Philly Jewish Federation Grants Millions: Where Do the Dollars Go?


Here's a breakdown of where the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is distributing the charitable dollars it raised last year.

The leadership of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has approved the distribution of more than $14 million in unrestricted funds for Jewish programming and organizations locally and around the world.

The funds designated for the 2015-2016 fiscal year are being allocated to 80 programs at 43 agencies that cover a wide swath of Jewish life — from scholarships to local day schools and camps to food assistance for seniors and the poor to welfare centers in Uk­raine.

Of the $14 million, $10.3 million in direct funding is being divided nearly equally among programs that focus on Jewish education and Jewish identity ($3.6 million), those that provide social services to seniors and the disadvantaged locally ($3.5 million) and those that bolster connections to and support Israelis and Jews elsewhere around the world ($3.2 million).

The $10.3 million duplicates last year’s figure, representing the first time in 11 years that unrestricted giving to these areas did not decline, according to Federation leaders.

Another $1.7 million will go to other community services, such as programming for Israel advocacy, Israel’s Independence Day and Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council, as well as $600,000 in dues to the national federation system. The rest of the $14 million from the unrestricted allocable pool — some $2 million — supports the budgets of Federation’s three centers involved in the community’s priority areas.

“The Jewish Federation supports programs and services that make a dramatic impact on Jewish life in Philadelphia, Israel and Jewish communities overseas every day of the year,” said Naomi Adler, CEO of the Federation. “Collectively, these agencies provide support to those in need, as well as promote Jewish continuity and tradition.”

“I respect every dollar donated in 2014 that allows us to help so many others in 2015,” added Adler, who just marked her first anniversary at the helm of Federation.

The $14 million in unrestricted funds represents 58 percent of the total $24 million that is being distributed to the community for the next fiscal year.

The rest includes about $10 million in restricted funds that are raised for donor-designated projects and go to specific organizations and programs. They are calculated separately from the allocable pool raised from contributions to the general Jewish Community Fund. Some of the restricted funds go to the same projects — for example, a donor might contribute money to Jewish day schools or a program for seniors that also gets funding from the unrestricted dollars.

According to officials at Federation, the funds distributed will provide:

• 15,890 men, women, children and seniors with vital nutritional assistance through food packages, communal meals and kosher meals;

• 3,390 seniors living in their own homes with socialization programs;

• $1.4 million in scholarships to children attending Jewish day schools, supplementary schools, day camps and overnight camps; and

• 1,700 Jewish young adults with free or highly subsidized trips to Israel.

The April 30 vote by the Federation’s board of trustees to approve the funding came after months of deliberation and a complex process that involves professional and lay leaders of the Federation.

A 13-person committee known as the Policy Strategy and Funding Committee, or PSF for short, works with the boards of the Federation’s three centers of operation — the Center for Social Responsibility, the Center for Jewish Life and Learning and the Center for Israel and Overseas.

The process enables Federation, through PSF and the centers, “to really look at the Jewish community and the programs we support from 30,0000 feet so we can address the critical needs stated in our mission — to build and maintain Jewish identity and provide a safety net for those who need it,” said Rena Kopelman, chairwoman of the PSF committee.

The process differed a bit this year from previous years in order to accommodate requests by the beneficiary agencies that they receive notification of their funding earlier in the year in order to be able to better calculate Federation funding as part of their overall budget. Funding letters went out to the agencies this week.

As a result, the whole process was shortened this year, according to Federation officials, and PSF and the centers focused on a grant-renewal process rather than a call for new proposals.

And although the centers were asked to recommend a 2 to 5 percent reduction in funding for each project — based on a 1.6 percent or $230,000 reduction in available funds, compared to last year — in the end, PSF decided to keep funding to each center at the same level as last year.  They managed to do this by not funding some reserve accounts and future studies, according to Federation officials.

“This is the first time in 11 years that we’re not decreasing funding” from the unrestricted pool, Kopelman said.“We’re deeply grateful that the anticipated reductions were avoided.”

While some programs got a little less or a little more, the overall funding through the centers stayed the same. (For the biggest grants, see below: By The Numbers)

There were, however, some changes. For example:

• Funding for Jewish supplementary high school education is being altered to reflect a changing landscape. The $360,000 designated last year for Gratz College’s Jewish Community High School and its related synagogue partnership program is being shifted into a $300,000 grant to be divided among three projects, following Gratz’s decision to close its satellite high school programs and concentrate its teen program on the Mandell campus in Elkins Park.

Though it has not yet been determined how the funds will break down, Federation says the $300,000 will be divided among Gratz’s program at Mandell, the Synagogue Partnership Fund and new grants administered by Federation to “support the transition of former JCHS satellite locations to self-sustaining programs.” Each satellite can apply to Federation for grants to support its programming.

• Funding for the Federation-Neighborhoods Partnership Fund doubled, from $100,000 to $200,000, signaling Federation’s emphasis on working with individual regions to develop programming generated from the local communities.

• Although no new proposals were submitted this year, each center was given the option to set aside funds for innovative grants that could be determined in the future. Both the Center for Jewish Life and Learning and the Center for Israel and Overseas opted to do that, with Life and Learning holding on to $25,000 for potential new projects and Israel and Overseas storing $26,500 for the same purpose.

While there appeared to be a sigh of relief that funding was not cut this year, there was also a strong consensus that more unrestricted dollars must be raised to better serve the many needs that exist.

“The only way to increase our allocations is to raise more funds for the Jewish Community Fund,” said Gail Norry, chairwoman of Federation’s annual campaign. She expressed optimism for the future, reporting that so far this year, the campaign has raised $5.6 million for the Jewish Community Fund, nearly $1 million ahead of where it was this time last year.

Looking ahead, Kopelman said her committee, in conjunction with Federation professionals and volunteers, are looking at possible ways to change the system, including moving toward a multiyear funding system.

“As our community is always doing,” she said, “we are looking at ways to improve our funding strategies and proces­ses so that we can best steward the community’s dollars.”

A multiyear approach, she said, would enable the partner agencies that provide services to better prepare for the long term, rather than “have to wait year to year for funding decisions.”

From the Federation perspective, she said, such a system would free up staff and volunteers from the time-consuming Request for Proposal process and evaluation each year and enable them instead to have additional time “to find other ways to help the community beyond funding or with additional dollars.”

No decision has been made, she said, but “we are looking at models used in other communities and other ideas to see how to best meet the needs of our community.”

If that were to happen, she said, it would “be critical” that multiyear funding is accompanied by multiyear fund­raising. “We would have to make sure we are bringing in enough dollars to meet any commitments we make.”


The nearly $12 million in unrestricted funds that Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia is allocating for the next fiscal year will go to programs and agencies stretching from Philadelphia to the Negev.

The biggest grants from the community’s central fundraising body for fiscal year 2015-2016 include:

$1.1 million for needs-based scholarships for students at eight local Jewish day schools;

$800,000 to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee for its core work in providing rescue, relief and renewal to communities around the world;

$700,000 to the Jewish Agency for Israel for its core programming of engaging Jews worldwide with Israel; JAFI is also getting $520,000 for programs that promote Philadelphia’s partnership with the Negev region of Netivot-Sedot, support youth in Israel and pay for a young shaliach to come to Philadelphia as part of cultural programing;

$658,000 to Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia for its program that provides basic needs for disadvantaged adults. It will receive an additional $620,000 for its program that promotes healthy aging at home and $105,000 for its Center for Special Needs;

$700,000 to KleinLife, formerly the Klein JCC, for its senior socialization and support services; an additional combined $148,000 is going to Klein for its in-home support of seniors, home-delivered kosher meals and volunteer coordination;

$642,000 for the Jewish Learning Venture, which runs the jkidphilly program, including the PJ library project and other outreach to young families; an additional $175,000 is going to JLV’s education and leadership program;

$600,000 to the Jewish Federations of North America, an umbrella body to which the Philadelphia Federation pays dues; 

$470,000 for JEVS Career Strategies program, which provides vocational counseling.
An additional $20,000 to JEVS supports Tikvah House, which provides services for people with special needs;

$385,000 to Hillel of Greater Phila­delphia, which distributes a designated amount for each area campus. Hillel at Temple is the largest beneficiary with $163,000 plus a $50,000 matching grant to help reduce the debt on its building;

$300,000 to Gratz College and Jewish Federation for a Transitional High School Fund that will be divided among Gratz’s Jewish Community High School, its synagogue partnership program and programs developed by Gratz’s former satellite branches as they transition to new programs now that Gratz’s high school program will operate only at Melrose Park;

$232,000 to the Abramson Center for its program called Bundled Services, which supports medically frail and at-risk older individuals;

$200,000 to Jewish Federation for its Neighborhoods Partnership Fund; and

$134,000 to the Jewish Relief Agency, which runs a monthly food distribution program, and another $124,000 to Federation’s Mitzvah Food Project.



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