JCFs new campaign chair hopes to surpass 95 record

Determined to surpass last year's campaign total of $1.6 million, The S. F.-based Jewish Community Federation is counting on a professional investment adviser, who will head the 1996 campaign.

As chair of the JCF's planning and allocations committee, Harold Zlot spent the last three years distributing money. Now, as annual campaign chair, he will concentrate his efforts on raising it.

"At a time when the difficulty of fund-raising has increased, we have to raise more funds," said Zlot.

While chairing the planning and allocations committee, Zlot, a resident of Ross, worked closely with local and national Jewish agencies that receive federation funding. As these agencies face probable cuts in federal and state funding, they are "counting on the money we raise to begin to help fill in those gaps," he said.

Hardest hit by the cuts, said Zlot, will be seniors and emigres who rely on government funds. With talk of cuts in Medicare and housing, he said, seniors are particularly concerned.

Immigrants from the former Soviet Union, who arrive in the Bay Area at a rate of 1,500 a year, will also be hurt by budget cuts. They need such social services as English classes and vocational training. However, a 10 percent drop in federal funding has taken its toll on a number of local emigre job retraining programs.

In addition, expected cuts in welfare will affect a number of unemployed Jews, 15 percent of whom currently live in poverty and are struggling to make it in the Bay Area's slowly recovering economy.

Further compounding the problem, said Zlot, is increased competition for the philanthropic dollar.

But JCF president Doug Heller voiced confidence in Zlot's ability to raise critical funds.

Heller first met Zlot more than two decades ago, when they were both active in the JCF's Young Adults Division. Zlot, a founding member of YAD, had been president of Berkeley Hillel while at U.C. Berkeley. He has also served on the board of San Francisco's Jewish Home for the Aged and as past president of the United Jewish Community Centers.

"If anyone knows about the needs of the Jewish community, it's Harold," Heller said. "What better person to have as our '96 campaign chair than a past planning and allocations chair."

While Zlot was involved with YAD, the group persuaded JCF — then called the Jewish Welfare Fund — to reserve two seats on its board for people under age 35. Zlot, who in 1967 became the first chair of the YAD community services committee, was one of the first to fill those slots.

These days, Zlot is using his campaign know-how to actively cultivate new donors, "a major goal of this year's campaign."

To that end, Don Seiler, a past campaign chair and JCF president, is heading a committee of a broad spectrum of JCF volunteers. The goal is to involve Jews who may not be fully cognizant of the JCF and the Jewish agencies it supports.

"We want to increase gifts by increasing donor awareness. A significant number of Jews are not even aware of how far one gift can go," he said. Locally, JCF beneficiaries include the frail elderly and families in crisis, as well as emigres, he noted.

"Furthermore, we can tell people about all the great services we support, but it's not going to mean much unless they feel like they're a part of the community."

Zlot wants to bring more people into the community through such activities as missions to Israel, day schools and lifelong Jewish education.

"Maintaining a sense of Jewish community has become a challenge throughout North America, but in the Bay Area, with a Jewish population more geographically dispersed and a rate of assimilation higher than that of any other Jewish community in the country, it is especially critical," he said.

Zlot's immediate concern is in launching a successful campaign. With the JCF's Super Sunday just around the corner and gifts beginning to come in, he is optimistic.

"It's when we rally around a cause that our Jewish community really comes to life," he said.