Their Home Became a Gift to the Community
December 20, 2011
Donor Profile: Constance & Sydney Dunitz
|Sydney, of blessed memory, and Constance Dunitz|
Recently, The Foundation received $2.4 million in proceeds from the sale of the Beverly Hills residence of Sydney and Constance Dunitz to support a variety of organizations that reflect the couple's deep commitment to education, medicine and the Jewish community.
The Dunitz's donated a remainder interest in their real property residence to The Foundation in 1993, retaining a life interest estate in their home during their lifetimes, and as long as they resided in the residence. Sydney Dunitz passed away in 1997, and Constance Dunitz now lives in Boston, near her daughter, Barbara Miller.
The Early Days:
Sidney was born in Detroit and Constance was born in Manhattan. They met at Harvard, where Sydney was studying law, and they married in 1941. Sydney served as a Naval Officer during World War II. "At one point, Sydney was transferred to the Pacific," recalled Constance. "I took a three-day train ride across the country to see him." The couple lived in Northern California and after he completed his Navy service, they moved to Los Angeles. Constance, who loves fashion, worked at Magnin Department Store in the early years of their marriage.
Family, Occupation and Community:
Sydney established a successful law practice focusing on real estate, trusts and estate planning. Constance volunteered in the Pediatrics Department of UCLA Medical Center for 37 years. "She was an epic volunteer," recalls their cousin, Mike Dunitz, a Los Angeles real estate broker. "She probably clocked more hours of volunteer work there than anyone in history." The couple were active members of Stephen S. Wise Temple, where Sydney served as president from 1969 to 1971. Sydney and Constance had three daughters, five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
The Dunitzes designated 50 percent of the proceeds from the remainder interest in their residence to three organizations: John Wayne Cancer Institute, Stephen S. Wise Temple and Harvard Law School. The balance was designated for an endowment fund at The Foundation to perpetually support nine organizations: The Nature Conservancy, City of Hope, Hebrew Union College, Vista Del Mar, Michigan B'nai Brith, Foundation for the Junior Blind, Anti-Defamation League, the United Jewish Fund and the Jewish Community Foundation.
What did they want their legacy to be?
"My parents wanted to support Jewish causes, because they felt very connected to the Jewish community," says their daughter Barbara Miller. "They were also deeply committed to education and medical research. When making the gift, my parents asked me and my sisters to choose our favorite charities to be included in the endowment. We chose The Nature Conservancy, and the Anti-Defamation League."
"My father always wanted to give back to the organizations that benefitted him," explains Barbara. "He was very happy being a lawyer, and he valued the institutions that made that possible, including Harvard Law School and the University of Michigan, where he did his undergraduate work.
"When he was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1990, he went through cancer treatment at the John Wayne Cancer Institute. He felt his doctors were excellent, and he wanted to give back to them as well. So the three organizations that received 50 percent of the sales proceeds each had a direct connection to his life."
Reflections on the Dunitzes:
While Constance and Sydney gave much to charity, they were modest about their giving. "Sydney was not at all materialistic. He was easygoing and got along with everyone," shared Mike Dunitz about his cousin. "As a matter of fact, during his memorial service at Stephen S. Wise Temple, two antlered deer appeared outside a window. It felt like a sign of respect in memory of this selfless man."
When the Dunitzes decided to gift a remainder interest in their residence to The Foundation, they took an income tax deduction at the time of the gift and kept the right to reside there until the survivor of them passed away. When Mrs. Dunitz decided to move near her daughter, the family wished to sell the residence. The Foundation's cooperation enabled this, and also permitted Mrs. Dunitz to receive her actuarial share of the sales proceeds to help offset the cost of her move and her care. Working with The Foundation is easy, and The Foundation can assist estate planning lawyers and other professionals in accomplishing their clients' goals. They are responsive, and willing to go the extra mile.
-Andrew Katzenstein, Attorney, Proskauer Rose LLP
Andrew Katzenstein has had a productive working relationship with The Foundation for over 25 years. He is a presenter at The Foundation's Speaker Series for Professional Advisors, a series of educational programs on tax, estate and charitable gift planning issues. He recently presented on the topic, "How to Fix and Estate Plan Gone Bad" in the Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley event locations.