A dramatic shift in our Jewish communal landscape has been announced this week: The Jewish Federation of the East Bay and its Jewish Community Foundation will cease to exist as independent entities. The San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund will absorb the functions and assets of its East Bay counterparts starting July 1.
Though the transition will take months to complete, this heralds a big shift in Bay Area Jewish philanthropy, with San Francisco adding an enormous geographical region — along with scores of Jewish agencies, institutions and human needs — to its portfolio of responsibilities.
As leaders of both Federations explained to J., the change was necessary, not simply due to the East Bay Federation’s financial struggles, but also because the century-old separation between the two Federations was based on a geographic separation that no longer exists. We have bridges and BART now. In addition, this should be seen as an evolution of increased collaboration between the two Federations that has taken place in recent years on a variety of projects and initiatives.
In sum, it became increasingly clear to leaders on both sides of the bay that the needs of the East Bay Jewish community going forward would best be served by taking this step.
Once the S.F. Endowment Fund, which manages more than $2 billion in assets, absorbs the East Bay’s Jewish Community Foundation, which manages assets of $136 million, East Bay supporting foundations and donor-advised funds clearly will have a lot more financial muscle in their corner.
San Francisco’s Federation wants to send a message to the East Bay Jewish community: We have your back.
We admit to mixed emotions. But while we mourn on one hand the demise of a great legacy institution, we join the leadership of both Federations in acknowledging that this consolidation is in the best interest of the Jewish community of the Bay Area.
The past few years have seen other major East Bay Jewish institutions go out of business, most recently Tehiyah Day School last fall. Other organizations have decided to join forces. This week, the JCC of the East Bay and the Contra Costa JCC — which has been functioning as a “JCC without walls” since 2016, five years after it shut its doors — announced they will embark on joint programming.
Jewish communities are changing, and the institutions that support them must adapt to serve new needs. Sometimes it’s wrenching to go through these changes. But so long as they are made thoughtfully and by people of goodwill, they represent our best chance of moving forward.
It is in that spirit that we support the planned consolidation of these two great Federations. We will keep an eye on the transition and continue reporting on it.