With outside funding cut, agencies seek federation aid

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

"We have received funding requests totaling more than $700,000 for some three dozen local programs, most of which have been relying on foundations and other sources of support," says Susan Folkman, chair of the JCF's allocation committee. "Now they're turning to the federation's annual campaign for help."

As the campaigns of both the S.F.-based JCF and the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay approach their June 30 deadlines, concerns about maintaining critical services have been mounting.

The JCF campaign assists 40 local beneficiary agencies, some of which have faced losses in outside funding. One of the most pressing needs is scholarship funding.

Each of the four JCF-funded Jewish community centers, for example, offers scholarships that enable struggling families to place their children in their day-care centers, early childhood education programs and summer camps. Unless they receive additional funding from the JCF's campaign, federation officials say, each of the JCCs may be forced to increase fees while cutting back on the number of scholarships.

The JCC of San Francisco, already struggling with economic problems brought on by an aging facility, desperately needs more scholarship funds at a time when a growing number of families, particularly single-parent households, cannot afford to pay full fees.

"For us, affordable, high-quality child care is a community-service priority," says Zev Hymowitz, executive director of the JCC of S.F. "Over the past few years, the community's need for scholarship assistance has increased dramatically. More and more families come to us because of an inability to pay due tounemployment, illness or divorce.

"We are committed to continue to provide services to these families but find ourselves absorbing more and more financial aid each year. Our preschool parent group, although very generous, cannot continue to be the primary support for scholarships."

The Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay faces an equally critical problem, according to Ellen Kaufman, chair of the planning and organizational services committee.

"This year East Bay agencies have to make up for losses of over $100,000 from the United Way for grants that supported services to the elderly and subsidized counseling, emigre resettlement and youth services," Kaufman says.

"In addition, without a substantial increase in our campaign, agencies are facing cuts to their allocations that will put at risk programs for our most vulnerable populations — young children, the elderly and the needy.

Kaufman adds that Jewish education, identity and continuity programs also are in jeopardy, including programs for intermarried families, Jewish educators' training and teen programs.

Both federation campaigns are doing well as they push toward their closing date. With seven weeks to go, the JCF's campaign stands at slightly more than $17.5 million, and fund-raisers are determined to surpass last year's record $18.6 million.

The East Bay federation is hopeful of topping last year's $2.78 million total.

"The East Bay's 1996 campaign began later and got off to a slower start than anticipated," says campaign chair Barry Gross, "but we are very pleased that Roberta Bear has joined our staff as campaign director and is helping raise the level of excitement and involvement in the community. We are pushing hard [to be] on target."

Meeting their goals can make a difference in how emigre services are funded by both federations. The JCF's annual campaign, for instance, helps provide resettlement services for the roughly 1,300 new emigres that arrive each year from the former Soviet Union, as well as ongoing services for the thousands who arrived earlier.

The burden of mass absorption, of course, is much greater in Israel, where federation campaigns will play a key role in resettling an estimated 60,000 Jews in the coming year.

Harold Zlot, chairman of the JCF's 1996 campaign, is confident that donors will respond to the needs of those emigres — and to the needs of elderly Jews elsewhere, including the former Soviet Union, where federation campaigns help care for aging Jews who are trying to get by on pensions of less than $20 a month.

"In the last year I've visited Jewish communities from Siberia to Cuba. The donors I've spoken to since then were deeply moved by the work we do in those far-flung places," Zlot says.

"In addition, many of our donors believe deeply in the importance of Jewish identity," he adds. "They know that we have to fund programs that help people rediscover their Jewishness if we're going to have a strong Jewish community in the next century.

As of this week, the JCF's campaign was ahead of last year's levels with 15,250 donors having made pledges, including almost 1,600 gifts from first-time donors.

Last year, givers included nearly 2,000 who'd been contributing for 25 years or more.

"Giving to the annual campaign is a living tradition — it is recreated each year," notes JCF campaign director Stacie Hershman. "If we can reconnect with the 2,000 donors from last year who haven't renewed their pledges yet this year, we'll definitely surpass $18.6 million."

Over the course of the year, more than 1,000 volunteers take part in the JCF's campaign. Currently, a core group is participating in personal solicitations and phonathons.

The East Bay federation, meanwhile, has planned a phonathon for the end of this month to personally reach out to new and lapsed donors.

"We have found that when people are directly asked for their support, they respond positively and generously," said Bear.