Behind the Headlines Inflation Hits Communai Agencies
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Behind the Headlines Inflation Hits Communai Agencies

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Spiraling in flation, now indisputably the biggest continuing threat to American living standards, has forced Jewish communal agencies to undergo drastic cats in staff and services though these services one more needed new than ever because the number of Jewish needy and the severity of their needs has been increased by the same economic pinch, a Jewish-Telegraphic Agency survey has indicated.

In an effort to ascertain just how inflation has affected such services, the JTA submitted specific questions to a sampling of organizations deemed to be collectively representative of the overall Jewish service structure in the United States.

Two umbrella organizations were queried the National Jewish Welfare Board. (JWB) and the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF). Three national service organizations also were queried–B’nai B’rith, the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress.

The Federation serving the world’s largest Jewish community–the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies at Greater New York — was among the Federations supplying information. Other Federations which provided data, through the initiative of the CJF, included the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, the Hartford Jewish Federation and the Greater Miami Jewish Federation.


The JWB serves as the association of Jewish community centers and Ys. The 200-plus centers and Ys are probably the most widely used of local Jewish service centers. A JWB official said the centers have been forced to seek ways of cutting costs and finding new sources of additional income. He said one effect has been renewed interest in the use of volunteers to supplement the professional staff.

The JWB official said center programs with minimum participation have been cut. Center committees examine priorities in an on ongoing basis with a high priority assigned to Jewish content programs. The official said he did not know of any center in which such programs have been trimmed.

He also reported that, over the past three years, there have been general fee increases for members, running from five to 10.percent. He said that, at the same time, more special categories have been established for college students and single parents, at reduced fees, to attract more members. There are also more financial grants to members who need them, he reported.

He said many centers have had energy audits, re-examining hours of operation and seeking ways to make better use of facilities and staff. They also are applying to foundations and to federal and state governments for funds to finance programs relevant to center goals. In some communities, the official said, centers are sharing sites and administrative facilities with other local agencies, using computer. technology here this is applicable.

The official said the JWB is trying to help the affected centers in various ways. It has conducted conferences on energy, and a workshop for controllers, administrators and business managers to help them with budgeting, membership, computer use, Insurance, energy and other administrative problems. He said the JWB had issued a kit, “Coping With Current Economic Pressures.

Al the national level, the official reported, the JWB has had to consolidate services and find other ways to cut costs. To get more flexible use of staff and make financial savings, he said, JWB closed its area offices and shifted their work to the national office in New York.


The official said that while the JWB has not cut any essential services, it has been forced to provide them in different ways. He cited, as an example in the area of health, physical education and recreation, a reduction of sponsorship of tournaments and more encouragement of physical fitness activities for persons of all ages.

In some areas, he said, JWB now shares services with other national agencies. Last year, JWB coordinated a Holocaust materials project in which 17 national organizations participated, eliminating much duplication.

The JWB headquarters has had to operate with fewer clerical staff members. Hiring replacements at the professional staff level has been delayed, and, in some cases, volunteers fill the gap until a replacement is hired. He also reported that a JWB planning and evaluation committee, which he said was unique to JWB, plans JWB’s future programs.

He said the prospect of continuing inflation is “an important factor” in JWB planning. The agency’s financial review committee and its planning and evaluation committee continue careful planning to make the best possible use of the “shrinking communal dollars” JWB gets, he said.


B’nai B’rith, considered the nation’s largest and oldest service organization for Jews, is “running harder, being more successful in our income-generating activities and yet having to cut programs both nationally and in the field, “according to Daniel Thurs; executive vice-president.

If one looks merely at income, he told the JTA, the picture is one of an organization which has “amazing vitality” both in its ability to raise money and in its commitment to some major programs for Jews, including Hillel Foundations, the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, its Career and Counseling Service, adult Jewish education, its Israel Commission and other programs.

Thursz said he had omitted the Anti-Defamation League because the ADL conducts separate fund-raising to meet its current budget of nearly $10 million. He reported that B’nai B’rith contributes to the ADL almost a million dollars in direct allocations from the national office, B’nai B’rith Women and B’nai B’rith lodges.

He reported that inflation has reduced the organization’s ability to pay for services, even though it raises more money. Obligation to staff leads to modest annual salary increases, averaging in the past two to three years about six percent, not across the board but on the basis of merits. Still, a major cut in national office personnel had to be made. To cope with increased costs of heat, light, postage, printing and other outlays, “we have actually had to cut budgets for programming,” Thursz reported.


In 1977, Thursz reported, a large number of Hiltel counselorships had to be eliminated and pro-

Difficulties in topping off activities led to adoption of cost-saving measures, such as word-processing centers, new offset printing processes, combining travel so that staff fulfills multiple functions, reduction in committee meetings and cuts in reimbursement “to some of our leaders” to maintain as much program as possible, he said.

Thursz reported “some success” in persuading Federations to help finance Hillel Foundations but allocations “tend to be earmarked locally” which prevents the national office from doing “rational planning” on a national basis, another of “the impacts of the inflationary period.”

He summarized the situation in these terms: “We need a million dollars a year — in new money — just to stand” in peace, and so far, “we have made the goals each year or at least we have come close to these goals, but it makes it impossible for us to plan for expansion of activities that are desperately needed to serve the Jewish people.”

The American. Jewish Congress has had to cut staff but “our cuts have been mainly by attrition — people who resign are not replaced; people who retire are occasionally put on a consulting part-time basis,” Richard Cohen, associate executive director, reported. Cohen said the agency has not reduced, eliminated or postponed service programs, adding “we have tried in every way to maintain services with a smaller staff. We just have to work harder.”

He reported the agency’s budget committee makes expenditure recommendations to the executive committee, which now take into account the expectation of continued inflation. As an example, Cohen cited the prospect of union demands for wage increases when the next contract is negotiated, which will “increase our costs considerably.” Cohen said that” one way to cope” with that prospect is to try to raise more funds and, accordingly, “our fund-raising efforts have been stepped up.”

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