JCF campaign sets record, raising over $20.5 million

Raising just over $20.5 million, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation has closed its most successful annual campaign ever.

More than 16,000 people made contributions, which surpassed last year's total by $700,000.

"We're gratified, grateful and thrilled that in a year without major emergencies and with some concerns caused by religious pluralism issues in Israel, our donors understood that there are many, many significant needs in our Jewish community that need to be addressed with their help," said Carol Saal, who led the record-breaking campaign for the second consecutive year.

The campaign ended June 30.

A nearly $1 million increase from Leadership Circle donors — the top level of the campaign — along with 31 percent growth in donations from the Young Adult Division, plus an unusually strong women's campaign, contributed to the outstanding results, according to Saal.

"The successful campaign reflects the steps we've been taking to overcome two of our biggest fund-raising challenges: an aging donor population and the perception that Israel is a country that no longer needs help from American Jews," she said.

"The YAD totals knocked our socks off," said Seth Moskowitz, JCF campaign director. This federation division, comprised of young adults under 40, is crucial to the JCF's future, he added.

"Almost half of the YAD campaign total — $180,000 out of $415,000 — came from young people making first-time gifts, or increasing from last year's. We feel this is a positive move in the right direction of bringing in a new generation of community support."

While such concerns as Israel and the Holocaust have driven federation fund-raising in the past, the focus is changing, Moskowitz said.

"Upcoming generations are more concerned about the spiritual survival of the Jewish people…about access to Jewish education, culture and other enhancements to identity."

Those emerging needs have been given a top priority in allocations, said Janis Sherman Popp, who chairs the JCF's subcommittee on Jewish education.

She believes the campaign's success results from the federation's having "done our homework. We've adjusted the way we distribute funds and we formed a partnership with agencies that deliver the services in the planning process."

Said Saal, "The community responded with their checkbooks. With powerful support like this, we can all look forward to an enriched, vibrant Jewish future."