions will be made by each sibling independently, said John Goldman, who with his brother and sister comprise the board of directors of their late parents’ fund along with managing their own philanthropies.

“The big question facing us and, of course, grantees, is how much continuity will there be with the actions of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund?” John Goldman said during an interview at the Atherton home he shares with his wife, Marcia.

Speaking of the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation, the recipient of his parents’ fund’s assets, he said, “There are certain things I know we will endeavor to pick up. What they are, and the extent to which we will be engaged in those, I expect will be very different for each of my siblings and ourselves.

“It’s obvious for all of us that we have our particular areas of interest.”

In a separate interview at the San Francisco home he shares with his wife, Lisa, Doug Goldman echoed his brother’s sentiments. “There aren’t many changes going on,” he said of the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund. “We obviously will be capable of, and will need to be, giving away more money than we have in the past. But as for my siblings’ foundations … they will choose to do whatever they choose. There’s no sense of ‘divvying up’ the organizations that have been supported by the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.”

All three Goldman children have been very generous to Jewish causes over the years. But Susie Gelman’s giving is focused on national organizations, Israel and Jewish causes in and near Chevy Chase, Md., where she and her Morningstar Foundation are based.

Bay Area Jewish speculation, therefore, is directed toward the two brothers. Some distinctions emerged from an analysis of their Jewish giving patterns as well as a pair of one-hour face-to-face interviews: John and Marcia Goldman are more committed to “umbrella” giving through the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, both with their foundation’s annual campaign gift of $250,000 and via the John and Marcia Goldman Philanthropic Fund, a donor-advised fund within the federation’s endowment; Doug and Lisa Goldman are more focused on giving directly to Jewish initiatives of their choosing, although they also make an annual gift to the federation campaign.

Lisa and Doug Goldman   photo/drew altizer
Lisa and Doug Goldman photo/drew altizer
These are very general tendencies, however, and both philanthropies are ramping up in different ways to accommodate the influx of the new monies.

The 20-year-old Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund has recently revamped its program areas, subsuming the previous “Israel” category under the new and broader area of “Jewish community,” which includes strategic giving to Israel and the Bay Area.

The John and Marcia Goldman Foundation does not have a specific grant-making area for Israel or Jewish affairs — the foundation was created in 1997 with a primary focus on disadvantaged youth in the mid-Peninsula area, where they live — but it, too, is what John calls “a work in pro-gress.” Although the couple now uses their endowment fund for the bulk of their long-term Jewish giving, they “have not yet decided” what the foundation’s final structure will look like.

Neither Doug nor John is ready to announce which Jewish causes they will support and to what extent, but as both men filled key roles in their parents’ fund for years, it’s clear that they have many shared priorities with that fund, particularly when it comes to Jewish giving.

Already, John said, the John and Marcia Goldman Foundation has begun to “expand its scope” to support certain “core elements” of the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.

While he declined to specify which beneficiaries he was referring to, he did enumerate some of the priorities he shares with his late father: San Francisco’s Congregation Emanu-El, Hillel and the Jewish Studies program at San Francisco State University.

On the other hand, he noted that his parents’ fund provided seed money to numerous startups and new Jewish organizations, “and to be honest,” he said, “at this time we don’t know which ones might be considered and what will resonate the most with us.”

Doug is also reluctant to name names right now, although he said he is particularly interested in the “new, progressive Jewish organizations that have popped up in the community,” many of which got their start thanks to the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.

BlueStar, for example, which he says received seed money from his parents’ fund at his urging, was also supported for a while by the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund. “They are addressing a very big need in the Jewish community, and in a superb way,” Doug said.

Lisa Goldman named Moishe House, a network of residences for young Jews that began in Oakland and has spread globally, as a cause their fund hopes to continue supporting. She also expressed an interest in fostering Jewish singles events and outreach, and said she and Doug were “looking into some possibilities” along those lines.

Ultimately, both brothers say, the millions of dollars that are being added to their philanthropic coffers will greatly enhance their ability to support the causes they believe important — both Jewish and not — and will be something they will be proud and privileged to pass on to their children.

“The ramp-up is beginning, significantly,” said John Goldman.  “We will be giving gifts of a completely different magnitude within two to three years. It’s already happening.”


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