Making the smart investment

With the new tax law, there has never been a better time to give a gift that keeps on giving.

The Pipes Bridge in Beersheba, funded by a bequest gift made by Raya Cowan, a late client of long-time JNF donor Robert Levine who encouraged her to contribute to JNF (photo credit: JNF-USA)
The Pipes Bridge in Beersheba, funded by a bequest gift made by Raya Cowan, a late client of long-time JNF donor Robert Levine who encouraged her to contribute to JNF
(photo credit: JNF-USA)
Lynne Merriam is a pillar of the Clearwater, Florida, Jewish community. She has been a Sunday school teacher and the president of her synagogue sisterhood, as well as a Jewish Federation Lion of Judah donor.
But Merriam said that her greatest passion is Israel. Recently, she decided to support the Jewish state with a charitable gift annuity through Jewish National Fund (JNF-USA).
“We wanted to increase our donation to Jewish National Fund and a planned giving annuity seemed a perfect fit, because with
our donation we would also have income for the remainder of my life and then the rest would go to JNF,” Merriam explained.
She and her husband’s first gift annuity was done with Israel Bonds they had purchased. Through the help of JNF’s Planned Giving department, the couple was able to transfer these bonds to JNF. The transfer, the set-up, and all the needed paperwork was completed “with very little effort on our part,” she said.
“We have now become World Chairman’s Council members, and each year we will give money directed to our special projects
and also each year add to our planned giving annuity plan,” Merriam said. “Planned giving was right for us at this point in our
lives for several reasons. Our children are grown, and our grandchildren are all provided for, so we felt that we wanted to have
our legacy benefit our homeland, our beloved Israel. I felt that as an older couple,we could have no better plan than to help
JNF through this vehicle.”
Planning to Give Jewish National Fund has a robust Planned Giving department, which has grown from a mere $1 million 28 years ago to more than $350 million today.
According to Matt Bernstein, JNF’s Chief Planned Giving Officer, today planned giving accounts for as much as 30% percent
of the organization’s annual campaign.
There are many planned giving options.
One can make a bequest, a gift through their will. This is the simplest type of planned gift and has many benefits for the
donor, including providing an estate tax charitable deduction and reducing the burden of taxes on one’s family. Other planned
giving options include gifts of real estate or life insurance, or a charitable remainder trust, transferring one’s cash or property to
fund a trust that makes payments for the donor’s lifetime or several years and then passes what remains to Jewish National
With a charitable gift annuity (CGA),such as the one that Merriam made, the donor makes a gift of cash or stock to JNF and the organization agrees to make fixed payments of up to 9.8% for one to two lives.
Many retirement arrangements such as IRAs, Keoghs and 401(K) plans have contribution limits. A deferred CGA enables
donors to give cash or securities now and receive annuity payments at a later, specified time, such as at retirement, yielding
significantly higher payments at payout time and a larger income tax deduction in the year the annuity is established.
Donors can also establish a Donor Advised Fund – often compared to private foundations – which can pass on a legacy of giving
from generation to generation. A Donor Advised Fund ensures Jewish National Fund donors receive the most favorable, immediate tax deductions allowed under IRS tax laws, while giving donors the flexibility to make charitable grant recommendations at their discretion.
“Each person has to look at his legacy gift individually,” said Larry Ingber, a trust and estates attorney in Long Island, New York,
who has been involved with Jewish National Fund for more than three decades.
He and his wife, Elyse, recently opened a JNF Donor Advised Fund. “I was always a Zionist who loved Israel,”Ingber told The Jerusalem Post.
The fund is a win-win for Israel and his family, Ingber said.
The sweeping American tax overhaul signed into law last year doubles the standard deduction that two-thirds of Americans used, to $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for married couples. As such,many taxpayers who historically itemized deductions will find it less beneficial for them do so, explained Bernstein, because they’ll find that the deductions they normally take, including for charitable giving, don’t add up to as much as the new standard amount.
A Donor Advised Fund could be a workaround.
“They’re the answer to the new tax law,” said Bernstein.
Called “bunching,” donors can plan to make their donations and itemize their gifts every other year. So, for instance, in 2019 the donor might double up on contributions. Then, in 2020, the donor will skip donating and take the standard donation.The next year, the donor will make gifts and itemize, and so on.
By bunching these donations into a Donor Advised Fund, the donor can take the deduction, but still be able to pay out annual gifts to the charities of his or her choice – even on years that he or she does not itemize deductions.
A portion of all money deposited into a Jewish National Fund Donor Advised Fund is earmarked for JNF. However, above and
beyond building a prosperous future for the Land of Israel and its people, donors can simply tell JNF to what other charities they
want their money distributed and in what amounts. Jewish National Fund does not charge a fee.
Leaving a Legacy
Ingber said throughout his career – even before he and his wife opened their own Donor Advised Fund – he has encouraged
others to make legacy gifts to Jewish National Fund. For instance, Ingber helped the late Rafael Feferman, a Holocaust survivor who lived his adult life in New York, secure his legacy and love for Israel with the more than $2.5 million he donated to Jewish National Fund charitable gift annuities and the bequest left to JNF under his will.
“He inspired me,” Ingber said. “Jewish National Fund works to make the day-to-day lives of Israelis better by investing in the Northern and Southern areas. Where there is a need, they act quickly. When people get Involved and make donations to JNF on a more substantial basis, they can see first-hand where that money is going, and it’s a beautiful thing.”
Robert Levine, a CPA and attorney from Teaneck, would agree.
Levine has been involved with Jewish National Fund for more than 50 years and has donated outright cash gifts to the organization, as well as CGAs. He, like Ingber, encouraged clients to leave bequests to JNF in their wills.
The Pipes Bridge in Beersheba was funded from a bequest gift made by Raya Cowan, one of Levine’s late clients.
“I am aware of the tax and other financial benefits of this kind of investment,” said Levine. “And being able to support Israel while getting that benefit is something that is very meaningful to me.”
He said a CGA to Jewish National Fund is a way to “express love of Judaism and support the continuation, survival and thriving of the Jewish people.”
But he told the Post that giving to Israel cannot stop with cash. He said if you make a gift to Jewish National Fund, then you
must visit Israel to see the return on the investment. He has been to the country 98 times.
“You have to see Israel with your own eyes,” said Levine. “Touch the soul, see what you have helped build, and put a little
rock or soil in a bag and bring it home with you, so you will always have a little piece of Israel in your home.”
For more information on planned giving,please call 800-562-7526, email [email protected] or visit
This article was written in cooperation with Jewish National Fund-USA.