Pablo Eisenberg, harsh critic of Aloof Philanthropies, dies at 90

Pablo Eisenberg was only 7 years old in 1939 when he boarded an American liner with his parents and younger sister in Bordeaux when the Nazis were ready to invade France. But young as he was, their nerve-wracking escape instilled in him a lifelong commitment to helping the powerless left behind.

That was evident in 1973, after years of serving the underprivileged in government and the nonprofit sector, when he wrote an article for a philanthropic magazine that would change his career and shake up the world of charitable giving.

In the article, published in the Grantsmanship Center News, said Mr. Eisenberg, who died on October 90 at the age of 90. 18, called on major foundations, individual donors, charities and philanthropists in general to be more socially responsible, transparent, accountable and equitable when it comes to determining who receives their donations. To further the cause, he founded a nonprofit consulting firm to provide technical assistance to grassroots neighborhood organizations seeking philanthropic support.

“Escape from France affected him deeply,” Mary Lassen, a former executive director of what is now Community Change, a Washington-based pro-poor advocacy group originally funded by the Ford Foundation, said Mr. Eisenberg was from 1975 to 1998 Managing Director. “He wanted to change the world. He had a passion for improving people’s lives.”

In the article, which received national attention, Mr. Eisenberg asked a simple question: Who has benefited more from philanthropy, those who have received it or those who have given?

His question came in the form of a critique of a national commission on private philanthropy proposed by John D. Rockefeller III and chaired by John H. Filer, chairman of the Aetna Life & Casualty Company.

The group, made up of civil servants and business executives, was formed to study the impact of changes in tax laws and regulations that could affect philanthropy. But Mr. Eisenberg argued that the Commission and the philanthropic world in general neglected the needs of the public, was unrepresentative, and was not accountable, accessible, and equitable.

“You can’t say you give poor people serious priority unless you’re willing to find them,” he recalled in a 1998 interview with Shelterforce, an online publication devoted to community development.

His objections to endowment funding were initially dismissed, but were later dismissed by Mr. Filer and other enlightened philanthropists, who helped him establish the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, a monitoring group.

While many charities have remained isolated, others have responded to Mr. Eisenberg’s leadership by directing more donations to community organizations and diversifying their boards to include representatives from those organizations.

“I have seen him berate foundation presidents for not investing in grassroots organizations, for neglecting racial justice, for failing to provide general support and long-term funding to groups, and for being inaccessible and haughty,” said Deepak Bhargava, a past president of Community Change (originally called the Center for Community Change), wrote in a tribute to Mr. Eisenberg. And he added: “He argued that we need to do more to involve bourgeois and centrist forces in the fight against poverty.”

Mister. Bhargava confirmed Mr. Eisenberg’s death at a nursing home in Rockville, Md.

“I believe in empowerment, as I believe almost everyone does,” Mr. Eisenberg told the Los Angeles Times in 1986, “The purpose of empowerment and self-help is not to guarantee that everyone will be successful, but to guarantee everyone equal opportunity.” to offer.”

Pablo Samuel Eisenberg was born in Paris on July 1, 1932, to an American-Jewish couple who had lived in Europe since the early 1920s: Maurice Eisenberg, a cellist, and Paula (Halpert) Eisenberg, a homemaker.

A few weeks after Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, the family sailed to the United States and settled in Maplewood, New Jersey, where Pablo – who was named after his godfather, cellist Pablo Casals – attended Millburn High School .

He received a Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University in 1954 and a Bachelor of Letters from Merton College, University of Oxford in 1957.

He also wanted to play the cello, but had acquired another stringed instrument: he was captain of the Princeton and Merton tennis teams and established himself as a star on the tennis circuit.

Mister. Eisenberg played at Wimbledon five times and reached the quarter-finals in 1955 with John Ager. He won a gold medal at the Maccabiah Games in Israel in 1953 and finished ninth in doubles in the USA in 1954.

After college, he served two years in the Army before joining the US Information Agency for three years and serving in Senegal. He then served for two years as program director for Operation Crossroads Africa, a precursor to the Peace Corps. He later served as Director of Pennsylvania Operations for the Federal Office of Economic Opportunity and Deputy Director of Research and Development in Washington. He then entered the non-profit sector and became deputy chief of field operations for the National Urban Coalition.

He was also President of Friends of VISTA, a nonprofit organization that supports the Federal Agency for Community Service and Volunteerism.

Mister. Eisenberg was a columnist for The Chronicle of Philanthropy and wrote the book Challenges for Nonprofits and Philanthropy: The Courage to Change (2004). After working at Community Change, he became a Senior Fellow at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute.

His 62-year-old wife, Helen (Cierniak) Eisenberg, died this year. He is survived by her daughter Marina Eisenberg and a sister, Maruta Friedler.

“Pablo Eisenberg was a staunch defender of civic values ​​across the board,” said William Josephson, a former assistant attorney general overseeing the Charities Bureau in the New York State Department of Law, in an interview. “He promoted civil rights and poverty leaders and provided a home for fragile organizations.”

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