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Merged federation adjusts overseas giving
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Merged federation adjusts overseas giving

New formula allows more targeted giving to Israel and beyond

The Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey has revamped its distribution of overseas funds in an effort to enable more informed decision making, smarter investments, and measurable outcomes.

The new federation was formed in January with the merger of the Jewish federations of Monmouth County and Greater Middlesex County. The decision to change the way both federations had dispersed their overseas money was made at a meeting of the Overseas Grant-Making Committee and approved at their board meeting.

Traditionally, both federations had given money overseas in an unrestricted core grant through Jewish Federations of North America, which gets split between the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee according to an historic 75 percent/25 percent split. Both federations also gave select targeted grants and the Monmouth federation also had a targeted grants process supporting smaller Israeli NGOs.  

Moving forward, the committee decided to ease into a more equitable split of money over a two-year period by giving JAFI 60 percent and JDC 40 percent of its overseas allotment this year, $370,000, and 50 percent each next year.

“The committee met with representatives of both agencies and after listening to what they had to say we realized both do equally important work in Israel, Eastern Europe, South and Latin America, and Cuba,” said committee cochair Arlene Frumkin of Kendall Park, who shared those duties with Laurie Landy of Monroe. “It was difficult to decipher one from the other since both do good, necessary work. We thought, ‘Why not distribute our money equally?’”

While years ago there was a more clear division of labor between JAFI and the JDC, with JAFI working in Israel primarily with absorption and resettlement and the JDC operating elsewhere around the world, today both organizations have extensive operations in Israel and globally.  

Laura Safran, the federation’s director of allocations, said the 2015-16 budget allots the $370,000 to JFNA for core “fair share” overseas support with an additional $120,000 for targeted grants. The total of $480,000 represents about one quarter of federation’s direct grant making for the year.

Impact cochair Adrienne Ross said, “The intent is to be more proactive in directing our overseas dollars so we can better measure outcomes and more closely tie our community’s passions with projects that they can touch and feel.”

She said the equal distribution of funds will “better ensure that Jewish communities everywhere are vibrant and resilient” because “we are one global Jewish family.”

Separately, the targeted grants will make available another $120,000 to organizations that provide for the at-risk and underserved in Israel, including crisis management, at-risk youth, individuals with special needs, and immigrants.

Safran said federation sent an e-mail to constituents inviting them to submit proposals to receive grants up to $20,000 each for any organizations that meets the criteria.

A further objective is to engage and energize the broader community in terms of the needs and opportunities to make a difference with our global Jewish family. “Neither federation has ever broadcast and distributed money in this way,” said Safran. “We are doing it now for transparency. While there has always been a committee making these decisions in both federations this opens it up to the public, which has never been done before.”  

Applications, which must be submitted by Aug. 17, are available at jewishmiddlesex.org/overseasgrants or jewishmonmouth.org/overseasgrants. All organizations receiving funding must be registered as 501(c)(3) nonprofits or have legal conduits holding that status. Safran said the federation expects to reach a decision on recipients by October.

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