JFed: Campaign faces $800,000 shortfall


Describing the 2009 Jewish Community Fundraising Campaign as “one of the most difficult in the Jewish Federation’s 108-year history,” and citing the economic crisis as having had a “widespread impact,” JFed leaders project a possible $800,000 shortfall.

“If the 2009 Community Campaign is not successful, community agencies will have to trim and delay services and cut staff,” said Barry Rosenberg, JFed executive vice president. “We could face allocation cuts of $1 million or more next year. We don’t want to be in a position of asking ‘Who do we help?’ That’s why we need the entire community’s support. Fortunately, St. Louis is a community with a history of rallying in difficult times.”

After the 2008 Campaign ended down 3 percent from the year before, JFed reduced funding to its agencies by $800,000 for the year beginning July 1, 2009.

“In hard times like these, not only are people seeking more services, but there’s also been a rise in those seeking financial aid,” Rosenberg said. He pointed out that currently the Lifeline Fund, which distributes up to $5,000 in emergency financial aid and loans to families in crisis, has distributed nearly $200,000 to some 230 people. “New requests continue to pour in every day and the demand is not letting up,” he said.

Rosenberg said the 2008 Campaign started out as JFed’s best — through summer. Then the impact of the economic downturn resulted in a 3 percent decline overall.

Rosenberg noted that each year JFed also has to offset natural losses due to deaths or to people moving out of the community. “These losses can add up to between $500,000 to $800,000, and each year we have been able to make up these losses. What is remarkable is that people who have lost 25 to 30 percent of their wealth are continuing to support the Campaign,” he said.

Rosenberg added that Federation has cut internal expenses through layoffs and reorganizations, a salary freeze and two rounds of budget and staff cuts. “But how long can Federation and its agencies go without reducing services?” Rosenberg asked. “Right now, volunteers and staff are doubling up on their roles and working extra hours.”

Rosenberg did note a more positive development. “Fortunately, our investments are somewhat better than benchmarks and recent market increases have helped us recover some lost ground. Also, we are doing better than many Jewish communities around the country–especially those hard hit by the (Bernard) Madoff and Wall Street crises.” The Jewish Federation of St. Louis had no funds invested with convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, he stressed.

Both Rosenberg and new JFed President Sanford Neuman noted that the Federation’s yearly Community Campaign contributions make it possible for 48 human and social services agencies, programs and services in St. Louis, Israel and around the world “to serve our community in good times and bad.”

Neuman spoke about a major daylong community event planned for Dec. 6 at the Jewish Community Center Staenberg Family Complex. The event will give the entire Jewish community an opportunity to respond to the crisis, Neuman said. “LightFest” will combine entertainment with ways for the community to pitch in to donate items for the food pantry, toys for needy children and make calls to help support the Annual Campaign.

“People are looking for an opportunity to take action to make sure our needs are met,” Neuman said. “That’s why we plan to pull out all the stops. Although the total number of those who have given is down, and many donors are not increasing their gifts this year, keep in mind the year isn’t over yet.”

Looking ahead, Neuman added, “As we begin the New Year, we must meet the most basic needs of our families. We need to maintain our support of Israel in the face of rising threats in the Mideast and continue to support at-risk Jewish communities around the world. In doing so, hopefully we can continue to meet our vision of an inspiring, caring and united Jewish community that will be here for generations to come.”