By dint of some harsh reductions to its own operations budget, the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County has managed to sustain its total funding for programs run by its beneficiary agencies.
Despite the tough economic climate — which looks likely to reduce the federation’s annual campaign from $2.4 million in 2008 to $1.8 million in 2009, the federation will still provide around $1 million for programming by local educational institutions and social service agencies and for projects it supports in Israel and other Jewish communities overseas.
Howard Gases, the federation’s executive director, said that reduction was being achieved by a number of measures, including consolidating the federation’s two offices into the one in Manalapan, laying off staff and reducing summer work hours, and cutting pension contributions.
Federation president Elise Feldman stressed that this is only a temporary fix, and that there is an urgent need for community members to restore their level of giving.
She said of the recently completed budget process, “It was an intelligent exercise done very well, and I’m proud to announce that we will be able to provide that funding.
“But going forward we still need every dollar we can get. At these levels, something is going to suffer. Without the eastern area office, we’re going to need to do more outreach, but our staff is down to bare bones.”
Feldman added that the reduction in funds means “we can’t be in a building process. It doesn’t allow our Jewish day schools or our senior programs to improve or meet increasing costs, and our meals-on-wheels program has already suffered from the downturn.”
Among the federation beneficiary agencies are the Friendship Circle, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Monmouth County; the Ruth Hyman JCC in Deal and the JCC of Western Monmouth County in Manalapan; The Holocaust, Genocide & Human Rights Education Center at Brookdale Community College; the Jewish Heritage Museum of Monmouth County; and Rutgers Hillel.
Federation funding also provides support to area day schools, including the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Monmouth County in Marlboro, the Jersey Shore Jewish Academy in Howell, Hillel Yeshiva in Ocean, and the Yeshiva at the Jersey Shore in Deal. Other services include kosher meals-on-wheels, which provides 20,000 meals each year, and other geriatric services and programs for Holocaust survivors. Stipends for camp and Israel travel (including Birthright Israel), the PJ Library, the Commission on Jewish Education, and community relations activities are just a few of the many other programs funded by federation.
With the economy stabilizing, even if not improving yet, Feldman urged donors to reconsider what they can give. “They can give designated gifts, if they want; if there are issues they are passionate about, they can stipulate that their money goes to support those — or they can give unrestricted gifts,” she said.
Stu Abraham, who cochairs the local allocations subcommittee with Laurie Sussman, was president of the federation in 2004-06 and has been involved with the organization for 40 years. He said, “There’ve been many times in the past, unfortunately, when we’ve needed to raise extra funds for Israel because of things that have happened there, but I don’t think it’s ever been as tough as this domestically. When we needed the money for Israel, people here were in a position to give; now, when the need locally is growing ever greater, many people are finding it hard to give.”
However, thanks in part to the administrative cutbacks, he said, federation has provided $20,000 to JF&CS to enable the agency — for the first time — to make cash disbursements to assist people in urgent need.
Donors find tremendous satisfaction, Abraham said, in being able to “give back to the world,” and to help people locally as well as in places like Haiti, Israel, and Russia. “That’s what federation does, but it costs money and we have to be able to raise it,” he said. “We need to become even more efficient, so we can reach more people who are able to give.”
Community members did come through on Super Sunday this past Dec. 6, with pledges totaling $355,000 — an unexpected increase of $5,000 over last year’s total. The federation leadership welcomed that badly needed demonstration of support, but it couldn’t make up for the overall drop in gifts.
Donors have until Dec. 31 to contribute to the 2010 campaign, Feldman said. “If more money comes in than expected, we might be able to give more to the agencies,” she said.