Telescope building and tzedakah giving: Daniel and Carole Kamin deliver historic gift to Carnegie Museums
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Profile in GivingDaniel and Carole Kamin

Telescope building and tzedakah giving: Daniel and Carole Kamin deliver historic gift to Carnegie Museums

'People should think through and contribute to the groups that they feel closest to,' Daniel Kamin said. 'There's so many opportunities to help.'

Carole and Daniel Kamin. Photo courtesy of Carole Kamin
Carole and Daniel Kamin. Photo courtesy of Carole Kamin

“You Can’t Take It with You” isn’t only the name of an Oscar-winning film starring Jimmy Stewart; it’s the rationale for Daniel and Carole Kamin’s $65 million gift to the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh.

“At my age, which is now 82, it’s time to give back,” Daniel Kamin said. “I’ve done well and I’m not going to be able to take it with me, so why not?”

The Kamins’ gift, which represents the largest fiscal donation since Andrew Carnegie’s original contribution, follows the couple’s longtime charitable patterns, according to Steven Knapp, president and CEO of Carnegie Museums.

“Dan and Carole have been generous supporters of our museums for many years, and with this unprecedented gift they are further establishing their legacy as true leaders in Pittsburgh’s philanthropic community,” he said.

During a Jan. 23 news conference, the public learned that, in recognition of the Kamins’ gift, the Carnegie Science Center will be renamed the Daniel G. and Carole L. Kamin Science Center.

Science, and especially astronomy, have been lifelong fascinations, Daniel Kamin told the Chronicle.

“I actually built a telescope when I was around 13 years old in the basement of what was then the Buhl Science Center,” he said.

The experience prompted two queries: What exists beyond space and, if the universe began 13.8 billion years ago, what happened before that?

“Those are two questions that no one’s been able to answer,” he said.

Daniel Kamin is a commercial real estate entrepreneur who’s headed Kamin Realty for nearly five decades.

Carole Kamin has served as president of the Ladies Hospital Aid Society, chairperson of National Society of Arts and Letters, and a trustee of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, Phipps Conservatory and numerous other organizations.

Daniel described Carole as “the ultimate volunteer and very, very personable.”

Although their gift to the Carnegie Museums “was a major one,” it doesn’t represent the totality of their donations, he said: “There have been other ones, and there will be more.”

Many of the family’s gifts are anonymous, according to Daniel Kamin.

“We make smaller ones here and there all the time. I probably contribute to 200 groups per year,” he said.

According to rabbinic wisdom, one of Judaism’s hallmarks is charity.

The Babylonian Talmud states, “Charity is equivalent to all the other mitzvot combined.”

When asked where fellow landsmen should give tzedakah, Daniel Kamin, a member of Rodef Shalom Congregation, said people should “first assess the areas of their interest. That’s important because there are so many possibilities and places to contribute.”

Next, prospective givers should turn to Charity Navigator, or a similar site like Charity Watch, Guidestar or ProPublica.

These online tools evaluate and track thousands of organizations so that an individual can determine “how much of the donations go to the program and how much goes to the administrators,” Daniel Kamin said. “You don’t want to have [an organization] where most of the money goes to pay the administrators. That is not a good thing.”

Finally, after ensuring an entity operates like a responsible financial steward, there’s only one thing left to do: give.

“People should think through and contribute to the groups that they feel closest to,” he said. “There’s so many opportunities to help.” PJC

Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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