Bequests Establish the Colef Fund

In 2016, the Congregation of Moses in Kalamazoo, Michigan received news that it was the beneficiary of unprecedented bequests from two life-long synagogue members.

Eugene Colef

Bequests from the estates of Irving Schensul (1908-2001) and his nephew, Eugene Colef (1926-2016) established the Samuel J. and Mary E. Colef Memorial Fund. Through a fund held in trust by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, Mr. Colef directed that the Samuel J. and Mary E. Colef Memorial Fund be used to “benefit the needy.”

The Board of Directors of the Congregation of Moses established a committee in 2017, the Colef Tzedakah Committee, to determine the distribution of funds from the Colef endowment.

Irving Schensul


About Mr. Schensul and Mr. Colef

Mr. Schensul was born in Kalamazoo and spent his entire life here. A graduate of Kalamazoo Central, he loved theatre and acted in plays under the direction of Howard Chenery. Mr Schensul received a teaching degree in 1932 from WMU, then called Western State Normal School, though he never taught.

He became involved in the family restaurant and entertainment business alongside his two brothers, who owned and ran The Brown & Gold, a campus restaurant, Schensul’s Cafeteria and the adjacent Schensul’s Coffee House on Burdick Street. Later, Mr. Schensul worked at WKZO for John Fetzer doing weather, commercials and other types of work.

Eugene Colef was the only surviving child of Samuel Colef and Mary Schensul Colef of Kalamazoo. He had a close relationship with his aunts and uncles, especially Irving Schensul.

Gene attended Parsons Business School and WMU. He cared deeply for the welfare of others, as demonstrated through the trust he left to the Congregation of Moses, stipulating that the income be used “for the benefit of needy people.”


About the Colef Fund

The Colef Tzedakah Committee has established a goal of providing funds to non-profit organizations that encourage independence and self-determination in recipients. The fund supports programs locally, nationally and globally that address hunger, poverty, homelessness, literacy, joblessness, health, education and building safe communities.

The committee seeks to achieve objectives consistent with Jewish values of Tzedakah, works to meet the Congregation of Moses’ goals, and is inclusive of Congregation of Moses’ member input and feedback.

Grants are awarded twice yearly. Organizations that meet the criteria will be invited to apply through a two-step application process.


2019 Colef Fund grant recipients

  • Prevention Works Inc.
  • Planned Parenthood of Kalamazoo
  • Ready to Read – Kalamazoo Public Library
  • Boys Town Jerusalem
  • Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK)
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters
  • Kalamazoo Covenant Academy
  • Jewish Federation of N.A. for JDC’s Families First
  • Jewish Federation of N.A. for JDC’s Lifesaving Food and Medicine
  • Jewish Federation of N.A. – Project TEN Puerto Rico
  • JDC – Children’s Initiative in Former Soviet Union countries

2018 Colef Fund grant recipients

  • Community Healing Centers
  • Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes
  • Constance Brown Hearing Centers
  • YWCA of Kalamazoo
  • Urban Alliance
  • Open Doors
  • Kalamazoo Literacy Council
  • Senior Services of SW Michigan
  • HIAS
  • JDC
  • First Day Shoe Fund
  • Jewish Federation of N.A. – Lunch and Learn Program
  • Jewish Federation of N.A. – ENP SPACE Program
  • Kalamazoo County Ready 4s
  • United Way of Kalamazoo and Battle Creek
  • Intrepid Professional Women Network