Our History

The Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies has a long and proud history as an independent charitable organization serving the local Jewish community. On March 23, 1911, eight men and two women met at Zion House, located on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo, New York to form the Foundation. These founding directors were: Henry Weill, August Keiser, Mrs. Marcus Spiegel, Jacob G. Joseph, Emanuel Boasberg, Solomon Ginsburg, Isaac E. Harris, Theodore Hofeller, Solomon Morrison and Mrs. Edward Warner. Their purpose as stated in the original certificate of incorporation was, “To provide a permanent, efficient and practical mode of collecting and distributing contributions for charitable or philanthropic purposes, and to devote the sums so collected for the support for Jewish charitable organizations…”

During those formative years, our community’s founding fathers agreed upon a rational and far-sighted division of labor under which the Federation would be responsible for annual fund-raising and allocations, while the Foundation would manage the long-term permanent endowment funds. Their wisdom has served us well.

The Foundations’ first benefactor was Dr. Jerome Hilton Waterman who left a bequest of $20,000 in memory of his parents, Herman and Melvina Waterman. Since 1912, these funds have been held in trust for the benefit of the Jewish Federation of Greater Buffalo and the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo. Both of these agencies continue to receive annual income from the Waterman Fund to support special programs.

During our first 70 years, the Foundation operated quietly but effectively behind the scenes managed by a Board of Trustees and an investment group known as the Sinking Fund Commissioners. The roster of Presidents of the Foundation includes many of the most distinguished leaders in our community’s history. They are as follows:


Solomon Ginsberg 1911 – 1912 J. Milton Zeckhauser 1982 – 1983
Isaac E. Harris 1913 – 1915 Amb. Leonard Rochwarger 1984 – 1986
Theodore Hofeller 1916 – 1918 Sheldon Hurwitz 1987 – 1988
Eugene Warner 1919 – 1920 Sanford M. Nobel 1989 – 1990
Emanuel Boasberg 1921 Ruth Kahn Stovroff 1991 – 1992
Hon. Samuel J. Harris 1922 – 1925 Joel N. Lippman 1993
Charles Polakoff 1926 Haskell I. Stovroff 1993 – 1994
Dr. Lester I. Levyn 1927 – 1929 Gordon R. Gross 1995 – 1996
Harry J. Lehman 1930 Nathan Benderson 1997 – 1999
Eugene Warner 1931 – 1944 Ann Holland Cohn 2000 – 2001
Maurice S. Tabor 1945 – 1953 Wayne D. Wisbaum 2002 – 2006
Stanley G. Falk 1954 – 1965 Eugene M. Setel 2007 – 2008
Morris Goldstein 1966 – 1968 Richard A. Zakalik 2009 – 2010
Joseph N. Desmon 1969 – 1970 Arnold N. Kahn 2011 – 2012
Robert C. Hayman 1971 – 1972 Judith H. Katz 2013 – 2014
Eugene M. Warner  1973 – 1974 Raymond L. Fink 2015 – 2018
Lawrence W. Gunzberg 1975 – 1979 Donald M. Kohnstamm 2019-Present
Norman C. Joseph 1980 – 1981


In 1975, Sydney S. Abzug, long-time Executive Director of the Federation, retired and assumed the position of part-time consultant to the Foundation. With his dedication to the welfare of the Jewish people and his intimate knowledge of Jewish community affairs, Mr. Abzug succeeded in stimulating a renewed interest in the work of the Foundation.

The Foundation began to organize and implement a comprehensive endowment development program under the leadership of J. Milton Zeckhauser. In 1982, upon the second retirement of Mr. Abzug, the Foundation strengthened its operational capabilities by engaging its first full-time professional director, Peter Fleischmann. The Board of Trustees was expanded and the Foundation’s by-laws were revised and updated. Existing committees were revitalized and new committees formed to address multiple functions to a full service community foundation. At the end of 1982, the Foundation held total assets of $1.5 million.

Today the Foundation manages over 1,000 individual endowment funds and assets have grown to over $165 million. Thus, with committed leadership, professional staffing and strong community support, the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies faces the future with pride in what has been achieved and with confidence in our ability to serve both donors and charitable agencies alike.