The East Bay and S.F.-based Jewish federations were founded when the Bay Area was a less connected place. But things started change long ago, with the construction of the Bay Bridge, seen here taking shape in 1935.
The East Bay and S.F.-based Jewish federations were founded when the Bay Area was a less connected place. But things started change long ago, with the construction of the Bay Bridge, seen here taking shape in 1935.

Why we’re working together for a stronger Jewish Bay Area

Last week, we jointly announced that our organizations would be deepening our collaboration by transferring the core work of the East Bay Federation and the operations of the East Bay’s Jewish Community Foundation to the San Francisco-based Federation, which already serves San Francisco, the Peninsula and Marin and Sonoma counties.

When we began to discuss such a collaboration, we all came to the table in the spirit of partnership and with the best interests of the Bay Area Jewish community in mind.

Through deep discussion, we unanimously agreed on this vision and have formed a cross-bay project team to plan and implement the transition. We look forward to updating you on these next steps over the coming weeks and months.

Our decision reflects what we know from our “Portrait of Bay Area Jewish Life and Communities” study last year: Our community is now highly transient and interlinked. Nearly half of all survey respondents reported that they moved into their current residence in the last five years. Nearly one-third reported that they are likely to move in the next two years. Of those planning to move, 45 percent will move within the Bay Area.

Our organizations were founded before the Bay Bridge was built, when the Bay Area was not as connected. But today, it no longer makes sense to support two separate operations. We need to think and work with a regional mindset.

We felt confident in the decision to integrate efforts because of our track record of effective collaboration over the years. To engage more teens in Jewish life, we agreed to offer professional development to every educator of Jewish teens in the Bay Area. To support students on campus as they navigate efforts to delegitimize Israel, we partnered together to hire and support staff at eight Northern California Hillels. In response to the North Bay wildfires, we raised more than $1.1 million for recovery and relief. And to supply the awareness training and facility improvements needed to ensure that Jewish places of worship in the Bay Area remain safe post-Pittsburgh, we created the Synagogue Security Initiative.

We need to think and work with a regional mindset.

One of the exciting collaborations worth highlighting is in philanthropy. Trends show that donors want more efficient use of donated funds, prefer to designate how funds are used, and want to see demonstrable social impact. While transferring assets and operations to our San Francisco-based Federation will increase operational efficiency, another significant opportunity is the ability to build a network of donors across the Bay Area in order to achieve more and better collective impact.

Our personal philanthropy unit, Federation Philanthropy Partners, is significantly investing in order to expand advisory services, provide impact investing opportunities, connect donors to Bay Area organizations and to each other, and build donor collaborations around issues that matter most. And we will do this all while maintaining an East Bay presence. We know that this networked, regional approach is the right philanthropic model for both donors and Jewish organizations.

As we look forward to the future that awaits us, we reflect on the powerful story of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai. In the first century, at a time of great communal and cultural change, he moved the center of Jewish life and learning from Jerusalem to Yavneh in northern Israel, establishing a bold and adaptive model of Jewish life that endures to this day. In so doing, Ben Zakkai modeled that organized Jewish life must be grounded, and in motion, in order to be resilient to changing times.

We acknowledge that this decision comes with a lot of changes, which brings a variety of emotions. But change requires the courage and fortitude that Ben Zakkai displayed so many years ago. Today, our organizations are doing what is in line with our heritage, illustrating that we have it in our DNA to adapt and continue to do what is in line with our heirs. We are conditioned to change with the times with a continued focus on an enduring mission: to ensure thriving Jewish communal life, so that we can advance a world grounded in justice.

Danny Grossman
Danny Grossman

Danny Grossman is the CEO of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties.

Lisa Tabak
Lisa Tabak

Lisa Tabak is Director of Philanthropy, East Bay at the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. She was previously the executive director of the Jewish Community Foundation of the East Bay. Contact her at 510-809-4920 or LisaT@sfjcf.org.

Rabbi Andrew Kastner
Rabbi Andrew Kastner

Rabbi Andrew Kastner is the interim executive director of the Jewish Federation of the East Bay.