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Boston Globe: Federation cuts allocations by 15 percent, Jewish community hurt by Madoff, recession

The Jewish community in Boston – and as a whole – are hurting tremendously from both the Madoff scandal and the recession, the Boston Globe reports today.

According to the Globe — citing Jewish historian Jonathan Sarna — the Jewish community has lost about 30 percent of its wealth, and there is simply no way that the organizational world can keep up.

The Combined Jewish Philanthropies yesterday announced that it would cut its funding by 15 percent this year – after already cutting its budget by 15 percent, laying off 10 percent of its workforce, and imposing a 7 percent pay cut for senior staff. The Globe has a video interview with the CJP’s CEO Barry Shrage, which you can watch above.

Additionally, the Reform Movement will close its Boston-area office, and several other Boston area charities have cut staff.

From the Globe:

"The American Jewish community has probably lost 30 percent of its wealth, and we have no idea how to cut the costs of the Jewish community by 30 percent," said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University.

Sarna said that across the nation, there are unusual signs of the impact: In addition to widespread cutbacks, a few Jewish organizations are merging with non-Jewish organizations, and some Jewish community centers are closing.

"It’s a very tough time, and we’re at the stage now where everybody is defending their turf," he said.

It continues:

The organizations are facing multiple overlapping problems: their own endowments, as well as those of charitable foundations, have lost value because of the collapse of the stock market; individual contributors are being less charitable because of job losses, portfolio declines, or just general economic insecurity; government funding for Jewish social service providers is being cut; and Jewish philanthropists appear to have been disproportionately affected by the Madoff Ponzi scheme. …

"There was a bubble of wealth, and the kind of philanthropy that was pouring into Jewish institutions was great," said Rabbi Daniel L. Lehmann, president of Hebrew College in Newton. "But now you have a recalibration which is going to have a dramatic impact on the landscape of the Jewish community, in terms of which institutions will survive and reinvent themselves and which won’t.”

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