By Susan Nieman
Above: L.R. Jalenak, Jr. and son Charles Jalenak, two generations of Jewish Foundation of Memphis Chairs.
On June 18, 2019, at the joint annual meeting of Jewish Community Partners (JCP), Memphis Jewish Federation (MJF) and Jewish Foundation of Memphis (JFOM), Charles Jalenak will pass the torch as Foundation Chair after serving in this role for two years.
Mr. Jalenak has spent a lifetime connected with Jewish Foundation of Memphis, Memphis Jewish Federation and Jewish Community Partners. At least that is what it must feel like for a man whose involvement with these organizations spans almost three decades.
“I have felt honored to follow in the footsteps of my father who, with several other Jewish communal leaders, was very instrumental in the formation of the Jewish Foundation of Memphis,” said Mr. Jalenak referring to his father, L.R. Jalenak, Jr., the second Foundation Chair, following Ronald Harkavy, who served as the first Chair of the Foundation almost 25 years ago. “It was a privilege to continue in the mission that those before me helped establish, and to keep the vibrancy and momentum going to the next person and the next generation.”
The Jewish Foundation of Memphis was formed in 1995 to serve as the “back-office” endowment arm of the Memphis Jewish Community serving as an endowment resource for nine partner agencies and providing various funds and vehicles for managing family philanthropy. Other past chairs include: Sandy Blockman, Nat Landau, Jerome Makowsky, Ronna Newburger, Nick Ringel, Kay Saslawsky, Ken Steinberg. Since its founding, $10’s of millions of dollars have been distributed to hundreds of charities in Memphis and beyond.
“One of the first things I did when I became chairman was to talk to some of the prior chairs to get a sense about the strengths that they saw in the organization and the challenges they faced,” continued Mr. Jalenak. “I wanted to meet with as many past chairs and board members to understand what they had accomplished and to offer suggestions about what they would like to see done, and how things could be done a little differently. I think that was a great opportunity for me to learn from them to build a stronger future.”
Mr. Jalenak’s involvement in the Memphis Jewish community stems back to his youthful days at the MJCC and BBYO and into young adulthood as a donor to Federation’s annual campaign. “The game changer that solidified the connection was my first mission trip to Israel in 1995. After that I became a member of the Federation’s Finance Committee and joined the Investment Committee at the Foundation.”
“I’ve worked with Charles through the Foundation for 19 years,” said Sheri Gadberry, JCP Director of Operations, who has been with the Foundation since 2000. “His dedication and commitment of time is an inspiration to our staff.”
“The leadership and staff have a lot to be proud of,” he said.” Over the last few years we’ve realized significant growth in legacy gifts through our close working relationship with our nine partner organizations. And we’ve grown a record number of Donor Advised Funds.”
Mr. Jalenak is excited about the Foundation’s growth citing a recent milestone of total assets under JCP management reaching $100 million. “I can’t take credit for that, but it was a terrific accomplishment that was realized during my term as Chair.” He then remarked on the “amazing programs” held by the Foundation’s Professional Advisory Group and his good fortune to work with its leader, local estate attorney Jason Salomon.
Even though Mr. Jalenak will no longer be at the helm of the Foundation, his involvement will continue through his continued chairmanship of the JCP’s Investment Committee. And who knows, maybe one of his four children, all of whom are past, current and future members of the Foundation’s B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy program, will take on future leadership roles at the Foundation or within the Memphis Jewish community.
“Working with Charles has been a tremendous pleasure,” said JCP President and CEO Laura Linder. “He is completely invested in the success of the Foundation and has contributed significantly to its growth. I’m thrilled that he will continue to play a major leadership role as the chair of our Investment Committee. This is one of the most important functions of our organization and one that Charles has successfully led for many years.”