the congregation of moses

Unprecedented Bequests from CoM Members

In 2016, the Congregation of Moses received news that it was the beneficiary of unprecedented bequests from two life-long synagogue members in amounts totaling $10.5 million.

Eugene Colef
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."

Irving Schensul

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. 

Grants will be awarded twice yearly beginning in the fall of 2018. Organizations that meet the criteria will be invited to apply through a two-step application process.

If your organization has received a letter inviting you to submit a preliminary application, you can find the application here.

Questions and Answers
  • Do these bequests mean that the Congregation has $10 million to spend?
    No. Both of these bequests are held in trust by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. The interest income will only be a small percentage of the total bequest.
  • Are there any stipulations with regard to how the money is to be used?
    Gene Colef directed that the net income of the $8 million fund established by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation should be used "for the benefit of the needy" in keeping with the Jewish concepts and practices of mitzvot and tzedakah. The net income from the $2.5 million fund left to the Congregation by Irving Schensul will be available for all Congregation of Moses operations.
  • Why did Mr. Schensul and Mr. Colef donate these funds to the Congregation of Moses?
    Irving Schensul and Gene Colef were lifelong members of the Congregation of Moses and, in additon to contributing their time and talents, were participants in the Congregations' Etz Chaim "Funds for the Future" program through which these bequests were made.
  • Who will decide how this money will be spent?
    The Board of Directors has established a committee, the Colef Tzedakah Committee, to determine the distribution of funds from the Colef endowment. You can contact the committee by emailing: coleffund@congregationofmoses.org

Have a question about the Schensul or Colef bequest?
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