Communal Challenges

The High Holiday / Annual Campaign season is in full blast in most American communities. Yet mixed signals appear to be emerging as to how the current Wall Street / banking crisis will effect our Jewish world. In New York City, Federation appears to be off to a promising start with an increase over last year at their weekend kick-off event (though I understand an awful lot of arms were twisted privately).

In Miami, according to Jacob Solomon (Federation’s senior professional) they are not as lucky. They report being 7-8% below last year’s pace. And while definitely not in panic mode, they are watching the situation very closely and working extra hard to achieve a positive outcome.

According to Solomon, they are facing a number of new challenges. “Communal needs have greatly increased this year. There is an uptick of 50% in applications for assistance to attend Jewish summer camps, Jewish day schools and to maintain communal memberships. I hear stories of people really struggling.”

Miami’s kosher food bank, in a move to accommodate increased demand and retain privacy, has resorted to creative time-scheduling.

But what most concerns Solomon is the unanswered question, “how many are walking away from organized Jewish life because they simply can’t afford it.”

Let’s all add a prayer this Chag that the number is really small; and hope Miami, and any other community in a similar situation, can continue to assist all who are in need.

Here’s more on the economy’s effect on the Federation system from The Jerusalem Post:

Jewish groups fear drop in donations as markets tumble

The crisis rocking financial markets in the United States and in more recent days markets around the world, has not yet reached the Jewish federation system, according to senior federation officials.

The 155 American Jewish federations and several hundred smaller Jewish communities together comprise the largest American charity network after the United Way, raising $2.4 billion in 2007 and holding some $13 b. in endowments.

The numbers are large, maintaining one of the most extensive social and welfare service networks in the world. Government funds add some $6 billion annually to the hundreds of soup kitchens, food banks, work programs, community centers, elderly care facilities and other charities operated by the federations.

With the financial tumult following bank closures and stock crashes in recent weeks, the federation system has begun to plan how to deal with the possible effects of the crisis.