Leon Cooperman, the former Goldman Sachs executive and founder of Omega Advisors, and his wife Toby, are best known for their charitable work in the Jewish community, having put more than $20 million into the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Metrowest, NJ, an organization they helped found, as well as making many smaller donations to countless other Jewish charities. There are signs, however, that these signatories of the Giving Pledge, worth $2.5 billion, are starting to ramp up their giving, and that one of their major focuses will be health.
They just made their largest donation in this area so far, $25 million to the St. Barnabas Medical Center in Leon's hometown of Short Hills, NJ, which breaks the record for the largest donation in the organization's history. It's no surprise the couple chose St. Barnabas as their beneficiary; Cooperman has been affiliated with the medical center for more than three decades, first as a trustee and later as chairman of the medical center’s foundation. Until now, however, the publicly available records for the Leon and Toby Cooperman Family Foundation show gifts in the thousands, not millions, so if the Coopermans were giving larger sums to the organization, they were doing so out of their own pockets, and quietly.
Cooperman, the son of a plumber, noted in an announcement that for someone from such a humble background to be in a position to make so large a donation is proof of the American dream. “In life, everyone has the choice to be a consumer or a giver, and my wife and I choose to be along the latter,” he said. The donation will fund construction of the Cooperman Family Pavilion, which will include a new neonatal intensive care unit, three floors of private rooms, and an outpatient center.
The Coopermans have also been significant donors to the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, where Leon sits on the board, and the Crohns and Colitis Foundation of America, to which they've given over $1 million. Their foundation is very active in the New York/New Jersey area as well, giving many small- to medium-sized grants each year to educational, cultural, and community organizations.
With their total disbursements continuing to climb—reaching nearly $10 million in 2013—the Coopermans' giving is on the rise, which is great news for grantseekers that focus on a variety of issues, and particularly community organizations in New Jersey. And with their outlook on philanthropy, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Coopermans to wade more broadly into education or immigration reform.