As children of Russian Jewish immigrants, Jay and Rose Phillips both grew up in hard working families that placed great importance on the Jewish values of charity, loving-kindness and social justice. Even as an eight-year-old newsboy working to help support his family, Jay left a portion of his earnings at the local bakery for the hungry.
Jay extended this generosity throughout his lifetime – his was one of the first companies to incorporate profit sharing practices, giving employees a portion of his company’s returns. Together with Rose, Jay diligently shared the couple’s resources, building a stronger community for all Minnesotans. Throughout his life, Jay worked tirelessly to break down the barriers of anti-Semitism, becoming the first Jewish President of the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce, and the first Jewish member of the Minneapolis Club and the Automobile Club. He insisted these organizations be open to all, and in time, the walls of discrimination came down.
From the beginning, the Foundation focused on areas where Jay and Rose saw the greatest need: efforts to combat discrimination and honor diversity, self-sufficiency through a hand up not a hand out, health, education, and efforts that helped people with disabilities live a full and healthy life.
“Allow me to share with you some philosophy I have endeavored to subscribe to down through the years. The test of progress and the measure of one’s success is not whether we are able to add more to the abundance we have already acquired, but are we providing enough from this store of good fortune for those around us who have so very little?”
Jay passed away in 1992, and Rose followed in 2002 at the age of 103. They are greatly missed by their family and many friends who remember the couple’s gracious, modest generosity and devotion to the community. Their commitment and vision are as important today as they were nearly 75 years ago when The Jay & Rose Phillips Family Foundation started its work.
In 2011, the Foundation restructured and entered a new chapter of its history. To better serve the three branches of the family represented by Jay and Rose’s three children, the Foundation split into three separate and distinct foundations focused on the communities where these families now live: Minnesota, Colorado, and California. In Minnesota, The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation continues to support a variety of efforts throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
In 2016, the Foundation made a strategic decision to refocus its efforts on a specific geographic area: North Minneapolis. Using a Human Centered Design process, the Foundation spent significant time listening to all parts of the North Minneapolis communities and landed on two funding priorities: high school success through student-centered learning, and economic development through entrepreneurship and small business development. North Minneapolis is an area rich with opportunity and assets but has experienced years of disinvestment. It is also the neighborhood where Jay and Rose met and the family lived for many years. This historical sentiment coupled with community opportunities make this decision a perfect evolution of the Foundation’s focus and interests, and creates a strong direction for the Foundation for years to come.