Five ways to make <I>your</I> federation better

Federations are one of the great success stories in American philanthropy. They attract thousands of volunteers and contributors, raise hundreds of millions of dollars, manage billions of dollars in a wide array of endowments and philanthropic funds, and mount special campaigns and emergency operations that raise hundreds of millions more. If the federation system vanished tomorrow, it would immediately, out of necessity, be reinvented.

Still, there is room for progress. In real dollars, adjusting for inflation, the annual campaign has been in steady decline for decades. The number of donors has also decreased. On the other hand, Jewish philanthropy outside the umbrella campaign has grown by leaps and bounds. Private foundations have mushroomed in number, size, and the amounts of money they give away. Myriad organizations successfully raise money for Jewish causes.

Federations should consider five changes to prosper. First, federations should be in the philanthropy business, which is more expansive than collecting and distributing funds. Most federations are mired in the belief that they are in the fundraising business (even if they say otherwise). Federations should be working with private foundations, creating better mechanisms to evaluate and monitor grants and allocations, guiding contributions, and endowments to Jewish causes.

Second, federations should abandon the idea that they are the “central address” of the Jewish community. Some federations still use the term — some don’t. Regardless, they often think of themselves this way. They shouldn’t. The phrase and the ideology behind it are associated with control and authority. Perhaps it’s not meant to, but it is easy to see why other institutions in Jewish life and the leaders who represent them view it as a kind of institutional arrogance. Central address carries with it an image of big brother and overblown bureaucracies.

Rather than “central address,” federations should think of themselves as Grand Central Station, a complex where ideas, resources, and initiatives intersect. They should play a vital leadership role that derives authority from the coordination, leadership and vision that they provide, not from the control of dollars they collect and hand out. The constituent and beneficiary agency system is antiquated.

Third, too much time, attention, money, and staff are spent on the annual campaign. It is a mistake to emphasize the annual campaign over endowment growth, special efforts, capital campaigns, and building relationships with foundations. This misallocation of resources creates a host of missed philanthropic opportunities.

This is not to suggest that the annual campaign is not an important part of the federation’s overall system and a vital component of Jewish philanthropy. De-emphasizing does not mean abandoning, but rather utilizing more resources on building the other components of federation philanthropy.

This suggests a fourth change that federations need to make: investing more in staff and infrastructure. Too often, federations cut back or keep their staff purposely lean — largely driven by leaders who want lower administrative cost. This formula is a faulty one. Efficiency makes sense; cutting costs to the point where federations cannot gain a larger share of the philanthropy market does not. Dollars spent on development, management, and evaluation will bring more funds into Jewish philanthropy. They are part of the cost of doing business. Federations are in a business that needs investment capital — now.

Fifth, federations need new methods of decision-making to shift from the fundraising business to the philanthropy business. The need to build consensus often results in paralysis and indecision. Federations don’t need consensus; they need action. They can react fast and focused in times of crisis, such as the recent war between Israel and a number of terrorist organizations out to destroy it.

Federations need that agility and passion on a daily basis. These institutions need to empower leadership to act, to make decisions that not everybody agrees with all the time.

This could be and should be a boom time for Jewish philanthropy, with federations playing a key role. Vast resources of accumulated wealth have already been deposited in tens of thousands of foundations, both inside and outside the federation structure. Individuals have largely untapped income and assets. Federations need to be the center and the public forum for the golden age of Jewish philanthropy.

Gary Tobin is president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research in San Francisco.

Views Differ on Role in Centers Crisis

The news stunned John Fishel. In the fall of 2001, the L.A. Federation president learned that the city’s Jewish community centers were in crisis. If The Federation didn’t act quickly, some or all of the JCCs would have to shut down.

Fishel had every right to feel upset. He and other Federation leaders had allocated millions to support the JCCs over the years, with the expectation that the money was well spent, with proper oversight. In the late 1990s, for instance, The Federation had forgiven $1 million in loans to the parent organization running the centers.

Now, not only were the Jewish centers’ futures at stake, but also nearly $3 million in additional loans advanced by The Federation.

The financial troubles at the local JCCs were by no means unprecedented. Years earlier, difficulties flared up in Pittsburgh and Cleveland. In those instances, the local federations acted quickly to bail out troubled centers. They forgave loans, made emergency cash infusions and hammered out long-term strategic plans.

Other cities saved their JCCs because they saw them as invaluable community resources. They not only provided valuable services to Jewish families but also strengthened or even established connections between individual Jews and the Jewish community. In Los Angeles, JCCs also were known for serving the larger non-Jewish community.

But Fishel did not act as though preserving the centers was a community necessity. His approach to the problem was markedly different than in other cities.

“It all became: How are you going to pay back the money? When are you going to pay back the money? What interest rate will there be for this accrued debt?” said Nina Lieberman Giladi, former executive vice president of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA). “I would have expected The Federation, as leader of the organized local Jewish community, to have taken a different, more collaborative tone.”

A former Federation executive close to the parent organization corroborated her account, as does documentation. The Federation brought an attorney to the first post-crisis meeting between group executives and representatives of the centers’ parent organization. Many in the community began to see Fishel as intent on liquidating the centers to get the Federation’s money back. Fishel did little to dispel that perception by opining that perhaps the JCC model was antiquated and megasynagogues, day schools and other Jewish institutions might fill the void.

Eventually, The Federation restructured the debt and agreed to some loan forgiveness. But Fishel created no special fundraising campaign. He didn’t hold a fundraiser dinner. And the repayment terms virtually guaranteed that most of the JCCs would be shuttered, with their land sold to repay The Federation.

His actions suggested that he had lost faith in the mission and relevance of some of the city’s JCCs, especially the smaller ones.

Within three years, the venerable Bay Cities JCC in Santa Monica went out of business; the small Conejo Valley JCC shut down, and the JCCs’ parent organization sold the North Valley JCC. Although the property’s new owner has permitted North Valley members to continue operating on the site, the number of families participating at the center is off nearly 80 percent from the late 1980s.

And in Silver Lake, it was a Christian cleric — not The Federation — who partnered with the local community to purchase the land under the Silverlake Independent JCC. Otherwise, that profitable center would have closed because of a debt that it did not create. Most of the proceeds went to The Federation to repay a secured loan.

All this occurred against the backdrop of a JCC movement that is booming nationally. Close to $700 million in construction is planned, under way or has recently been completed, said Allan Finkelstein, president of the JCC Association of North America, the umbrella organization for the nation’s 200 full-service JCCs and other community properties, including Jewish camps. In coming years, Las Vegas; Boulder, Colo., and Naples, Fla., are expected to have new state-of-the-art facilities.

So what happened in Los Angeles, a city with such an affluent Jewish community? For one thing, the JCC parent organization mismanaged its finances and never raised enough money to maintain and improve the centers as Federation funding began declining in the 1990s, said attorney Ron Leibow, a vice chair of the national JCC Association. Leibow ultimately helped negotiate a final settlement between The Federation and the JCC parent organization, the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles.

The local Jewish community, unlike those in other cities, neither supported most existing centers nor clamored for the types of state-of-the-art facilities that have proven so successful elsewhere, he added. As for Fishel, Leibow said, he erred in initially taking an intransigent stance.

“There’s lot of blame to go around,” Leibow said. “I blame The Federation. I blame the JCC system. And I blame the community.”

Fishel, supporters argue, did much more for the local JCCs than he’s given credit for. In 2001, at the height of the crisis, Federation grants, loans and advances to the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles totaled $3.3 million, or nearly one-quarter of its $14 million budget, according to The Federation. (That figure included a $1.1 million emergency loan, with interest.)

“I can assure you John did all he could,” said Harriet Hochman, a former Federation chair who worked closely with Fishel on the JCC issue. “This caused him a great deal of pain and agony.”

The Federation, Hochman added, has increasing demands on its finite resources and simply lacked the money to prop up the entire system.

Given the mismanagement at the JCC parent organization, Fishel could be excused for not rushing to throw new money at the problem.

But to critics, Fishel and The Federation seemed to be choosing with their funding which Jewish communities were worth fighting for.

In the end, those JCCs considered worthy were the state-of-the-art New JCC at Milken in the West Valley; the Westside JCC (near the Fairfax district), which has raised millions for a planned renovation, and the often-struggling Valley Cities JCC. They have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in Federation support.

“Without John Fishel and all the lay and professional support we’ve gotten from The Federation, we wouldn’t be here — period,” said Mike Brezner, president of Friends of Valley Cities JCC, which operates the center. “They got us over the hump.”

Fishel’s unwavering support, Brezner added, allowed Valley Cities to rebuild programs, attract new members and gave it time to find an anonymous donor who paid off the Valley Cities outstanding debt. More than 1,000 visitors per week now come to the center.

No such luck with Fishel for the Silverlake Independent JCC, which arguably was more successful than Valley Cities. The Federation, in recent years, gave nearly nothing to Silverlake.

A boisterous 2004 protest held by Silverlake supporters at Federation headquarters brought out television crews and put Fishel and The Federation in a negative glare. Afterward, when Silverlake formally requested a grant, Federation officials asked for audited financial statements. Silverlake executives said they couldn’t afford to pay the audit fee.

“In my estimation, [the Silverlake leadership] chose not to go through the route we recommended,” Fishel said curtly.

In April 2005, just as Silverlake appeared on the verge of closing, Bishop J. Jon Bruno, head of Los Angeles’ Episcopal Diocese, stepped in to assume a 49 percent ownership stake on behalf of the local Episcopalian diocese. The Silverlake group retained 51 percent control. The center, which operates in the black, now offers ballet, gymnastics, yoga and other classes. Its preschool has a waiting list.

“I was stunned when we ultimately received no help from the organized Jewish community,” said Janie F. Schulman, president of the Silverlake Independent JCC. “I kept thinking that at the end of the day, they would come through for us.”

For a city its size, Los Angeles now has a relatively weak JCC system. Whereas metro New York has 26 full- or part-service JCCs and Chicago has seven, Los Angeles has five.

“I don’t feel the JCC model is necessarily outmoded,” Fishel said, “but we have a different community today than we did 10 or 20 years ago.”

Fishel Facts

Name: John Fishel.

Position: President of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles — 1992 to the present.

Age: 57.

Salary: $332, 000 (according to 2004 federal tax documents).

Birthplace: Cleveland.

Education: B.A. in anthropology from University of Michigan; M.A. in social work from University of Michigan.

Family: Married for 31 years to Karen, preschool teacher at Temple Isaiah; daughter, Jessica, 19, freshman at University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Hobbies: Reading, international adventure travel, music, especially jazz and blues.

Rabbi Simon Dolgin Dies in Israel at 89

Rabbi Simon Dolgin, founding rabbi of Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy and rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills for 32 years, died in Israel on April 19 at the age of 89.

Both the Sephardic and Ashkenazic chief rabbis attended his funeral in Israel, as well as dozens of rabbis, dignitaries and government officials. Approximately 350 people attended a memorial at Beth Jacob last week, where Dolgin was remembered as a fearless advocate for modern Orthodoxy.

“Nothing could stand in Rabbi Dolgin’s way in order to establish what he felt was a true Orthodox Judaism and education in this part of the country,” said Manny Stern, a past president of Beth Jacob.

A native of Chicago, Dolgin was sent west by his rabbi at the age of 23 to establish a Modern Orthodox foothold in what was perceived as a spiritual desert.

When Dolgin arrived at Beth Jacob, a small, traditional congregation near La Brea Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard on West Adams Boulevard, he immediately took over the small Hebrew school and began the campaign to increase the observance of halacha among his congregants. His campaign to erect a mechitza, separating men and women in synagogue, would end successfully 20 years later.

Dolgin’s vision of observance extended to the greater community as well. In the late 1950s, he worked with the Ambassador and Biltmore hotels to install kosher kitchens, and he pushed The Jewish Federation toward being more sensitive to Jewish law, while encouraging his congregants to support The Federation.

His appreciation of Jews of all stripes led him to teach with those from movements to his left and to help Chabad’s Rabbi Boruch Shlomo Cunin set up shop when he arrived in the early 1970s.

In 1949, Dolgin founded Hillel Hebrew Academy, which moved with the congregation to Beverly Hills in 1954. Dolgin worked tirelessly — shlepping, teaching, mimeographing — to establish the school, often forgoing his own salary to pay the teachers.

“He had total dedication and mesirut nefesh,” selfless giving, said Rabbi Menachem Gottesman, who was principal of Hillel for 42 years before retiring last year. “If there is Yiddishkayt in Los Angeles, it is because of people like him on the front lines, working for it and fighting for it.”

Today, Hillel is a school of 800 children and Beth Jacob has 700 families, the largest Orthodox congregation on the West Coast.

Dolgin moved to Israel in 1971. He built a synagogue in the Ramat Eshkol neighborhood of Jerusalem and named it Beth Jacob, after the one in Beverly Hills. He was the first Western rabbi to hold the post of director general of the Israeli government’s Ministry of Religious Affairs.

When Beth Jacob Cantor Binyamin Glickman, an Israeli citizen, returned to Israel to serve in the army for the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Dolgin spent Shabbat with him in a bunker in the Golan Heights, distributing candy and nuts to soldiers on the front lines.

“Rabbi Dolgin was a man passionately in love with all Jews,” Sid Eisenstadt, a former president of Beth Jacob, said at the memorial. “Through his inner strength, he taught this congregation to be observant, modern, progressive and forward thinking American Jews.”

Dolgin is survived by his wife of 60 years, Shirley; his children, Saralee, Sharonbeth, Michael and Jess; and many grandchildren.

Condolences or memories of Rabbi Dolgin can be sent to
the family at .

Donations in Dolgin’s memory can be sent to Beth Jacob, 9030 West Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211.

A fund has been set up to establish a yearlong internship for young rabbis in Dolgin’s memory.

Hello, Israel Calling

Phones will be ringing in at least 5,000 Jewish homes around Orange County on March 14, when volunteers pitch in to help raise money for O.C.’s Jewish Federation, the umbrella fundraising organization that helps support a dozen Jewish agencies.

This year, though, Super Sunday dialing will be divvied up between about 75 local volunteers punching numbers in the morning from the Costa Mesa campus and Israelis, who will take the afternoon shift from across several time zones.

"It’s very special to get a call from Israel," said Marc Miller, who is campaign chair for the Federation, which develops programs to foster ties between Israel and the U.S. Jewish community. "I think it will change the dynamic of conversation."

"There is a substantial cost savings between using the Israel call center and renting extra lines for the Federation," campaign director Alissa Duel said. Several other federations have also tapped the call center provided by the IDC Corp., which is based in Newark, N.J. The 14-year-old company provides international phone service at a flat rate.

"Here’s an innovative way to build bonds with Israel" and give support to its ailing economy, Miller said.

Miller’s fundraising goal is to surpass last year’s record $2.25 million Federation campaign by 10 percent.

Pledge Storm Hits Federation

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles had a super Super Sunday, ringing up pledges of $4.5 million, or $800,000 more than last year.

"The volunteers were amazing, and, to tell you the truth, it was raining and more people were at home," said Craig Prizant, senior vice president of financial resource development for The Federation. "I think people are really feeling positive about what we’re doing."

Super Sunday’s strong showing comes on the heels of The Federation raising $1 million more in the 2003 General Campaign than one year earlier, he said.

In both instances, the improving economy made people more willing to open their wallets, Prizant said. But changes in the way The Federation raises money also has helped.

During Super Sunday, volunteers and staff spent more time on the phone discussing, in depth, The Federation’s various programs, Prizant said. Armed with the information, potential donors felt more comfortable as they knew the ways the money would benefit Jews both here and abroad, he said.

Prizant also credited the new lay leadership at The Federation for Super Sunday’s success. Federation chair Harriet Hochman, General Campaign chair Laurie Konheim and Women’s Campaign chair Sharon Janks worked tirelessly, personally greeting volunteers and making everyone feel at home. The trio also knows many of the big machers in the community and leveraged their contacts to help raise additional money, Prizant said.

An estimated 400 volunteers worked at The Federation’s office in midtown, another 400 staffed phones in the San Fernando Valley and 300 participated in the South Bay.

In Los Angeles, a coffee cart from the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf was wheeled around so volunteers could take a break, catch up with friends and network. The mood was festive, but focused.

In the Valley calling stations circled three rows deep around the George Gregory Family Gymnasium at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus in West Hills. Teens ran completed pledge sheets from volunteers placing calls to those entering the donations on laptops set up around the gym, dodging brimming food carts along the way.

At 11:30 a.m., the scoreboard high above the crowded gym floor flashed the day’s first tally of more than $200,000. At 9 p.m., The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance closed Super Sunday with $1.7 million in donations, exceeding last year’s total of $1.58 million.

Many of the 1,000 volunteers who braved the rain throughout the day were pleased to discover that the inclement weather ensured more people were home to take the call.

"Rain is good," said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks), who was among four public officials placing calls at the Valley location. "Maybe that’s the contribution from a higher power to The Jewish Federation."

City Councilman Dennis Zine, whose 3rd District is home to both the Valley Alliance and Jewish Home for the Aging, scored a substantial gift for The Federation early on.

"A donor who had given $1,000 in 2003 gave $10,000 this year," he said.

Sitting next to Zine, 2nd District City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel took pledges while her newborn son, Thomas, sat in her lap chewing on the phone cord.

"This is my first time. I’m so impressed with the number of people here," she said. "My son is going to be raised Jewish and I’m looking forward to being part of this community."

"Super Sunday has become not just a fundraising enterprise, it’s really the community reconnecting with itself in a fundamental way," said 3rd District County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who was doing double duty after opening the day at 6505 Wilshire. "This is the organized Jewish community reaching out and touching individual Jews and Jewish families in our community."

For Carole Koransky, this year marks her 20th Super Sunday and her first as the Valley Alliance’s new executive director, having started the position on Feb. 2.

"We finished a really great campaign in the Valley in 2003, and we’re just primed to jump even higher," she said. "We know how much is needed and how much we have to do, and we feel we are in really good shape to be doing it."

"Our general campaign last year was $7.2 million from the Valley Alliance," Valley Alliance President Ken Warner said. "We’re hoping to beat that, to get to an $8 million figure, which we’ll be thrilled with."

With the state facing a budget shortfall this year, Warner expects that the increase will likely go toward helping to make up for cuts in social service funding.

"We’re trying the best we can to pick up as much of that slack as possible," he said.

How to Fundraise in the 21st Century

More than a century ago, Jewish federations served the needs of tightly knit Jewish communities around the country. Centralized, bureaucratic and occasionally paternalistic, these charitable organizations were highly efficient fundraising and money-dispensing machines in an era when Jews were marginalized members of a WASP-dominated society.

To paraphrase Bob Dylan, the times they have a changed. Today, Jews are among the most educated and affluent minority groups in the United States. Attitudes toward them have evolved to such an extent that an Orthodox Jew, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), is considered a front-runner for the Democrat Party’s presidential nomination.

As these tectonic shifts in American Jewish life occurred, federations, like dinosaurs trapped in tar pits, seemed stuck. As Jews became more secular, assimilated, geographically dispersed and willing to give to universities, museums and other non-Jewish causes, federations focused on the same handful of rich donors and trotted out their same tired fundraising campaigns.

Not surprisingly, they have found it increasingly difficult to engage their supporters in recent years. The nation’s federations raised $851 million in their annual campaigns in 2001, only 18 percent more than the $719 million in 1991, according to the United Jewish Communities (UJC), an umbrella group for 156 federations in North America and 400 independent Jewish communities. The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles performed slightly worse than the national average, raising 3 percent less in that period, excluding other money-raising campaigns.

To maintain their relevance and polish their images, several federations are making sweeping changes in the way they operate, raise money and define their mission. From Los Angeles to Philadelphia and from Atlanta to Denver, these philanthropic bodies are looking at ways to boost fundraising, strengthen communal bonds and fund programs and agencies that resonate best with Jewish communities. In many instances, the UJC is providing consultants to help.

"We’re going to reinvent ourselves," L.A. Federation President John Fishel said. "We must; we will."

However, federations face myriad challenges that might prove difficult to surmount. Scores of Americans have lost faith in big institutions, said Mary Joyce, Gianneschi professor of nonprofit marketing at California State University Fullerton.

Joyce said that in the wake of United Way scandals in the 1990s and more recent corporate malfeasance at Enron Corp., WorldCom Inc. and Global Crossings Ltd., "people have become cynical of big business or anything that mimics big business. So when you have a big organization or charity that touts its ability to serve a big constituency, they’re now seen as suspect by many."

On Aug. 20, the L.A. Federation’s board will meet to consider a series of policy recommendations that would radically overhaul the organization from top to bottom. The fruits of eight months of intensive labor by a group of 25 local Jewish leaders — including Allan Cutrow, former chair of the Jewish Community Foundation; Frank Maas, The Federation’s former chair of planning and allocations; and Michael Koss, former chair of the United Jewish Fund — the proposed changes would "permit The Federation to remain as the central body in meeting the educational and social welfare needs of Los Angeles," said Irwin Field, head of the Blue Ribbon Task Force.

The L.A. Federation’s initiatives come at a period when it has fallen on tough times. In December, the organization posted a $1 million budget shortfall that was covered by reserves, said Field, who is also chair of The Jewish Journal’s board.

With annual campaign fundraising relatively flat over the past five years and workers’ compensation insurance costs tripling since 1999, the nonprofit organization expects to lay off some employees in coming weeks. Morale has flagged because of the uncertainty, said Jeff Rogers, president of the AFSCME, Local 800, which represents 84 of The Federation’s 145 employees.

In this difficult economic climate, other local Jewish agencies have also taken a hit. Jewish Vocational Service (JVS), a nonprofit that offers employment services, has lost $500,000 in government funding since October and recently laid off five workers. The cuts have led, in some instances, to a 10-day wait for career counseling, JFS Chief Executive Vivian Seigel said.

Jewish Family Service (JFS), in an attempt to balance its budget, recently eliminated the equivalent of seven of the agency’s 421 full-time positions. Jewish Free Loan Association has experienced a dramatic jump in loan requests without a corresponding bump in fundraising.

At The Federation, the task force has come up with 12 policy recommendations, subject to final board approval. Among the proposals:

  • Federation staff members should increasingly focus on high-end donors to raise more money, although the organization continues to have a commitment to the broader community.

  • All Federation personnel should help with fundraising in some way.

  • All allocations to national bodies must be consistent with The Federation’s strategic priorities.

  • All unanticipated or unbudgeted costs must be offset by additional revenue.

  • The Federation should partner more closely with such Jewish organizations as the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Skirball Cultural Center and synagogues to create programs, among other initiatives.

  • The Federation should strategically allocate its money to accomplish measurable goals.

Some activists in the community have taken a wait-and-see approach. Gerald Bubis, a former Federation vice president and board member, said he hopes the philanthropic entity will play a more active role in Jewish life in the future.

"Unless and until a federation thinks of doing community building alongside fundraising, it’s going to have a very, very hard time," he said.

The L.A. Federation isn’t the only one getting a facelift.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has just unveiled its road map for the 21st century. With its 2003 annual campaign off by nearly $2 million compared to last year, the organization has decided to sharpen its focus to build "an inspired, caring and connected Jewish community," President Harold Goldman said.

The organization plans to focus on the Jewish elderly, Jewish education and on strengthening ties between Philadelphia’s Jews and the larger community abroad. That means less funding for underperforming agencies.

At the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, fundraising for the annual campaign has jumped more than 10 percent to $9.5 million this year. That’s largely due to the recent launch of Total Choice Tzedekah, a program that allows givers of more than $50 to decide where their money goes, said Doug Seserman, federation president. Hebrew schools and synagogues are among the new aid recipients of the directed giving, he said.

In the South, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta recently outlined a series of goals it hopes to reach in five years. The organization wants to double its endowment to $200 million and increase its annual campaign nearly 50 percent to $25 million by 2008. Federation task forces are currently coming up with a strategy to implement it.

Despite predictions of their untimely demise, federations are actually in better shape than many might imagine, said Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco. Although annual campaigns no longer generate much excitement and attempts to reinvigorate them are likely to fall short, federations have proven quite adept at raising hundreds of millions for capital campaigns, endowments and special initiatives, including funds for Jewish victims of terror and indigent Argentine Jews. To cite but one example, the L.A. Federation raised $18.6 million last year for its Jews in Crisis Campaign, money not counted in its annual campaign.

"In terms of creating new vehicles for raising money and managing money, there probably hasn’t been any greater success story in the Jewish community in the past 15 years than federations," Tobin said.

Calm But Profitable

It may not seem like much — $26.67 in change — but ‘tweens
Alex and Miles Beard proved that it’s the thought that counts at The Jewish
Federation’s Feb. 23 Super Sunday phone-a-thon, during which 2,000 volunteers
raised more than $4 million from Federation sites in Los Angeles, West Hills,
and Torrance.

At The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, Alex, 12, and
Miles, 13, arrived at the Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus with about $27
in coins collected from the family’s tzedakah box, earmarked just for the

Although they might not be “major donors,” the pride with
which the children handed over their contribution rivaled that of any big
macher bestowing a six-figure check. And the Beard brothers did not stop there.
They raised nearly $4,000 more on the phones.

“This will go to help Israel and to help families here so
they can get some food,” Alex said.

The Federation raised more than $4 million this year on
Super Sunday, $1 million less than last year’s $5 million tally. But organizers
say that a new fundraising strategy this year has rendered the single-day total

According to Craig Prizant, senior vice president of
campaign and marketing, the Federation’s telemarketing campaign — which
traditionally follows Super Sunday — started on Feb. 1, well before the
phone-a-thon. As a result, about $300,000 in gifts, which in previous years
would be closed by volunteers on Super Sunday, were secured before Super Sunday
2003 began. That totals $4.3 million, which, Prizant claimed, could be measured
against last year’s total because, in years past, donations reaped from the
Federation’s King David Society (for donors who contribute $25,000 and above)
were also folded into the Super Sunday figure. Since this year’s King David
Society dinner was scheduled for Feb. 27 — after Super Sunday — monies raised
from this important fundraiser could not be factored into the Sunday figure.

“The numbers are actually pretty comparable to last year,”
Prizant said of Super Sunday 2003. “These are real numbers. Last year, more
high-end donor solicitations that were taken on that day. This year, they have
yet to take place.”

Add some other varying factors — one less fundraising
session at 6505; longer phone discussions; a drive to raise donations of
returning donors — and The Federation, Prizant said, is pleased with the
results of Super Sunday 2003. He added that this year’s King David dinner, at
200 attendees, will include 50 more donors than last year’s gala.

As a result of the strategic changes, organizers decided to
have 2003’s tote board reflect the Federation’s combined 46 day
campaign-to-date numbers instead of the traditional single-day totals. Thus,
the goal was to push the overall campaign to $16 million, which actually occurred
by 6:35 p.m. — well before the 9 p.m. last call, when it surpassed $17 million.

Prizant said combining the single-day totals with the
overall campaign numbers provided a more accurate fundraising picture.

“It’s a simplistic way to look at it [by comparing Super
Sunday figures],” Prizant said. “The goal is the level of commitment and the
level of the gift. Card for card, it’s actually up from last year. Overall, I’m
thrilled at where we’re at.”

Israel, Argentina and Los Angeles’ impoverished communities continued
to be fundraising priorities for Super Sunday 2003. At the Valley Alliance, the
morning was quieter than previous years, with a handful of dignitaries showing
up, including City Councilman Alex Padilla, who made the first “official” call
and persuaded people — as only a politician can — to increase their gifts by

Across town at the Federation’s 6505 Wilshire Blvd.
headquarters, Mayor James Hahn and City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo presented
contributions to Federation President John Fishel.

Super Sunday Director Rachel Kaufman, site coordinator
Jeffrey Prince and United Jewish Fund’s Carol Levy kept 6505’s stations —
including a Russian-language room — adrenalized with good cheer and Hershey’s

Anja Vyas, The Federation’s longtime director of donor
services, was energized by 6505’s young adults session, where Entertainment
division co-chair Scott Einbinder, and a Birthright Israel group, led by
Council of Jewish Life’s Sara Myers, made calls.

First-timer Meredith Fisher Bushman volunteered because,
since moving from New York last year, Federation agencies Jewish Vocational
Service and Jewish Family Service have provided her with assistance. An hour
after the young adults mixer in the Zimmer Children’s Museum, an apprehensive
Bushman was confidently manning the phones.

“It’s so easy,” Bushman said. “I was a phone donor manager
for KCRW. We raised more in an hour here today than we did there in a day.
People are so generous.”

Recent Cleveland transplant David Gitson, who now lives in
Orange County, said that Jewish Los Angeles is similar to the 80,000-member Jewish
community he left behind.

“It’s been frustrating,” Gitson said. “I’ve only gotten
three [donations]. I think the evening shift is a lot tougher because of the
Grammys, it’s Sunday night, people don’t want to be disturbed.”

But Gitson would rather be making mitzvahs than making pizza
bagels and jeering Eminem.

“It’s great to see so many people here tonight,” Gitson

“We want to deepen our involvement,” said Danielle Swartz,
who participated with husband Michael Swartz.

It was fundraising as usual, as Monica Lozano joined her
fellow female professionals at Kolot’s phone banks because, “I like to do as
much as I can.”

Harold Ginsburg, Super Sunday chair, was hopeful that
tzedakah would prevail.

Federation Chair Jake Farber remained optimistic, noting
that The Federation raised $42.5 million for the capital campaign and $20
million for Jews in Crisis during the fiscally dismal 2002.

More than money, it is the act of helping others that Super
Sunday is really about, and Padilla commended Los Angeles’ Jewish community for
having “one of the best organized efforts, not only in terms of fundraising,
but in terms of the quality of the programming.

They are filling needs that city and state government aren’t
filling,”Padilla said.

“You hear a lot about Los Angeles not being a connected
community,” said Federation Young Leadership Director Jonathan Shulman. “I
don’t really see that at all. Today proves that.” 

Orange County Briefs

Super Sunday, Super Success

Nearly 150 volunteers, who phoned local residents for pledges earlier this month, raised $260,911 for the Jewish Federation of Orange County, a 50 percent increase over the $171,081 raised during last year’s Super Sunday. The annual campaign is $100,000 ahead of last year’s and is projected to exceed $2 million in 2002, a federation spokeswoman said.

The daylong phone marathon is the federation’s largest single fundraising effort. Last year’s one-day net represented 11 percent of the federation’s total $1.8 million budget, which is divided among six local Jewish agencies and three day schools, along with national agencies and Israel.

Campaign donors are invited to an appreciation event featuring two recent Israeli immigrants on Mon., April 15, 7 p.m. at the Jewish campus in Costa Mesa. Alexandra Veil, 20, from Ukraine, and Elias Inbram, 28, from Ethiopia, will share their stories. RSVP to (714) 755-5555 ext. 224, by April 10.

Reform Shabbat Celebration

Spend an afternoon learning, singing and eating at the Orange County Area Reform Community Shabbat Celebration on Sat., March 30, from 4-7 p.m. at Temple Beth El of South Orange County. 2A Liberty, Aliso Viejo. For reservations or more information, contact HUC-JIR (213) 749-3424 ext. 4205.

Interfaith Spring Holiday

A program recognizing a variety of spring traditions, including Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Native American and Sikh is planned Sun., April 7, at 4 p.m. at Chapman University’s Memorial Hall Auditorium.

The event is sponsored by the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) and the college. For reservations, call the NCCJ office at (949) 442-2814.

Holocaust Remembrance Shabbat

A special service is planned April 12 at 8 p.m. by Newport Beach’s Temple Isaiah to remember victims of the Holocaust. Special prayers will be recited. Rabbi Mark Rubenstein will officiate. For information, call (949) 548-6900.

Orange County Jewish Film Festival

The 12th Annual Jewish Film Festival will screen “Fighter” on April 14 at 9:30 a.m. and “Time of Favor” on May 5 at 9:30 a.m. in Santa Ana’s Main Place Mall. Filmgoers are invited to a preshow bagel breakfast at 8:30 a.m. A discussion with Michael Berlin, a UC Irvine professor and screenwriter, follows the film.

Ticket information can be obtained by calling the sponsors, University Synagogue at (949) 553-3535, or Temple Beth El at (949) 362-3999.

Avivah Zornberg Lecture Series

Author, lecturer and scholar Avivah Zornberg will give four talks in April as part of Orange County’s Community Scholar Program. She is to appear April 15 at 7 p.m. in the Newport Beach Public Library, (949) 717 3890; April 17 at noon at an America Jewish Committee luncheon, (949) 660 8525; April 17 at 7 p.m. at Chapman University, (714) 628 7260); and April 18 at 7 p.m. at Congregation B’nai Israel in Tustin, (714) 730 9693.

Young Professionals Event Features Rabbi

A young Jewish professionals Federation group is holding its first communitywide “connections” event Sunday, April 28 at 5:30 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency in Irvine for singles and married couples ages 25 to 45. The evening includes dinner, a keynote speech by Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, the University of Judaism’s dean of rabbinic studies, and entertainment by recording artist and pianist Gerry Schubert. For more information, call (714) 755-5555 by April 20.

Honoring Beth Sholom Volunteers

Doug Cotler, an award-winning composer, will perform in concert April 20 at 7 p.m. in the sanctuary of Santa Ana’s Temple Beth Sholom in a tribute to synagogue volunteers. Tickets cost $10 (adults) and $5 (children). Further information can be obtained from the temple at (714) 628-4600.

Israel Solidarity Concert

A solidarity concert featuring Avi Toledano will celebrate Israel’s independence on Sat., April 20 at 9 p.m. at the Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School, 5200 Bonita Canyon Road, in Irvine. Deputy Consul General Zvi A. Vapni is scheduled to attend. For reservations or more information, call the Jewish Community Center at (714) 755-0340.

Federations Send Aid to Argentina

The United Jewish Communities has pledged more than $40 million this year for the rescue and relief of the Jews of Argentina.

Most U.S. federations say they are committed to meeting the goal that the umbrella organization has set to aid Argentine Jews, whose country has been hit by a severe economic crisis in recent months.

"There is a broad recognition that responding to the crisis of the Jewish community in Argentina is precisely the reason why the federation system exists — to be able to make certain that people have food and medicine and to make certain that those who want to leave can do so," said John Ruskay, executive vice president of the UJA-Federation of New York.

Of the $40 million pledged for this year, $35 million will be allotted to the Jewish Agency for Israel to manage aliyah (immigration to Israel). The figure is based on an estimated 5,000 Argentines making aliyah to Israel this year.

The remaining funds will be directed to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) to provide food and medicine. There are approximately 200,000 Jews in Argentina, thousands of them now reported living in poverty.

"The entire situation is very fluid," according to Richard Bernstein, co-chair of the UJC’s Argentinian Response Task Force.

An increase in dollars to meet an increase in demand is entirely possible, he said. The task force will monitor the situation to adjust the budget accordingly and create new budgets each year for at least the next few years.

"If we do the job right with the first families that come to Israel, more will come because the situation in Argentina isn’t going to get better for a very long time," said Stephen Hoffman, UJC’s president.

Despite the situation in Israel, Hoffman said, "aliyah is a real viable alternative for people to consider."

Local federations have until the end of the calendar year to turn over what has been designated as their "fair share" of the total. Each federation’s percentage will be determined by the size of its annual campaign as it relates to the sum total of all of the federations’ campaigns — a figure that is approximately $900 million.

Chicago, for example, based upon a campaign last year that raised $67.2 million, is expected to contribute nearly $3 million to the Argentine fund.

Around the country, federations are just beginning to determine how to raise the money. Some reported that they will conduct separate campaigns for the Argentine Jews, while others will take the money from their regular campaign funds.

Chicago, which is being asked to contribute the second largest amount after New York, plans to fold the Argentina package into its annual campaign drive. The city is already 15 percent ahead of its mark last year, according to federation officials, and plans to dedicate all the funds that top its goal to, "all the special needs Israel is encountering," which includes the Argentine aliyah.

While most federations expressed full support for the amount pledged by the UJC, some had questions. Martin Abramowitz, vice president for planning and agency relations of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, expressed some concern over the UJC calculation.

Although Abramowitz said his federation "will respond in some positive way" to the request and expressed deep respect for the work of the UJC’s overseas partners — the Jewish Agency and the JDC — he said Boston required a "better understanding of the Jewish Agency’s prediction" of costs.

He specifically questioned the Jewish Agency’s projection that it would cost $7,000 for each person to arrive in Israel and be absorbed — and how that figure relates to the package of benefits that the Israeli government is offering a family of four.

David Sarnat, executive vice president of the Jewish Agency’s North American section based in Atlanta, cited some specific costs, including $1,950 for employment training, $1,630 for transportation to Israel and $235 for health care. He said it cost $6,000 to bring each Ethiopian to Israel 10 years ago, when Israel conducted a major program specifically for them.

Sarnat said the UJC approved the numbers after a fact-finding mission to Argentina last month and study of the costs.

"It’s a satisfactory accounting that leaves no questions unanswered," Hoffman said. The Jewish Agency submitted its analysis of past and future funds, and the UJC will be sharing those details in the coming weeks, he said.

Ruskay said this year’s request, which will cost the New York federation nearly $7 million, is a substantial but moderate one. The real test will be if the numbers continue to grow, which would suggest that the requests for aliyah in January and February were only a blip after December’s economic crash, he said.

In Cleveland, federation officials have already built the Argentine crisis into their campaign. "The bottom line is we are committed to this," said Michael Bennett, spokesman for the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland. "It’s just what we do as Jews — help Jews who are in trouble," he stressed. "I don’t see this being any different."