D.C. Synagogue Receives $5 Million Gift
By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 4, 2006; 2:56 PM
A former business reporter who also wrote trivia games for Washington and Baltimore newspapers is giving $5 million to the D.C. synagogue where he has belonged for decades, money he says he accumulated by investing and saving.
Donald Saltz, 72, is donating the money to Adas Israel Congregation in memory of his late wife, Mozelle, who died last December. They had been married for 40 years.
While 35 percent of money Americans donate goes to religious organizations, the $5 million stands out among gifts to individual houses of worship, experts said. Giving USA, which tracks data on philanthropy, said there have been no gifts near that size to particular synagogues, temples, churches or mosques in recent years. Other major gifts have been given to schools or hospitals affiliated with religious institutions.
The gift is also the largest in Adas Israel's 140-year history. Synagogue officials say the gift will be put toward their endowment, which was $10 million before the Saltz donation. The synagogue building will be named after the couple, who were both active on boards and committees and in spiritual life at Adas Israel.
People at Adas said Saltz and his wife were very unassuming, and that no one at an institution with many prominent and wealthy members knew of their savings and giving potential. Mr. Saltz drove an old car, and wore modest suits, they said.
"I've always been thrifty, though other people would say cheap," said Saltz, who said he has been investing in the stock market since he was a teenager.
The gift includes a small amount of money up front, and then larger amounts will be donated each year. It also includes a bequest, as much of Saltz's estate is tied up in stock and real estate, synagogue officials said. The gift is irrevocable.
Saltz worked as a business reporter, editor and columnist at the Washington Star, Washington Daily News and the Baltimore Evening News -- all papers no longer in publication. He joked today that he was like Joe Btfsplk, the character in the Lil Abner comic strip who brought bad luck.
"I'm like that character, who always had a cloud over his head," he said.
He also created a trivia game that was published in various area newspapers for years, and is still published in the Buffalo News. He also still writes columns for his hometown newspaper in Crisfield, on topics including the importance of not eating too much and comic strips.
He said today that he is a "simple individual" who wanted to do something to honor his wife's memory. He is an only child and has no children.
"I figured, you don't take it with you," he said.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company