C.j.e.w.f. Assembly Seen As Turning Point in Community Development
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C.j.e.w.f. Assembly Seen As Turning Point in Community Development

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The General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, which concluded its four day meeting in St. Louis this week, marked a turning point in the development of American Jewish communities, Philip Bernstein, CJFWF executive director, declared here today.

“Community leaders, “he said, “are increasingly concerned not only with how well we do what we do–but why we do it, what we should continue to do, and with what priorities. Communities are turning to goals for what we would achieve, instead of responding only to the buffeting of events.”

“There is growing concern with change, with how relevant is the work of our community organizations in relation to the prime issues of our times, with the development of communities as well as with the needs of individuals, with the reasons for identification or lack of identification of people with Jewish responsibilities, with the impact of what we do,” Mr. Bernstein stressed. “We can undertake this quest because of the increasing maturity and security of American Jews in an open American society,” he stated.

The CJFWF executive director pointed out that “there is greater recognition that we need to know more about the people who make up our communities as a basis for future action–what they think about Jewish life, what their concerns are, what they want the Jewish community to be. Research will be more important on the American Jewish agenda, to fill the gaps in our knowledge, to make better use of the facts we have,” he declared.

“We have made many assumptions that Jewish education leads to Jewish identification and leadership,” he continued, “But we have collected no supporting facts–and we need to know what kind of Jewish education has helped achieve such results and what kind has not. We must move from what has been called ‘pediatric Jewish education, ‘limited to elementary schools, to much greater emphasis on the high school and college years. Judaism has much to say on the major issues of the day, but Jewish education apparently often has been silent on them, or has taught them poorly.

“There are differing views on the relevance of Jewish vocational and casework services to current Jewish needs and responsibilities, and they need to be explored further. This involves not only services to Jews, but serving Jewish purposes in helping to build a better total society, of which we are a part.”

The concerns which American Jewry has about needs at home are paralleled by those overseas,” Mr. Bernstein said. “There will be very serious changes in 1965 because of the ending of German Material Claims and Reparations funds for the major American Jewish overseas agencies. Unless these funds are replaced by greater American Jewish support, and by support in Europe and Israel, there will be greater suffering overseas,” he warned.


Mr. Bernstein emphasized that there are vast differences in the finances of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds–in the results of their annual campaigns, their endowments, capital funds, Community Chest and United Fund income, subsidies from tax funds, and fees from direct users of services. The CJFWF Assembly, he reported, gave attention to steps which will build further the primacy of Jewish federated financing in Jewish communal responsibilities; that will help increase the share which federated campaigns receive in the total giving portfolios of contributors.

“Greater emphasis is being given to training effective solicitors–knowing how crucial is their work in the final results,” he said. “Campaigns are being revamped, with the benefit of new information on trends in giving, and on the contrasts between cities and even between campaign divisions within a city. There is special interest now in using outside professional consultants for such appraisal, as was done by Los Angeles.”

Mr. Bernstein reported that there are striking gains in endowment funds of some Federations, in intermediate and small as well as large cities, “showing what can be achieved with concentrated lay leadership, staff time, and careful planning.”

Declaring that the spending of the funds is as important as raising them, Mr. Bernstein reported that leaders of the CJFWF Assembly began to re-assess operation of the boards, to see whether they are concerned with prime issues or only with day-to-day details; whether policies are static or changing, whether new ideas are welcomed, what leadership example is being set by board members in giving and in service, how board members relate to the Jewish community and the total community.

“There is the strongest board membership and volunteer service where there are the strongest professional staffs,” he stated. “These staffs understand the prime and crucial role of volunteers, and help assure effective recruitment, training, and opportunities for greater responsibilities. Over-all, the Assembly stressed the need to combine ‘mitzvah with Torah,’ good deeds with learning, the know-how with the know-why. It stressed, too, the courage of innovation and initiative, of new ideas and new programs, with the keynote that while there are no guarantees that all will succeed, the rewards are too great not to try.”

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