S.F. JCF exceeds campaign goal with $1 million over last year

Ed McMahon never showed up clutching a balloon bouquet and surfboard-size check, but executives at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation still had that million-dollar feeling after recently wrapping up their 2003-2004 fund-raising campaign. The final tally had the JCF up $1 million over last year, a sum that allows for expanded programming throughout the organization.

That means more than $9.8 million in unrestricted funds for 62 domestic beneficiary agencies and an additional $361,200 in funds for special programs and services.

“We had set a goal of $22.5 million,” says campaign director Stacie Hershmann, “and we closed just over that. That represents good progress. We have not only been able to maintain our level of support for services, but also invest more in strategic priorities. Coming off last year, where we talked about trimming funding, this is great news.”

One of those strategic priorities is improving security throughout the Jewish community. Thanks to a successful campaign, JCF execs say they’re getting the job done. A community security grant of $171,200 was recently awarded to the Jewish Community Relations Council to cover the cost of hiring a full-time security professional.

Says Gail Zucker, JCF director of planning and agency support: The security expert “will meet with agencies and synagogues on emergency preparedness plans, interface with law enforcement and provide technical assistance.”

Another federation priority spared the chopping block: helping emigres achieve U.S. citizenship. Accordingly, a one-time grant of $50,000 was awarded to the S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services for its program that prepares 200 elderly emigres from the former Soviet Union to become Americans.

“That program had been losing state funding,” says Zucker. “But we knew the quicker we get people citizenship, the quicker they qualify for Social Security benefits and MediCal insurance.”

Also on the Russian front, JCF granted $50,000 toward Jewish identity building among Soviet emigres. “There are new and emerging needs for this community,” adds Zucker. “We want them fully integrated into American life and we want to strengthen their Jewish identity.”

This program gives incentive grants to various agencies and synagogues for family and adult education. The JCF is also expanding a professional development program administered by the S.F.-based Bureau of Jewish Education to help Russian-speaking educators better assist their community. “We’re training the trainers,” says Zucker.

Also made possible with the increased funds, the Israel Educational Initiative, a federation program launched in tandem with the S.F.-based Israel Center and the BJE, kick-started with a $31,000 grant.

“With this initiative, we will build the capacity of day schools and synagogues to educate students about Israel,” adds Zucker. “We will train a new cohort of educators.”

These and other new programs are up and running thanks to a fired-up campaign team, says 2003-2004 campaign chair John Pritzker.

“If you do something the same way year after year, you tend to lose sight of nuance,” notes Pritzker, “so we created a new message: ‘You’re not giving to federation, but through federation. That struck a chord.”

Adds Hershmann: “We sat down with people face-to-face and talked about the needs of the community. We asked them to consider a 10 percent increase in their gifts, and we also went forward with a very positive message about the importance of the annual campaign in Jewish life. The results speak for themselves. People responded.”

Coming on the heels of a protracted economic downturn, this was no small achievement. Says Pritzker, “The economy isn’t that much better. It’s just not that much worse, so when things don’t go downward, it looks positive. But this wasn’t an economic thing. People wanted to give and wanted the community to thrive.”

As pleased as Hershmann is with the recently concluded campaign, the 2004-2005

campaign is already in full swing under the direction of new campaign chair Danny Grossman.

“We do this work because we really care about what the money makes possible here and abroad,” she says. “It means we’re going to be able to help more people, support more people, do more good, and that is very satisfying. We don’t rest on laurels for long.”

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.