Family keeps tzedakah tradition going with funds

When Osias “Ozzie” Goren turned 90 last year, he and his wife, Dorothy, were moved that their grandchildren donated $900 — $90 each — to a Head Start preschool for low-income families that the Gorens supported for many years.

After all, it was right in line with the way the philanthropist couple from Pacific Palisades have lived their whole lives. When they expressed their desire that their grandchildren continue to carry on these practices, sons Jerry and Bruce remember it giving them an idea.

“If you’re really interested in trying to make them charitable, why don’t you provide them with the means of doing that?” they asked.  

And the Gorens did. 

Announced this spring, the Gorens made an initial allocation of $48,000 from their family foundation to create 13 donor-advised funds through the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (JCF) that will allow all 10 grandchildren and the Gorens’ three children to discover what causes they are passionate about and donate to them. Each child’s fund received $10,000, with each grandchild’s receiving $1,800. They will be increased by those same amounts every year, according to Bruce Goren.   

Dorothy, 90, said the object of creating the funds was to “infect” their grandchildren with the  “idea of giving to the community” and to interest other people with foundations to do the same with theirs. (Several other Jewish families in Los Angeles have since established similar funds.) 

 “L’dor v’dor [‘from generation to generation’] is exactly what we are doing,” Ozzie added during a conversation with the couple in his Westwood office. “We are inculcated with the business of tzedakah, of giving, in our lifetimes. We want to make sure it goes on and on.” 

An attorney since 1962, Ozzie went on to pursue the investment, development and management of commercial real estate. His resume includes time spent as the president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Dorothy is a former president of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles and was the first woman in a major city to chair a United Jewish Welfare Fund campaign. The couple created the Goren Family Foundation in 1986 through the JCF, which counsels and manages charitable assets for Los Angeles Jewish philanthropists. 

The new donor-advised funds, they said, are about more than the money they put into them. Ozzie and Dorothy said they hope the funds eventually grow from donations their family members each independently contribute, thereby sustaining them well beyond the couple’s lives. 

Jerry Goren described the funds as a vehicle that ensures the Gorens’ grandchildren are thoughtful about giving, because they now have the means to do so at some small level.  

In fact, even though the funds were created less than a year ago, they are already making a difference, as the grandchildren can recommend donations go to virtually any organization they choose (although the foundation has the final say). 

Bruce Goren said that his children, who are all in their 20s, are now concretely thinking about “what they want to be passionate about and what they think is a worthwhile cause.” Because they now have charitable funds with which to work, it “puts the onus on them to do something,” he said. 

Cole, Jerry Goren’s 13-year-old son, said that in particular he is now concerned with the homeless population in Los Angeles, and that he appreciates how his family is sharing this legacy of giving together.  

When Ozzie and Dorothy Goren’s children and grandchildren start donating — they can make recommendations immediately and independently — they will continually remember the values that once prompted the funds’ creation and share them with the Jewish community, said Marvin Schotland, president and CEO of the JCF, who oversaw the organization of the Gorens’ donor-advised funds.

Schotland, who has known Ozzie and Dorothy Goren for almost 25 years, said his first impression of the Gorens was they have a “deep and abiding love for their family. They also have a deep and abiding love for the Jewish community and Jewish traditions and values.” 

Together, Ozzie and Dorothy Goren have held just about every major volunteer position in the Los Angeles Jewish community, and they continue to support organizations like JFS and Federation. They helped smuggle needed items into the Soviet Union to assist refuseniks and assisted in the relocation of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. They also supported efforts to get black South Africans to Israel during the apartheid era.

The couple attributes their philanthropic nature to their Eastern European parents, who all immigrated to New York, and to living through the wake of the Great Depression, the Holocaust, World War II and the beginnings of the State of Israel. As a result, they said, they believe in a responsibility as Jews to improve the world for everyone.

“We care for each other, and for the outside community,” Dorothy Goren said about the Jewish community as she welled up with tears.  “On the total community, on the world.  We care a lot.”

Her husband cut in, “If I’m not for myself, who will be for me? But if I’m only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” referring to Hillel’s aphorism from the Mishnah about one’s relationship to the world.

The Gorens have tried to pass down this legacy of tzedakah and tikkun olam (repairing the world) to their children and grandchildren, who serve turkey dinners to 100 families every Christmas, a tradition Ozzie Goren started 57 years ago through the Los Angeles Urban League.  

For as long as he has been a grandfather, Ozzie Goren has referred to his family as his “immortality.” He and his wife alluded to this term in the conclusion of a letter they sent to their whole family this past spring to unveil their plans about the donor-advised funds.  

 “The art of giving is one of the great Jewish traditions, and we hope that what we are doing will help immortalize that tradition through you, from generation to generation, l’dor v’dor,” they wrote. “Giving to those not as fortunate as ourselves not only makes them smile, but makes you smile and feel good as you continue in our family’s multigenerational tradition of charitable giving.”