Jews rallying state support for three S.F. institutions

Gov. Gray Davis will soon trim down the state budget by some $400 million for fiscal year 2001-2002. Many are hoping that it will not be at the expense of the San Francisco Jewish community.

Three items, totaling $1.7 million, are of particular concern: $750,000 for the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, $750,000 for the Jewish Museum San Francisco and $200,000 for Jewish Vocational Services. The three institutions all benefit the wider community.

This year's budget, which was approved Monday by the Assembly, had reached the hands of the state Senate as of press time Wednesday. Pending the senators' approval, it will go to Davis' desk for line-item vetoes.

Several San Francisco Jewish activists are urging both Jewish and non-Jewish constituents to contact the governor's office and demonstrate their overwhelming support for those three projects. Assemblywoman Carole Migden (D-S.F.), a member of the Assembly and Senate Budget Conference Committee, is spearheading the effort.

"It has been a terrible year for private donations because of the slowing economy," said Migden, adding that it is important to contact Davis about state funding for those institutions and "urge him to keep it" in the budget.

The funding for the JCC would assist the center in the upcoming $70 million renovation project of its site on 3200 California St.

Although the JCC has been "successful so far in our fund-raising" — as of January more than $62 million had been pledged — "finishing a campaign is always harder than starting," said Nate Levine, the JCC's executive director.

Once the project is completed in 2003 the facility will greatly benefit the entire community, he said.

"We serve more people than probably any other recreational or cultural program here. Our services are vital to all of San Francisco whether Jews or non-Jews, rich or poor, young or old."

The funding for the Jewish Museum San Francisco would go toward the construction of the proposed $100 million, 90,000-square-foot facility in Yerba Buena Gardens.

Furthermore, it would be "extremely useful in helping to ensure our ongoing efforts to engage a larger community in the values and ideas of Jewish art and culture," said Connie Wolf, the museum's director.

According to Wolf, the museum is a resource for the entire Bay Area community, "providing ongoing opportunities through its exhibits, educational programs and Web site" for diverse audiences.

The museum, she added, "is honored and grateful," to be considered for the funding.

Finally, Jewish Vocational Service would put state funding toward securing a permanent home and setting up a technical training center in downtown San Francisco.

The "state of the art training" provided by the agency is important to the wider community, including those who are disadvantaged, said Abby Snay, JVS executive director, because it provides the tools for working in a technological world.

"We're making the whole community stronger," she said. "We are helping them to develop the skills that they need to be more self-efficient."

Sandy Harrison, the state Department of Finance spokesperson, said that the best way for people to voice their support for particular budget items is to send letters and e-mails to Davis' office and their local legislators.

Migden is also encouraging phone calls.

The governor's office, in the State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA 95814, can be reached at (916) 445-2841, via fax at (916) 445-4633 or via e-mail at [email protected]

Rabbi Doug Kahn, executive director of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council, stressed the community's role in endorsing the projects to Davis.

The governor, he explained, looks over hundreds of budget requests from members of the state legislators.

"Our hope," Kahn said, "is that he will recognize the extreme contributions these three unique programs will make to San Francisco and will support them as he has supported them in the past."