By Deb Silverthorn
“Eight years ago we were a loving and caring ‘mom and pop shop’ and David has turned us into a sophisticated and disciplined foundation,” Gary Weinstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, said of David Agronin, outgoing executive director of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation. “He streamlined and automated our system and spearheaded the growth of our assets from $50 million to almost $160 million. David has been more than an example in his professional manner but also in how he lives his life in a most ethical and value-based way. His model of how to live a Jewish life is respected by all.”
Agronin will soon take his expertise in planned giving and endowments, organizational management and fundraising into the Jewish and Greater Dallas communities. “For every thing there is a season,” Agronin said. “I hope to continue to assist the Foundation in its good works and know it will continue to grow and succeed.”
“By serving as bond guarantor to the Capital Campaign, the Foundation secured almost $19 million in tax-free bonds to fund construction and renovation projects for Jewish organizations in the Dallas area,” Weinstein said. “We owe a great debt, no pun intended, to David and the Foundation for all that has been brought to the community.”
The Dallas Jewish Community Foundation (DJCF) was established in 1973 as the trust and endowment arm of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and the organized Jewish Community. DJCF is now an independent foundation, but closely partnered with the Federation and some 40 local Jewish organizations and congregations. Through the Foundation, donors perpetuate their philanthropy, provide continuity of giving from one generation to the next, memorialize loved ones and ensure the continued flow of income to organizations they support. This is an effort that secures millions of dollars annually for distribution locally and nationally.
Peggy Tobolowsky, past vice chairman and chairman of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation, said of David, “We brought David to this position, as the trustees wanted the Foundation to grow as a change agent to help us reach into the community and increase our visibility. He has stewarded the implementation of the Foundation’s role and we see the benefits of his efforts throughout the community.”
The Foundation is the backbone of the Community Endowment Partners and the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation Scholarships, which recently awarded more than $78,600 to 39 students. Most recently introduced was the Create a Jewish Legacy (CJL) Bequest and Endowment Initiative. “CJL will have a tremendous beneficial impact across the Jewish community going forward,” said Agronin, who has long served the National Committee on Planned Giving and been on the board of the organization’s North Texas chapter. “I have devoted a great deal of effort toward this endeavor during the ‘quiet phase’ over the last several years.”
“On behalf of all of my [national] colleagues I know I can say that we believe David to be enormously committed and one who has had a long and distinguished career, achieving his goals and those of his board,” said Joseph Imberman, associate vice president of planned giving and endowments at United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization over the Jewish Federations of North America. “He is a fund of information, remembering details with an encyclopedic mind. David is able to make that knowledge work for his community as a remarkable proponent of building endowments. I know he will now take on other challenges, in his most competent and hard-working manner, and we know he will succeed.”
Ruthy Rosenberg, vice chairman of the board of trustees of the Foundation, added, “Not only did David increase our assets, but his visibility and commitment to be a part of everything in the community was 24/7. He attends every event and works late into the night, always, everywhere, and with a real enthusiasm and concern.”
“My goal when I came here was to give the Foundation a strong, solid community presence and financial footing and we’ve accomplished that,” Agronin said. “We’ve more than tripled our assets and brought our donor base from 365 component named funds to 855. Our Bequest and Endowment Honor Roll — those who’ve made a public commitment to include the Jewish community, through the Foundation, in their estate plans — has risen from 64 in early 2001 to 536 in 2009.
“We had a record year in 2006 with $39,752,000 in asset inflows and in 2007 with $19,600,000 in distributions and grants. These are all incredible numbers considering the ongoing turmoil in the last 20 months,” Agronin continued. “We’ve done this with our high-performing and very professional staff team which has, with every effort, carried out the mandate and mission of the Foundation for now and for long into its future.”
“David can be credited with moving the Foundation into the next century beautifully,” said Howard Schultz, past chairman of the board of trustees of the Foundation. “He came here aware of the importance of the Foundation’s possibilities and the significant transfer of wealth that was possible. He’s brought the Foundation to its current level, competitive with any program of its kind.”
“By increasing our donors and assets and exposure to the community, David has excelled in bringing the Foundation to a new level,” echoed Sandy Kaufman, past chairman of the board of trustees of the Foundation. “He’s had an extraordinary manner in which he’s worked with the lay leaders at organizations throughout Dallas and he’s excelled at imparting the significance of Jewish institutions to put their reserves in the hands of the Foundation.”
The mission of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation is to “improve our Jewish community and the world through the development and stewardship of philanthropic resources of our donors and community partners.” Indeed, in eight years of leadership, David Agronin has made that mission his legacy.
More about David Agronin
Born and raised in New York, David Agronin received a B.A. from Queens College, the City University of New York, and attended graduate school at Pace University Lubin Graduate School of Business. As he was active in Jewish life on campus, a first job at the United Jewish Appeal, Inc, as a campaign representative, seemed right. Agronin’s 18 years with the UJA, during which he also served as director of the Midwestern Region and national allocations director, set a course for a lifetime of living tzedakah, teaching others to do so and bringing Jewish communities together.
David’s parents, Ada and the late Howard Agronin, who made aliyah with his sister Shirley in 1976, raised their children with the soul of Zionists confirmed. “My parents grew up in the shadow of the Depression and they believed that the Jews of the world needed a homeland,” Agronin said. “The ideal, for them, was to be a part of that homeland, to be in the present, to be there. For me, I was contributing through my role at the UJA, the work I was doing in the Jewish community, and, for 34 years, I know what I’ve done has been a good way for me to be connected and supportive.” One who will always remain connected to Israel, Agronin has visited that “home” 58 times.
Agronin and his wife, Carol, whom he first met in the lobby of The President Hotel in Jerusalem — she on a high-school graduation trip and he a participant in the “Jewish Agency for Israel Institute for Leadership Development” — are the parents of Erez, Asriel and Dalit. “Erez just graduated from Northeastern University, Asriel from Yavneh Academy, and Dalit has finished her freshman year at Yavneh,” the proud father said. “Our kids are caring, involved, and they are interested in sharing in the world around them. This is a great time for each of them and for us as their parents.” Carol, who is the chief financial officer and associate executive director for the Aaron Family JCC, has also served on the board of Akiba Academy, from which both Asriel and Dalit graduated. The Agronins are members of Congregation Shaare Tefilla.
By Deb Silverthorn