Israel’s antitrust panel taking a look at Google-Waze merger


Israel’s antitrust regulatory commission is investigating whether the Google-Waze merger constitutes a monopoly.

The Israel Antitrust Authority opened its investigation on Wednesday, the Israeli business daily Globes reported.

The probe will focus on whether Google’s purchase of Waze, a free downloadable navigation application with more than 50 million subscribers, should have obtained permission from the authority before the merger and whether it could create a monopoly in the Israeli market.

Waze on July 25 reported a purchase price of $966 million in cash in its financial report for the second quarter of 2013, Globes reported. The purchase was completed in mid-May.

The Israeli firm’s managers and employees have remained in their Raanana headquarters rather than relocating to Menlo Park, Calif. Google has said that Waze will remain a separate service and an independent company.

The antitrust authority has asked Google Israel’s general manager and Waze Israel’s CEO for financial and other information, according to Globes.

Also investigating the merger are the Federal Trade Commission in the United States and Britain’s Office of Fair Trading.

MetroWest and Central N.J. federations to merge


Two Jewish federations in New Jersey are merging in what is being described as the largest federation merger in history.

The United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ, which has about 100 employees, is merging with the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey, which has more than a dozen, on July 1, becoming the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. The two federations’ catchment areas are contiguous.

MetroWest’s president, Lori Klinghoffer, will lead the new entity, MetroWest Executive Vice President Max Kleinman will be the CEO, and Stanley Stone, executive vice president of Central New Jersey, will be the executive director. The headquarters will be in Whippany, N.J., where MetroWest is located; Central’s existing office will become a regional office of the new federation.

Federation officials said the merger, which has been under discussion for about 15 months, brings together two communities that have similar values and numerous shared programs but are separated arbitrarily by geography.

“It’s not that bigger is better, but something greater has come that will have a positive impact on the community served by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ,” Stone said.

The move is expected to result in cost savings of about $200,000 annually, and some “redundant” employees may be let go, MetroWest’s chief marketing officer, Shelley Labiner, told JTA in an interview last month ahead of this week’s merger vote.

The primary reason for the merger is to provide better services to constituents, Labiner said. It will also increase the federations’ clout on a national level, she noted. The merger will make the new entity one of the nation’s top 10 federations by size.

“There’s greater potential for providing services and programming to a wider area, building on existing synergies,” Labiner said.

New Jersey currently has 11 different Jewish federations. There are a total of 157 in North America.

Kadima and Heschel West merge middle schools


Two Jewish days schools in the West Valley are merging their sixth through eighth grades to form a middle school with a wider range of classes and a more diverse pool of friends.

Kadima Hebrew Academy in West Hills and Heschel West in Agoura will open the new Kadima Heschel West Middle School with 150 students in September 2007 on Kadima’s Evenhaim Family Campus.

“I think this is one of the most visionary and strategic community events that has happened in a long time,” said Bruce Powell, head of school at New Community Jewish High School, which features many Kadima and Heschel West graduates. “Sometimes we adults get so caught up in our own ego needs and institutional needs we forget that our first order of business is to serve our children.”

By pooling resources and combining two small programs into a larger school, administrators say they can enrich academic offerings and give students more social opportunities.

Both Heschel West and Kadima have experienced sustained growth in the last few years, and this marriage is not a result of either school being weak or needing help, administrators say.

The idea took form after Kadima and Heschel West lay leaders began to meet to compare notes on budgetary and governance issues, and at one Starbucks meeting last year they tossed around the idea of a joint middle school dance.

While the dance never happened, it eventually lead to the idea of a full middle school merger — an idea professional and lay leaders quickly jumped on and brought to fruition within just a few months.

“What this is really about is two institutions pulling themselves together and saying what is the best thing to do for our communities, and let’s erase superficial differences and see if we can build something that is far better than what we can do by ourselves,” said Barbara Gereboff, Kadima’s head of school.

Renewed attention has recently focused on the challenge of how best to educate 11- to 14-year-olds — ages when children’s bodies, emotions and intellect undergo more changes than at any other time other than the first three years of life.

Recent research has shown national standardized test scores plummeting between fifth grade and eighth grade.

In Los Angeles, Superintendent David Brewer has set up a task force to look at the question of the middle school years. In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has begun to dismantle middle schools, reintegrating them into a K-8 format or grades 6-12 schools.

Jewish day schools have traditionally been set up as K-8 schools, but with smaller student populations than public schools, which could mean that an eighth-grader might be with the same 20 to 30 kids for 10 years.

“The right thing for the children is that they leave the nest of elementary school and go into a larger pool of students that is a more diverse population, where they can develop their own Jewish identity and their own understanding of the way their world works,” said Rabbi Yuri Hronsky, Heschel West’s middle school director, who will become the principal of the joint middle school.

He will be supervised by Kadima’s Gereboff, and Jan Saltsman, Heschel West’s head of school.

The schools unveiled the plan to parents, staff and students in mid-December, days after the boards approved the merger and after just a few months of negotiating between the executive committees of both schools’ boards. Administrators say no teacher jobs will be cut.

“I am absolutely thrilled,” said Mira Winograd, mother of Kadima seventh-grader Darren and fourth-grader Toby. “We were told about this at an assembly, and every single question I thought of asking was answered in a way that left me extremely comfortable. I didn’t hear one negative remark from anyone I was sitting with.”

Kids wanted to know what the new school would be called, what the new mascot and team colors would be and whether they would have lockers and hot lunches.

“For a while we’ve had under 30 kids and only one or two classes,” said seventh-grader Brian Hertz, who has been at Kadima since kindergarten. “Now with more people we’ll have more friends and their will be more people in our classes. It just feels like everything is going to be better.”

Hronsky, Gereboff and Saltsman have been working closely to craft the new program.

“The first thing we had to do was break down these perceptions of our differences and determine how we are alike,” Saltsman said.

One of those perceptions had to with religiosity. Kadima is a Solomon Schechter school affiliated with the Conservative movement, while Heschel West is an independent community school, dedicated to pluralism. (The joint school will not be affiliated with any movement.)

But it soon became clear that the schools had the same policies regarding Shabbat, kashrut and kippahs, and that they spend the same number of hours per week in prayer. The “academic” versus “developmental” labels also proved to be specious.

“Sitting across the table from Kadima was more about brainstorming than negotiating,” said Roger Bloxberg, Heschel West’s president. “It was like looking in the mirror.”

Kadima Heschel West Middle School will operate as an independent entity with its own board, staff, budget and bank account. A bus will run from Heschel West to Kadima, about 7 miles east.

The move solves a growing space problem for Heschel West. Founded 13 years ago, Heschel West has rented a campus since 1997 just off the 101 at Liberty Canyon. Heschel West opened its middle school two years ago, and has grown from 140 students in 2002 to 260 today.

Heschel West is planning to build a 750-student facility, which would eventually also house the joint middle school on 72 acres of land it purchased in 1997 near Agoura Hills in unincorporated Los Angeles County. In 2005, the county approved the project, but the Agoura Hills City Council is appealing that approval.

School officials are confident they will be able to move forward with the building, but in the meantime the joint middle school will be housed on Kadima’s West Hills campus, a four-acre site it purchased three years ago after renting for the previous 34 years of its existence.

Study of UJC Merger Finds Unhappiness


 

American Jewish leaders who created the United Jewish Communities (UJC) umbrella organization out of three separate ones in 1999 are largely frustrated and disappointed by the outcome of their labor, with some scoring the missed chance to form a truly representative and forward-looking voice for American Jewry.

Among the apparent losers of the merger are Israel and overseas beneficiaries, as well as rabbinical, intellectual and Zionist segments of the American Jewish community. These findings are part of a two-year study, tellingly titled, “From Predictability to Chaos? How Jewish Leaders Reinvented Their National Communal System.”

In an interview, Dr. Howard Rieger, who took over as president and CEO of UJC last September, termed the study “constructive and useful,” but questioned some specific points and recommendations.

John Fishel, president of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, said that on the whole, American Jewry was better served than before by the creation of UJC, although the merging of different organizational “cultures” left a number of problems yet unresolved.

The study is based on written responses and in-depth interviews with 88 stakeholders, mostly men and women involved in the merger negotiations, augmented by other prominent Jewish personalities.

Authors of the study are Gerald (Jerry) B. Bubis and Steven F. Windmueller, founding director and current director of the School of Jewish Communal Service at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in Los Angeles, respectively. For their report, they investigated how Jewish communities have organized themselves since biblical times and current corporate and nonprofit mergers, and also added their own comments and conclusions.

Attempts to combine the alphabet soup of American Jewish fund raising and communal institutions date back more than 60 years, and it took seven years of discussion to effect the establishment of the UJC.

The merger represented the largest 20th- century effort of its kind in the American nonprofit sector and the most significant institutional transformation in modern Jewish life, according to the study. One major impetus was to streamline the entire system and make it more accountable.

The three constituent organizations in the merger were:

• Council of Jewish Federations, which focused mainly on serving the needs of approximately 230 local communities with federations and welfare funds.

• United Jewish Appeal (UJA), which oversaw fundraising, mainly through the federation system, for Israel and overseas needs.

• United Israel Appeal (UIA), which monitored and distributed funds for Israel, by way of the Jewish Agency and monitored U.S. government allotments for refugee resettlement.

The three organizations raised and distributed between $850 million-900 million a year, including $60 million from Washington, for domestic, Israel and overseas needs, and one major impetus for the merger was to streamline the entire system and make it more accountable.

While praising the dedication and good intentions of the organizational leaders, the study reveals a tale of unclear expectations, unshared visions, mixed motivations and multilayered power games. It is a work in progress, according to Bubis and Windmueller.

Toting up perceived winners and losers in the power games, the study cites local federations as coming out on top, with executives of large city federations, in particular, ending up as owning the system.

The biggest loser appears to be Israel (and the UIA), which is likely to lose an even bigger share of American Jewry’s financial support with the ascendancy of locally oriented federations.

Following the 1967 war, about 70 percent of the total pie went to Israel and other overseas needs and 30 percent to U.S. communities. Rieger said that in 2004, out of some $855 raised, 31 percent, or $266.4 million, went to Israel and overseas.

The dollar flow to the Jewish state will likely be further reduced by the preference of large donors to set up their own channels, such as the Jewish Funders Network, and the tendency of a new generation of Jewish philanthropists to give to general secular causes, such as universities and hospitals.

Some of the most acid comments by the study respondents, who are not identified by name, are reserved for the new UJC structure, itself, which was preordained to fail and produced anarchy in the name of unity. The federation system also comes in for criticism, being described by some as a ponderous pachyderm, which processed things to death.

However, Windmueller noted that the study represents a snapshot in time, dealing with the functionality of the UJC structure, rather than its recent performance and reforms.

The authors of the study obviously sympathize with a few visionaries among the respondents, who called for a complete re-invention of a stodgy, tired system and asked for a more open and more daring form of governance for a Jewish community that is this year celebrating its 350th anniversary.

The study concludes with 11 recommendations to the UJC leadership, among them:

• Restore the traditional role of rabbis and intellectuals, now largely excluded, as one of the pillars of communal governance.

• Provide opportunities to discuss and react to Israel’s policies, and encourage full airing of diverse opinions on the challenges facing Jewish life in this country, now often suppressed in the name of unity.

• Expand the old boys network of the wealthy in Jewish life by including more women and young people.

• Appoint an ombudsperson to examine and report on the stewardship of UJC funds.

• Restore the household brand name of UJA in one form or another.

• Balance the division of power between lay and professional leadership.

Rieger, as head of UJC, noting that the interviews underlying the study concluded in December 2003, said that since that time UJC had stabilized itself and moved forward.

“I think today, the evaluations would be a bit more optimistic,” he said.

Responding to suggestions that Jewish leaders should have made fundamental changes and created a more representative body, Rieger said that the overriding purpose was to “align national and local, and domestic and overseas needs. We never meant to create a representative assembly for American Jewry.”

Rieger objected to classifying “winners” and “losers” in the merger talks, observing that “communal work is not a zero-sum game.”

He said that while fundraising by the three separate organizations had declined 5 percent in the last four years before the merger, under UJC the decline had been narrowed to 1 percent in the last four years, not counting $400 million collected for the Israel Emergency Fund.”

“I don’t understand what we have lost,” he said.

To the study’s recommendation to appoint an ombudsperson for UJC, Rieger strongly defended his organization’s existing financial controls.

“Our fiduciary oversight is bullet-proof, it’s the strongest thing we got,” he said.

Asked whether he was upset or outraged by some of the study’s pointed criticisms, Rieger responded, “That’s not my style. We can always learn something from inquiries, but I am more inclined to look toward the future, and I think there’s a lot more potential in the Jewish world.”

Fishel of the L.A. Federation said that despite UJC shortcomings, “the system is now more coherent and unified, and duplication of effort has been minimized.”

He took issue with the study’s assertion that UJC was dominated by federations, especially the executive directors of large-city federation.

Fishel also disagreed that in a federation structure, professionals generally had greater clout than the lay leadership.

“Because professionals usually serve longer in their positions than lay leaders, the former have a better sense of the evolution of the organization, but no one has sole control,” he said.

Fishel noted that the study had been conducted by two academicians, who necessarily had a different perspective than “the people in the trenches,” day by day.

“That doesn’t mean that one is right and the other wrong, but they look at things differently,” he said.

Bubis and Windmueller were to meet Wednesday afternoon in New York with Rieger and some 30 participants in the merger talks and UJC leaders to critique the findings of the study.

“From Predictability to Chaos?” was published by the Center for Jewish Community Studies in Baltimore, an affiliate of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Primary financial support came from Boston Hebrew College, HUC-JIR, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and various foundations and individuals.

 

Trying to Make a Merger


For three decades, Temple Solael has sat on Valley Circle Boulevard, perched above the westernmost crest of Woodland Hills. Over the years the Reform synagogue gently competed with Temple Aliyah, a Conservative congregation, just up the road. Then, in the mid-1990s, Temple Aliyah membership began to skyrocket, and the subsequent establishment of a second Conservative shul, Shomrei Torah, also built on Valley Circle, placed the Reform congregation in a precarious position.

Despite its well-regarded preschool and the arrival of Rabbi Ron Herstik a few years ago, Temple Solael has found its membership dwindling. Temple officials won’t say how low the numbers have fallen, but it is serious enough that the synagogue must either merge, find new funding or close.

Enter Temple Judea of Tarzana. Reluctant to see a sibling Reform synagogue pass into history, officials at Judea are struggling to find a way to merge the two congregations.

The move is being made not solely out of charitable motives; according to Judea’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Don Goor, about 36 percent of his temple’s growing membership now resides in Calabasas, Agoura Hills, Woodland Hills and West Hills, making Solael an excellent choice for a satellite site. The temple already maintains an off-site Hebrew school at Indian Hills High School in Agoura, which is enrolled almost to capacity.

“Our real problem is our growth. We’re wearing a size 6 shoe and we’re a size 9 foot,” Goor said. “In the last three years we’ve gained 240 member families, with a good portion of that from the West Valley. Our long-range planning before Solael came to us included looking at expanding our staff to better meet congregants’ needs and addressing the westward movement of our congregation. So when Solael came to us, it was almost a dream come true.”

Members of both temples took a vote on the proposed merger March 21, with the resolution passing unopposed at Solael. At Judea, more than half the voting membership supported the merger, but supporters lacked the required two-thirds majority to pass the resolution.

Goor and other temple leaders have not given up hope that the merger may yet pass and have formed a committee to see if it is possible to mitigate the opposition’s concerns.

“Most of those opposed (to the merger) felt there wasn’t enough information yet, so the process is continuing as we attempt to answer their questions more clearly,” Goor said, adding that opponents hoped to avoid the lingering financial problems that had haunted other synagogue mergers in recent years.

Goor said the committee at Judea hoped to be able to make a decision by early May.

“Obviously both sides have serious reasons to consider this move,” he said. “Solael had come to the end of its road, and I think that was a very brave thing to admit. It’s not easy to ask for help, and they did it with such integrity. The congregation has such a devotion to Jewish life that our merger talks began with the question of how to continue Jewish life at that site.

“No one wants to see a congregation go under,” Goor said.

Body Building


Some 3,000 delegates from Jewish welfare federations across North America convened in Jerusalem on Nov. 16 for the yearly General Assembly of their roof body, the Council of Jewish Federations. It’s the first assembly held in Israel in the council’s 66-year history.

It couldn’t have come at a better time. The Council of Jewish Federations, or CJF, is in the final stages of a long-awaited merger with its squabbling twin sister, the United Jewish Appeal. The two are supposed to combine by next March to form a new body, still unnamed. With annual revenues of $1.5 billion and branches in every local community, the new body will instantly become the most powerful institution in organized Jewish life. Yet nobody’s sure how it will be governed, who will run it or just what its mission will be.

The delegates in Jerusalem haven’t been discussing any of that, though, not officially. They’ve been spending their week touring the countryside and listening to speeches on the meaning of Jewish life. The future shape of American Jewry’s most important institution is being worked out by a committee.

This would normally be the place for a joke about guys in smoke-filled rooms. But the truth is, local community leaders seem happy leaving things to a committee. “A lot of the people who go to the General Assembly don’t get into the nuts and bolts of who’s running the national organizations,” says delegate Paula Steinberg of Hartford, Conn. “They just want to know how to raise money to help support the old folks in the local Jewish home. The other stuff doesn’t interest them much.”

In fact, after four years of stop-start merger talks, the top negotiators aren’t much interested anymore, either. Despite numerous secluded conclaves and in-depth studies by expensive consultants, they haven’t settled some of the most basic questions about the new body. Many are just fed up.

Unfortunately, this stuff matters. The new body will have a huge impact on how Jews live in the next century. Will it have the power to launch national crusades — for day schools or senior care, for example — or merely coordinate local efforts? Will local federations be required to send a share of revenues for overseas relief programs, as Israeli leaders demand? Or is overseas aid nearly obsolete, as some locals insist? Will synagogues and other groups come in as partners in the new federated philanthropy? Or will the ball remain in the hands of big donors?

Even more unfortunately, these questions have been so divisive that, by last summer, the talks were at a virtual standstill. UJA and CJF leaders were snarling at each other. Volunteers were fed up with professionals, and vice versa. Some of the biggest givers, billionaire “megadonors” such as the Bronfman brothers and Ohio clothier Leslie Wexner, were losing interest in the whole notion of federated philanthropy.

Fortunately, relief appeared in September, in the form of Jeffrey Solomon, respected former deputy director of the New York federation, who now heads a Bronfman family foundation. At the pleading of several big-city federation executives, the Bronfmans agreed to lend Solomon on a part-time basis as coordinator — “midwife,” he says — of the merger.

Since then, says one federation chief, “it’s finally coming together. What the field was experiencing was a lack of leadership. The top staff positions at both UJA and CJF are being filled by caretakers. The volunteer leaders aren’t necessarily of the first rank, not with the power and influence that the earlier generations had. Things have been drifting for a long time. But it’s all been unlocked in the last two months.”

Solomon’s biggest contribution, besides boosting morale, seems to be getting negotiators talking again. Details are being cleared up by compromises on all sides. Whether to require overseas funding will be put off for two years; federations have agreed to freeze their payments at current levels until then.

The most ingenious compromise is on the awkward question of just what the point is. Defenders of overseas aid, Jewish education and local social services have been at each others’ throats for years, each insisting their cause was number one. Now, a committee is drafting a “mission statement” that ties all three causes together in one vision. The result sounds suspiciously like — well, Judaism.

The other big change is a turnaround in megadonor attitudes. Led by Charles Bronfman, Solomon’s boss, the group is showing renewed interest in federated philanthropies. There’s even talk that a few will be recruited to lead the new organization: Bronfman as founding chair, Wexner as his fund-raising deputy. New York superbroker Michael Steinhardt would head a new division for Jewish “renaissance,” the insiders’ term for education, culture and religion.

If people of such influence come aboard as leaders, they could add a tone of authority and glamour too long missing. But it’s a double-edged sword. If they become the entire leadership, other Jews could feel left out. It might help if a few schoolteachers or cabdrivers were named co-chairs.

The problem is leadership. Nobody’s sure what it means in Jewish life. That’s doubly apparent in the search for a chief executive. The hunt has been delegated to a 24-member search committee, which has appointed a screening committee and hired a headhunter. Some two dozen possible candidates have been approached.

What they haven’t done yet is define what they’re looking for. “We’re looking for the best person we can find,” says committee co-chair Dan Shapiro, a New York attorney. “Nobody is out of bounds.”

That’s for sure. Federation executives want to hire a federation executive, someone who understands the complex system and knows the players. Lay leaders want a public personality — politician, college president — who can unite the community and put the new body on the map.

Right now, the searchers are talking to everyone, hoping that someone surfaces with all the conflicting qualities. Odds are slim, though. Sooner or later, they’ll have to make some tough choices. Choices that will affect all of us for years.

At that point, maybe they’ll talk, somehow, to the rest of us.


J.J. Goldberg writes a weekly column for The Jewish Journal.

Cedars-Sinai Merges with Two Westside Hospitals


When Cedars-Sinai Medical Center announced last Monday that itplans to take over management of two smaller West Los Angeleshospitals, the headlines could easily have read, “Man Bites Dog.”

In these days of brutal health-care competition, it is largefor-profit health-care conglomerates that are gobbling up the smallernonprofits. But Cedars-Sinai, a child of the Los Angeles Jewishcommunity, has always been, and will remain, a nonprofit concern.

For this reason, the news did indeed make headlines. Under theterms of the proposed merger, Cedars-Sinai, with 800 beds, will takeover management of 190-bed Century City Hospital and 225-bed MidwayHospital, both owned by the Santa Barbara-based Tenet HealthcareCorp. Cedars paid Tenet an undisclosed sum to lease the hospitals for20 years. The deal has yet to receive final approval.

If it does go through as planned, Cedars-Sinai will become one ofthe three largest hospital concerns on the Westside, with about 20percent of the market. Hospital officials maintain that the mergerwill enable Cedars-Sinai to deliver health services more efficientlyand to negotiate better deals with managed-care insurers and medicalgroups.

The merger will not have a major effect on hospital cost or care,according to Cedars-Sinai spokesperson Charlie Lahaie. “Since thehospital will be expanding its surgical facility, there could be lesswaiting time for surgery,” she said.

How was Cedars-Sinai able to bring off such a deal at a time whenmany hospitals, both for- and nonprofit, are facing massive economicwoes? One reason, say officials, is that Cedars-Sinai has what manyhospitals don’t: abundant support from private donors. The greatmajority of these donors — 80 percent, by one fund-raiser’s estimate– are from the Jewish community.

High-profile names in Jewish philanthropy adorn Cedars-Sinai’stowers and walls: the Max Factor family, Steven Spielberg, GeorgeBurns and Marvin Davis. Los Angeles Jewish business leaders such asBram Goldsmith, Joe Mitchell, and Irving Feintech have beeninstrumental in raising millions for the hospital.

“The Jewish community has always supported Cedars-Sinai and hascontinued to do so,” said Cedars-Sinai Director of Development LarryBaum, “and we’re proud of that.”

Cedars-Sinai began life as the Kaspare Cohn Hospital, a last stopfor destitute consumptives; it was organized by the Jewish BenevolentSociety in 1902 and staffed by three physicians. Located amid theworking-class Jewish families of Boyle Heights, the hospital’s steadygrowth paralleled that of the Jewish community. By 1930, the framehouse had been replaced by a new $1.6 million building, renamedCedars of Lebanon.

Today, Cedars-Sinai’s medical staff includes 1,900 physicians andis one of the largest academic medical centers in the Western UnitedStates. Its endowment is estimated at $200 million.

Over the past five years, the hospital has raised $140 million forits building and research funds. In the second phase of its Fund forthe 21st Century, the hospital is aiming to raise an additional $160over the next five years.

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