the congregation of moses

On September 30th, 2016,
the Congregation of Moses received news that it is 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, the balance of the Schensul estate was to be divided between the Congregation of Moses and another local organization. This donation means that the congregation will receive the net income from the approximately $2.5 million fund managed by the Kalamazoo 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.

Irving Schensul
Congregation President Beth Grode announced these gifts to the membership on the eve of the High Holy Days this past Sunday. She remarked “On Rosh Hashanah, it’s customary to wish friends and family a sweet new year, so learning of these two extraordinary gifts is a very sweet way to begin the new year. Both gifts will help to make the future of CoM more secure and ensure the success of a strong and vibrant Jewish community in Kalamazoo for generations to come.”

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.”

Questions and Answers
  • Do these donations mean that the Congregation has $10 million to spend?
    No. Both of these bequests are held in trust by the Kalamazoo Foundation. The interest income to the Congregation will only be a small percentage of the total contribution.
  • 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.
  • 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 Foundation should be used for the benefit of needy people in keeping with the Jewish concept and practice of mitzvot. The net income from the $2.5 million fund left to the Congregation by Irving Schensul will be available for all Congregation operations.
  • Who will decide how this money will be spent?
    There will be lots of conversations with all members of the Congregation of Moses about how this money can and will be spent. The money won't be available for at least a year, maybe longer so we have some time to think and talk about it.
  • Can COM donate to "Mothers of Hope" with these funds?
    Since the money from Gene Colef's endowment will not be available till late 2017 or early 2018, there will be many discussions during that time to plan how the money can and will be spent. Contributing to "Mothers of Hope" can be something to discuss.

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