Mandel Family Focused on 'Giving Back' to Cleveland

While the Cleveland-based Mandel Foundation donates generously to causes in Israel, Florida, and New York, giving back to the founders' hometown will always be a priority, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

After brothers Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel sold their auto parts distributorship, Premier Industrial Corp., in 1996, they poured most of the proceeds into their respective foundations, which collectively had assets totaling $346 million in 2008. But the brothers, through their philanthropies, have been investing in Cleveland for decades — investments that include Neighborhood Progress, Inc., which supports community development corporations, and MidTown Cleveland, which is dedicated to redeveloping the two-mile stretch between downtown Cleveland and University Circle.

The brothers, none of whom graduated from college, also helped fund the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and the Mandel Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Case Western Reserve University. And they are major supporters of the Jerusalem-based Mandel Leadership Institute and other efforts to prepare leaders for the nonprofit sector.

"You never just get a check from the Mandel Foundation. You get a partner," Stephen Hoffman, president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, told the Plain Dealer. "They give their leadership, they give their creative thinking to the causes. They care very much about what happens in Cleveland."

The reason philanthropy became the brothers' passion, said Mort Mandel, has a lot to do with growing up in modest circumstances. He often saw his mother giving away her hard-earned money to neighbors in need, and her generosity shaped his character. "All my life," he said, "I've been trying to give back."