S.F.s ranks as nations third largest Jewish federation

The S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation ranks as the third largest federation in the nation, according to a new list of the largest charities in America.

It is one of 14 Jewish federations that made the Chronicle of Philanthropy's ranking of the country's top 400 charities. The only federations larger than San Francisco's are in New York and Chicago.

"We're proud of what we've done," said Wayne Feinstein, executive vice president of the JCF. At the same time, he cautioned against reading too much into the single year's ranking.

The Chronicle's list showed that the JCF brought in $72,644,633 in private support for the 12-month period ending June 30, 1996. That was up from $30,675,359 in the previous year.

The new figure includes revenue from the annual fund-raising campaign, which brought in about $19 million during that period, and the federation's endowment fund. The latter accounts for the vast majority of the immense growth.

"I would love to crow about this," Feinstein said, but explained that the new figure is actually "quite misleading." The 1995-96 fund-raising year was "extraordinary," Feinstein said, reflecting nearly a decade of building trust with donors.

After several years of discussion, he said, a number of donors decided to set up new supporting foundations and other types of endowments. On top of that, he said, a cache of stocks donated to the federation over the years was sold for cash that year.

Phyllis Cook, executive director of the federation's Jewish Community Endowment Fund, said she was "proud of the accountability and the trust we've built up."

In the overall list, which includes all charities in America, San Francisco's federation moved up to No. 101, up from No. 227 in the previous year. Among the Jewish federations, San Francisco was up from eighth largest in the previous year.

In addition to San Francisco's sudden rise, the Chronicle of Philanthropy's list included other surprises for the Jewish world.

The United Jewish Appeal, which has been the top Jewish cause on the list in years past, got knocked off this year.

The prestigious Chronicle, which published the list in last week's edition, decided to stop including UJA because the money donated by individuals and funneled to the charity through their local federations was being counted twice.

UJA was the sixth largest charity on the chart last year, and fourth the year before.

The largest Jewish charity in America, ranking 29th overall, is now the Jewish Communal Fund. That Fund is a kind of sister philanthropy to the UJA-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, which itself ranked 36th on the list.

The Jewish Communal Fund garnered private donations of $160.4 million during the 1996 fiscal year.

Its donors are people who place their philanthropic money in the communal fund and then direct it to make contributions to their preferred charities, rather than writing individual checks to those charities themselves.

Communal funds, along with family foundations, are the fastest-growing Jewish charities, experts say.

In addition to New York, the other Jewish federations making the Chronicle's new list were Chicago, No. 54 on the list; San Francisco, 101; Baltimore, 154; Philadelphia, 157; Boston, 177; Detroit, 186; Los Angeles, 189; Cleveland, 190; Milwaukee, 292; Miami, 325; Washington, 341; MetroWest, N.J., 358; and Atlanta, 361.

Other federations whose rankings changed most significantly from the previous year were Baltimore, up from 249, and Philadelphia, up from 213.

Other Jewish charities making the list were Yeshiva University, which ranked 138; Hadassah, 166; the Anti-Defamation League, 191; the Jewish National Fund, 275; and Brandeis University, 279.

Two American fund-raising offices for Israeli colleges made the top 400: the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science, which ranked 196, and the American Society for Technion — Israel Institute of Technology, which ranked 202.

The Conservative movement's Jewish Theological Seminary of America was singled out as an institution that saw impressive gains in 1996.

Ranked as 220 on the list of 400, JTS realized a 32 percent increase in donations in 1996. It raised $32.6 million, including a $7 million gift from a retired rabbi.

New York's Jewish Communal Fund, which requires an initial deposit of $10,000, has 1,300 individual donors with over $400 million in assets there, said the fund's executive vice president, Eric Stein.

Almost every Jewish federation has a communal fund component, but the New York federation is unique in that the Jewish Communal Fund is incorporated separately.

This year celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Jewish Communal Fund issued donor-directed checks for just over $65 million in fiscal 1996.

The largest recipient of those funds was UJA-Federation of New York, which spawned the Jewish Communal Fund in 1972 and was itself the second highest-ranked Jewish group on the Chronicle's list.