COHENS’ LEGACY GIFT ENSURES THEIR CONTINUED SUPPORT OF AJWS’S MISSION FAR INTO THE FUTURE
Brad and Valerie Cohen
Valerie and Brad Cohen consider themselves citizens of the world, and their charitable giving reflects their desire to make a global impact. They are dedicated donors to American Jewish World Service and its work to promote human rights in 18 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Valerie was born in Bulawayo, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and later immigrated to the United States with her family. She and Brad grew up near each other on Long Island, attending rival high schools, but didn’t meet until years later. They were married in 1983 and moved to California, where Brad works as a high-level corporate tax attorney and estate planner and where Valerie—a former attorney—now volunteers as a docent at the Getty Museums.
The couple’s lived experiences—from Valerie’s childhood in Africa to their prolific travel experiences together—have deeply informed their philanthropic priorities. “We have come to understand the importance of human rights work from those experiences,” Brad says. Valerie notes that “being an immigrant has definitely shaped my world view. I learned that despite outward appearances, all people are pretty much alike, and that we are all interconnected.”
A family commitment to helping others
The Cohens began supporting AJWS in 2007, drawn by the way it brings people together to repair the world: Brad explains: “AJWS helps create bridges between the U.S. and other countries—between the Jewish people and the rest of the world. It’s a great thing that should be encouraged. To the extent that I can help do that, I’m all in.”
He says that what he likes most about AJWS is its grassroots approach to social change: “This is an organization that looks for existing programs run by local people and supports them to be successful. AJWS gives people tools to build on what they are doing already—and local people control the process that leads to change. I believe that AJWS respects and affirms the dignity of people of differing cultures throughout the world.”
Valerie adds: “It is a privilege to be able to support the work of AJWS; they are leading by example by implementing one of the most important tenets of Jewish religion, which is to treat others the way we want to be treated.”
A planned gift to pass on their values
To the couple, giving to AJWS has been a way to pass these values on to the next generation. They recently included a bequest in their living trust and a bequest to a donor-advised fund that will be managed by their children in the future. “We are also hoping to set up a donor-designated fund to AJWS in which our kids will participate in selecting how it will be used,” Valerie adds. “We want them to continue to be involved in helping others around the world.”
The Cohens hope their giving will inspire generosity in others and encourage them to consider the legacies they could leave to support AJWS’s future.
“Just do it!” says Brad. “Designate the gift and then grow it. I feel good knowing that I’m creating something wonderful that my kids will carry with them and remember us for. When you give a planned gift, your descendants will get to see that giving to others is important to you. It’s up to each of us to create some good will out in the world. We believe this is a good message to give to our children.”
“Just as my great-grandparents left Eastern Europe for a better life in southern Africa, my parents, who were born in South Africa, left Africa for a better life in the United States,” Valerie concludes. “I believe that we have a responsibility to help other people achieve the lives they hope for. AJWS’s work is done in a humble way at a local grassroots level, without strings attached, and with the primary purpose of healing the world—one person at a time.”
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