The incoming top two lay leaders of UJA-Federation will start their tenure during an ongoing recession and high unemployment. But a major program that was created to help the Jewish community deal with the downturn in the economy will continue, says incoming president Jerry Levin.
Connect to Care, which was launched by the philanthropy last year with a one-year budget of $6.8 million from UJA-Federation reserves, will receive funding beyond this month, says Levin, who will become president on July 1.
Levin, current chair of the board of UJA-Federation and CEO of Wilton Brands, does not offer details on the size or source of Connect to Care’s budget in the next year, but says the “initiative will absolutely continue … as long as the need is there.”
Some 17,000 people have taken part in the program’s variety of activities, including such services as job fairs and financial counseling and employment assistance, Levin says. “It’s necessary.”
He will succeed John Shapiro as UJA-Federation president. Alisa Doctoroff, chair of the philanthropy’s Commission on Jewish Identity and Renewal and former chair of its Israel Task Force, will succeed Levin as chair of the board, each in a three-year term.
“Jerry and Alisa bring extraordinary leadership, experience and wisdom, complementing each other well,” says John Ruskay, UJA-Federation executive vice president.
Looking ahead, Levin says the federation will be “dealing with diminished resources” because of the recession and government cutbacks, and “the needs are expanding.”
He and Doctoroff come to their Jewish community involvement from disparate backgrounds. He was born in San Antonio and raised in Chicago, in a “very secular environment.” She, a native of Providence, RI, attended a Jewish day schools and Jewish camps.
“I have rabbis on one side of the family,” Doctoroff says. One grandmother was a Hebrew teacher “for whom the Hebrew language was a value.”
Doctoroff is the immediate past president of the Abraham Joshua Heschel School in Manhattan, which her children attended. “It was my kids’ home away from home,” she says.
As part of an intensive self-education process about parts of UJA-Federation that she knows “less intimately,” Doctoroff says she will visit many constituent agencies and meet lay and professional leaders in coming weeks.
Levin, a trustee of the Hampton Synagogue, says he became active in organized Jewish life while serving as a corporate executive in the 1970s at the Minneapolis headquarters of the Pillsbury Company. It was, he says, the third major firm where he was the lone Jew in the corporate suite.
When newly hired Jewish employees came to him to discuss problems they encountered with Christian-oriented prayer groups and difficulty taking time off for Jewish holidays, he called together Jewish employees at several Minneapolis firms and with the help of the city’s Jewish federation, “that stuff got taken care of.”
Through introductions made by his wife, Carol, he quickly was recruited to do lay leadership work at UJA-Federation when the family moved here in 1991.
Levin served as UJA-Federation’s general campaign chair in 1995-97, years of record fund-raising levels.
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