The Elections, The Economy and the GA

It’s a pretty safe bet that Tuesday’s election results and their affect on the U.S. Jewish community will be the subject of significant discussion when the Jewish Federations of North America open their annual GA Sunday in New Orleans.

Here’s James Besser writing in The Jewish Week:

A Jewish federation system that was beginning to recover from the deepest recession in postwar history could be facing a new perfect storm in the wake of this week’s congressional elections and a tidal wave of voter unhappiness about big government and a runaway federal deficit.

And the reluctance of Jewish federation officials to take positions on debates that will determine how deep some of those cuts will be – starting with the expected push by newly empowered Republicans in Congress to extend and possibly expand Bush-era tax cuts – is making it even harder to defend threatened programs.

… For JFNA, the political shift couldn’t have come at a worse time.

The figures for 2009 show steep declines in giving for a number of federations, including groups in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and, to a lesser extent, New York.

Recently the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix, facing financial hardships because of that city’s devastated economy, let go eight employees and announced a major belt tightening due to a “significant reduction in revenues.”

While federation officials insist the Jewish groups are faring better than philanthropies in general, a Chronicle of Philanthropy list of 400 top nonprofits revealed that overall fundraising for the largest Jewish charities was down by an average of 18.5 percent in 2009 – almost twice as high a rate as the list as a whole.

… “Irrespective of what the congressional majorities look like, there’s a huge wind blowing from voters concerned about the budget deficit and the size of government,” said William Daroff, JFNA’s vice president for public policy and Washington director. “That will certainly have an impact on the way the next Congress legislates.”

Daroff said his priorities are to “hold the line on important programs that the Jewish social service agencies appropriate for vulnerable populations – and come up with innovative solutions that can do more with less,” he said. “The answer isn’t to support putting more money into the same old vat, but to look for new, exciting and innovative programs that we can advocate on the Hill.”

He said that in the end, the partisan composition of the next Congress is less important than the great confluence of forces headed JFNA’s way.

Check out Besser’s complete article, Community Bracing For Post-Election Perfect Storm.