Do Jewish Federations Need Radical Reformation?: Time for a Wake-Up Call

San Francisco – (November 6, 2007) Jewish federations need to change if they are going to remain a dominant force in Jewish philanthropy, according to a new policy paper released by the Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR). The essay challenges federations to ask hard questions about their mission, purpose and operations, and examine the “nuts and bolts, structure, and mechanics of the federation itself.” The paper is a call for action for “federations to rethink how they operate.”

“Federations owe it to themselves and the Jewish community they serve to take a harder look at how they do business, the problems they have, and what they can do differently and better,” according to Gary Tobin, president of the Institute for Jewish & Community Research, and author of the policy paper.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) is opening an online forum about Jewish philanthropy, in conjunction with the release of the IJCR policy paper. The full policy paper may be downloaded at

Among the issues to discuss:

* Why are more and more federations losing control of their endowment funds as they become quasi-independent entities or completely separate organizations? Should endowments be part of the federation?

* Should endowments spend down? Endowment advocates will tell you that the money they hold on to is for an emergency or a “rainy day”? Exactly how hard does it have to rain to loosen up dollars?

* How can we do away with entitlements so that the same organizations do not receive all the money in the allocation process?

* What should be done about the many Jewish organizations outside the constituent/beneficiary agency umbrella? Does the constituent/beneficiary agency structure make sense any more?

* Should federations once again consider running one campaign for local needs, and a separate one for Israel as they used to?

* Other Americans besides Jews care about Israel and Jewish organizations, why not ask them for help?

* How can federations establish better relationships with private foundations?

The Institute for Jewish & Community Research analyzes a broad range of issues including racial and religious identity, philanthropy, and higher education. The Institute is an independent, non-partisan think tank, and provides innovative research and pragmatic policy analyses to Jewish and other communities around the world.