Craig Sklar examines ESG investing through a Jewish lens

Philanthropy has always been important to Dr. Craig Sklar.

“My father was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust,” he says. “He always stressed the importance of giving as long as one had something to give.”

So it is no wonder that, since settling in the New Haven area some 40 years ago, Sklar has dedicated much of his personal time to helping the Jewish community — both in New Haven and worldwide — through his involvement in the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven.

Now, Sklar, who serves as Foundation Investment Chair and is a past Foundation Chair, has taken his devotion to community to the next level by enrolling in a 13-week certification course at NYU Stern School of Business called “Jewish Impact Investing Certificate Program.” Once completed, Sklar will have earned an NYU Executive Education Certificate.

Limited to only 20 participants — largely investment professionals from various Federations nationwide (in fact, Sklar is one of the only lay leaders) — the unique course examines the potential benefits of impact investing, with an emphasis on promoting Jewish values (as related to ESG), investing in Israel, and better leveraging Foundation/ Federation investments and donor advised funds.

It isn’t difficult to see how the ESG investment movement maps to Jewish values, Sklar notes: E (environmental) ties to the Jewish concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world); S (social) ties to chesed (kindness); and G (governance) ties to tzedek (justice or righteousness).

“We have studied investment principles as well as extensive commentary concerning initiatives evaluating the pros and cons of impact investing,” he says. “The course instructors, Michael Lustig and Nir Tsuk, have extensive experience in the investment arena and have demonstrated, via course work and guest speakers, how initial investments can provide amplified societal benefits. The hope is to make an initial investment that sustains and “keeps the good going”—in a way, ‘profit with a purpose.’”

The course, designed in partnership with New York University’s Institute for Impact and Intrapreneurship at NYU Bronfman and the newly formed Jewish Federations Center for Philanthropic Investment, was brought to Sklar’s attention by Lisa Stanger, Jewish Foundation Executive Director.

“As Chair of the Jewish Foundation Investment Committee, I felt that it was important to expand my knowledge base and, hopefully, apply what I learn to better serving our community needs and goals,” he explains. “While I served as Foundation Chair, we initiated an investment with JLens; an investment vehicle that helps to advocate for Jewish causes. This was a natural extension.”

Would Sklar recommend the course to other Jewish Federation and Foundation lay leaders? He would. “[It is] a means of learning and upholding our fiduciary responsibilities, while striving to improve our world.” 

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