Who’s Up, Who’s Down in Giving


Jewish philanthropies didn’t raise much more money last year than they did the previous year, but the American Jewish community remains numerically over-represented among America’s top charities, an examination of a recent ranking of philanthropies demonstrates.

Of the 400 top charities included in The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual “Philanthropy 400” list, a just-released who’s who of American nonprofits, some 26 were Jewish.

“The Jewish community raises a lot of money. Its philanthropic system is pretty strong,” said Gary Tobin, director of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research.

If Jews make up 2.5 percent of the population, he said, “there should be no more than 10 Jewish organizations on this list.”

At the same time, Jewish groups that made the list did not see the same boost in giving in 2004 that general philanthropies did.

The Jewish groups appearing on this year’s list, which looks at fundraising in fiscal year 2004, raised more than $2 billion, about the same as in 2003. Two more Jewish groups appear on this year’s list than on last year’s — although this number is still two fewer than the 28 that made the list for fiscal year 2002.

Observers say this year’s rankings don’t offer a significantly different picture of the American Jewish philanthropic world than last year’s did.

“I think there’s no good news and no bad news here,” Tobin said.

The United Jewish Communities (UJC), the umbrella organization of Jewish federations, held on to its ranking as the top Jewish charity this year, having raised $251.9 million. The UJC finished 42nd overall, a drop in ranking from the 25th spot last year, as its fundraising went down by 26.9 percent.

The decline, UJC officials say, can be attributed to the fact that in 2003 the group was running its Israel Emergency Campaign, which brought in a large sum of money.

Although the UJC figures provided to the Chronicle of Philanthropy did not include money raised by local federations, some of the money reported did include funds from those federations and, therefore, essentially was double-counted. The UJC said that the total campaign of the federations raised $850-$860 million.

The other top Jewish groups are:

• The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which dropped from 54th place to 60th, although it raised 7.8 percent more private money;

• The Jewish Communal Fund, the New York group that manages the philanthropic funds of individuals and families, which finished in the 82nd spot, up from 103rd last year with a fundraising increase of 29.8 percent;

• The UJA-Federation of New York, which raised 1.4 percent less money in 2004 and went from the 74th spot in 2003 to 83rd this year; and

• The Jewish Federation/Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago, which landed this year in the 133rd slot, down from 86th, with a drop of 23.8 percent in funds raised.

Eleven other Jewish federations made the top 400 as well.

The American arm of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS, a Chabad-led group working to revitalize Jewish life in the former Soviet Union, made the list this year for the first time, ranking 391 and raising $35.8 million.

“We have been working and developing our U.S. office in the last four years and many prominent Jewish philanthropists have come to recognize the mainstream work that we are doing for Jews across the former Soviet Union,” said Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, executive director of the federation in Moscow.

Over the past year, Berkowitz said, the federation has constructed $25 million worth of buildings.

Several Israel-related organizations made the list this year, including Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, which was ranked 183; the P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds, which directs the distribution of funds to charitable organizations in Israel, at 229; the American Society for Technion-Israel Institute of Technology at 247; and the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science at 263.

On the whole, donations to American philanthropies shot up by 11.6 percent in 2004, the Chronicle said. That increase dwarfs the 2.3 percent increase between 2002 and 2003. The first part of this decade, they say, proved tough for many charities hit hard by the post-Sept. 11 economic downturn.

“Philanthropy in general had a banner year,” said Heather Joslyn, a senior editor at the Chronicle. “The economy is recovering, and the stock market has been recovering compared to two to three years ago. That’s a big thing. This is definitely good news.”

United Way of America was No. 1 in the overall rankings this year. Its 1,350 United Way groups raised $3.9 billion, up 0.4 percent from 2003. Next in line at No. 2 was the Salvation Army, down from the No. 1 spot last year, followed by Feed the Children, up from the ninth position last year.

For the first time since the survey’s inception, the American Red Cross did not finish in the top 10, although it is expected to appear among the first 10 next year, when it will report some $532 million raised for Asian tsunami relief.

While the Chronicle list shows no commensurate leap in Jewish philanthropies, Mark Charendoff, president of the Jewish Funders Network, said the list doesn’t capture the full picture of Jewish giving. A large part of that giving, he said, goes to synagogues, day schools, Jewish community centers and even non-Jewish groups like the United Way.

 


Locals on the
Dollar List


by Marc Ballon, Senior Writer

Two local philanthropies made the coveted Chronicle list. The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles came in at No. 153, with more than $98 million raised, while the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles ranked No. 277, with nearly $53 million.

The Jewish Community Foundation’s performance was particularly strong. The grant-making group jumped an impressive 216 spots over 2003, when it placed No. 369. The Foundation’s credibility in the community, improved marketing and ability to land new donors helped account for its fundraising prowess, Chief Executive and President Marvin Schotland said.

“We’re delighted that the Chronicle of Philanthropy has taken notice of our significant growth,” Schotland said.

L.A. Jewish Federation dropped 28 places compared to its standing in 2003. Federations representing smaller Jewish populations, including San Francisco (No. 215), Detroit (No. 237) and Boston (No. 238), each raised more money than the L.A. group.

Still, the numbers tell only part of the story, at least when it comes to federations, L.A. Federation President John Fishel said. Whereas the Los Angeles group only reports the proceeds from its annual campaign, other federations often count that along with funds generated by community foundations, which is “a little like comparing apples and oranges,” Fishel said.

The L.A. Federation would have placed second behind New York among American federations if the funds raised by the L.A. Jewish Community Foundation were included in its total.

In recent years, the L.A. Federation has seen an uptick in annual fundraising, Fishel said, adding that the positive trend should continue this year. Still, “I always think there’s room for improvement,” he said.

Vocal Musicians Make a Joyful Noise


Human voices converge on the same note, echoing a haunting harmony — arousing complicated emotions.

This has been the buzz surrounding an award-winning Jewish a cappella group, Shir Appeal, a group of college students from Massachusetts, who will bring their hypnotizing harmonies to Orange County’s Temple Bat Yahm (TBY) for Shabbat evening service, Jan. 16. The group was named after Tufts University’s mascot — Jumbo the Elephant. The Hebrew phrase shir hapeal means "song of the elephant."

A cappella, Italian for "in the style of the chapel," is a term used to describe a type of music composed of entirely human voices.

A student-run organization, Shir Appeal receives no funding from their student government, and sustains their costs with CD sales, which feature Jewish folk songs, Israeli pop songs and liturgical music.

This year marks the group’s return to TBY in Newport Beach, also home of operatic cantor Jonathan Grant. The 15 members of Shir Appeal have been invited to stay with TBY congregants and will sit in a place of honor among the temple’s choir.

"Where ever there’s a sizable Jewish population [at a college], you’re bound to find an a cappella group," said Rebecca Bromberg of Shir Bruin, UCLA’s Jewish a cappella ensemble, who also co-founded a Jewish a cappella group in 1997 at Emory University in Atlanta.

Bromberg cites Columbia University’s Pizmon, which formed in 1987, as popularizing American Jewish a cappella on college campuses. As secular a cappella gathered steam in the 1990s, marked by the formation of major a cappella societies, Jewish a cappella also became more popular, especially among youth on college campuses. Techiya of MIT formed in 1994; Shir Appeal in 1995; Shircago, of the University of Chicago, in 1996; as well as a slew of others on university campuses whose participation waxed and waned over the decade — including Harvard, Brandeis and Boston and New York universities.

During the spring of this year, the University of Chicago hosted "Striking a Chord," the first-ever, all-Jewish Midwest a cappella festival, attracting groups from around the Midwest.

The San Francisco-based Contemporary A Cappella Society, a loose association of amateur, semi-pro and professional a cappella artists, recognizes groups that have produced a commercially available body of work with a Contemporary A Capella Recording Awards (CARA). Like the mainstream recording industry’s Grammy Awards, a CARA is given to artists in many categories. Groups with limited distribution also qualify for recognition, said Jessika Diamond, former vice president of the Contemporary A Cappella Society, however, they are less likely to have the resources to create a recording with high production values.

"This year is the first time in the history of the CARA competition that any religious group did as well as Shir Appeal," Diamond said.

Shir Appeal took home the award for "best collegiate song" and runner-up for "best collegiate album."

This year, approximately 60 volunteer a cappella aficionados judged the CARAs. Among them was the society’s representative, Greg Bowne, of Massachusetts.

"[Shir Appeal] used their voices in such a great way that really conveyed power and emotion in the song," Bowne said.

After the competition was over, Bowne said he kept listening to their recording, impressed with the group’s strong sound.

Two of the group’s songs were also featured on the "Best of College A Cappella" CD, a production of the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA), which Diamond directed from 1999 to 2003. The ICCA attracts a cappella groups worldwide and encourages them to submit recordings of their best songs for a competition. Out of thousands of submissions, 18 songs are selected for a compilation CD, "The Best of College A Cappella," released every year. Shir Appeal won coveted spots on the 2000 and 2003 collections.

Before their Newport Beach appearance, Shir Appeal performs in Los Angeles with Shir Bruin, the Scattertones and another UCLA-affiliated a cappella group on Jan. 11.

Cantor Grant said he expects the group to sing a 17th-century selection by Solomone Rossi, called "Eftach Nai S’Fatai" (God Please Open My Lips), and a unique arrangements of "Shalom Aleichem" and "Shalom Rav."

"I also look forward to the Israeli popular selections they will sing at our Shabbat dinner program," he said.

For information about the Jan. 16 appearance at Temple Bat Yahm, call (949) 644-1999.

Networking for Jobs


It’s been nearly two years since David Lorch had a job. Currently, the former pricing analyst for an Orange County high-tech firm attends networking events near his home in Laguna Hills, does volunteer work for his shul, Congregation Eilat in Mission Viejo, and tries to maintain his hope.

With the job market showing little or no signs of improvement, Lorch is hoping to start a new networking group through his synagogue that is focused specifically on helping unemployed Jews find work. Such organizations have taken off at a handful of congregations in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the dismal job market is already considered a crisis in the Jewish community. Lorch is hoping to draw from the experiences of his peers in Silicon Valley in crafting a network of his own.

"It’s one thing to have a general group, but I think a focused group of Jews helping Jews could be more powerful, more beneficial," Lorch said. "So far, the standard stuff hasn’t worked."

Rabbi Sheldon Lewis of Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto said his Conservative synagogue was a natural place for out-of-work congregants to base their support and networking activities. Their 1-year-old Project Full Employment, holds two monthly meetings and maintains an e-mail group for job leads that has attracted more than 300 members.

"I think in a community like a synagogue, we have a deep stake in each other’s welfare," Lewis said. "If we’re not ready to act in a time like this, then when?"

Lewis, a 30-year veteran of Silicon Valley, said the current economic downturn is the worst he has ever seen. At Kol Emeth, a congregation-wide appeal for job leads was part of the Yom Kippur services this year.

"I’m still finding out about people in the congregation who have been quietly facing this challenge. There are even families in which two bread-winners are unemployed together," Lewis said. "The toll is immense. I’ve seen tensions in marriages, drained self-esteem and the loss of hope."

Jill Kulick lost her job as a vice president of human resources when her Silicon Valley start-up company folded more than a year ago. Now, in addition to looking for a job, she organizes the networking group at Congregation Beth Am, a Reform synagogue in Los Altos Hills, at which an estimated 8 percent of adult congregants are out of work.

"It’s very lonely to be out there without a job," she said. "The common thread is that all of us are professionals who three years ago were in great demand. You go from a feeling of true competency and professionalism to where people don’t give you the time of day."

Like Kulick, many unemployed Jewish professionals find structure and a sense of purpose by getting more involved in their synagogues. For example, when Congregation Beth Am’s vice president of finance needed some help, Kulick knew of three unemployed chief financial officers she could call on. "I said here are our people, and they all said great, we’d love to get involved."

After a year of setting up guest speakers for the synagogue’s job networking group, Kulick and fellow organizers have shifted their focus toward establishing more personal connections between the 1,800-family congregation’s unemployed members and their fellow congregants who are in the position to help them make contacts and find job leads.

A recent dessert reception at Beth Am brought about 50 out-of-work congregants together with more than a dozen "movers and shakers" from the congregation’s own ranks. After each person briefly told their story, the group split into smaller networking units and shared resumes and suggestions.

"They got to meet with a whole constituency who never had come together as a community before," Kulick said.