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Behind the Headlines Inflation Hits Communal Agencies

February 7, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

One of the national Jewish organization which responded to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency survey of the impact of spiraling inflation on services to Jews in need was the American Jewish Committee. Bertram Gold, its executive vice president, described the 1973-75 period as “an especially difficult one,” which required “considerable retrenchment in both staff and programs.” Other organizations responding to JTA requests for information on the problem generally reported severe cuts in staff and services, despite greater needs caused by the same inflation.

Gold said that through intensified fundraising during the past three years, “we have just managed to meet the increased casts of existing programs,” a serious situation in view of “critical developments on both the domestic and international scenes.” He reported that during the 1973-75 period, the AJCommittee closed several field offices and reduced the size of other offices, Including some overseas offices. Also Gold said, “we limited the scope of some of our programs.”

He said the agency’s senior staff and various program commissions review programs semiannually and the executive committee of the agency’s Board of Governors annually examines program priorities. There is an intensive series of budget reviews preceding annual budget approval each December.

Gold said membership dues were raised by 40 percent in 1973 and, as of 1979, dues are being raised an additional 40 percent. The total effect of the two increases has been a doubling of dues from $25 to $50 per year. He said the agency counts on members, particularly lay leaders, to make “substantial contributions” over and above their dues.

“All of this additional effort is making it possible for the Committee to just barely keep up with inflation,” Gold reported. Other actions have included restricted travel for staff, increased registration fees at major meetings and stress to department heads to look for economies in “such minute details” as telephone use, printing quantities and mailing costs. He added that this situation at the national office “has its counterpart on the local scene. Out various chapters have similar stories to tell.


The Impact of the eroding dollar on the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Greater New York which, through its many agencies, serves Jews in New York City, Westchester County and Long Island, was described by Donald Feldstein, the Federation’s executive director of community services.

He said inflationary pressures have hit affiliated agencies in two ways. Those service agencies that depend on government funding — hospitals, homes for the aged, child care facilities — have been hard hit because the government “has not paid or its reimbursement rates have not kept up with spiraling increases in costs,” forcing retrenchments.

For agencies “more heavily dependent” on Federation grants — “community centers, camps, family agencies — “there has been a terrible toll from inflation,” Feldstein reported. Agencies with large plants, such as community centers suffering “skyrocketing costs for heat, lighting, etc.” have been “particularly hard hit,” he said. This financial pressure has forced cuts in the only places where cuts can be made — staff and staff salaries which, he added, also “poses a terrible threat.”

” So far,” Feldstein said, “there have not been any major closings of agencies.” For agency programs, he added, “it has been more a question of belt tightening. However we are close to the breaking point.” He said there have been a few cases in which inflation has forced “desirable re-thinking — regionalizing certain day camp services, more co-operative joint efforts, co-location of agency services, etc.”

He said the Federation has intensified its efforts to help member agencies apply for and get foundation grants and government funds. He reported that inflation has forced a “much more critical view of agency budgets” by the Federation’s distribution committee and caused “intensification of 50-year efforts in joint purchasing and to create a new Supportive Services Committee” to look at other ways in which agencies can cooperatively effect major economies or at feast try to retard increases in operating costs in such areas as food and data processing.


The specifics of the inflation pinch on a Federation affiliate were described by Jerome M. Goldsmith, executive vice president of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, formed a year ago by a merger of the Jewish Family Service and the Jewish Board of Guardians.

Goldsmith said the agency was.” enormously troubled” by budget cuts and reductions in services coming at a time when families “are in more need of our services than ever before.” He said the agency has served in the Jewish community “as a bulwark” for people to turn to for professional help “in times of trouble.” Goldsmith added that “we have waiting lists now” after struggles for years to avoid them, He reported that, to avoid putting off families and individuals needing immediate help, “we have developed techniques” to give them “crisis intervention” help.

Charging that services to needy persons “seem to be at the bottom of the list of priorities” in city, state and federal government programs, Goldsmith cited a four-year freeze on Medicaid reimbursement rates. Medicaid is a government medical and hospitalization program for the indigent.

He said such losses, plus budgetary cutbacks, have left the agency with no alternatives “but to shrink our services, to freeze jobs and cut staff.” He reported the agency was forced to close a counseling office in The Bronx and on Manhattan’s west side. He said the agency’s youth service office in Co-op City in The Bronx had been closed and that an office in Brooklyn was slated for closing.

The combination of government funding cuts, plus the unending inflationary spiral” has forced. “serious cutbacks” in “residential service for the care of disturbed children and adolescents.” He declared that the agency no longer can provide “the same level of services” as before and has had to reduce staff” on every level from maintenance through professional personnel.”


The Greater Miami Jewish Federation reported that in 1978, a number of important staff positions were left unfilled because of the economic pinch. Member agencies were required last year to

One negative factor reported by Miami Federation officials was an “inability” to raise enough additional funds in the most recent campaign to make possible continuation of services at the same level as in 1977.

An official of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston (C JP) reported that inflation’s impact on the C JP had been stultifying and constricting, rather than devastating — so far. Dr David Rosen, the C JP director of social planning, also reported that Jewish communal workers have been directly affected because their salaries in recent years have consistently lagged behind the inflation rate. Annual salary increases, he said, have generally been in the range of four to five percent.

He said the lack of “new money” and the problems of managing even with the same budget has meant that “we cannot respond to even the most pressing needs,” let alone start “new and innovative programs” which he said are needed for single parent families, Jewish education and service to the elderly.

C JP affiliates have been pushed to raise fees to generate maximum internal income, leading to increased charges for camping, nursery schools, tuition and membership in affiliated agencies, a hardship for marry Jews. He said one diminished program has affected Soviet Jews settling in Boston, the C JP has put dollar limitations “on the amount we will subsidize rents” and this too has meant hardship.

The Greater Hartford Jewish Federation reported it had reduced administrative/secretarial positions and had cut back on mailings. The outpatient pharmacy which served clinic patients at Mount Sinai Hospital in Hartford has been closed. The Hartford Jewish community center said plans for a comprehensive program for single parents, in conjunction with the Jewish Family Service, are being postponed.

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