S.F. JCF moves up on list of top philanthropies

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Mark Reisbaum has two words for the Jewish community: “Thank you.”

The director of grants at the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation’s Jewish Community Endowment Fund said 2004 was the best year in nearly a decade, and the numbers back him up.

Between the general campaign and the JCEF, the federation raked in $70,725,509.

Once again, the JCF has cracked the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s list of the top 400 charities in America. It ranks 215th, up from 229th last year.

“Certainly the economy is springing back, and I think many individuals and families are at a point in their lives where they’re putting more into charitable vehicles,” said Reisbaum.

“It’s no secret that the real estate market has done really well in the Bay Area and a lot of people held highly appreciated real estate assets, and many have gone into charitable vehicles. A number of situations like that have come to fruition.”

Across the nation, Jewish philanthropies remain highly represented in the “Philanthropy 400,” with 26 slots.

“The Jewish community raises a lot of money. Its philanthropic system is pretty strong,” said Gary Tobin, director of San Francisco’s Institute for Jewish & Community Research.

If Jews comprise 2.5 percent of the population, he said, “there should be no more than 10 Jewish organizations on this list.”

However, Jewish groups that made the list did not see the same boost in giving in 2004 that general philanthropies did.

The Jewish groups appearing on this year’s list, which looks at fund-raising in fiscal year 2004, raised over $2 billion, about the same as in 2003. Two more Jewish groups appear on this year’s list than on last year’s — though this number is still two fewer than the 28 that made the list for fiscal year 2002.

Observers say the 2004 rankings don’t offer a significantly different picture of the American Jewish philanthropic world than the previous year’s.

“I think there’s no good news and no bad news here,” Tobin said.

The United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization of Jewish federations, held on to its ranking as the top Jewish charity, having raised $251,931,000. The UJC finished 42nd overall, a drop from the 25th spot in the prior year, as its fund-raising went down by 26.9 percent.

The decline, UJC officials say, can be attributed to the fact that in 2003 the group was running its Israel Emergency Campaign, which brought in a large sum of money.

The other top Jewish groups are:

• The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which dropped from 54th place to 60th although it raised 7.8 percent more private money than last year.

• The Jewish Communal Fund, the N.Y-based group that manages the philanthropic funds of individuals and families, which finished in the 82nd spot, up from 103rd last year with a fund-raising increase of 29.8 percent.

• The UJA-Federation of New York, which raised 1.4 percent less money in 2004 and went from the 74th spot in 2003 to 83rd this year.

Eleven other Jewish federations made the top 400 as well.

Chanan Tigay is a JTA staff writer. Joe Eskenazi is a staff writer for j., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California.