The Numbers Don’t Add Up for Jewish Social Service Agencies

A look at the numbers highlights why Jewish federations are so concerned over the prospect of deep cuts in government funding.

Across the country, 145 Jewish family and children services agencies spend an estimated $500 million annually, according to Bert Goldberg, executive vice president of the Association of Jewish Family and Children’s Agencies.

Of that, 35 percent comes from government funding, as compared to 10 percent form Jewish federations, Goldberg said.

The situation may be most extreme in New York City. The New York UJA-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York is the largest local philanthropy in the world, supporting 130 social service agencies, according to a federation official.

And while the federation allocates $100 million to those agencies, another $650 million comes from government sources.

The phenomenal success of New York’s Jewish social service agencies in getting government money means they are now in the deepest immediate jeopardy.

The new Republican governor, George Pataki, and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani threaten immediately budget cuts to reduce more than $5 billion in state and local deficits.

All told, $100 million of government funding was at risk when the city, state and Congress unveiled their budget proposals earlier this year, according to Ronald Soloway, director of government relations at the New York federation.

More than 80 percent of New York’s Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services’ $82 million budget comes from the government, with 10 percent coming from the federation.

The board serves 50,000 people a year — 30,000 of them Jewish — at its mental health centers, shelters for battered women, AIDS treatment center and programs for the developmentally disabled. Elsewhere, the amount of government money is not quite as large, and the threatened cuts as explicit. But they are quite real, nonetheless.

“What we get is real simple and real devastating,” said Joel Carp, senior vice president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. “Our agencies spent about $224.5 million last year. About $91 million was government money. This includes health care services. The bottom line is that if there is a 15 to 30 percent cut in the $ 91 million, we’re not making it up.

“The bottom line was we had a decent campaign and raised $54 million last year. There’s no way we can turn around and make up a 15 percent reduction,” he said.

In Los Angeles, the Jewish Federation allocates $10 million of its $32 million campaign to its network of social service agencies. Those same agencies receive at least $26 million more — or almost three times as much — from the federal, state or local government.

In Houston, the Jewish Community Center serves 300 meals daily to the elderly. The program’s $350,000 budget is “100 percent” from the government, according to an official there.

And in Israel, the Jewish Agency for Israel receives $80 million annually from the U.S. government to resettle immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

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