Paying It Forward

Linda Hurwitz and Michael Hoffman say The Associated: Jewish  Community Federation of Baltimore allocated resources this year to  sustain and grow Jewish Baltimore. (David Stuck)
Linda Hurwitz and Michael Hoffman say The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore allocated resources this year to sustain and grow Jewish Baltimore.
(David Stuck)

The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore closed its campaign on June 30 with $30 million in annual campaign revenue and an additional $15.7 million from other funding sources. The income allowed The Associated to allocate to its agencies at a rate of 99 percent in the aggregate and to launch some new initiatives, although the stagnant campaign did mean some trims — including in human resources.

“It is very difficult making these decisions,” said Linda Hurwitz, the chair of planning and allocations for The Associated. “We are only as strong as our agencies, and we did everything to keep our community whole. That is what we do. We are there for every individual, every agency and every Jew — locally, in Israel and around the world.”

Hurwitz explained that 40 percent of the agencies’ revenue comes directly from The Associated’s annual campaign, including the majority of their unrestricted funds. In addition, over and above the dollars, The Associated provides the agencies with marketing, information technology, human resource and professional development support.

The challenges come because even while the majority of other federations across the country are having reduced campaigns and The Associated is hitting its mark, staying stagnant when health-care costs are rising and doing business costs more each year means you are losing money. Before becoming the chair of planning and allocations, Hurwitz volunteered as a campaigner.

“Now on the allocations side of the table, I see so clearly how every dollar can make a difference in people’s lives,” she said.

Whole departments were eliminated for fiscal year 2014, including the professional development division of the Macks Center for Jewish Education, for example, and the Family History Center at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Jewish Volunteer Connection lost staff, too, among others.

The good news is that despite a flat campaign, Baltimore is very much not flat. In fact, said Michael Hoffman, chief planning and strategy officer for The Associated, leadership feels strongly about the need to move the community forward.

The Associated involves as many as 400 people in its planning and allocations process each year, working to ensure that the community’s basic needs are met and that there is an eye for the future. Hoffman talked about some of the new and innovative opportunities available to the community, such as PJ on the Town, which brings together a diverse group of hundreds of young families in open spaces downtown, in Towson and in Timonium to meet each other and learn about Jewish values. Baltimore has stepped up its investment in Taglit Birthright Israel and Jewish camping, opportunities through which young Jews can solidify their Jewish identities and gain Jewish IQs that can make them more active and involved down the line. Additionally, The Associated supports the Jewish Community Center’s Charm City Tribe, which gives Rabbi Jessy Gross a platform for meeting and inspiring young adults living downtown.

The Associated kept its allocation to partners working in Israel and other places overseas at 100 percent this year. Hoffman said that is because The Associated was forced to cut back that allocation in years prior and that leadership recognized, “We have an obligation to support world Jewry — in Odessa, in Ashkelon.”

He noted that $1.5 million of the roughly $3 million overseas allocation is kept in Baltimore for Israel education and engagement programs.

Currently, community leaders are working on what they call Vision 2020, which is a task force dedicated to planning for the community. Some of that ties into The Associated’s new mission and vision, which is to partner with organizations beyond its 14 agencies and three overseas partners. Hoffman talked about Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc.’s collaboration with Action in Maturity, which is now handling the transportation needs of Northwest Baltimore’s senior residents. AIM came in with the lowest bid of many, and makes it possible to offer that service without having to bring it in-house.

Collaboration is essential, said Horowitz, for The Associated system to work. And the allocations process — closing the campaign and assigning funds — is the best demonstration of how unified Jewish Baltimore really is.

Barak Hermann, the new head of the JCC, experienced that process for the first time this season.

“I thought it was an incredible process,” he said. “The process here allows us to be disciplined, collaborative and innovative. Michael and The Associated team were there for the JCC every step of the way. … The allocations process was inspiring and proves to me the vision of moving the whole Baltimore community to a stronger Jewish place.”

Said Hoffman: “I have never seen our partnerships as strong as they are now.”

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