The Kushners: A Look at the Philanthropy of a Family in the News

Kushner family philanthropy is powered by a real estate fortune

Kushner family philanthropy is powered by a real estate fortune

These days, Charles B. Kushner is best known as the father of Donald Trump's 35-year-old son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has played a key role in orchestrating the billionaire's rise while also steering Kushner Companies and Observer Media, publisher of the New York Observer

But Charles Kushner himself has an interesting backstory that includes philanthropy. His parents arrived in the United States in the 1940s, and Kushner grew up in the 1950s in New Jersey. He attended NYU and Hofstra, and founded Kushner Companies, a real estate firm, in 1985. Kushner Companies now consists of more than 20,000 multifamily apartments, as well as 13 million square feet of office, industrial and retail space in several eastern states. 

Last decade, the Kushner family was in the news after Charles Kushner was sentenced to two years in federal prison in Alabama after pleading guilty to 18 felony counts. Kushner was ultimately released within a year. Now, a decade later, the family is in the news once more. 

With a spotlight on the president-elect and his inner circle, it's a good moment take a closer look at Charles and Seryl Kushner Charitable Foundation, a low-profile charitable vehicle that's been around for years, steered by the Kushner clan—Charles, wife Seryl, and son Jared among them. One recent grantee of the foundation, unsurprisingly, is the Eric Trump Foundation, which is "dedicated to raising money for terminally ill children at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital." 

Jewish causes are especially important to this orthodox family, and most the foundation's recent grantmaking is conventional. The family has strong ties to New Jersey and New York, and many of the foundation's grantees are within this geographic region. The family bankrolls the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy and Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School, Modern Orthodox Jewish schools in New Jersey that bear the name of Kushner's father and mother. The family has also strongly supported the Ramaz School and directed funds to Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan and Yeshiva University, among others.

The Kushners also have an interest in special education. The Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy/Rae Kushner Hebrew Academy houses a program of the SINAI Special Needs Institute, an organization "dedicated to serving the educational, psychological and emotional needs of Jewish children and young adults." They've been steady backers of Friendship Circle as well, which has a mission to "provide Jewish children who have special needs with a full range of social, recreational, educational and Judaic experiences." 

The Kushner clan also directs money to various Jewish religious and community organizations, as well as toward Israel. Some that money flowing overseas has attracted controversy. 

A piece in Haaretz notes the litany of Jewish organizations the family supports, some of which are involved controversial West Bank settlement projects, as the outlet writes: 

Among organizations and institutions in the West Bank that receive funding from the Kushner family, the leading beneficiary is American Friends of Beit El Yeshiva. Located in one of the more hard-line, ideological settlements, Beit El Yeshiva received $20,000 from the Kushner family in 2013.
The president of American Friends of Beit El Yeshiva, whose offices are located in Forest Hills, New York, is David Friedman, Trump’s senior adviser on Israel affairs. Friedman, who has served as Trump’s real estate lawyer for the past 15 years and is considered to be very close to the president-elect, has expressed interest in being the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Per Haaretz, the foundation also recently steered money ($500, by the way) to "radical Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in Yitzhar," which allegedly has "served as a base for launching violent attacks against nearby Palestinians villages and Israeli security forces." With uncertainty about how the new president will conduct foreign policy matters, particularly in the Middle East, it makes sense that media outlets will be examining the administration from all fronts.

Apart from Jewish organizations, the family's grantmaking has also supported places like Columbia University, CUNY Graduate School, NYC Outward Bound Schools, Weill Cornell Medical College, Pace University, Hunter College Foundation, and Catholic Charities.

For a full overview of the Kushner family's grantmaking, read our profile and guide below.