Uniting for the Greater Good

A whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.  Extenuating circumstances call for out-of-the-box solutions.  Two local Jewish agencies had these two scenarios in mind when they decided to come together as one.

Jewish Federation & Family Services is an alliance of Jewish Federation Orange County (JFOC) and Jewish Family Service (JFS).  The amalgam brings the community fundraising, community development, community planning, branding, communications, data management, and leadership development capabilities of JFOC together with the service delivery capabilities of JFS, according to Philip N. Kaplan, chairman of Jewish Federation Orange County.  The newly created entity will take advantage of natural synergy across the community that focuses on complementary core competencies, added Daniel Koblin, chairman of Jewish Family Service.

Why have the boards of the two organizations unanimously agreed to create this alliance?  As Kaplan explained, there has been a partnership for many years, and the Jewish Family Service has been an important part of the Jewish Federation community.  During the past 18 months, as needs for financial assistance grew exponentially in the community, JFOC raised money, JFS delivered services, and the assistance center evolved as a joint venture of the two agencies with Koblin as the chair.

“We’ve taken the relationship to a logical conclusion by bringing our capabilities and resources together to enable JFS to serve a larger number of people and deliver a better product to the community at its greatest time of need,” Kaplan said.

“New, combined leadership provides new opportunities to think about the work model, the value proposition, and the marketplace in order to work in an efficient and effective way by leveraging our strengths,” Koblin added.

In the words of Alan Zamosky, CEO of Jewish Family Service, “The alliance is a way to synergize and capitalize on our strengths.”

According to Shalom Elcott, CEO of Jewish Federation Orange County, “The demand for services has increased 64 percent during the economic downturn.  Meanwhile, grants from both government and private sources have decreased, fundraising has decreased, and the economic situation exacerbated JFS’ already-limited capabilities in marketing, fund development, and outreach.  We’re going to create a powerful partnership as one seamless organization.”

Working together, in close collaboration with its community partners – the Bureau of Jewish Education, the Hebrew Academy, Hillel Foundation, the Jewish Community Foundation, the Merage JCC, and Tarbut V’Torah Community Day School – and with Heritage Pointe, the Ezra Center, and numerous community organizations and congregations, the new alliance will provide more services to more people, more efficiently.  In announcing this alliance, Jewish Federation & Family Services recommits to a shared vision to ensure that community members always have a Jewish option in every aspect of life: education, humanitarian services, leadership, and more.

The alliance draws from the experience – both positive and negative – of service providers in other Jewish communities. During this time of economic downturn, Jewish service agencies in other communities throughout the country have closed their doors, while other communities have found creative ways to pool their resources.  Koblin sees the alliance as a way to change the Jewish community infrastructure to develop the “best and most efficient path to growth and expansion.”  At a time when there are limited dollars for the entire Jewish community, Kaplan wants to apply his business skills and those of other leaders of the Jewish community to redefining and restructuring the agencies to maximize benefits.”

Now people in need will know where to get help and, hopefully, have a better chance to get it.  Since the time the financial crisis began in 2008, there has been a much greater need for assistance, even among people in the Jewish community who had been generous donors, according to Kaplan.  People would be evicted from their homes on Friday and have nowhere to go for the weekend.  The nature of people needing services over the last couple of years has changed, according to Koblin, and the organized Jewish community wants to serve them.

In order to raise additional funds, the Jewish Federation & Family Services will have to tap new donors, ask new and existing donors for greater time commitments, and raise additional cash.  Kaplan and Koblin want to reach out to people in the Jewish community who contribute money to other causes and pique their interest in providing the dollars that will give the necessary assistance to people who have lost their jobs and gone through their savings.

“Even in a bad economy, there are people who are better off, and it’s important for them to give tzedakah,” Kaplan said.

Koblin added, “It’s even more important to find the unaffiliated, touch these people, and lets them know what the needs are.”

Leadership is critical, and the leaders of both agencies are aware of the need to “push each other to great heights and create positive momentum toward a successful effort,” according to Kaplan, who emphasized the need for leaders who possess both heart and skill.  Koblin called the alliance “an opportunity to leave artificial organizational barriers or structures aside and attack the challenges with the strengths people have” and “a chance to broaden the reach and lend a hand.”

Over the last 12 months, JFOC and JFS have invested significant time, effort and good will to create the alliance.  A transition team that includes Nancy Chase, Pam Chozen, Don Cohen, Jill Edwards, Jeff Glass, Susan Glass, Gary Greene, Lauren Klein, Daniel Koblin, Sue Leibel, Ruth Lott, Debbie Margolis, Adrienne Matros, Linda Schulein, Keri Gee Semmelman, Michael Vishny, Ellie Weinstein, and Alan Zamosky is in place to work on developing what Koblin called “the best and most efficient path to growth and expansion.”

“The focus is on creating the most effective partnership for a long-term structural commitment,” Kaplan said.  “We’re open to whatever structural models make the most sense.  We’re going to deploy our resources in the best way for the benefit of the Jewish community.”

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