NET WORTH: $500 million estimated
SOURCE OF WEALTH: Aspen Square Management (Real estate)
JEWISH FUNDING AREAS: Literacy & Education, Community
OVERVIEW: Harold Grinspoon and his wife Diane Troderman are Giving Pledge signatories whose philanthropy focuses on the Jewish community in Western Massachusetts and Southern Vermont, as well as nationally and in Israel. A key program provides families with free, high-quality children's books, music and other resources that foster Jewish learning. The foundation has a strong web presence with clear grant guidelines.
BACKGROUND: Harold Grinspoon grew up in the 1930s in a poor family outside of Boston. He eventually founded the Massachusetts-headquartered Aspen Square Management, a private real estate company which operates in over ninety communities in fourteen states around the country.
PHILANTHROPY: In the couple's Giving Pledge letter, Grinspoon describes his relationship with his Jewish heritage. His family was secular, but Grinspoon was often reminded of his Jewish heritage as he faced anti-semitism in school. He credits others in the community for galvanizing his own philanthropy years ago: "Twenty-five years ago, I had cancer of the tongue and came to the realization at that time that life is about more than making money. I started to think about what my legacy would be. Inspired by my wife, Diane Troderman, and my friends, Michael Steinhardt, Rabbi Irving Greenberg, and Jeremy Pava, I began to explore my Jewish roots."
Critical to the family's philanthropy is the idea that, as Grinspoon puts it, "among younger Jews. . . our newfound social acceptance has led to a decreased connection with their Jewish heritage. . . This trend is of great concern to me because it poses a threat to the Jewish future."
Grinspoon and Diane give generously to Jewish causes through the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF). HGF makes grants in Western Massachusetts and Southern Vermont, as well as nationally and in Israel. The foundation also runs flagship programs. One of these, PJ Library, provides free, high-quality children's books, music, and other resources that foster Jewish learning and "create a gateway for deeper engagement in Jewish life." The program is active in more than 165 North American communities, and is also expanding into Israel. The meaning behind PJ Library is in part personal; Grinspoon had dyslexia-based reading difficulties as a youth.
Based in Western Massachusetts, Grinspoon and Diane, via their foundation, provide funding for operating costs to Jewish day schools, including the Heritage Academy, Hebrew High School of New England, the Center for Jewish Education, and Lander Grinspoon Academy.
Nationally, grantees have included Birthright Israel, Hillel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), and the Foundation for Jewish Camp. In fact, Grinspoon is considered a pioneer in expanding and upgrading Jewish summer camping. Another program of his own foundation, JCamp 180 seeks to "sustain and strengthen Jewish camps in North America." The foundation also parks significant dollars with Jewish Federations and Jewish Community Foundations throughout the country,
In Israel, meanwhile, Grinspoon established an Israel-based foundation, Keren Grinspoon Israel, which operates Sifriyat Pijama, a spinoff of the PJ Library program.
LOOKING FORWARD: Grinspoon’s daughter-in-law Winnie Sandler Grinspoon assumed the role of president of the foundation a few years ago, and is a key person to watch.
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