Rabbi Sydni's Shabbat Sermons

Rosh HaShanah 5781

by David Ginsburg

Saturday, September 19th, 2020

A Message About Legacy

Dear Fellow congregants, visitors and guests,

You must be thinking about now, ”Why is David up here now? He isn’t the president anymore.” And you are right. I am the past president, having served Agudath Achim for two nonconsecutive terms. And I might add that I am very happy with my current title. I feel very comfortable that leadership is in good hands and that Bob is recognizing things that need to be addressed and will take care of them quickly and efficiently.

I was asked to speak to you about a specific area of fundraising that some may be aware of and others not. I’m not talking about our dues structure. We did that last January. The Dues committee did their research and we made a proposal to the attentive group in attendance that Sunday morning and you all agreed with the numbers and the premise. Our dues income is moving in a positive direction and reflecting the first year’s response as we hoped it would. I want to thank the committee again and all of you that stepped up to ease the demand from the foundation.

And I am not here to propose a fundraising scheme or extra donation to get us over a particular goal. Many of you are from other congregations and have heard the speech and been handed a card with your name on it and tabs to fold to make a pledge. Not doing that either.Many years ago, I remember it was part of the day’s schedule. If it was discontinued I can only surmise there was a good reason, and I will leave it at that.So relax. What I want to discuss with you is what you do with your money or your estate when you no longer need it. This is part of the conversation you have with your accountant or attorney, your family, and your most private and innermost thoughts about how you want to be remembered and by whom. I want to suggest to you that you consider Agudath Achim in your will for the continuation and betterment of the congregation in the future. This is referred to as legacy giving.

I have had the privilege over the past years to witness firsthand the receiving and the giving of estates from this congregation and most recently from my own family. With the guidance of the executive committee, five and six figure bequests from three members in particular in the past five to six years have been instrumental in making repairs, paying salaries long term, and the day to day expenses that come with a synagogue. For as many years as I can remember we have had a deficit budget, so the needs are ongoing. The generosity of these members and others has helped us to make it to this day together. And this is not a recent phenomenon. Twenty five or thirty years ago, Arnold Lincove, a past treasurer and president, observed that at that time, memorial donations and bequests helped us reach our budget goals.For those of you who did not know Arnold, he was an accountant and dedicated member of Agudath Achim. His ability to look at the numbers and analyze the data was spot on. He also helped create the foundation. So this is not a new idea.

Many nonprofits stress legacy giving. It is an important and significant flow to many organizations. At this time of year, Tzedaka is mentioned and stressed. Helping our fellow Jews has been a tradition from our earliest writings. Today, in 2021 or 5781, is no different. So don’t think this discussion is crass or out of place. Now comes the hard part. What is most important to you and your family? How are they all doing financially? How much do I have to divvy up or distribute? What, after all, are my priorities? Don’t sidestep the importance of this exchange of ideas. Putting it in writing is the next step. If you don’t put it in writing, the state of Louisiana and the federal tax code have some very concrete plans for your estate. And it may not be in line with how you or your family feels.

This past year, Sandra and I sat down with Bruce Miller, a tax attorney in New Orleans. Forty years ago he was a young attorney working for our favorite federal government agency here in Shreveport and he was a member of Agudath Achim. We have been good friends and in touch ever since. He guided us through the process of updating our wills, reflecting changes in law and values now since the first edition, and new more important priorities that just were not there twenty years ago when we wrote the first editions. At that first appointment, Mom had past away only recently and I had the experience of executing her will. We witnessed firsthand how situations change and the need to include those changes in the plan going forward. That said, if you have found value in your relationships with this congregation and the families around you, or from our spiritual leaders, it doesn’t need a major rewrite and expense to update your documents. If you have found a renewed strength from a particular area of the congregation, you may specify how your bequest is to be used. Building and grounds, general fund, Rabbi’s discretionary account, or the foundation, are just a few. It can be done in most cases with an addendum to the existing will with a phone call to your attorney.

Unlike other fundraising efforts, we will not call you to follow up on this presentation. I hope I have planted a seed that you will nurture and follow through. And it doesn’t matter whether your net worth is in hundreds or multiple millions. It can be in cash, stocks, real estate, art or any other negotiable form. The liturgy we recite at this time of year that says who will live and who will die demonstrates the demographics of our kahila that are inescapable. But if we can make a positive difference for those who remain after we are gone, then truly our memory will be for a blessing. Remember Agudath Achim for the benefit of those who will be here after we are gone as we have benefitted from the generosity of those who have gone before us. Lashana tovah tikatevu.