Alexander and Syble Denbo — “visionaries who had the foresight to think about the long-term needs of our Jewish community”
January 08, 2008
A late Burlington couple has bequeathed more than $3 million to the Jewish Community Foundation of Princeton Mercer Bucks to sustain two Jewish agencies in the region.
The gift from the Alexander and Syble Gurney Denbo estate will be divided equally between the Princeton-based Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County and Greenwood House.
The latter comprises the Robert and Natalie Marcus Home for the Jewish Aged and the Abrams Residence assisted-living facility in Ewing.
In addition to their outright bequest, the Denbos set up a separate charitable remainder trust amounting to about $850,000 to be held by the foundation equally for the benefit of Greenwood House, JFCS, and the Dickinson School of Law at Penn State University.
The foundation is the endowment arm of the United Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks.
“This is a major-impact bequest,” said foundation president Florence Kahn. “It really is a legacy gift that sustains these agencies in perpetuity. It’s very, very important for sustaining the Jewish community of Princeton Mercer Bucks.”
The gift will also sustain the foundation, Kahn said.
“This is wonderful for the foundation,” she said. “The foundation does get a maintenance fee, so this builds up the foundation…and we can also do grants and help other agencies, so it works in a really wonderful way. It’s really a win-win situation for the community.”
Syble Denbo was a former resident of Trenton. She and her husband, Alexander, lived for many years in Burlington, where he was a prominent attorney, judge, and bank president. The Denbos were founding members of Temple B’nai Israel in Burlington.
Syble Denbo served as executive secretary to the director of the New Jersey Civil Service Commission. She was active with JFCS, Women of Greenwood House, Adath Israel Congregation, the Jewish Historical Society, Hadassah, and the Deborah Hospital Foundation, among other interests.
After her husband’s death in 2001, she moved to Greenwood House, where she died last October at the age of 107.
According to the terms of the Denbos’ wills, the outright gift will be divided into two equal funds, said Richard Kohn, a partner in the Lawrenceville-based firm of Fox Rothschild LLP, who is serving as attorney for the estate.
“One is held by the foundation to invest and pay income to the Jewish Family and Children’s Service,” said Kohn, who also serves as a trustee of the foundation. “On June 30 of each year, the Jewish Family and Children’s Service has the ability to invade the principal to the extent of 2 percent.”
The other half was given to the foundation to hold and invest for the benefit of Greenwood House on similar terms — except for the stipulation that Greenwood House will have the ability to invade the principal to the extent of 5 percent each year, Kohn said.
“So you’ve got in excess of $1.5 million to each of these agencies, augmented by between $200,000 and $300,000 from the charitable remainder trust,” he said.
“This shows that the foundation exists to obtain perpetual endowments for the various agencies of the federation, and not just the federation itself,” Kohn added. “Each of the agencies knows they’ll have income coming in each year.”
Clive Klatzkin, another foundation trustee who formerly served as its president, described the Denbos as a most unusual couple.
“Alexander and Syble Denbo were visionaries who had the foresight to think about the long-term needs of our Jewish community,” said Klatzkin, who is executor of Syble Denbo’s will. “What they’ve done is a blessing for the community. They set a standard. We hope that others will follow their lead in continuing to support the Jewish agencies they’ve supported all their lives.”
Leaders of the beneficiary agencies are also hailing the Denbos’ foresight.
“Mrs. Denbo was a wonderful, generous woman, and we’re just very pleased she was so generous to Greenwood House and the community,” said Richard Goldstein, Greenwood House executive director.
Richard Pollock of Solebury, Pa., president of the Greenwood House board, also welcomed the bequest.
“This is how charities function — by gifts from people who care,” Pollock said. “It certainly allows Greenwood House to proceed with important projects regarding the upkeep of the building and providing benefits to residents. So it’s wonderful. It couldn’t happen at a more propitious time.”
For JFCS executive director Linda Meisel, the Denbos’ bequest comes just as her agency is digesting the results of a needs-assessment study calling for more programming for seniors and for children and families with special needs.
“This gift is unbelievable,” she said. “It gives us the opportunity to think about the kinds of programs we run. It couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.”
Jeri Schaefer of Princeton, JFCS board president, predicted that the Denbos’ bequest will have a very large impact on the community.
“A gift of this magnitude is so very generous,” Schaefer said. “It will help the agency to expand, to do its work, and also to provide a stable basis to insulate the agency from fluctuations in donor giving.”