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Federation Gives Final Nod to Slate, Allocations

August 5, 2011 By:
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Leonard Barrack has been re-elected to a fourth term as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

The Federation's Board of Trustees signed off on his nomination during a July 29 meeting, at which they also approved $16.3 million in unrestricted allocations for local and international projects for 2010-11.

The other officers elected included Bennett L. Aaron, vice president, Endowments Corporation president; Mark Fishman, vice president, 2010-11 campaign chair; Tony S. Schneider, vice president, Policy, Strategy and Funding; Alan J. Hoffman, Sherrie Savett Rovner and Murray M. Spain, vice presidents; Marjorie Honickman, secretary; and Wayne D. Kimmel, treasurer.

While the trustees approved Barrack's re-election and the slate of officers by voice vote, there was some dissent when it came to passing the allocations.

After Schneider, who heads the Policy, Strategy and Funding Committee that oversees the allocations process, gave his report in advance of the vote, a co-chair of the Center for Israel and Overseas stood up to urge that the trustees reject the allocations.

"I am very distressed about the process and the results," said Kenneth S. Kaiserman, the co-chair whose center is one of three that sent out requests for grant proposals and then worked to determine which proposals to recommend for funding.

The others are the Center for Social Responsibility, which funds services to the Jewish poor and the elderly, and the Center for Jewish Life and Learning, which supports Jewish identity and educational programs.

Kaiserman, whose center got the smallest slice of the pie -- 23 percent -- complained that the center boards were initially left in the dark as to how much money would ultimately be available, and said that he would no longer participate in the process in the future.

He also said that the percentage of funds slated for Israel and overseas sent the message that "Jews around the world are less important to us."

Without further discussion, Schneider called for a vote, and in a quick show of hands, nearly two dozen trustees either voted against or abstained, without reaching the two-thirds necessary to pass it.

Before taking a more formal vote, Schneider acknowledged that "there's a lot of dissatisfaction with the process," and reiterated that his committee needs to re-examine that process in advance of next year's allocations.

A Shift in Priorities?

At the same time, Ira M. Schwartz, Federation CEO, said that the designated funding for Israel and overseas needs was consistent with national and local surveys of Jewish donors, who by wide margins report that they prefer their funds going to local social-service and educational programs.

He cited a survey of mid-level donors ($1,000-$10,000) conducted for the Jewish Federations of North America that found that, nationally, only 17 percent of donors ranked Israel and overseas as their top priority. The number dropped to 15 percent among Philadelphia donors responding to the same survey.

The trustees were then informed that if the allocations recommendations didn't pass, then all the recipient agencies and programs that had already received their funding letters would be put in limbo.

A new vote was taken, and the motion to accept the allocations passed -- 41 in favor, 11 opposed and four abstentions. Most of the opponents were individuals who have long advocated for Israel and overseas in the community.

In an interview after the meeting, Schwartz said that some tweaks needed to be made to the allocations process, but that in essence, the process was a good one. "It's not perfect, but it's a lot cleaner and more objective than it used to be -- and that's good," he said.

He also pointed to a new committee that will be chaired by Daniel Bacine and tasked with determining the priorities of the community.

Schwartz said that armed with data from the new Jewish population study of the five-county region, this will be the Federation's first opportunity in a decade "to chart a course in a careful and strategic way," and determine "what we should be investing in going forward."

Schwartz, who has signed a new five-year contract that begins in July 2011, after his current one expires, said that looking ahead, he anticipates "large amounts of resources being raised for a few very strategic initiatives."

He also emphasized that "we will be much more focused on results."

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