UJC approves staff cuts

The national arm of the North American Jewish federation system passed a plan to cut 37 jobs that would save $3.6 million in salary.

The Budget and Finance Committee of the United Jewish Communities will cut the UJC’s budget from $40.2 million to $37 million, the organization’s chairman, Joe Kanfer, told JTA. The decision made Wednesday was under a directive from the federations that pay the dues needed to keep the UJC.

The majority of the savings will come from staff cuts, which the 29-member budget committee – made up of representatives from local federation lay and professional leadership – passed by a vote of 28 to 1.

In total, the UJC slashed $6.7 million worth of programing and staff from its budget, but added another $3 million in services to arrive at the $37 million total that the federations mandated.

Among several other programmatic cuts, the organization will abandon its Limudim program, a three-year-old national adult Jewish education effort, Kanfer said. It will also cease Blue Knot: The Jewish Tech Initiative, a program to engage donors in Israel’s high tech industry.

Ultimately, Kanfer said, the UJC looked to cut from areas in which other Jewish organizations were already succeeding.

But the organization will also add several budget items, including a $750,000 e-philanthropy initiative.

Kanfer would not disclose which staff were being down-sized, saying that it would be inappropriate to do so before the exact layoffs were announced to affected staff next week. The budget will still have to be approved by the 155 federations when the UJC board of trustees and delegates assembly meet May 27, but Kanfer said that the organization would enact the staff cuts before that meeting as not to string along its employees.

While the cuts are painful, Kanfer said, the 2008-2009 budget is based more on a tightened strategy at UJC as opposed to merely meeting a budget number.

“Not one of us at the lay or professional level feels anything but sad that there are great and hardworking people at UJC that will be laid off,” he said. “But once the communities started to focus, we felt positive and optimistic about things that had to be done. This was a prudent choice of the budget committee.”

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