The Deacon's Bench

Surprised? The Boston Globe has the story:

Richard J. Henken, a Boston real estate company executive, grew up in a conservative Jewish family on the south side of Newton. He attends services on the Jewish High Holy Days and considers his religion an important aspect of his identity.

He also gives $25,000 to $30,000 a year to Catholic schools. He serves as an officer on the board of the Catholic Schools Foundation, which raises millions each year to help send children from low-income families to Catholic schools.

“When I started telling my friends I had joined the board, I got a couple of funny looks,” he said. “But whoever it is that wants to step up and provide a nurturing environment for at-risk youth based on Judeo-Christian values, I’m with you all the way.”

Henken, the president of Schochet Associates, which develops, acquires, and manages residential and commercial property throughout New England, is one of a number of Jewish benefactors in Greater Boston who not only give generously to Catholic schools, but also provide significant fund-raising muscle at a time when the region’s parochial schools are under severe financial strain.

While they represent a small minority of donors to Catholic schools, the Jewish contributors are prominent in the community and deeply involved: Robert Beal, president of the commercial real estate firm Beal Companies, is a longtime benefactor. Howard Kessler, his wife, Michele, and his firm, The Kessler Group, have “adopted” Cathedral School in the South End. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been a major donor for years; he gave $100,000 as chairman of the foundation’s 20th annual Inner-City Scholarship Fund dinner this spring, according to the event’s program.

Most Jewish benefactors interviewed about their support for Catholic schools said they also give to Jewish organizations — particularly Combined Jewish Philanthropies, which among other causes supports the region’s Jewish day schools.

But they said they are passionate about Catholic schools because they provide an excellent education to the neediest children.

There’s much more. Read on.

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