Cleveland federation faces shortfall and layoffs


I’m back from vacation, and stories like this from the Cleveland Plain Dealer reminded me why I needed to get away:

The Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland last week announced that it was laying off 25 employees, trimming $600,000 from its operating budget and that it had a $3 million deficit.

The federation told its board about the moves in an email on Friday, according to the paper:

"This is a very difficult time for the Federation," said the letter signed by President Stephen Hoffman and Board Chair Harley Gross. "Although we are saddened to say goodbye to valued colleagues, we realize that the Federation must do everything in its power to continue its valuable mission to serve the Jewish people locally and overseas."

The announcement mirrors the bad news heard repeatedly in recent months from Ohio’s philanthropic community, which has been rocked by the stock market meltdown. More than 90 percent of Ohio’s charitable foundations report that their assets have declined and 60 percent expect to give less money this year than they did last year, according to an Ohio Grantmakers Forum study released last month.

Donations to the federation’s Annual Campaign for Jewish Needs are down by about $5 million, and its endowment funds have lost about 29 percent from last year’s value.

As a result, the Jewish Community Federation’s support of its 15 local partner agencies and four overseas programs will decrease by 10 percent to 15 percent this year, officials expect.

The 25 laid-off employees were roughly 21 percent of the federation’s staff. Each received at least seven weeks of pay, plus access to job-search professionals, provided by the federation-funded Jewish Family Service Association.

"I never experienced this before. I never dreamed it would come to this," said Hoffman, federation president for the past 25 years. "But I never dreamed America would be in this kind of shape either."

He said the economic downturn is to blame for the 106-year-old group’s slumping income.

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