Heeding Andrew Carnegie’s maxim that “he who dies rich dies in disgrace,” Leon Cooperman and his wife, Toby, have made what is believed to be the largest single contribution the Jewish Community Foundation of MetroWest NJ has ever received.
The JCF has been named owner of the Coopermans’ $20 million life insurance policy.
The gift comes from the Cooperman Family Foundation.
According to JCF executive director Joshua Rednik, a minimum of $10 million will be placed in the Cooperman Family Fund for a Jewish Future, which endows Birthright Israel for young adults, supports Jewish summer camps for youngsters, and promotes mitzva projects for teens.
“The other $10 million will be subject to the discretion of the fund’s trustees. We won’t know until long into the future,” Rednik said.
“People who have accumulated large wealth have a moral imperative to share their financial success with others less fortunate,” Leon Cooperman, chair and CEO of the Omega Advisors hedge fund, told NJ Jewish News in a Feb. 10 phone interview.
The Coopermans, longtime major donors to the MetroWest federation, are signers of the Giving Pledge — a program begun by financier Warren Buffet inviting the very rich to pledge a majority of their wealth to charity.
“I give to organizations that I perceive to be important,” Cooperman told NJJN. “We are very active in our Judaism and trying to make sure that we continue to exist as a religion and a group. We are such a small minority, and intermarriage makes us smaller and smaller.”
In 2010, the couple established the $5 million Cooperman Family Fund for a Jewish Future.
The Cooperman gift “helps to ensure the vibrancy and strength of our Jewish community, and for that we are very thankful,” said Kenneth R. Heyman of Short Hills, president of the JCF board of trustees. The couple, he said, are among the longstanding donor families in MetroWest. “We are very grateful to them for their strong ties.”
In addition to Jewish causes, the Coopermans have supported Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, and the Robin Hood Foundation, which invests in New York City anti-poverty programs.
“I have a great deal of support for the Columbia University School of Business, where I got my MBA degree,” said Leon Cooperman. “It opened a door to Wall Street.”
“Certain people are hedonistic,” he added. “But my wife and I are not hedonistic. We have lived in the same house in Short Hills for 40 years. We don’t have a lot of needs and wants, and we have this sense that we should share our success with others who have been less fortunate.”
Joining them as trustees of their family foundation are their children, Wayne and Jodi, who live in Short Hills, and Michael, who lives in Connecticut.
“I think it is an exceedingly generous gift from an exceedingly generous family,” Rednik said. “They are clearly focused on what they are doing philanthropically, and they want to see it grow. This is also a testament to our working with this family and the degree of trust we have developed with them.”