JCF campaign hits record $19.8 million E. Bay up, too

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"I'm thrilled but not totally surprised," said Carol Saal, JCF campaign chair. "I think we had a sense that we were going to make it a good year and we did everything we could to create that reality."

Seth Moskowitz, JCF assistant executive director, campaign, said world events prophesied against a strong campaign this year.

"It's not a wartime campaign; we don't have an impending crisis; we don't have to move 500,000 Jews from the Soviet Union," he said.

"In addition, there has been real concern in the whole Bay Area in regard to the situation in Israel," he added, including religious pluralism, Jewish settlement building and a stalemated peace process.

"These are all potential negatives. Yet the community really responded in a very strong way. We have not seen increases like this since the early '80s."

What accounts for the campaign's success, other than an economic upturn?

"What's really happened is that we've had a very strong chair who has personally seen to it that she has spoken to donors," Moskowitz said.

As a result, major donors increased their contributions substantially.

"Carol Saal and our volunteers took time to really sit down and talk about what's going on. The time that's invested in talking with donors has been time well spent."

Moskowitz added that the JCF board's decision to reallocate $1 million from United Jewish Appeal was also a factor: $500,000 will go to projects in Israel and another $500,000 to local priorities.

"This spurred many donors to not only make their gifts," he said, "but make significant increases as well."

As a result of such decisions, Saal had expected a strong campaign. What made a difference, she said, was that "we set a positive tone," with an emphasis on "supporting the growth and outreach of the local Jewish community. Instead of feeling that [major donors] are already giving generously and are already deeply committed, we felt these people could give us more."

While final numbers are not yet in, the Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay's annual campaign is also up this year, with an estimated $2.7 million, topping last year's $2.6 million. Major gifts were up, along with an increase in small contributions, according to Todd Stettner, associate executive director. "The high end and the low end is where we've seen a lot of growth."

In addition, the establishment of the Family of Funds, enabling donors to earmark their contributions in specific areas, also resulted in an increase in giving.

The East Bay campaign, like that of the S.F.-based JCF, increased its people-to-people solicitation this year, Stettner said. The federation also heightened its visibility, sponsoring a number of community events.

"We had a strong chair in Ruth Reffkin. She's very hands-on and it made a difference," Stettner said.

Saal said JCF volunteers delivered the message "that in spite of crises and international events, Judaism and the Jewish community are worth supporting.

"We said it was important to build for the future and we couldn't necessarily expect Jews to support the community and support Judaism because of arguments of the past, such as the Holocaust, building the state of Israel or anti-Semitism. Those issues don't necessarily resonate with younger people."

Taking an approach that focused on building a community of peers, the JCF's Young Adults Division had a 31.8 percent increase in its fund-raising efforts.

"We're just beginning to tap into the opportunity to allow this community of young Jewish singles to grow and to help Jews in need," said Dan Lavin, YAD president.

The JCF also reported a substantial increase in funds raised by the Finance and Real Estate Division, which took in $4.5 million. The Women's Alliance was also strong, raising $3.3 million, 8.6 percent more than last year.

While donations were up more than 10 percent in the South Peninsula, Saal had hoped for a larger influx of contributions from affluent Silicon Valley industrialists. She will focus on that group again as campaign chair for 1997-98.

"I want to begin to have a greater federation presence in Silicon Valley," she said, adding that the "federation has no profile or a very low profile" in that area.

Although Saal is disappointed in that region's giving, Moskowitz said Silicon Valley's economic boom led to increases in other areas of the campaign, swelling contributions raised by the JCF's Finance and Real Estate Division.

Because of the strong JCF campaign, the JCF will have more money than anticipated to finance its constituent agencies and organizations here and abroad.

Responding to the JCF's record campaign, President Alan Rothenberg said, "It's an incredible sign of confidence in the need for a strong Jewish community in the Bay Area when people give at these levels."

Janet Silver Ghent
Janet Silver Ghent

Janet Silver Ghent, a retired senior editor at J., is the author of “Love Atop a Keyboard: A Memoir of Late-life Love” (Mascot Press). She lives in Palo Alto and can be reached at [email protected].