Curious George wills $2.5 million to Jewish groups

Rey, who died in 1996, co-founded the Curious George Foundation along with her late husband.

At the time, lawyers had crafted a settlement leaving the "donor-advised fund" in the Boston CJP's hands, said Rey's attorney, Richard Mintz.

Discussing Rey's Judaism, Mintz said, "she didn't deny it but she didn't wear it on her sleeve. Her father was in the German parliament in the 1920s, [yet the family] had to run for their lives in the 1940s."

Rey, whose grandfather had been a prominent rabbi in Hamburg during pre-Hitler days, met Mintz on a CJP mission to Israel in 1977.

Of the 30 Bostonians there, none of them had previously known the late Cambridge resident. "Many of us didn't know whether Margret was Jewish herself or her husband was Jewish," he said.

Despite Rey's intentions for the funds, they somehow didn't get into the CJP's hands. The story of why is complicated.

About $5 million from Rey's personal estate was designated for the Curious George Foundation, Mintz said. Rey had left instructions for the foundation's holdings to be distributed among 16 organizations.

The confusion surrounded Rey's so-called Fleet account, a joint account the author established in her name and the name of her close friend, Lay Lee Ong. Rey's wishes regarding this account, according to Mintz, were that it go to Ong, who would use the money to make charitable contributions.

But because joint accounts established by someone who dies are considered as part of the estate, Mintz said, "If Lay Lee would have taken it, taxes would have been $3 million."

As a solution Mintz suggested that CJP hold the assets from the Fleet Account as a donor-advised fund, in which CJP is the owner, but is able to use it only according to the recommendations of a group of advisers — Ong, CJP President Barry Shrage and John Spooner, Rey's financial adviser.

Mintz said that while this money will not benefit CJP directly, it very well may go to many of its constituents. He also said that Rey, who had made moderate contributions to CJP over the years, told Ong toward the end of her life: "I didn't do enough for the Jews."