Difficult Decisions Not Made Lightly

Following months of site visits, review of informational and financial packets, directed questions, and deliberations among a diverse group of community volunteers, the Jewish Federation met with its partner agencies to talk about their projected allocations (all based on our Annual Campaign finishing where we estimate) for next fiscal year. This lengthy and thorough process determines where your charitable dollars, via Federation's Annual Campaign, go to enable our incredible network of agencies to provide worthwhile programs and services. I want to provide you with information about this year’s decisions – because in the end – the Allocations Committee and Federation’s Governing Board serve you, our generous donors, to ensure that your philanthropic dollars are distributed in the most effective and efficient manner.

Please note that in this email (a bit longer than usual) you will not find the specific allocations to each agency. They will be announced at our Annual Meeting on June 5 with Natan Sharansky, our keynote speaker (please join us).

A few key points:

·         Federation’s Governing Board approved allocating the same amount of dollars as last year. This did not, however, mean that the dollars would be distributed in the same way.

·         Federation had $400,000 more in requests than funds available.

·         In recognition of the changing “nature and needs” of our Jewish community, the Allocations Committee looked more to the present and the future rather than past funding.

·         The Allocations Committee developed a set of funding categories: 1) social service programs in Israel and overseas, 2) outreach/engagement/strengthening Jewish identity, 3) Jewish education, 4) social and cultural, and 5) local social services.

·         Over the past four years, four new agencies (Melton, Maimonides Jewish Day School, B’nai B’rith Camp, and PDX Hillel) have been added to the allocations pool during a time of economic challenge. This means stretching finite resources even further.

As mentioned, the Allocations Committee truly started with a “blank slate” when reviewing each agency. They looked at needs, communal impact, numbers of people served, and how we can best plan for the future of our Jewish community.

Although not discussed in this manner, there are multiple points of view on how to allocate resources. Jewish thinkers from Moses Maimonides to Abraham Maslow have certainly provided different ideas. The Torah commands us to honor thy mother and father. Maimonides discussed supporting strangers in our community – a focus on outreach. Abraham Maslow created his “hierarchy of needs” with basic social services as top priority. And Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel stated that Jews today are in a “spiritual emergency;” thus, we should “give priority to teaching and inspiring our children to live as Jews.” In the end, Federation’s allocations responded YES to each of the above.

Following are pie charts representing the various categories for allocations over the past five years. You can see how the priorities have evolved over time. And for 2012-2013, for the first time, there will be a balance between dollars spent on social services (42% of local allocations) and those focused on Jewish identity, education, outreach, social, and cultural (42% of local allocations). Although not planned, the decisions demonstrate a renewed emphasis on Jewish identity building to make sure we have committed Jews and a strong Jewish community for years to come. The remaining 16% is to continue our historic mission of providing social services in Israel and overseas for families and children at-risk.

Click here for charts

Allocations are too often viewed as a “zero sum game” (based on whether an agency receives more dollars or fewer dollars than the previous year). Remember, partner agencies make their funding request based solely on their own needs. At the same time, agencies are blind to the needs/requests of the other agencies. The responsibility of the Allocations Committee is to evaluate each and every request together and make very difficult decisions.

During this process, we cannot lose sight that Federation and its partner agencies are a complement to one another – not competition, especially in regard to allocations. At the end of the day, we all strive for one thing – a stronger Jewish community. As Aristotle said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Beyond allocations to our partner agencies, I am proud that Federation is continuing to lead many community-wide initiatives:

·         PJ Library is now mailing close to 1,000 children’s books each month to hundreds of families in the Greater Portland area.

·         Based on a very successful Community Impact Grant, Federation plans once again to have a community shaliach from Israel. This past year, our current shaliach, Amos Meron, brought the history, culture, and joys of Israel to more than 3,000 people. We look forward to welcoming a new shaliach in September to do even more.

·         Federation has set aside dollars to help sponsor Jewish young adult initiatives throughout the area. We want to grow the number of young people involved in the Jewish community – providing additional resources will enhance programming.

·         It is our intention later this year to develop a centralized volunteer clearinghouse and website portal for the Portland Jewish community. This will enable community members to find volunteer projects of interest that meet their time schedule, and greatly increase the “people power” of Jewish Portland.

·         Our Community Relations Committee continues its advocacy at the state and federal levels to safeguard public funds for the most vulnerable members of our community.

Last year at this time, after the allocations process, I wrote the following in Marc’s Remarks, “I am convinced that if we do not look at new ways to reach our broad and diverse community, we will have fewer and fewer people connecting to Jewish life in the future. This will impact all our agencies, our synagogues, and our communal infrastructure far more than today’s allocations.” I still believe this holds true today.

I am grateful to the community volunteers and my professional colleagues for their time, effort, energy, compassion, and passion. I am not involved in these deliberations, nor do I have a role in the decision-making. Our volunteer leaders on the Allocations Committee and Federation’s Governing Board make these decisions and voted unanimously to approve these recommendations – ones that require bold leadership and a willingness to make change. We truly believe we are building a more promising future for Jewish Portland – and we will do this with your generous on-going and increased support.

Shabbat Shalom,



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