UJA-Federation of New York braces for tough times

The UJA Federation of New York is expecting a difficult year, the organization’s executive vice president and CEO, told me.

“We are going to have a challenging year,” John Ruskay told the Fundermentalist in a brief telephone interview Wednesday afternoon, “but we remain confident that our donors will understand, as they have in the past that when the going gets rough economically, the UJA-Federation and our agencies are out there with support for those who have lost their jobs with basic necessities and core support. That is in a sense, the theme of our campaign: It is time for those who can do, to do.”

The UJA is holding its annual Greenberg Wall Street dinner next week, which last year accounted for $40 million of the federation’s $153 million annual campaign. The event is named after Ace Greenberg, the former chairman of the Executive Committee of The Bear Stearns Companies, who became the vice chairman of Bear’s retail business for JPMorgan Chase & Co. when JP Morgan bought out Bear after his bank went under in April.

Ruskay said that he has met individually recently with many of the federation’s largest donors and they have agreed to step up their donations to help the federation keep pace.

Still, he acknowledged, this will be a tough year.

“This is unfolding as we speak, and it is hard to predict,” Ruskay said. “But one donor said to me, ‘UJA will be the last place we cut. I love my university and my museum, but we need to make certain that the people in our city are taken care of.’

“This has been evolving for a year and a half, and obviously the last few days there is a lot of concern, and the shock waves have been significant, but we have been coping with this. It has been forefront for us.”

Last year, the federation had to withhold 1.5 percent of all of its grants to take care of basic needs and cut $1 million out of its administrative budget.

And this year could be worse as donors lose jobs, and grants from local and state government drop because of a decreased tax pool, he said.

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