Book of Life

You support the Jewish community – perhaps the Jewish Federation, your synagogue, the Day School or Hillel or a Jewish cultural organization — with donations or dues, because you care about that organization and about Jewish continuity.

The Endowment Book of Life is a very special bound journal recording the names and personal statements of individuals in our community who have made a commitment to leave legacies to the Jewish community. The Jewish Community Foundation launched the Endowment Book of Life project in our community with a signing ceremony held December 4, 2005, at the Lerner Jewish Community Day School in Durham. At this ceremony individuals supporting all Jewish organizations in the community came together to pledge their commitment to leaving a legacy to future generations in our Jewish community.

Many, if not most, people who sign the Endowment Book of Life will not know at the time how much that legacy gift will be or how it will be made. These decisions can be made at a later date and will likely change as life circumstances change.

Those who choose to sign the Book of Life make a promise to leave to any Jewish organization in the community a legacy of any size whatsoever. From millionaires to pensionaires, all signers are equal, and all get their own pages in the Book of Life.

For more information, contact Jill Madsen, Chief Executive Officer at (919) 354-4949, or

Personal Statement

After an individual signs the Endowment Book of Life, he or she is asked to submit a short personal statement to be recorded with his or her signature. Statements can reflect the individual’s life story, philanthropic motivation, or dreams for the future. These statements will form a permanent historical record of our community and our commitment to its future.

Legacy Plan

The next step in the process is for signers in creating their Legacy Plans. A Legacy Plan is a formal declaration of how the signer wants his or her gift to be used. If the legacy gift is intended to endow one’s campaign gift, that is stated in the Plan. If the legacy gift is intended to continue support for one’s synagogue, that is stated in the Plan. If the gift is intended to underwrite a particular type of programming, that is spelled out in the Plan. The Foundation will assist the signers to create their personal Legacy Plans.

Legacy Gift

The final step in the process is making the legacy gift. Some people can afford to make outright gifts and see the benefits of those gifts during their lifetime. In many cases the gift will be made by bequest in a will – of a specified amount, of a percentage of the estate, or of the remainder after other bequests are satisfied. Only simple bequest language can be necessary, because the specifics of how the money is to be used is already documented in Legacy Plans. For sample bequest language, click here.

There are other ways in which legacy gifts can be made. For an older adult, the best way to leave a legacy might be by establishing a charitable gift annuity. In this case the donor will receive an income for life – often much greater than the income from traditional income-producing investments. For some, designating the Foundation as the beneficiary of an IRA account may be an excellent way to establish a legacy gift. There is also the opportunity to leave a sizable legacy through life insurance naming the Foundation as beneficiary.

Professional advisors – attorneys, financial planners, and/or accountants – can and should be consulted to help an individual determine the best way to accomplish one’s philanthropic goals. These professionals are the best source of advice on what makes sense for you in accomplishing your legacy gift.