Last-minute JCF drive seeks $600,000 for emigre services

Attempting to avert major cuts in emigre services, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation and local Jewish agencies this month began a last-minute drive for $600,000.

"What we're trying to do is a focused, one-time campaign to deal with a funding crisis," said Alan Rothenberg, incoming federation president and head of the community task force trying to raise the money.

The financial gap is a result of an admittedly unsuccessful fund-raising effort that was expected to bring in $1.5 million by the end of June but at this point is $600,000 short.

This supplemental effort is separate from the federation's regular annual campaign, which currently does not directly earmark money for emigre services.

The $600,000 will help pay for English classes, medical aid, job counseling, elderly care, and camp and nursery-school scholarships.

Though the immigration rate has slowed in the past few years, Jewish leaders say there is still a pressing need for continued services for immigrants. About 1,300 emigres from the former Soviet Union are expected to arrive in San Francisco, the Peninsula, and Marin and Sonoma counties over the next year.

Without the full funding, agency leaders say, new immigrants simply will suffer.

"Programs will have to be drastically cut," said Carole Breen, board president of the S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children's Services and a task-force member. "When I use the word `devastate' I don't use the word lightly…But you can't cut something in half and say it's not devastated."

The fund-raising crisis has also generated a widespread debate over the federation's role in funding emigre services, the use of regular vs. supplemental fund-raising campaigns — as well as the need for the agencies to reprioritize.

"The agencies have to rethink some of their service offerings…or they're going to have to find an additional source of funding," said Rothenberg.

As the overall debate continues, leaders of the federation and the four entities that provide the bulk of emigre services — JFCS, Jewish Vocational Service, area Jewish Community Centers and Mount Zion Health Systems — have devised a three-part financial plan called "New Life for Emigres" to amass the $600,000.

The task force will try to raise about one-third of the money by seeking additional donations from community members, including established emigres. It has asked the Jewish Community Endowment Fund to grant another third, and has appealed to the federation to provide the final third from its annual fund-raising campaign.

Wayne Feinstein, JCF's executive vice president, said the federation can only provide its $200,000 share if the federation's annual campaign tops last year's $18.6 million.

Otherwise, Rothenberg added, other non-emigre services paid for through the annual campaign will face reductions.

"Any extra dollars we move to emigres come out of someone else's pocket," he said.

The $900,000 raised so far for emigre services comes from several sources. About $440,000 is from the very last of the funds from Operation Exodus, the United Jewish Appeal campaign for emigre resettlement that officially ended two years ago. Another $310,000 has been pledged by local donors. The rest is expected to come from the Jewish Community Endowment and Fair Share funds from other American Jewish communities.

If the remaining $600,000 isn't raised, agency leaders say they would need to eliminate:

*Vocational English training at JVS for 400 emigres and English classes at the JCC for 200.

*Psychiatric care and case management for 450 families at JFCS.

*1,760 hours of translation for patients at Mount Zion.

*San Francisco's L'Chaim Senior Center, which serves 240 emigres annually.

*Scholarships for 150 newly arrived children for Jewish camp or nursery school.

*Volunteer programs that match American-born Jews with 850 newcomers.

If the three-part fund-raising plan fails, a group of 16 agency and federation leaders have offered another option. In an April 8 letter to JCF board president Doug Heller, they asked that the federation consider a 1.5 percent across-the-board cut for all allocations in order to raise $250,000.

"It will be a little bit of pain for everybody but not devastating to anybody," said Breen, one of 16 who signed the letter.

But Rothenberg, who didn't sign the letter, called this plan "more elegant than practical."

It would be hard to tell "our friends in Israel" or the federation staff that their budgets would be cut by 1.5 percent, he said.

The federation isn't the only source of funding for emigre services. This year, federation funds accounted for less than one quarter of the $8.3 million budgeted for emigre services. The rest of the money comes from the federal government, foundations, agency fund-raising and families that sponsor emigres.

But agency leaders were planning on $1.5 million via the federation for the 1996-97 fiscal year — already $300,000 less than last year's allocations.

"We counted on them to raise the amount," said Anita Friedman, executive director of JFCS.

She alleges that the federation simply placed a higher priority on the annual campaign than on the supplemental fund-raising for emigres.

Feinstein disagrees.

"We're doing everything we can to maintain our excellent resettlement program," he said.

Operation Exodus, a fund-raising campaign separate from the federation's annual drive, raised $33 million since 1989. About 60 percent of the money went overseas; the rest paid for local resettlement.

But supplemental campaigns such as Operation Exodus become "rapidly unsuccessful," Feinstein said. Years ago, he said, donors considered emigre resettlement an extraordinary project and gave money beyond the annual campaign for it.

"Now they view it as a normal course of business," he said.

The Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay, by contrast, already uses its annual campaign to fund emigre services. An estimated 235 emigres are expected to arrive in the East Bay over the next year.

The JCF focus over the next two or three years will be to gradually move the emigre services back within the realm of the federation's annual campaign.

But Friedman contended the JCF's annual campaign already should have been doing that.

In 1993, the federation began the shift by providing $200,000 from its annual campaign for emigres. But the next year, it suspended the transition and began relying again on supplemental fund-raising.

"It was short-sighted," Friedman said. "Now we're left hanging over a cliff."