A merger of the Bay Area’s three Jewish Federations is “likely,” the president of the Jewish Federation of the East Bay suggested yesterday. But executives at the other two Federations say any talk of a merger is premature.
A strategic planning task force at the East Bay Federation, which in recent years has been going through a process of downsizing, has recommended pursuing a consolidation. Board president Steve Goldman gave a PowerPoint presentation to that effect at the Federation’s June 20 annual meeting.
But Danny Grossman, CEO of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, and Jyl Jurman, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley, both told J. today that there is no current discussion of such a change.
“We are not involved in any plans or discussions now about a merger,” Grossman said. “The East Bay Federation has made statements that put them in a different place than we are in thinking about a merger. It’s too early to know whether it’s likely or unlikely.”
Grossman said his Federation now is focused on a strategic planning process that should continue for the rest of 2018. Jurman said the S.F. Federation’s process is the top priority at this time.
“It’s just too early [to discuss a merger],” Jurman said. “We’re waiting for San Francisco to complete their strategic plan, and at that point we’ll talk. In the meantime, we’re just looking at more collaboration. There’s nothing to report. We’re waiting until after the first of the year, and that’s it.”
Mention of a consolidation re-emerged yesterday when Goldman was discussing Rabbi James Brandt’s resignation after nine years as CEO. Goldman said there are no current plans to replace Brandt.
“Given where we’re headed in terms of a likely merger, which is what we hope to achieve, this is probably an understandable move on his part,” Goldman told J.
“We went through a process in the East Bay of evaluating some alternatives and decided our best way forward is to combine forces with the other two Bay Area organizations,” he said. “We hope at the end of [the overall] process they will understand the wisdom of why an organization that encompasses all the Federations in the Bay Area makes sense. It just makes a lot more sense from an efficiency standpoint for us to be working together.”
The idea of a merger is not new — in 2009, a group of 29 Bay Area rabbis and Jewish community leaders signed a letter urging closer ties among the Federations and mentioning “the possibility of a merger.”
The S.F. Federation was created in 1910 as the Federation of Jewish Charities. The East Bay Federation opened in 1918 as the Jewish Welfare Federation. And the Silicon Valley Federation, based in Los Gatos, was formed in 1929.
The three Federations have worked together in recent years on a variety of programs, and collaborated in this year’s release of a portrait of Bay Area Jews — the first to survey Jewish life across the entire 10-county area.
Grossman, Jurman and Brandt co-authored an opinion piece this June in J. in which they pledged to “continue to look at collaborating in ways that will prove most impactful, efficient and strategic for our communities.”
Officials of the S.F.-based and Silicon Valley Federations met recently at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills to discuss how to use the portrait of Bay Area Jews to work together on projects.
But “the status quo has not changed,” Grossman said.
“We’re very interested in what happens around the Bay. We’ve tried to work very closely with [the other Federations], and we are in conversations with them right now about how we can collaborate together,” he said. “There is no active discussion of a merger.”