Forward’s salary rankings: Men got more money, better raises


The Forward’s second annual survey of 74 major Jewish national organizations found that in the past year, women lost ground in leadership, continued to lag behind men in pay and did not experience the same increases in salary that a majority of the men enjoyed despite these recessionary times. (VIEW THE SURVEY HERE)

While there were 11 women serving as presidents and CEOs of federations, advocacy and public service groups, and religious institutions last year, there are now only nine. Even though the work force in these organizations is overwhelmingly female, the percentage of women in leadership roles has dropped in the past year to 12% from 14%.

In this, the Jewish communal experience is dramatically at odds with trends in the broader not-for-profit world. GuideStar, which collects the informational tax forms that not-for-profit groups are required to file with the Internal Revenue Service, reported in September that women were chief executives of nearly 47% of the nation’s charities in 2008. Although women were concentrated in smaller organizations, even in the larger charities — those with annual budgets of more than $1 million — they still held 38% of the top roles.

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/133803/#ixzz180nH1H7t

Can you say fiduciary duty? Jewish nonprofits must follow new rules


Based on all reports, the evil criminality of Bernard Madoff has decimated the portfolios of hundreds of individuals and charitable organizations. The consequences for ongoing charitable programs and future gifts will be felt for many years to come.

While there should be no limit to the outrage at Madoff, the Jewish not-for-profit community must recognize that this crisis has highlighted grave shortcomings in professional controls in place related to the investment of their funds. Judging from press reports and public communications from numerous institutions, it seems apparent that the basic standards of fiduciary oversight were not in place. Both professional staff and lay leadership should undertake comprehensive reviews of their policies and take responsibility for their shortcomings.

Complete Madoff CoverageAs the community looks forward, it is imperative that the oversight of investments be executed in a manner that meets the highest fiduciary standards. After all, those responsible for overseeing the investments quite literally have the future of many of the most important programs in the Jewish community in their hands.

The large, often undiversified allocations to Madoff indicate that the foundations fell into the worst pitfalls that trap individuals into unwise investments. Among these are: lack of diversification, belief in “genius managers” who promise to deliver above market returns with minimal risk, not understanding the strategy of the funds in which they invest, investing based on reputation rather than doing due diligence and not monitoring the investment activity. While it is bad enough to find individuals who fall into some or all of these traps, to find evidence that those overseeing large sums for the community were no better is very disturbing, to put it mildly.

It also seems from this affair and my research on the investing policies of not-for-profits that many of these institutions joined with the fad of not-for-profits investing in “alternative investments.” Enticed by the success of Yale and Harvard’s enormous endowments they sought to “be like Yale and Harvard” and invest in hedge funds, private equity funds, venture capital, commodity funds and other products despite little real knowledge or professional staff. Yet even David Swensen, Yale’s esteemed manager, has written that neither individuals nor small institutions should follow Yale’s strategies since they lack the large professional staff and resources required to properly screen and manage such investments.Yale has 19 full time professionals overseeing their investments, Harvard Management has a full- time staff well over 100.

A Business Week article in May 2006, “Big Risk on Campus,” reported on smaller endowments investing like the big guys, noting that larger endowments (averaging $1 billion or more) had an average of 21.7 percent of their assets in hedge funds. In second position in the article’s table of smaller endowments with big hedge fund stakes was Yeshiva University’s $1.1 billion endowment with 65.3 percent. Yale’s allocation to hedge funds is 23 percent; Harvard’s, 18 percent.

Ironically, while many foundations concentrated on seeking out exotic, high-risk “alternative” investments, they did not look into allocating a portion of their investments to a better “alternative,” such as investments that would not have entailed above-average risks. Examples would include: socially responsible index funds, a broadly diversified index fund of Israeli stocks or investments in indices of companies investing in clean energy. The vast majority of foundations ignored the opportunity for “doing well by doing good” in their quest to find a “hot hand” to manage their money.

Looking forward, it is imperative that our institutions draft clear investment policy statements and establish appropriate policies and controls. Ideally, the foundations would wind up with an investment portfolio in line with the “best practices” of investment strategy and not much different than that of a prudent individual: broadly diversified with low cost, transparent and liquid index instruments.The parameters of such policies would include:

  • A target allocation for the portfolio among international and domestic stocks, bonds and cash, along with controls for keeping the portfolio within those parameters.
  • No investments in bonds below investment grade.
  • Restrictions on investments in asset- backed securities.
  • Restrictions prohibiting any investments that make use of leverage or derivatives.
  • Restrictions on investments in illiquid investments, such as venture capital and private equity, and on investments that do not have transparent pricing and valuation.
  • No investments in any entities affiliated with members of the investment committee, the board or the professional staff. As a consequence of this one policy, the New York Jewish Community Foundation had no investments with Madoff.
  • Ability to price all investments in the portfolio on a daily basis. Confirmations of all transactions by the next business day.
  • Transactional activity and financial reporting performed by different individuals.
  • Monthly performance reports available to all investment committee members.
  • Annual audit of all investments and procedures by an independent third party.

In addition to the above, serious consideration should be given to an even higher level of transparency: complete posting on the Internet of the full portfolio and its value and performance. Given the extreme lack of controls evidenced by the Madoff affair, such an easily implemented step would go a long way to restoring confidence in the community and in fact may be essential for any success in raising the funds necessary to keep many programs afloat.

Lawrence Weinman is an independent registered investment advisor working with individuals and institutions. He teaches a course on investment management for nonprofits at the AJU and has worked with Jewish nonprofits in their investment strategies. He blogs at www.sensibleinvestments.blogspot.com.

Madoff scheme deals new hit to FSU Jews


MOSCOW (JTA) — The Ponzi scheme perpetrated by Bernard Madoff is the latest in a string of financial blows to Jewish aid programs in the former Soviet Union, wiping out a major foundation that was the primary funder of Jewish higher education in Russia.

The Chais Family Foundation, a $178 million philanthropy forced to close after investing all its money in Madoff’s fraudulent fund, gave away more than $12 million per year to Jewish causes. About $2.5 million of that focused on the former Soviet Union, where the foundation funded at least 12 cultural and educational programs.

Even before the foundation’s collapse, several organizations — including the Jewish Agency for Israel, Chabad-Lubavitch and the American Jewish Joint Complete Madoff CoverageDistribution Committee — had announced in recent months that they would be reducing support for programming in the region, fueling doubt and fear among Russian Jewish communal leaders.

“Many of my colleagues and others think that 2009 could be the hardest year for the Jewish community of the former Soviet Union,” Mikhail Chlenov, the general secretary of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress, who also sits on the board of a program that was funded by Chais, told JTA. “Education is the first sphere of work that is already suffering, but social welfare programs could be next.”

Re-creating a Jewish community in the former Soviet Union following the collapse of communism has been an intense project undertaken by the broader Jewish community, drawing hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years from the Jewish Agency, Chabad and the JDC. The Chais Foundation’s annual $2.5 million contribution was the driving force behind creating a sustainable and self-sufficient piece of infrastructure in the region — a higher education system equipped to train Jewish professionals and teachers.

Chais funded the Center for Biblical and Jewish Studies in St. Petersburg, the Jewish studies department at Moscow State University and the Chais Center for Jewish Studies in Russia, which it founded. The Chais Center brings professors from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem to the region to create accredited programs. Hundreds of Jewish professionals have been trained through the center.

In addition, the foundation was a major funder of the Open University of Israel, which transmits online curricula to the former Soviet Union.

Those programs are now in danger.

Arkady Kovelman, the head of the Jewish studies program at Moscow State, said his program could definitely expect to lose some opportunities for grant money.

The Moscow program relies on academics from the Chais Center at Hebrew University who conduct courses in Hebrew and Russian. Kovelman says it is too early to tell if the program will continue or what the loss of Chais money will do to his program.

“I am hoping that it will not have an immediate impact,” Kovelman said. “They are telling us that everything is more or less OK.”

Even if programs in Russia weather the loss of Chais, the foundation’s closing is only the latest in a half-year of calamity for programs in the region pinched by the downturn in the global economy.

The Heftziba system — a network of 41 state-sponsored schools that offer Jewish curricula, which is is administered by the Jewish Agency — is in peril. The system, which was set up by Russian municipalities in conjunction with the Israeli Ministry of Education immediately after the fall of communism, has seen its finances gutted by $40.5 million in cuts to the Jewish Agency’s overall budget.

The agency, which pays to have some 11,000 students bused to the schools, is reducing its funding for the system from $12.7 million in 2008 to just over $5 million for 2009, with the hope that local philanthropists will help pick up the slack.

Alan Hoffmann, the director of the Jewish Agency’s education department, estimates that the Heftziba budget now has a $5 million hole.

“It could really be a mortal blow” to the school system, he told JTA Sunday.

The Jewish Agency already had been forced to adjust after Russian-Israeli philanthropist Arcadi Gaydamak pledged $50 million in 2006 to help establish programming in the former Soviet Union, but then froze the gift after giving only $10 million.

The two other Jewish-run school networks in the region — the secular ORT system and the Orthodox Shma Yisrael — have suffered from cutbacks undertaken by the Jewish Agency. Shma Yisrael has lost $200,000 in funding and the ORT schools are struggling through a budget cut of $1.2 million in recent months, according to ORT officials, JTA reported in November.

In the past three months, the largest Jewish educational network in the region, Chabad’s Or Avner system, has been forced to make significant cutbacks as its main benefactor, Lev Leviev, withdrew a substantial portion of his funding in the face of the financial crisis.

On top of these cuts, the Joint Distribution Committee, which provides social services to the frail and elderly in the region, is cutting its $100 million-plus 2009 budget in the region by about $5 million.

“You put those factors together in one six-month period from June 2008 until January of 2009 and you have some serious dynamite there for some institutions,” Hoffmann said. “I think it is a serious body blow to Jewish life in the FSU.”

The survival of Jewish programming, he said, “will depend on how quickly the world economy improves and the philanthropy world improves.”

U.S. Jewish leaders and Israeli officials have long hoped that the creation of new Jewish wealth in the region would lead ultimately to the formation of a home-grown Jewish philanthropy class that one day could pick up the mantle. But that had been slow in coming, even before the financial crisis and the drop in the price of oil wiped out huge swaths of Jewish wealth in the region.

For a system still largely dependant on outside money, the disappearance of Chais could really hurt.

Outside of higher education, the foundation funneled tens of millions of dollars into several programs aimed at promoting Jewish identity among youth.

Hillel in the former Soviet Union relied on the Chais Foundation for 23 percent of its budget and the ripples of the Madoff scheme have forced its operations “to the edge,” said Hillel FSU director Osik Akselrud.

“Now I don’t know how to find the exit from this situation because we have to cut programs and reduce salaries,” he told JTA at a Hillel staff conference in Baltimore. “I just don’t know what to do.”

Akselrud, like others whose organizations received funding from Chais, received a letter last week saying that he could no longer expect any support from the now-defunct foundation. The letter, which arrived just as he was to fly to the United States, set off a frenzy of meetings to determine how Hillel FSU could stay afloat.

Akselrud is also the chairman for Limmud FSU, an increasingly popular series of educational conferences that began last year. Limmud has plans for two conferences next year, in Belarus and Ukraine, and the Chais Foundation was expected to be a major underwriter of both.

The Sefer Center, an umbrella group that holds conferences and brings together students in Jewish studies from across the region, had relied on the Chais Foundation for 50 percent of its budget, said its director, Victoria Mochalova. She also learned in a terse message last week that her organization would need to look elsewhere for support.

In the face of the bad news, Mochalova predicted that the older generation of Jewish community activists in the former Soviet Union who had built the network from scratch would find a way to get through a decrease in funding.

“We never had a great situation and we have learned how to live in a hard situation,” she said. “For the young it is a big blow to take.”

In the United States, at least one Jewish organizational leader is holding out hope.

“I am not going to predict the future, but today if you go to our JCCs or to Yesod in St. Petersburg, they are full and active and Jewish life is vibrant,” said Steven Schwager, the CEO of the JDC. “They are critical links in building a Jewish community, and some way or other they will find a solution to continue them.”

Pyramid power (not)


Jewish Money


Give Bernard Madoff credit for one good deed: As much as his self-confessed Ponzi scheme revealed weaknesses in the Jewish world, it also laid bare many ofour strengths.

Trials and tribulations tend to do just that — bring to light the good, the bad, the ugly. When some people behave at their worst, others are forced to, or revealed to, behave at their humanly best.

That’s what any fair look at the Madoff scandal shows. The standard worry is that Madoff’s actions will give rise to a vicious anti-Semitic backlash. But I don’t see it, despite the fact that all the cretinous Jew-haters have come forward online, using this scandal as proof of Jewish financial perfidy.

Complete Madoff CoverageEarlier this week, when I entered the search terms “Madoff” and “Jewish” into Google, the top responses included JewishJournal.com and stormfront.org, a neo-Nazi Web site. That should alarm no one: The only people more obsessed than neo-Nazis with a famous person’s specific degree of Jewishness are Jewish journalists.

But anti-Semites never need a reason to hate Jews. They were penning their poison before Madoff, and they’ll be spreading it long after he’s gone. Madoff doesn’t make anti-Semites more rational, just more topical.

But will their spew gain more traction in the wider community? I doubt it.

It’s not just that Madoff’s victims were disproportionately Jewish. (That fact alone should give pause to the idea that we possess some super-Spidey sense of financial acumen.)

It’s that the list of victims reveals something truly remarkable about the Jewish world: its deep and far-reaching philanthropy.

What, for instance, does this partial list of Madoff-afflicted charities have in common: Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, the Chais Family Foundation, the Wunderkinder Foundation, Carl & Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, The JEHT Foundation, Julian J. Levitt Foundation, Technion—The Israel Institute of Technology?

The answer is that they spend much, if not all, of their time and resources helping non-Jews.

Steven Spielberg’s Wunderkinder Foundation supports more than 75 diverse organizations and institutions, from the American Museum of Natural History to the Young Musicians Foundation. It gave generously to Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services and to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, two institutions founded by Los Angeles Jews that serve a largely non-Jewish population.

A much-loved anti-Semitic trope is that “tentacles” of Jewish power encircle Wall Street, the White House, the media. But the truth is that it is the tentacles of Jewish philanthropy that reach far beyond our small, numerically insignificant community.

Public radio? The Carl & Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation gave millions to WGBH in Boston. According to The Boston Globe, the Shapiro Foundation gave more than $80.3 million over the past decade to hundreds of schools, hospitals, arts groups and community-based nonprofits in the Boston area and beyond.

Human rights? The JEHT Foundation in Massachusetts gave millions to the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch, among many other organizations.

The arts? The Arthur I. and Sydelle F. Meyer Charitable Foundation of West Palm Beach, Fla., wiped out by Madoff, supported the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, the Norton Museum of Art and a downtown Palm Beach amphitheater, among others. Tentacles indeed.

The list is much, much longer: The money that Madoff lost had done incalculable good, saving lives, advancing art and science, making the world a better place.

In his Sunday column, The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote that liberal Americans are less generous than conservative Americans. “Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad,” Kristof wrote, “yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.”

I don’t know if Jews, among the most liberal of voters, fall into the cheapskate category, or whether Jewish giving pushes up the liberal average. There is no comprehensive study of Jewish philanthropy to compare Jewish giving, whether to synagogues or for other purposes, to general American giving, according to Gary Tobin, director of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research.

But if you scroll through the list of Madoff’s philanthropic victims, you’ll find plenty of evidence that even Jews who have shed every vestige of their ancient practice short of circumcision still resonate to the prophetic call to heal the wider world.

In the second volume of his “Code of Jewish Ethics,” (Bell Tower, 2009), Rabbi Joseph Telushkin traces the textual roots for this precept back to the Talmud.

“The Talmud ruled that, ‘we provide financial support to the gentile poor as well as to the Jewish poor,'” recounts Telushkin. “This ruling was issued at a time when the non-Jews among whom the Jews lived were usually idolators with values antithetical and often hostile to Judaism.”

Telushkin concludes: “If we donate only to Jewish causes or to individual Jews in need, we may stop seeing everyone as being equally created in God’s image and therefore worthy of our help. After all, we are all members of one race, the human race.”

That’s something the Madoff scandal makes clear Jews haven’t forgotten.

Charitable Yums


Thinking about doing something for Israel but don’t have time or inclination to go there and volunteer in person? This Sunday you can do your bit for the beleaguered Jewish state by chowing down in local restaurants.

On May 2, 20 of Los Angeles’ kosher restaurants will participate in the National Council for Synagogue Youth’s (NCSY) second annual Eat 4 Israel campaign. The restaurants have agreed to donate 10 percent of their gross receipts from that day to one or more of the following charities: One Family, which helps victims of terror; Magen David Adom; Yad Eliezer, which provides food to indigent Israelis; Save Our Soldiers, which outfits members of the Israel Defense Forces with bullet-proof vests; and Hatzolah Jerusalem, a charity that provides medical services at the scene of terror attacks.

“We thought that this was a good way to help Israel and really no one loses,” said Tova Weiner, an 11th-grader at Yeshiva University of Los Angeles high school, who was one of the 15 high school students to organized the campaign for NCSY. “The restaurants will make up for what they give us by increased sales, and people are going out to eat anyway. We think this is a great way to raise money without having to go door to door.”

Last year, the Eat 4 Israel campaign was nationwide, and netted $6,000 from 20 restaurants and the restaurants reported a 35 percent average increase in customers. This year organizers decided to concentrate only on the local market, and are proud that they have 20 restaurants participating in the Greater Los Angeles area. They are hoping for similar — or better results than last year.

“As a Jewish Orthodox youth group we believe that supporting Israel very important,” said Sharona Motkin, a senior at Shalhevet. “We believe Israel is going through a lot right now, and anything we can do to raise awareness we do.”

For more information and a list

of participating restaurants, visit

www.angelfire.com/un/eat4israel, call (310) 940-5683, or
e-mail eat4israel@hotmail.com .

Holy Gifts for a Good Cause


Jonathan Koch was trying to decide between two pairs of shoes when he happened to notice that one pair was made in Israel. That sealed the deal for him.

Koch figured that others would choose to buy Israeli products if given an opportunity. So the self-described "serial entrepreneur," together with Russ Pechman and Howard Felson, founded LittleIsrael.com, a Web site that sells Israeli toys and clothing to children in the United States.

As Israel’s economy continues to founder with a weak technology sector and the violence of the Palestinian intifada, buying Israeli products has become a popular way for Diaspora Jews to support the Jewish state.

Web sites like LittleIsrael.com, Shopinisrael.com and Israeliwishes.com cater to the U.S. Jewish consumers’ desire to help Israel’s economy.

The Web site launched officially in October.

"Buying Israel shouldn’t be a sacrifice," Koch said. "It’s about buying products at a good price and supporting Israel at the same time."

Amid e-commerce ventures that sell Israeli artwork, beauty products and jewelry, LittleIsrael.com has found a niche in the children’s clothing and toy market.

The site features more than 200 Israeli-made products geared to infants through 6-year-olds, ranging from blocks to baseball-covered pajamas to a bath toy that lets children fish for foam sea creatures in the tub. The merchandise on the site sells for anything from $10 to $300.

LittleIsrael.com’s products are not necessarily Jewish in nature. They’re simply an alternative to the average toy store that allows buyers to benefit Israel, said the site’s founders.

Besides promoting Israelis’ wares online, LittleIsrael.com donates 10 percent of its profits to several Israeli charities, including the Alyn Pediatric Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, the Israel Sport Center for the Disabled, the Jerusalem Post Toy Fund and OneFamily, the Israel Emergency Solidarity Fund.

While Pechman says the primary goal is to help the Israeli economy, he acknowledges the positive effect it could have on kids’ impressions of the Jewish state.

Young children absorb negative associations from violence and problems they hear about Israel, Pechman said. "By getting a gift from Israel, it’s almost creating a new positive association [about Israel]."

For some customers, shopping Israeli online is simply the most feasible way to show their support.

"I don’t have the opportunity to get on a plane and visit right now, but as American Jews we have an obligation to support our homeland in any way we can," said Yonni Wattenmaker, who bought toys for her niece and nephew on LittleIsrael.com.

A visit to LittleIsrael.com lets consumers shop by age category and product type. For shoppers struggling for ideas, the site also promotes the most popular items — a multitoy crib addition, costing $39.95, was recently featured.

Koch envisions selling computer software and other product categories in the future.

For now, LittleIsrael.com focuses on buyers getting their products from the purchaser as fast as possible. LittleIsrael.com only sells Israeli products that have U.S. distribution centers, because waiting three weeks for a toy is not acceptable to today’s consumer, the company said.

Many customers are pleasantly surprised to hear they will get their purchase within days, said Pechman, who recently attended an Israeli goods fair to promote LittleIsrael.com. But "people were like, ‘As long as it gets here before Chanukah, that’s enough.’"

Jewish Charities Get Favorable Rating


If you’re concerned that the money you donate to Los Angeles Jewish charities is eaten up by administrative and fundraising costs, fear not.

Most Jewish charities in Los Angeles have a favorable rating for the amount of dollars spent on their projects compared to dollars spent on costs, according to Charity Navigator, a new philanthropic watchdog. The group assessed some 130 Jewish nonprofits, including seven from Los Angeles, among 2,500 charities across the United States. It then rated the groups based on the Form 990 tax returns that all nonprofit charities, except religious institutions, must provide annually to the IRS.

Charity Navigator evaluated the groups’ overall financial health, fundraising and organizational efficiency. The goal was to equip potential donors with enough detail to “make more intelligent giving decisions,” spokeswoman Sandra Miniutti said.

Independent analysis of charities and philanthropies remains relatively rare, so many in the Jewish philanthropic world welcome the extra focus.

Such data “should serve as a reminder to donors that it is not enough to find a cause that tugs at your heart strings,” said Mark Charendoff, president of the Jewish Funders Network. “We have to hold charities we care about to higher standards of efficiency, effectiveness and transparency.”

Among all kinds of charities, Jewish and non-Jewish, the median fundraising costs were about $.08 of every dollar, she said — “pretty good” compared to the most efficient charities. Those charities deemed the most efficient spent no more than $.10 cents, or 10 percent, to raise each dollar. It’s estimated that there are between $25 billion and $50 billion in assets in the coffers of U.S. Jewish philanthropies, from foundations and federations to nonprofits and pension funds.

What the watchdog calls religious charities range from museums to universities to the U.S.-based fundraising arms of Israeli institutions to Jewish federations and political groups. Each charity was assigned up to 70 points and up to four stars, with better scores going to those showing greater financial health and streamlined bureaucracies.

The Jewish groups ranked similarly to other nonprofits when it came to areas such as fundraising and program expenses, but ranked poorly regarding money in the bank.

Checked for their “working-capital ratio,” or how much cash each group would have left if fundraising dried up, Jewish charities had enough to last for only 3.6 months on average, compared to 8.3 months for non-Jewish charities. Such “liquid assets” could be cash, stocks or easily sellable property such as real estate. The Jewish charities ranked lower because they typically raise the bulk of their money around the High Holidays and at the end of the year, but don’t have cash on hand year-round, Miniutti said.

In Los Angeles, the top rated Jewish charities were Jewish Family Services (JFS), Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger and the Skirball Cultural Center, which were all awarded four stars, and 62, 63, and 68 points respectively. According to Charity Navigator, JFS spends only $.02 to raise every dollar, Mazon spends $.07 and the Skirball spends $.04.

The charity with the next highest rating was the Simon Wiesenthal Center which was awarded three stars and 53 points, and spends $.17 cents to raise every dollar. The Bureau of Jewish Education, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation were granted two stars.

Nationally, the top Jewish charity was the Shefa Fund, which won a four-star, 69-point rating. The fund, dedicated to advancing social responsibility through grants, spent $.04 cents to raise each dollar, according to its Form 990.

Jeffrey Dekro, president of the Shefa Fund, said his organization’s first-place ranking “is really consistent with the doctrine of our work.”

At the bottom of the Jewish heap sat the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah, which is dedicated to Jewish education and outreach. The group garnered only 19 points and zero stars, spending $.23 cents to raise each dollar.

In several cases, Charity Navigator ranked branches of the same charities separately because they were incorporated separately for nonprofit status and file different forms to the IRS. Aish HaTorah represented one such case, with its New York branch, which it says is dedicated to “wisdom for living,” gaining 53 points and three stars, spending only $.13 cents to bring in every dollar.

Irwin Katsof, the Los Angeles-based president of Aish HaTorah, said he couldn’t discuss the findings until he had studied them more closely.

“I’m not really going to comment until I’ve had a chance to analyze how they did it,” Katsof said.

Charendoff, whose Jewish Funders Network is an umbrella group for many of the more than 8,000 private Jewish family foundations in the United States, some of which were rated byc Navigator, said the rankings provide useful data but miss some subtleties.

While the rankings allow one to compare a range of similar charities for their efficiency, they offer only a snapshot that does not reflect an organization’s development over time.

Newer charities “may take a few years to achieve a balance between building the business and delivering the product,” he said.

The rankings also do not take into account the size of an organization, he added. A small foundation may have only one fundraising professional, accounting for a major share of its budget, compared to bigger organizations with more money and a few more fundraisers.

Charity Navigator’s rankings, compiled in August and updated Sept. 3, were based on federal reports from 2001 and 2002, but the group “looked back” to 1997 and 1998 to “calculate growth as well,” Miniutti said.

Other national Jewish nonprofits that got ranked for overall efficiency included Hillel: the Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, which ranked 10th, and the World Jewish Congress, which was listed 112th.

Staff Writer Gaby Wenig contributed to this report.

Everyone Into The Pool


Alex Fullman has always loved to swim. He started when he was 2 years old and began swimming competitively at 6. So when representatives of American Red Magen David for Israel (ARMDI) visited his sixth-grade class at Heschel Day School to encourage students to consider making a donation as part of their bar or bat mitzvah year, Alex decided to combine his love of swimming with the needs of ARMDI. The organization provides emergency medical services throughout Israel.

The ARMDI Swim-a-Thon took place June 1 at the West Valley Jewish Community Center, drawing 51 participants and raising more than $3,300 for the organization. Participants obtained donation pledges linked to the number of laps they swam or arranged a single contribution.

"I wanted to support Israel, and I wanted everyone — not just Jewish people — to come," Fullman said.

Two members of the UCLA swim team, Nicole Beck and Marilyn Chua, a 2000 Olympics competitor from Malaysia, were on hand to provide coaching for the swimmers. Members of Valley Beth Shalom’s United Synagogue Youth group, of which Fullman is a member, participated, as did the center’s Young at Heart Club.

Fullman’s parents, Sandra Kossacoff and Howard Fullman, said the event became a family project. Younger brother Casey, 9, roped friends into participating.

Alex Fullman, who will celebrate his bar mitzvah at Valley Beth Shalom on Sept. 6, said he hopes the swim-a-thon’s success will encourage other youngsters to find a creative way to support their favorite charity.

"Some people’s bar mitzvahs are completely unrelated to the word mitzvah," he said. "Even though a bar mitzvah is a simcha [joy], it’s still important for people to do things like this."

Harder Choices


Little noted amid the full-frontal assault on Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s (R-Miss.) latest sensationalistic folly was President George W. Bush’s move to ease the flow of federal dollars to faith-based charities.

Bush’s Dec. 12 executive order implemented key elements of his Faith-Based and Community Initiative, including some of those contained in the bipartisan Charity, Aid, Recovery and Empowerment Act legislation that stalled in the Senate this year.

What he couldn’t win by fighting, he won by fiat. Some Jewish groups are outraged. Others elated. Which should you be? How about half-and-half.

The Federal government and religious charities have long worked together to fund and provide services to the needy. Federal dollars to Jewish charities began flowing as early as 1890, according to Diana Aviv, vice president for Public Policy and director of the Washington Action Office of the United Jewish Communities (UJC). Whether Catholic, Lutheran, Muslim or Jewish, groups that receive state monies have had to keep their government contract work separate from their religious activities. Not only must they set up separate entities to administer the contracts, they must provide the services in an area free of religious practice or symbol.

Bush said his action will ensure that no organization applying for grants will be discriminated against based on religion, and that no beneficiary of federally funded social services may be discriminated against based on religion. Another provision of the action allows religion to be taken into account when hiring for a government-funded position.

That in itself was enough to anger Hadassah and the American Jewish Committee (AJC), among other Jewish groups. "By directing federal funds to sectarian organizations that discriminate in hiring," said Bonnie Lipton, Hadassah’s national president, "the government not only weakens our civil rights, but undermines the principles of separation of church and state." The AJC released a statement expressing "alarm" at Bush’s action, which, it wrote, "advances the use of taxpayer dollars to fund social services provided by religious institutions without adequate church-state safeguards and anti-discrimination protections."

Meanwhile, Orthodox groups applauded the president. "We are gratified [that Bush endorsed] the principle of government neutrality toward religion as opposed to government hostility toward religion," said Nathan Diament, director Institute for Public Affairs of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

Indeed, there have been unjustified cases of government bias toward religious institutions. After suffering severe earthquake damage two years ago, the Seattle Hebrew Academy in Washington State was denied emergency funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) because of the school’s religious affiliation. In signing the action, Bush directed FEMA to revise its policy on disaster relief for faith-based nonprofits.

But there are real church-state concerns here. Last year, the AJC and the Texas Civil Rights project filed an action against a taxpayer-funded program that bought and distributed Bibles to beneficiaries in order to help them "change with Jesus Christ … from the inside out." Where many on the Christian Right see Bush’s action as a retreat from his early commitment to faith-based initiatives, many Jewish groups see it as another charge at the wall of separating church and state.

Among those Jewish institutions trying to walk the middle road is the UJC, the central fundraising and social services agency for the Jewish community. "There are parts about it that would help our community and parts about it that are deeply troubling," Aviv told me while visiting Los Angeles this week. "To sort through it will take more than a knee-jerk reaction."

UJC receives between $5 billion and $7 billion in federal funding for its variety of social service programs. In Los Angeles, those monies help support critical programs, such as Jewish Family Service’s "Meals on Wheels," which provides 650 homebound seniors with hot meals each day of the year. Jewish Federation funding makes up for part of the difference between the federal funds and the actual cost of the meals, but there is no way any large faith community engaged in social service could replace the role of federal funding in meeting its clients needs.

The key is balance. On the one hand is our commitment to working on behalf of the disadvantaged, on the other our understanding that our security as Americans and as Jews rests in no small part on the separation of church and state.

"People who care deeply both about religious liberty and about the provision of effective social services disagree about the constitutionality and advisability of ‘charitable choice,’" wrote professor Marshall Breger in "In Good Faith," perhaps the most fair-minded study of this issue.

The key is to work to incorporate in these funding structures enough accountability, protection and oversight so that government can be a help, not a hindrance, to the best social service work being done by faith communities. "I believe that our government should support the works of charity that are motivated by faith," Bush said in a March 2001 speech at the White House to the AJC, "but our government should never fund the teaching of faith, itself."

That is a noble ideal, and one worth holding him to.

Dismay Over Tax Bill


Jewish charitable organizations are not going to get the help they were hoping for in the new tax bill, since the final version leaves out a proposal that might have boosted giving by billions of dollars.

The bill, signed by President Bush on June 6, grabbed headlines for its tax cuts and $1.35-trillion figure. But Jewish groups were surprised and dismayed that a plan to let people who do not itemize their tax returns deduct their charitable contributions was left out in last-minute negotiations.

“To say that we are disappointed is probably an understatement,” said Diana Aviv, vice president of public policy for United Jewish Communities, the Jewish community’s central fundraising and social services agency. “We thought the issue was dear to the president’s heart,” she added.

The White House’s larger faith-based initiative has always included a plan to expand the federal charitable deduction to 80 million non-itemizers.

In a speech on May 20, Bush was still touting that plan. “Everyone in America — whether they are well off or not — should have the same incentive and reward for giving,” Bush said.

But administration officials negotiating with Congress over the tax bill did not make the non-itemizing provision a priority as they fought for other parts of the bill: for example, reductions in the tax rate and marriage penalty and elimination of the estate tax.

The non-itemizing provision, it was thought, would have potentially encouraged almost $15 billion a year in new charitable giving. It is unclear how much Jewish charities would have benefited.

The White House says the president hopes the provision will function as part of the larger faith-based initiative, which is still in its working stages. An official at the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives said the non-itemizing plan was, in fact, never intended to be included in the tax bill.

But Jewish groups, which had universally supported the provision, see the failure to include it in the tax bill as the probable end of the idea. “The tax bill is where you do tax policy,” said Hannah Rosenthal, executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Rosenthal said the provision could have been used to reach out to younger people, to get more non-givers to participate, and to change the culture of charitable giving in the country.

One issue of particular interest to the Jewish community that did make it into the tax bill was the expansion of education IRAs, or education savings accounts. For the first time, parents will be allowed to use the tax benefit of the savings account toward tuition at private and parochial elementary and secondary schools. Orthodox groups, in line with the White House, say the education savings accounts expand parental choice.

Other Jewish groups, such as the Religion Action Center for Reform Judaism, have opposed the accounts, not as a church-state issue but a public-policy one, saying the accounts siphon off money from the public school system.

Those Jewish groups opposed to the education IRAs did not make too much noise about its inclusion in the tax bill. A number of the groups had focused on what they see as the larger threat, direct government support for private schools, and so fought against the use of vouchers.

Vouchers were ultimately blocked in the education bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, and they are not thought to have much chance of passage in the Senate.

Opponents of the education savings accounts say lower-income families without thousands in savings cannot take advantage of the benefit, and those that can will find the annual benefit is nominal.

“Every little bit helps,” countered Abba Cohen, director and counsel of the Washington office of Agudath Israel of America, a fervently Orthodox group. He said that the accounts are not a government subsidy and that the Jewish community has to pursue every avenue to help parents who send their children to Jewish day schools.

Fundraising Fluctuations


The umbrella organization for North American Jewish federations is now the seventh largest charitable organization in the United States, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

This marks the first time in recent years that a Jewish organization has ranked in the top 20 of the Chronicle’s annual listing of the 400 not-for-profit organizations with the largest revenues from individual contributors.

And, had the tabulation been done differently – to include all dollars raised by federations, instead of only those allocated to overseas needs – the ranking would have been considerably higher, say officials of the umbrella group, known as the United Jewish Communities (UJC).

According to the Chronicle, the UJC raised $524.3 million in 1999, but UJC officials say the federation system actually raised close to $2 billion.

The United Jewish Appeal, the largest of the three organizations that merged to form the UJC last year, regularly appeared on the Chronicle’s top 10 list until 1996, when it ranked No. 6. However, it was later removed from the list when the publication adopted a now-abandoned policy of excluding umbrella organizations, such as the UJA and United Way, that receive their money from other organizations on the list.

Gail Hyman, the UJC’s vice president of marketing and public affairs, said she is pleased the charity has been recognized in this year’s listing, noting that “we are among the leading and best fund-raising organizations nationally.”

But UJC’s high ranking comes as the overall number of Jewish organizations on the top-400 list has dropped from 27 to 25.

In addition, most Jewish groups, particularly federations, slipped in rank since last year, even if their overall revenues increased. This indicates that other philanthropies – which, according to the article, are enjoying average increases of 13 percent this year – are growing more rapidly than Jewish ones.

Among the few Jewish groups to increase in rank this year are some undergoing major endowment campaigns, like the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit; the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary, which is in the middle of a capital campaign; and PEF Israel Endowment Funds, a group that funnels donor-designated gifts to a variety of Israeli organizations.

Observers of Jewish philanthropic trends say the overall drop is not surprising, given that, as American Jews assimilate, they contribute more money to secular causes and less to Jewish organizations.

“I suspect the greatest growth is into non-Jewish giving by Jews,” said Bruce Arbit, co-managing director of A.B. Data, a firm that assists many Jewish organizations in direct marketing campaigns.

American Jews, said Arbit, “feel less connectedness to the Jewish people” than they used to. In addition, intermarried households – which are growing in number – tend to give less to Jewish organizations than other Jewish families, said Arbit.

David Mersky, a senior lecturer in Jewish philanthropy at Brandeis University’s Hornstein Program in Jewish Communal Service, said the general decline in ranking for Jewish groups results from the relatively weak campaigns of Jewish federations.

Federation campaigns, in which donors contribute to a general pool, “have not kept pace with the rate of increase of other philanthropies,” said Mersky.

Federation annual campaigns increased 4 percent on average in 1999. But more than half of total federation giving was not to the annual campaign but to endowments.

Mersky said endowments and other campaigns that allow designated giving, in which donors can choose exactly where their money goes, do better – which may explain the success of PEF.

However, philanthropy experts caution against reading too much into fluctuations that occur from year to year.

“Fundraising, organization by organization, is very cyclical,” said Mersky. He pointed out that a major campaign one year may be followed by a drop the following year, and that in any given year, a one-time major gift like a bequest can “make all the difference in the world” and “rocket you forward.”

The rankings – in which 12 federations and communal funds appear, compared to 15 last year – are also consistent with trends away from federation giving and toward more specialized causes, like specific institutions and “friends of” Israeli organizations.

Ironically, one of the Jewish groups enjoying the most dramatic increase in ranking is one that does not do any fund raising at all.

“We never asked anybody for a dime. We have no fund-raising dinners. It’s just word of mouth,” said B. Harrison Frankel, president of PEF Israel Endowment Funds, which ranked 279 this year, up from 351 last year.

The organization channels funds to more than 1,000 nonpolitical organizations in Israel – ranging from the Magen David Adom relief agency to the Israel Women’s Network – and raised $38.5 million in 1999, up from $12 million in 1991. Run almost entirely by volunteers, PEF allows donors to earmark their contributions.

After the UJC, the New York, Chicago and Detroit federations were the largest Jewish organizations on the list. With revenues of $156.9 million, New York’s federation ranked 53 (down from 44 last year) and its Jewish Communal Fund – which allows donors to create their own charitable foundations – ranked 61.With $66.9 million, Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization of America was the largest non-federation Jewish organization appearing on the list. It ranked 170, down from last year’s 133.

Six Jewish universities – including three American “friends of” Israeli institutions – also made the list.


The Top 10 Jewish Charities

Following are the top 10 Jewish philanthropies, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s listing of 400 largest charities:

United Jewish Communities
Rank this year: 7
Rank last year: not listed because it was founded in 1999
Private support: $524.3 million

UJA-Federation of Greater New York
Rank this year: 53
Rank last year: 43
Private support: $156.9 million

Jewish Communal Fund (related toUJA-Federation of Greater New York)
Rank this year: 61
Rank last year: 54
Private support: $145.7 million

Jewish Federation/Jewish United Fund
of Metropolitan Chicago

Rank this year: 110
Rank last year: 91
Private support: $97.3 million

United Jewish Foundation and Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit
Rank this year: 151
Rank last year: 155
Private support: $77.1 million

Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist
Organization of America
Rank this year: 170
Rank last year: 132
Private support: $66.9 million

Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties
Rank this year: 175
Rank last year: 138
Private support: $65.3 million

Jewish Federation
of Greater Philadelphia
Rank this year: 188
Rank last year: 242
Private support: $62.3 million

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore
Rank this year: 223
Rank last year: 218
Private support: $52.2 million

Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles
Rank this year: 231
Rank last year: 236
Private support: $50.1 million