In 2016, the Congregation of Moses received news that it was the beneficiary of unprecedented bequests from two life-long synagogue members.
The bequests came from the estates of Irving Schensul (1908-2001) and his nephew, Eugene Colef (1926-2016). At the time of his passing in 2001, Mr. Schensul bequeathed $500,000 to the congregation while leaving the rest of his estate in a trust to benefit his nephew. When Mr. Schensul’s nephew, Eugene Colef, passed away in July 2016, the balance of the Schensul estate was divided between the Congregation of Moses and another local organization. The congregation will receive the net income from the approximately $2.5 million fund managed by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.
Since Mr. Colef had no heirs, his entire estate totaling $8 million was also bequeathed to the congregation through a fund established at the Kalamazoo
Community Foundation. Mr. Colef directed that the Samuel J. and Mary E. Colef Memorial Fund be used to "benefit the needy."
Both of these bequests are held in trust by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. The Board of Directors established a committee, the Colef Tzedakah Committee, to determine the distribution of funds from the Colef endowment.
About Mr. Schensul and Mr. Colef
Mr. Schensul was born in Kalamazoo and spent his entire life here. A graduate of Kalamazoo Central, he loved theatre and acted in plays under the direction of Howard Chenery.
Mr Schensul received a teaching degree in 1932 from WMU, then called Western State Normal School, though he never taught.
He became involved in the family restaurant and entertainment business alongside his two brothers, who owned and ran The Brown & Gold, a campus restaurant, Schensul’s Cafeteria and the adjacent Schensul’s Coffee House on Burdick Street. Later, Mr. Schensul worked at WKZO for John Fetzer doing weather, commercials and other types of work.
Eugene Colef was the only surviving child of Samuel Colef and Mary Schensul Colef of
Kalamazoo. He had a close relationship with his aunts and uncles, especially Irving Schensul.
Gene attended Parsons Business School and WMU.
He cared deeply for the welfare of others, as demonstrated through the trust he left to the Congregation of Moses, stipulating that the income be used “for the benefit of needy people.”
About the Colef Fund
The Colef Tzedakah Committee has established a goal of providing funds to non-profit organizations that encourage independence and self-determination in recipients. The fund will support programs in Kalamazoo or anywhere in the world that address hunger, poverty, homelessness, literacy, joblessness, health, education and building safe communities.
The committee seeks to achieve objectives consistent with Jewish values of Tzedakah, works to meet the Congregation of Moses’ goals, and is inclusive of Congregation of Moses’ member input and feedback.
Grants will be awarded twice yearly. Organizations that meet the criteria will be invited to apply through a two-step application process.
The 2018 Colef Fund grants to the following local, national and international organizations were announced in mid-September.
Community Healing Centers
Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes
Constance Brown Hearing Centers
Kalamazoo Literacy Council
Senior Services of SW Michigan
First Day Shoe Fund
Jewish Federation of N.A. - Lunch and Learn Program
Jewish Federation of N.A. - ENP SPACE Program
Kalamazoo County Ready 4s
United Way of Kalamazoo and Battle Creek
Intrepid Professional Women Network
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