A Philanthropist on Social Justice Giving — Inside Philanthropy


Though funding for communities of colour will get loads of lip service, it has by no means been a excessive precedence for philanthropy. And even these engaged on this work don’t all the time enable their grantees to function unfettered, as a substitute allocating cash as restricted mission help. Then there’s the Moriah Fund, which was lengthy guided by its first president, Mary Ann Stein.

In her early 20s and contemporary out of Wellesley Faculty, Stein headed south and joined Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Management Convention (SCLC), working in Calhoun County, South Carolina—bearing the title of the infamous Nineteenth-century politician and slavery defender John C. Calhoun.

Within the stomach of Jim Crow, Stein recollects being pulled over and arrested exterior of the small city of St. Matthews solely to safe bail cash from the so-called “Jew retailer” and get a lifeline from a clerk of courtroom who was an “undercover believer” of the trigger. That is one among many wealthy tales that Stein, now in her late 70s, advised in our dialog.

A Dependable Progressive Funder

Final 12 months, she handed over the reins of the Moriah Fund, a household basis, to her son Gideon. Launched in 1985, Moriah was established by brothers Robert and Clarence Efroymson, who tapped Stein, Robert’s daughter, because the philanthropy’s first president.

Nonetheless going sturdy, the comparatively low-profile Moriah Fund is a staunch progressive funder, freely giving within the neighborhood of $10 million yearly in recent times and supporting instructional fairness, human rights and reproductive rights, in addition to work in Israel. Racial fairness has all the time been a centerpiece of its multi-pronged efforts.

Living proof, the inspiration lately seeded the brand new Black Voices for Black Justice Fund to help rising motion leaders. The fund’s co-chairs embody distinguished Black leaders from a variety of sectors, together with actress Kerry Washington, Robin Hood Basis CEO Wes Moore, and the nationwide organizing director of the ACLU, Tenicka Boyd. 

“We put quite a bit into it (the fund), and acquired quite a bit out of it. I loved assembly a number of the grantees, too, and studying about their work,” Mary Ann Stein defined.

With an preliminary cohort class chosen, the fund says it goals to help “Black-led efforts to construct significant financial and political energy for his or her communities within the context of police brutality and the disproportionate influence of the pandemic alongside racial strains—together with disparities in entry to healthcare, jobs, schooling, justice and the suitable to vote.”

The Moriah Fund’s work with Black Voices for Black Justice Fund is however one instance of the form of bottom-up energy constructing that the inspiration prefers to fund. “My mother has had a philosophy of giving… it’s best to belief the activist or social entrepreneur to not solely clear up the issue, but in addition determine the issue within the first place,” Gideon Stein advised me.

However how did a rich Indiana household come to this forward-thinking philanthropic method?

A Midwestern starting

Born Mary Ann Efroymson, Stein’s great-grandparents Jacob and Minnie Efroymson arrived in the US as Jewish immigrants from Europe and settled in Indiana. They have been among the many first Jews to reach in Indianapolis within the 1870s and construct up the neighborhood. Stein herself grew up close to Butler College the place Robert, a Harvard-educated lawyer, steered hosiery enterprise Actual Silk Firm and funding firm Actual Silk, Inc. 

As Stein tells it, her distinguished household was all the time socially acutely aware and civic-minded, rallying Jewish, African American and Catholic civic leaders in efforts to rid Indianapolis of the Klan within the Twenties, and serving to convey over Jews attempting to get out of Germany. 

“My father taught me the essential ideas of civic and human rights… He made it very clear to me, and I’ve tried to make it clear to others, that we’ve an obligation to serve others. We’ve got a duty to present our presents, together with our wealth and our entry to profit others. And that has been the rule of my life,” Stein mentioned.

Rising up, Stein additionally visited a psychological hospital along with her mom and later grew to become concerned with the occupational remedy division, the place she realized that some ladies weren’t discharged till they agreed to be sterilized. 

MLK, Rustin, and civil rights work

As soon as set on graduate college after Wellesley, Stein is grateful she was rejected from all the faculties to which she utilized. A university good friend linked her to SCLC, so she went all the way down to Atlanta for orientation firstly of the summer season, listening to each Martin Luther King Jr. and his prime adviser Bayard Rustin.

“He (Rustin) is an incredible inspiration and human being. However he was within the background behind King largely as a result of he was homosexual, along with being a conscientious objector. He was as pure an idealist as may be, and sensible and eloquent,” Stein advised me.  

Stein quickly moved on to Calhoun County, the place she lived in a dilapidated trailer for many of her time. In South Carolina, she acquired to know leaders not all the time on web page one among civil rights tales, together with Hope Williams, the grandson of slaves, and whose father was swept into a sequence gang for defending himself towards assault by a white man.

With solely a sixth-grade schooling, Williams was one of many first Black People who registered to vote within the area and rallied others to do the identical. He went on to type the Calhoun County Department of the NAACP, serving as its president for greater than a decade. Williams linked up with State Senator I. DeQuincey Newman, South Carolina’s first Black senator since Reconstruction, specializing in bettering voter registration and financial growth in African American communities.

“Once I went to go to, he’d be ready in his automotive studying the dictionary. He was a doer and unbelievable to work with,” Stein says of Williams. 

As Stein grew to become extra concerned in voter registration efforts, she additionally made Black church buildings in Calhoun County a precedence, marking all of them on a map. Each Sunday, she drove to as many church buildings as she might, generally talking at as many as 5 church buildings in a morning. And drawing upon her personal spiritual upbringing, she would quote a chunk of scripture, including in a voter registration message. 

As she constructed belief and social capital in the neighborhood, college students would inform her in regards to the state of their colleges —which have been something however “separate however equal.”

“The one textbooks that they had have been ones that had been discarded by white colleges. And one college had a single microscope for your entire scholar physique,” she explains.

In the meantime, on the voter registration entrance, she recollects seeing the Black names on the rolls branded with a “C” indicating “coloured,” barring their means to register. However when Stein noticed the willpower of those communities, and other people ready on lengthy strains, it was clear to her that looking for justice was to be her life’s work. 

On to the nation’s capital

Poverty/Rights Motion Middle (P/RAC) opened its workplaces in Washington, D.C., within the Spring of 1966 as an organizing base for grassroots activists throughout the nation—largely poor, black ladies decided to make sure that that they had a voice in LBJ’s Battle on Poverty. The group was based by former CORE chief George T. Wiley.

Stein, having felt that she did all she might in South Carolina, determined to maneuver to a metropolis and set her sights on Washington, D.C. She joined P/RAC and labored there for a couple of 12 months, serving to welfare recipients. On this house, she met ladies who shared intimate tales about their lives. Stein grew to become so near one among them that she was invited to present the eulogy on the girl’s funeral.

After getting her regulation diploma from George Washington College, Stein doubled down on her curiosity combating for working-class ladies. She recollects representing a lady who wanted an abortion however who was nonetheless unable to get one within the early days after Roe v. Wade within the early Seventies.

“In D.C., a lady couldn’t get an abortion with out her husband’s consent. Usually, the husband wasn’t even the daddy, however it didn’t make a distinction to the courtroom,” Stein tells me. On the bottom, Stein grew to become well-versed on the various issues within the reproductive well being system, together with its influence on foster care ladies, who not solely wanted a husband’s consent for an abortion, but in addition their dad and mom’.

She labored with the Division of Human Companies of D.C. to reorganize protecting companies in order that it could work higher for teenagers and their households. “It confirmed me that we actually had quite a bit backward. Supposedly, our youngsters have been a very powerful folks, however our society didn’t give them one of the best,” Stein tells me.

The transition to philanthropy

After a time, Stein describes hitting a brick wall. Her older brother handed away. And whereas she felt that she had achieved quite a bit, she was searching for her subsequent chapter. Within the mid-Nineteen Eighties, her father determined to create a household basis, and Stein put her hat within the ring.

“If I might run it, I figured I might get loads of issues completed that I wish to see, and if I don’t, God is aware of what they’ll do,” Stein mentioned with fun.

A lot to her amazement, her father agreed, and so started her long-running work main the Moriah Fund, digging into key points that drove her throughout the Nineteen Sixties and Seventies—now, with main philanthropic money she might leverage.

From the beginning, a key theme in Moriah’s grantmaking was placing extra energy into the arms of its grantees and the communities they serve. Together with her son Gideon on the helm, this stays a guideline. “Lots of massive foundations wish to fund utilizing mission or program help. They outline what the mission goes to appear like, ship out an RFP… However we want to fund normal help,” Gideon advised me. 

For a progressive, rich white household working in marginalized areas, Moriah’s distinctive operation displays her trajectory and the deeply private convictions she holds because of this. “Due to my household and our financial standing, I had freedom to do the issues that I believed in. I’m very acutely aware of that at this level, significantly. I’ve had extra privileges than 90% or extra human beings on this Earth,” she tells me.

In recent times, the Moriah Fund has supported organizations like Group Change, a progressive neighborhood organizing group based in 1968 in response to civil rights considerations; D.C. Alliance of Youth Advocates; Funders for Reproductive Fairness; Human Rights First; and Nationwide Coalition on Black Civic Participation.

And the younger Moriah-backed Black Voices for Black Justice Fund helps the work of younger leaders like Natasha Alford, whose writing and reporting focuses on the Afro-Latino expertise, and Michael “Zaki” Smith, who works to dismantle legal guidelines and boundaries that have an effect on the lives of previously incarcerated People via Fair Chance Project and the Next100.

Pondering globally

Stein’s philanthropic work has prolonged past the U.S. In 2002, she grew to become the founding chair of the Fund for World Human Rights, which has made greater than $85 million in grants to greater than 680 organizations world wide. Just like the Black Voices for Black Justice Fund, the Fund for World Human Rights goals to offer sources, cash, connections and different companies to organizations created by folks in communities. She emphasizes that she doesn’t wish to inform anybody what to do, however relatively hearken to them, study their wants and help them. 

Stein additionally mentions her work establishing the Israel Middle for Instructional Innovation (ICEI) aimed toward dramatically bettering literacy outcomes amongst Israel’s Ethiopian immigrants. By 2019, ICEI now serves greater than 7,500 college students per 12 months throughout 27 colleges in 14 municipalities in Israel.

Ethiopian Jews have been first delivered to Israel from refugee camps in Sudan in a sequence of secret operations within the early Nineteen Eighties. Extra operations adopted, peaking with a mass airlift from Ethiopia in 1991. Nonetheless, Ethiopian Jews’ integration has not been seamless, with the inhabitants struggling disproportionately excessive ranges of unemployment and poverty in addition to discrimination.

ICEI goals to empower this neighborhood and focuses significantly on schooling. “One of many issues we did was getting a number of the greatest academics we might who understood the significance of individualized schooling. Ethiopian children who are available in with main deficits have been in a position to transfer in and transfer up relatively quickly. It’s been fairly successful,” Stein says.


When Stein met with a choose to whom she was launched by Gideon, he remarked that Stein was much more progressive than her son. “I feel I’m extra progressive than nearly anybody I do know,” Stein replied with out lacking a beat.

Previously decade and a half or so, she’s additionally taken in asylum seekers, studying as soon as once more about what marginalized communities expertise firsthand. And much as her philanthropic legacy, she’s not too fearful about that. Principally, she’s proud that again and again, activists and organizations have advised Moriah that they have been the primary ones to take an opportunity on them.

“I actually consider that when you give folks the fundamentals they want, they’ll obtain… You simply want to present folks help they usually’ll comply with what they know. You’ll monitor, clearly. However I feel you’ll be way more profitable taking probabilities on individuals who you suppose may have what it takes,” she says, including, “I feel my life has been very thrilling since 1965.”


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