Josh Mandel

For the second straight year, Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel is making history.

On June 2, Mandel purchased $47.8 million in Israel bonds, the largest single government purchase of Israel bonds ever in the United States. It surpassed the record he established in March 2013, when he made an Israel bonds purchase of $42 million.

The investment increases the total amount of Israel bonds in the Ohio Treasury portfolio to more than $105 million – the largest amount of Israel bonds held by a state treasurer in the U.S., according to Mandel’s office in Columbus.

“This purchase is consistent with our strategy of making sound investments that prioritize the safety and security of Ohioans’ hard-earned dollars,” Mandel said June 5 in an exclusive telephone interview from Columbus.

“Just four years ago, Ohio’s fiscal condition was ranked 43rd in the nation – and today we’re ranked seventh. This improvement in Ohio’s financial health has been a team effort, and I’m proud to be doing our part from the state treasurer’s office.”

The purchase was made possible by bipartisan leadership in the state legislature, Mandel said.

“I credit leaders on both sides of the aisle for enabling our office to make this investment,” he said.

Mandel, 36, has served as Ohio treasurer since January 2011.

Mandel, of Beachwood, who ran unopposed for Ohio treasurer in the Republican primary in May, will seek re-election on Nov. 4 against Democratic candidate Connie Pillich.

After three years in office, Mandel has generated $4.7 million in savings to taxpayers and increased the treasurer’s liquidity portfolio by $3 billion, according to Mandel’s office.

“During our administration, we’ve managed to earn a ‘AAA’ credit rating on our multibillion-dollar STAR investment fund, as well as earning the first upgrade in a decade on the Ohio Enterprise Bond Fund,” he said.

Thomas Lockshin, executive director for Israel Bonds in Ohio and Kentucky, said he worked closely with Larry Berman, Israel Bonds national director of corporate and institutional sales, to facilitate the investment.

“We are appreciative the Ohio treasurer recognizes the value Israel bonds can offer their portfolio,” said Lockshin, whose office is in Beachwood. “And Israel bonds help every aspect of Israel’s economy.”

Izzy Tapoohi, president and CEO of Israel Bonds, headquartered in New York, said in a prepared statement, “We are deeply gratified by Treasurer Mandel’s $47.8 million Israel bond investment. Over the past two years, Treasurer Mandel has invested nearly $90 million in Israel bonds, and the state’s total Israel bond holdings exceed $105 million.

“These holdings – the largest ever by a state treasurer – highlight Treasurer Mandel’s appreciation for Israel bonds as significant additions to investment portfolios calling for solid returns and the strictest level of fiduciary responsibility,” he said. “It also underscores the treasurer’s confidence in Israel’s economy, which is widely recognized as one of the most resilient economies in the world.”

Michael Siegal, a member of the Israel Bonds national board of directors and former national chairman of Israel Bonds, said, “We’re very appreciative of the fact that there is recognition of the strong connection between the state of Israel and Ohio and the United States.”

“A lot of state treasurers have recognized the strong commitment we have to democracies – Josh Mandel in particular – and we’re appreciative of the fact that Josh recognizes a good investment,” he said. “When you look at the advances we’re seeing in technology and medical advances, Ohio has approached Israel to look for cooperation in those areas. I think Ohio is reaching out to Israel as a place to do business for Israeli companies.”

Siegal, of Gates Mills, is chairman of the board of trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America. He is CEO of Olympic Steel, based in Bedford Heights.

Alan Gottlieb, chairman of Israel Bonds for Greater Cleveland, called the purchase “a historic moment.”

“It shows the commitment the state of Ohio has made toward the state of Israel under Treasurer Mandel’s leadership, and it’s a solid investment for the state’s portfolio,” he said.

Gottlieb, of Pepper Pike, said it’s a good investment for Ohio because “the state of Israel has never defaulted on an obligation.”

According to information provided by Mandel’s office, Israel bonds are an attractive investment option for state and municipal public funds because they maintain a high credit rating, are dependable and yield a competitive interest rate.

Lockshin said the Ohio treasurer’s ability to buy these bonds has been made possible by two significant events:

• In 1993, the Ohio Revised Code was amended to allow the state to invest in foreign bonds.

• In 2010, the Ohio Legislature passed Senate Bill 181, which allows the treasury to increase debt earnings in foreign nations from one-half of 1 percent to 1 percent of the state’s portfolio.

Mandel, then a state representative, was the Republican co-sponsor of the bill, along with Stephen Slesnick, a Democrat from Canton. Joyce Garver Keller, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities, and Lockshin assisted in the process.

“We are fortunate that since the Ohio Revised Code was amended in 1993 to allow the state to invest in foreign bonds, every Ohio treasurer, whether Democrat or Republican, has invested in Israel bonds,” said Jay Schottenstein, chairman of Central Ohio State of Israel Bonds. “Our sincerest thanks to Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel for not only continuing that support, but reinforcing Ohio’s confidence in the state of Israel by confirming a new record-level of investment.”

Israel Bonds, officially known as Development Corp. for Israel, was established in 1951 to underwrite securities issued by Israel’s Ministry of Finance. It ranks among Israel’s most valued economic and strategic resources, according to israelbonds.com.

Worldwide sales since the first bonds were issued in 1951 exceed $36 billion, the website indicates.

ewittenberg@cjn.org

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