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At the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s May 19 Neighborhood Connections event, Federation president and CEO Keith Dvorchik interviewed Harold Grinspoon and his wife, Diane Troderman, cofounders of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF), about their philanthropy and how it has benefited the Puget Sound Jewish community.

Mr. Grinspoon, a real estate entrepreneur, and Ms. Troderman cofounded the foundation in 1993. The foundation invests in Jewish communities throughout North America.

HGF founded and supports the PJ Library® and the LIFE & LEGACY™ programs. With the support of HGF, the Jewish Federation operates PJ Library in the Puget Sound region, which serves over 2,000 local children, and LIFE & LEGACY, which provides training and incentives for an initial cohort of 11 local Jewish organizations to build endowments through legacy commitments.

Keith Dvorchik: One of the most transformative programs you’ve been involved with is the PJ Library program. Could you tell us a little about what made you decide to create PJ Library?

Harold Grinspoon: We in the Jewish world have lots and lots of challenges, incredible challenges. We have to make everyone who decides that they’re going to have an interfaith marriage feel comfortable. We have to educate people. We have to be invited into the home by the parents with the PJ Library. So, our first monthly delivery was 200 books in our community. I can now proudly say we’re doing 148,000 books a month. We came out to Seattle to thank Seattle. You folks are an amazing partner! 

KD: Two or three years ago, you did a major study on the impact of the PJ Library. What were some of the most impressive results you found in that study?

HG: People become much more involved Jewishly. It’s really amazing how this book that shows up every month during the most important learning ages for children, and how the parents run with this. It’s kind of magical how it works. I think that Seattle is by far on the top edge of involvement with PJ Library and all the programs that you do. But there’s lots of payback, huge payback.

Diane Troderman: We get these letters, thousands of letters. We got one from a father whose wife had died, they were intermarried (he was the non-Jewish spouse), but because of these books, he’s able to give the children a little bit of the Jewish upbringing and that he promised that he will continue to do it. Let me tell you, (the letters) are just wonderful! 

KD:  For me, one of the hallmarks of your philanthropy has been the way you’ve chosen to focus it in some very specific areas and go really deep, and also the way you’ve committed that it’s going to be done in partnership. Can you tell us about that choice and what the results have been?

HG: I guess you know 80 percent of Jewish wealth goes non-Jewish. I’m a little concerned with what Judaism is going to look like 50 years from now. We pay for half the cost of the PJ Library project and you pay for half the cost. We do this in virtually every project we have. You folks just joined LIFE & LEGACY, which is the most amazing return on the dollars that you’re going to invest. You will see that’s awesome as you get to know more about that. I believe we have to feel good about what we do Jewishly, and we have to develop our own legacy as to who we are. I don’t want to deny you the right to feel good about giving Jewishly. 

KD: Over the last, roughly 10 years, you’ve supported our community to the tune of about $1.75 million.

HG: That feels great!

KD: That was my question. What do you feel like the return on your investment has been?

HG: It’s really a pleasure to be here with all of you who have made the $1.75 million contribution that we’ve given you possible. Because we haven’t given you anything that you haven’t deserved. Keep that in mind. We’re partners, and you’re an amazing Jewish community, and it’s our pleasure.

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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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