Two key Jewish organizations in Greater Phoenix are set to join forces in order to increase their impact to the benefit of the community.
On March 18, the boards of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix and the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix announced a unanimous vote to become “a single operating entity.”
While that new entity is yet to be named, it will retain the missions of both existing organizations: community philanthropy and support.
The Foundation assists donors to plan and establish funds for legacy giving. The Federation raises donations for the benefit of Jewish organizations in the community. By combining resources and having a single leadership team, they can do more with less. And while the resources will now grow under one roof, the funds of each organization will continue to be legally segregated.
More than a year ago, Federation and Foundation leadership formed a task force with key community players to investigate the efficacy of integrating the organizations. Jonathan Hoffer, chair of the task force, was an officer on both boards when the process began and brought a unique perspective to the vetting process.
While the two organizations have different business models, Hoffer said, those models are very complementary and it makes sense to bring them together.
“The whole concept is that one plus one equals three,” he said. “Together they can better serve and effectively strengthen the community.”
Hoffer pointed out that an enormous amount of time and energy is spent by both organizations on financial operations. By combining the two under one roof, staff will be freed up to focus on other worthwhile areas.
The integration was never about trying to save money or reduce staff, Hoffer emphasized. “It’s all about increasing the impact.”
One aspiration of the new entity will be to reach out to and include people in the community who identify as Jewish but aren’t engaged with any official Jewish organization, synagogue or service. According to Arizona State University’s 2019 population study, that could be as many as 80% of Jews in the Phoenix area.
The study also can give critical guidance in determining what exactly Jews in Greater Phoenix want from their Jewish community.
“This is an opportunity for us to respond to that in really thoughtful ways,” said Richard Kasper, JCF’s CEO. A first step would be to ensure the new organization “reflects the needs and interests of those people in meaningful ways — not just pay lip service,” he said.
The Jewish community represents a more diverse landscape today than in the past and among other things includes more same-sex parents, interfaith families and Jews of color. This evolution is something the new organization will have to reckon with. “The question is, how do you build a community for the future that may be different than the community that we have,” Kasper said.
The answer is to get out and talk to the Jewish public to let people know this will be an organization that is welcoming and representative, he said.
Those involved in the integration of the Federation and Foundation have looked to other cities that have gone forward with a similar process, like Memphis, Tennessee and Columbus, Ohio. Learning from those cities is helpful, Kasper said. He’ll know Greater Phoenix has succeeded when other cities contact him in the future and say, “We want to be like you.”
Marty Haberer, the Federation’s president and CEO, said the integration will allow “a much healthier and a much fuller menu for the Jewish community.”
Haberer brings some personal experience to the project, too, from his time at the Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee in Florida, where he was associate executive director before moving here six years ago. There was a similar joining of Sarasota’s Federation and Foundation during his tenure there. “So I already had that vision when I came here (to Phoenix).”
Haberer is optimistic that the integration will bring many benefits to the community. He’s already seen the good that “can happen when you can actually bring all the resources — human resources, financial resources — all those things towards one laser-focused goal,” he said.
Over the years, Haberer said “you get caught up in chasing your campaigns and dealing with the people that you deal with every year,” he said. “But there’s a whole lot of people out there that don’t know us and that we haven’t really engaged — a diverse Jewish community out there that we have not touched.”
Kasper, too, is optimistic. “I don’t think anybody who commits to doing this kind of work can do it successfully if they aren’t an optimist,” he said. Overall he’s confident that things are going in the right direction.
Hoffer thinks there’s little downside to the move. He simply hopes that the community rallies around the idea. One positive sign already is that both boards voted unanimously to move forward.
“That shows they felt we did this process the right way,” Hoffer said.
“This is really a tremendous opportunity for all of us who are involved in it (the integration) to look closely at what we do and how we do it and throw away the stuff that’s not working, and build something better,” Kasper said.
Kasper will be interim CEO during the new entity’s formation process, with the intention that he will be CEO once things are finalized as well.
“I feel really excited to be a part of something that’s going to be fresh and that’s going to create the best environment for our families, ourselves and our vibrant community,” Haberer said.
Haberer will become executive vice president for donor services for the new entity. “It’s not about me or any individual,” he said about his new position. “It’s not about titles. I want to do fulfilling work and to be as useful and as helpful and as passionate as I can be.”
During the interim period, a new board of directors of up to 19 members will be seated. The plan is to have six current members from each of the two boards and three to seven at-large members representing donors and the community. JN
Jewish News is owned by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix.