In June, the Jewish Federation of the East Bay announced that its Re-Visioning Task Force had recommended a merger with the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation. The announcement also implied that the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley should be part of the unification.
Regional boundaries are no longer relevant, the task force concluded, when people live in one city, work in another and play in a third. One single Jewish Federation would best serve an increasingly mobile and interconnected Jewish community.
The other two Federations demurred at the time, pointing out that their own strategic planning processes had not yet concluded. And this week, as we report, the heads of those federations say it is still too early to talk of a merger.
While we await their decision, we note that this is not a new idea.
Nearly 10 years ago, 29 rabbis from across the region released a letter urging closer ties between the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties and its counterpart in the East Bay, invoking the word “merger” in describing future options.
At that time, those federations already had been collaborating on multiple projects, among them LGBT, early childhood and interfaith programs.
Now, in 2018, we need to factor in the Jewish Federation of Silicon Valley, which represents the Jewish community in San Jose and environs and which has recently collaborated with the other two federations on major initiatives from aiding victims of the 2017 North Bay fires to the first Bay Area-wide Jewish population study, whose results were released early this year.
If the federations collectively decide that some sort of merger would be the best option, we would support them.
As the East Bay Federation task force concluded, in a time of dwindling resources, a merger could inspire greater philanthropy as donors see improved regional planning and strategic grant-making. Such a move would, we believe, increase efficiency through economies of scale, avoiding duplication of efforts. One single organization could better marshal the precious dollars needed to fund day schools, JCCs, social service agencies, and other local and global Jewish programs.
The three Bay Area Jewish Federations were all founded roughly a century ago, when the distances between San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco (let alone Morgan Hill, Antioch and Healdsburg) seemed impossibly far.
It’s a new era. Times change, needs change, resources shift, and hard decisions sometimes must be made. Bold steps are needed to serve a new generation.
Whatever the three institutions ultimately decide, we are confident their leadership will do what is right for our vibrant and growing community. Closer collaboration and increased cooperation, in one form or another, seems the best way forward.