Dont drop United Way support, say federation execs

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

In light of the massive drop in funding to Bay Area Jewish agencies, some Jews may be wondering whether they should still cut checks to the United Way.

Bay Area federation executives hedged.

"On the one hand," said Wayne Feinstein, executive vice president of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, "Jews have a responsibility. It's taught by our tradition and prophets to support communities we live in.

"On the other hand, people should know the United Way has a donor-option program" that could help Jewish agencies.

That option allows United Way givers to specify which agencies receive their money.

Last year, the East Bay Jewish agencies received $43,500 through donor designation, on top of $147,000 through a central United Way fund. Agencies under the S.F.-based federation got $105,000 through donor designation, in addition to $311,000 from the central fund.

Last week, United Way of the Bay Area announced its 1996-97 grants. Of $17.6 million doled out from its central fund, only $88,748 went to a single Jewish agency, S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children's Services.

Ami Nahshon, executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay, felt similarly to Feinstein.

"If all Jews withdraw their support from United Way, it reinforces the message that the Jewish community doesn't need to be part of United Way and vice versa," he said. "I think that's wrong."

Franny Green, a member of United Way's San Francisco board and a past president of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, said Jews should continue to give to United Way's central fund.

"I think you have a responsibility above and beyond the Jewish agencies," she said.

No figures are available on how much Jews give to United Way of the Bay Area. But Anne Wilson, a United Way executive vice president, wasn't worried about a backlash from the cuts.

"The Jewish community is exceptionally generous in the Bay Area," she said. "I imagine it will continue."