How the Koret Foundation supports the Bay Area and Jewish causes – Inside Philanthropy


Spotlight on intellectual property funders offer a quick overview of the donors who are on our radar, including some key details about how they work and what they are currently doing. Today we take a look at a foundation created by a couple of first-generation entrepreneurs who are committed to strengthening the Bay Area and supporting the vitality of the global Jewish community.

What matters to this funder

The San Francisco-based Koret Foundation has two grant priorities. The first, Bay Area Community Grantmaking, encompasses higher education, K-12 education, arts and culture, and special projects in the region. The second, providing grants to the Jewish community, includes three main initiatives: building a bridge between the United States and Israel; Support Jewish institutions; and Jewish Peoplehood, which seeks to “inspire Jewish identification and involvement and strengthen bonds among Jews around the world.”

Based on historical Jewish principles and traditions and dedicated to humanitarian values, the foundation has donated more than $ 700 million since its inception in 1978.

Why you should care

It has become a bit of a cliché to say that a foundation ‘strikes above its weight’, but the term applies to Koret, who had total assets of around $ 500 million. from 2020, and has been an indispensable partner with Bay Area universities and arts organizations navigating the pandemic. The foundation also has a powerful national impact through its grants to the Jewish community, supporting Jewish organizations across the United States, including regional Jewish community centers, national Holocaust education programs and the Institute. Shalom Hartman of North America in New York, among others.

Where does the money come from?

Joseph Koret was born in Odessa, Russia, in 1900, and his family emigrated to New York a year later. They eventually settled in California, where Joseph and his father founded the Koret of California textile company, which introduced pleated skirts and patented a permanent press process. Joseph Stéphanie’s wife, whose parents emigrated from Romania, played an important role in building the business.

In 1978, the couple, who had no children, started the Koret Foundation with family friend, philanthropist and Giving Pledge signatory Tad Taube. “What most people don’t realize is that it was Steffi’s fortune that first endowed the Koret Foundation,” Taube wrote on his website. “When she passed away, I advised Joe to direct the assets of the Steffi community to the foundation and he finally agreed.” A year later, Levi Strauss & Co. bought Koret of California for $ 71 million.

After Joseph’s death in 1982, Taube succeeded him as president and the foundation increased its assets from around $ 35 million to nearly half a billion dollars. In 2014, Joseph’s second wife and board member, Susan Koret, filed a lawsuit against Taube, alleging embezzlement. It was settled two years later, with both leaving the board. (Read more about the dispute here.)

More recently, the foundation has experienced a bitter dispute within its management. Taube retired in 2014, although he remained on the board. That year, Joseph’s second wife and board member, Susan Koret, filed a complaint to have Taube removed from the board, alleging that he had inappropriately diverted funds to causes. in his native Poland and conservative political causes, as well as allegations of sexual harassment. Two years later, a settlement was reached in which both parties withdrew from the board.

Where the money goes

The Koret Foundation website does not include a grant database, which limits our ability to see where, exactly, the money is flowing. The site also lacks a direct link to its 990 forms. But according to its latest publicly available file for the period ending December 2019, the foundation has awarded just south of 400 grants totaling $ 45 million. Most of the funds, as you might expect, went to organizations in the Bay Area, primarily in the arts and education, as well as universities and Jewish groups. The foundation has also provided considerable support to Jewish groups based outside the region.

Last June, the foundation announced a new list of higher education grants totaling more than $ 50 million to improve access to education, create new models of learning, and help modernize technology and l campus infrastructure in Bay Area schools. This funding included support for the Koret Scholars program, which helps first-generation, low-income and under-represented minority students overcome barriers to graduating from college.

Open door or barbed wire?

I’m not going to water it down. Nonprofits will find it difficult to access funding from the Koret Foundation, as it accepts invitation-only grant proposals. But as we frequently point out, this is normal for the vast majority of foundations.

Koret’s website showcases the foundation’s grantees, priorities and leadership, while its Grantee Stories section highlights the work of some of the organizations it supports. Foundation executives are currently in the process of refreshing and ultimately relaunching its website to reflect the full scope of Koret’s priorities and granting. The work is expected to be completed later this year.

Last big movements

In August, the foundation’s website published a grantee story showing how the Koret Scholars program improved under-served students’ access to technology and wellness resources while allowing them to balance virtual learning and family obligations. “Our fellows have shown not only commitment but also ingenuity in helping their students navigate the distance learning landscape,” the story reads.

Two months later, the foundation announced $ 2 million in new funding for arts and culture organizations in the Bay Area to help them rebuild and reopen their operations. “Now, it is essential that we support our long-term beneficiaries during the pandemic and beyond, to ensure that they are not only able to survive, but to thrive and continue to enrich our community for generations to come. come, ”said Michael Boskin. , president of the foundation, in an article in the Jewish News of Northern California.

A cool thing to know

Koret executives frequently appear at local and national outlets offering advice on key philanthropic issues. For example, the Chronicle of San Francisco recently published articles by Program Director Danielle Foreman capturing her thoughts on how philanthropy can best support local communities and organizations emerging from the pandemic.

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