The North American Jewish federation system launched an emergency campaign for Israel and Argentina this week, raising an initial $13 million from its board of trustees.
Meeting in New York on Monday, the United Jewish Communities moved forward with a plan to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for emergency needs for the Jewish state, such as assistance to victims of terrorism, crisis management and rebuilding infrastructure damaged in terrorist attacks.
At the same time, UJC’s president and CEO, Stephen Hoffman, announced preliminary plans to cut the federation umbrella group’s $44.7 million operating budget by 5 percent as of July.
Details still need to be hammered out by the budget committee and board.
In addition to generating an influx of new funds for Israel, the new campaign, called “We Stand With Israel Now and Forever,” also will incorporate most of an existing $42.5 million campaign for Argentine Jews, who are suffering from a national economic crisis.
Most of the funds for the Argentine campaign was to resettle Jews who immigrate to Israel. A small portion, which is not being folded into the Israel campaign, goes for relief efforts and community needs for Jews staying in Argentina.
The new Israel campaign differs in its magnitude and centralization from previous federation campaigns. One such effort, called “Israel Now,” was launched last year and has raised approximately $90 million.
“When we started Israel Now, the communities said to national, ‘Let us decide how to raise the money and what it goes for,’ ” said Victoria Agron, the UJC’s vice president of campaign and financial resource development.
“This time, they were looking for guidance.”
Many federation activists noted that they expect raising money for the campaign to be fairly easy, as large numbers of American Jews are concerned about Israel right now and eager to do something to help.
The UJC is also hoping to coordinate pro-Israel rallies in communities around the country in the coming month.
In a caucus session of the board of trustees meeting that was closed to the media on Monday, individual lay leaders took turns making pledges for the new campaign, with cash gifts of more than $13 million promised.
The meeting adjourned an hour early, so that 34 people could leave for Israel. Another 160 departed for Argentina on Monday night.
The Israel mission was slated to include a visits to the Park Hotel in Netanya, where a suicide bomber killed 27 people at a Passover seder.
Monday’s board meeting — which began with a 10-minute service marking Holocaust Remembrance Day — was marked by an atmosphere of urgency and had little of the rancor or quibbling over details that have characterized many UJC meetings in recent years.
That was particularly evident in the brief discussion over the budget, an issue that has been highly contentious in past years.
The 5 percent cuts proposed were considerably less than most large-city federations have been clamoring for. The cuts will also likely reduce services smaller federations enjoy, but no one raised objections to the budget at the meeting.
“Issues such as budget become peripheral when the threat to Israel’s survival becomes central,” said Dr. Conrad Giles, a lay leader with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and a former president of the Council of Jewish Federations.
CJF was one of three organizations that merged three years ago to become the UJC.
At a time of crisis, such as now, Giles added, “our national Jewish organization becomes so clearly central to our ability to act as a Jewish people that the question of how much it is costing is less relevant.”
The UJC budget cuts will be primarily in missions and missions subsidies; consulting services, or regional operations; and subsidies to help UJC lay leaders with travel expenses to UJC and Jewish Agency for Israel meetings.
At the same time, the budget plan calls for increasing spending in professional resource development and for Israel- Diaspora relations, including strengthening the UJC’s Israel office and undergoing a comprehensive overseas needs assessment process.
The plan also calls for increased spending on planned giving, or efforts to arrange bequests and other legacies from donors.
The UJC is also facing increased security costs and significantly higher health insurance costs, forcing it to require employees to contribute part of the premiums, Hoffman said.
Hoffman said he expects the UJC to cut its budget further in coming years.
“We are going to be digging deeper into operation costs” and hope to cut the budget to $40 million by the 2003- 2004 fiscal year, he said.
The budget will be voted on in June.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.