What Change Do You Want to Make?

Mickey Ross


Hollywood writer and producer Mickey Ross, of blessed memory, wanted to give back to the community that had been so supportive of him. His desire to help both Jewish and local Los Angeles causes after his passing represented his values of saving lives (pikuah nefesh) and humility (anava). Thanks to his Endowment Fund at The Foundation, thousands of people have been impacted by his generosity, and the causes that he deeply cared about will be supported in perpetuity.


Raised in a Yiddish-speaking household in New York City, Mickey was a child during the Great Depression and never forgot the struggles of his immigrant parents to provide for their family, as well as the community support they received.

In his words, Mickey wanted to serve “the most vulnerable in Southern California in the spirit of Yiddishkeit as it had existed in the Ghetto and the Pale, where the welfare of one’s neighbors and community as a whole were more important than personal ambition and personal aims.”

Mickey launched his entertainment career as a stand-up comedian at an Adirondacks resort. He went on to work as a writer and story editor for the hit 1970s series All in the Family, and, with two partners, made a career in Hollywood, writing, producing, and directing for other shows, including The Jeffersons and Three’s Company. Though he amassed significant wealth, he never lived beyond his means.

“Mickey and his late wife, Irene, of blessed memory, lived very modestly, considering his income and ultimate wealth,” said Mads Bjerre, his former business manager. “He never really reconciled himself to the fact that he had become a wealthy man.”

A Partnership That Grows

Near the end of his life, Mickey was looking for an organization that had the capacity to truly get to know and understand him and could carry out his charitable vision testamentarily. He sought a place where he could create an endowment to help those in the Jewish community and the community at large by supporting families that were struggling in the same way his family had struggled during the depression. He also sought an entity that would regularly consult Mr. Bjerre, the trustee of the Ross Endowment, after he was gone. Mickey’s wife, Irene, z”l, had already passed away, and they had no heirs.

After considering several options, his estate planning attorney, Alan Watenmaker of Hoffman, Sabban & Watenmaker, referred him to The Foundation. After meeting with former Foundation President and CEO Marvin I. Schotland and representatives of The Foundation’s Center for Designed Philanthropy, Mickey was confident that The Foundation was the best place to ensure his legacy. He was particularly drawn to the Center for its ability to strategically guide donors in developing more meaningful, effective philanthropy. Today, the Center team works collaboratively with Mr. Bjerre to recommend grants reflecting Ross’s philanthropic vision.

“Mickey wanted to give opportunities to the less advantaged,” said Mr. Bjerre. “And he would be enormously proud of what we’ve accomplished today thanks to his endowment fund at The Foundation.”

The Impact of Designed Philanthropy

Since 2011, when the Ross Endowment’s grantmaking initially began, several million dollars in grants have assisted LA’s most impoverished residents, both in the Jewish community and the community at large. Ross Endowment grants have provided food to thousands of people at Jewish Family Service’s SOVA food pantries, and helped secure millions of dollars in compensation for Holocaust survivors through Bet Tzedek’s Holocaust Survivors Justice Network. The Ross Endowment also supports I Have a Dream Foundation (IHADLA) and Children’s Institute in Watts (CII), among others.

IHADLA sponsors entire classes of elementary school students at underserved schools, providing long-term academic support to the same class of students as they move through elementary school, middle school, high school, and into college. As a result of IHADLA’s investment, their belief in these children, and a guaranteed scholarship to attend college, students graduate at a significantly higher rate than their peers. In 2017, all high school seniors at IHADLA’s Inglewood program graduated, and 96% planned on attending college.

Children’s Institute helps thousands of children in Watts heal from the trauma of family and community violence, overcome systemic poverty, and grow up to lead healthy, productive lives. Watts has the highest rate of poverty in Los Angeles County, leading to excessive stress levels among its residents, which can cause great harm. Thanks to a Ross Endowment grant, CII helped 2,348 clients in 2017.

With thoughtful guidance from The Foundation, the Ross Endowment will continue to reflect Ross’s humility and legacy of pikuah nefesh (saving lives) and lift up thousands of people in Los Angeles.

Key Takeaways

  • Identify a trusted partner, like the Jewish Community Foundation, that truly understands you.
  • You can support causes in both the Jewish community and the community at large in perpetuity.
  • Craft an endowment agreement that reflects your values and ensures long-term impact.

Annette & Leonard Shapiro

Annette and Leonard Shapiro have devoted their lives to improving the community. Their courage and leadership have helped countless organizations and individuals grow and thrive locally, nationally, and in Israel. They set a stellar example of philanthropy with their deep community involvement and passion for volunteering and advocacy.

Annette & Leonard Shapiro


Annette’s family history of generosity to the Los Angeles Jewish community and the community at large stretches back to her paternal grandfather, David Familian, of blessed memory, who emigrated from Russia in 1903, settling in Boyle Heights, then the heart of LA’s Jewish community. Active at the historic Breed Street Shul, he helped start the Jewish Free Loan Society and the Jewish Burial Society. His sons Isadore and George Familian and their families dedicated Adat Ari El Synagogue’s chapel in 1946 in memory of their father, David.

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Annette learned from an early age the importance of community leadership and giving back. At 16, while a student at Fairfax High School, she was at a fundraising dance for City of Hope—then a hospital treating tuberculosis—when she struck up a conversation with Leonard Shapiro, and they soon began dating. Leonard had grown up in Sierra Madre, where his mother was president of their temple, and that imbued within him a strong commitment to community service. A few years later, in 1948, they married. During their 70+ years of marriage, they were blessed with three children, nine grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

Their lives took a dramatic turn when their eldest son David, z”l, was diagnosed with diabetes at age 16. They became advocates in the battle against that disease, collaborating with such luminaries as Frank Wells—then president of Warner Bros. Studios and, later, the Walt Disney Company. Their courage in addressing their son’s illness head-on, and leadership in bringing public attention to it, led to millions of dollars raised for diabetes research.

A Partnership That Grows

Known as a “professional volunteer,” Annette has spent her life working with nonprofits that address a range of issues. She joined The Foundation as a trustee in 1991 and became the first woman and first non-lawyer to chair The Foundation (1997– 2000). Annette was an exemplary leader, using her breadth of nonprofit experience, remarkable enthusiasm, organization skills, and persuasiveness to educate the community about The Foundation’s work.

Annette and Leonard also established a Family Support Organization (FSO) at The Foundation in 1996, a separate tax-exempt entity overseen by a board of directors and classified as a public charity. The Shapiros chose to conduct their philanthropy through this vehicle rather than through a private foundation due to the benefits an FSO offers them, including ease of management and the in-depth guidance The Foundation provides. It also promotes intergenerational family philanthropy, which is important to them.

“We liked the idea that we were able to have a board that involves the whole family,” the couple explains. “Most importantly, our kids are part of the decision-making process for the causes we support. We also encourage them to pursue their own charitable passions through our family’s fund—with no judgment from us.”

When their son David passed away in 2001, at age 49, the David Shapiro Memorial Endowment Fund was established at The Foundation to support diabetes research. Additionally, Annette and Leonard, along with others who knew and loved David, dedicated the David Alan Shapiro Memorial Synagogue Center at American Jewish University.

The Impact of Designed Philanthropy

The Shapiros support causes that directly correlate to their values and life experiences. One of those causes is the Los Angeles Jewish Health, where Annette chaired the organization's centennial, a multi-event celebration that extended over two years. In 2017, the Shapiros gave a generous gift to LAJH to build Café Rendezvous, a cyber café and outdoor garden space.

Another beneficiary is Beit T’Shuvah, the Jewish addiction-recovery program. After its founder, Harriet Rossetto, spoke at a Foundation event years ago, Annette took an immediate interest, becoming a founding board member and later serving as president. In the process, she helped it grow from a small house near downtown LA to its current 120-resident facility in West LA.

In recognition of a lifetime dedicated to philanthropy and serving in leadership roles at The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, in September 2018, Annette and Leonard received The Federation’s Lifetime Achievement Award. The gala raised $1 million to benefit The Federation’s Los Angeles Jewish Teen Initiative that connects young people to Jewish life and gives them tools to address issues including stress, anxiety, peer pressure, and social media.

Key Takeaways

  • Leading by example can inspire others and further your cause.
  • Volunteering and advocating can be a powerful part of your philanthropy.
  • Family Support Organizations offer significant benefits versus private foundations, such as ease of management, simplicity, and more favorable tax treatment.

Werner and Ellen Lange

Werner and Ellen Lange

From the Negev to the Galilee, and from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, projects supported by the Werner and Ellen Lange Endowment Fund are flourishing across Israel. Though they are no longer with us, the Langes’ deep-seated values of kindness (chessed) and strengthening Israel live on in the thousands of individuals who have benefitted from the programs and organizations the Lange Endowment supports in Israel.


Werner and Ellen Lange, of blessed memory, were both natives of Germany, raised during the ascent of the Third Reich. Their paths never crossed in Germany, but their lives had tragic similarities. Both lost parents in the Holocaust. They met in New York as recent emigrants from Germany and soon married. In 1943, Werner was drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed in San Francisco. The couple fell in love with California and moved to Los Angeles permanently in 1945.

Shortly thereafter, they purchased a garage full of optical instruments for the bargain price of $100. Neither had experience in the optical industry, but they saw a business opportunity. In the ensuing years, they built an extremely successful import and export business for optical instruments, Colonial Optical Company. Ellen handled the business side, while Werner focused on technical advancements.

It was their earlier experiences during World War II that deepened their desire to care for others and informed their choice of causes to support. As their wealth grew, so too did their capacity to give back to the community and help others succeed, both at home and in Israel. By reflecting on their life experiences, they were able to choose which causes mattered most to them.

A Partnership That Grows

The Langes were referred to The Foundation in the early 1990s by Terry Bell, z”l. She was a Foundation board member and past president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Terry and her husband, Lionel, z”l, came to know the Langes as they were all members of Stephen S. Wise Temple. With Terry’s referral, the Langes began a series of conversations with Foundation President and CEO Marvin I. Schotland to explore their philanthropic options. After providing for family and friends, they established an endowment fund to continue their legacy of supporting worthy causes in Israel and the U.S. They trusted that The Foundation’s deep resources and track record would ensure their vision in perpetuity.

Key Takeaways

  • Reflect on your life experiences and how those inform the causes you care about the most.
  • When choosing your potential philanthropic partner, consider an organization like the Jewish Community Foundation that has the infrastructure, expertise, and track record to steward your legacy.
  • Explore well-vetted organizations and programs that your endowment can support, including the Jewish Community Foundation’s grant programs.

The Impact of Designed Philanthropy

The Lange Endowment provides significant funding for The Foundation’s Israel Grants, which in recent years have supported economic development and self-sufficiency, and pluralistic Jewish identity. Since 2010, many organizations have benefitted from The Foundation’s Israel Grants, including BINA: The Jewish Movement for Social Change and Educating for Excellence (E4E).

BINA is a movement working for Jewish pluralism and social action in Israel. With a 2012 Israel Grant from The Foundation, BINA engaged hundreds of young Israelis—who were either about to enter or were already conscripted in the army—in the study of Jewish texts, volunteerism, and exploration of Jewish culture. BINA used a 2017 Israel Grant to strengthen its secular youth movement by helping students in secular, public high schools explore their Jewish identities and improve their knowledge of Jewish texts.

E4E strengthens Israeli society by providing intensive, tailored programming for at-risk youth in middle school and high school. With a 2017 Israel Grant from The Foundation, E4E engaged 1,600 disadvantaged students in higher education and job preparedness. Participants pursue their interests in areas such as computers, law, and medicine. They also received mentorship, academic coursework, and internships to help them succeed in the army, university, and their chosen career paths.

The Lange Endowment also supports other Foundation grant programs that address issues in Los Angeles.

By creating an endowment broad in scope and purpose, the Langes’ giving has deeply impacted programs in Los Angeles and Israel. Their endowment also allows their giving to evolve and address whatever pressing needs are happening at the present time. This broad understanding of tikkun olam and what it means to serve Jews everywhere will live on for generations.

“The Langes would be unbelievably pleased to know what’s happened to their significant charitable investment,” said Schotland. “When you met them, you wouldn’t know they had the kind of wealth they had—they led their lives with such quiet dignity. The Lange name and their generosity is known more widely now, and will continue to be known, thanks to their enormous charitable legacy.”