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Frances Bunzl Family Trust makes historic gift to Atlanta’s Jewish community

Frances Bunzl (Special)

By Maria Saporta

Atlanta’s Jewish community will receive a legacy gift of $5.6 million as a disbursement from the Frances Bunzl Family Trust.

The legacy gift will be shared equally with the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta (and Jewish Family & Career Services (JF&CS) Atlanta.

It is the largest endowed gift in both Federation’s and JF&CS’s history, and it will have a tremendous impact on Atlanta’s Jewish community for generations to come.

Frances Bunzl passed away on Aug. 15, 2019 at the age of 99.

Frances Bunzl (Special)

Born in Wiesbaden, Germany on March 22, 1920, Frances Bertha Hamburger escaped Germany in 1939 shortly after the 1938 Kristallnacht (also called the Night of Broken Glass) when Nazis torched synagogues and vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses. Nearly 100 Jews were killed, and about 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

Frances eventually made it to Atlanta, where the Jewish community helped her connect with other European Jewish immigrants. She met Walter Bunzl a few years later, and they were married three months later.

In the past few weeks, the Frances Bunzl Family Trust disbursed the bulk of the estate – mostly to the gifts to the Federation and JF&CS.

“Federation and JF&CS were delighted to learn of this most generous gift from Frances’ estate and so grateful to Suzy Wilner and her daughter, Anna Wilner for their creativity and inspiration to honor their mother and grandmother’s legacy,” said Eric Robbins, president and CEO of Federation.

The Bunzls have been influential philanthropists in Atlanta for decades, giving generously to numerous Jewish and general community groups including the Federation, JF&CS, the High Museum of Art, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Temple Sinai and Impact Israel (formerly known as Yemin Orde).

Their philanthropy was carried on with their two children, Suzy Wilner, and the late Richard Bunzl.

“Frances was a visionary and a pioneer in communal service,” said Beth A. Warner, the Federation’s chief philanthropy officer. “Her personal experience as a lay leader inspired her desire to make a lasting imprint on our community. This gift was many years in the making. Federation professionals and communal leaders met with Frances to discuss community priorities and goals to help her create a legacy that reflected her life-long philanthropic passions.”

The Federation will direct the endowed funds towards three initiatives.

It will endow the fundraising professional for the organization – the Frances Bunzl Chief Philanthropy Officer – the first time a Federation position has been endowed; it will create the Frances and Walter Bunzl Perpetual Annual Campaign Endowment (PACE), which will ensure a major gift to Federation’s annual community campaign in perpetuity; and it will fund the Frances Bunzl NextGen initiative to support Jewish journeys for the next generation of Jewish community leaders.

“It is also our hope that this endowment will inspire others to consider gifts of this magnitude and impact,” said Warner.


Jeff Alperin, chair of the JF&CS Board, said the Bunzl gift will increase the JF&CS Foundation by 50 percent. “This will have a direct impact on the agency’s ability to serve the needs of the Atlanta community,” Alperin said. “We are honored to receive this gift and will make sure these dollars are used to deliver the greatest impact.”

At JF&CS, the generosity of Frances Bunzl will live on in perpetuity through its continued support of the nonsectarian agency’s operations. JF&CS will name its Clinical Service practice – the Frances Bunzl Clinical Services.

That service provides mental health support for people of all ages and from all walks of life, offering both individual and group therapies across a broad spectrum of issues. “Naming this practice for the late Frances Bunzl honors the tremendous impact her gift will have on the health and well-being of our community,” said Amanda La Kier, JF&CS chief development officer.

Terri Bonoff, CEO of JF&CS, said the timing of the gift was fortuitous.

“The challenges of the past year underscore the importance of planning for the unknown and ensuring vibrant Jewish life for generations to come,” Bonoff said. “Choosing to spotlight the importance of mental health support by naming this service area in Frances Bunzl’s honor reflects the deep commitment JF&CS has to providing best-in-class support for the health and well-being of this community. Legacy gifts such as this one support Jewish Atlanta long into the future.”

Generosity has always been a core value for the Bunzl family.

“Throughout her life, my mother spoke of growing up in a family (both in Germany and here in Atlanta) that was focused on helping others,” said Suzy Wilner. “We believe her gifts to Federation and JF&CS will continue that legacy.”

“This gift is indicative of the generosity we hope to inspire as part of our LIFE & LEGACY initiative, in which participating organizations embark on a legacy building program benefiting the entire Jewish community,” Eric Robbins said.

The Federation hopes the gift will inspire others to join its LIFE & LEGACY initiative.

More than 270 local donors have made legacy commitments in the past two years, supporting Atlanta’s Jewish community with more than $23.3 million in future gifts.

Frances Bunzl as a young woman (Courtesy of the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum)

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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