The New York Jewish community opened its pocketbook after Israel was attacked by Hezbollah last summer, contributing $45 million to a special UJA-Federation Israel Emergency Campaign, the group announced last week. That money — added to $151 million from its annual campaign, $44 million from planned giving and endowments and $51.5 million in capital gifts — helped the organization raise a record $290 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30. That was a whopping $80 million more than the previous record set just last year. The number of new donors increased also, rising about 3,000 to 10,575, compared to 7,657 new donors in 2006.
“We are seeing growing numbers of donors and a recognition of the indispensable role of UJA-Federation in caring for the community and responding to global challenges, whether it is 9/11, the war in Lebanon or others,” said John Ruskay, UJA-Federation’s executive vice president and CEO.
Paul Kane, senior vice president for Financial Resources Development, said last summer’s war in Israel had an impact on giving, “reminding everybody that UJA-Federation is in place when emergencies come up.”
“Nobody is more equipped for handling ongoing and emergency needs,” he said.Kane recalled that at a moment’s notice the Jewish Agency for Israel, an overseas partner of UJA-Federation, moved 37,000 children from the dangerous missile attacks in northern Israel to safety in the center of the country. “Our board of directors allocated another $10 million [for that effort],” Kane said. “We want to keep Israelis safe.”
The surge in giving came as UJA-Federation of New York, a network of more than 100 agencies here and abroad, celebrated 90 years of rescuing Jews and helping those in need.
“This level of generosity represents a phenomenal philanthropic achievement by our donors, our leadership and our staff in this, our 90th year,” Ruskay said.
The amount raised for the general campaign was about $7 million more than the previous year. The number of donors rose to 65,682, up from 64,054 the prior year — the first increase in contributors since 2003. And UJA-Federation said 4,500 donors last year made gifts larger than $5,000. In addition to its commitment to helping Israelis, UJA-Federation in the last few years has provided “new support for Jewish camping, for Israel experience programs, for Jewish life in the former Soviet Union and to create a Jewish hospice system,” Ruskay said. “These results reflect strong leadership at the volunteer level … and a growing awareness of our vital role.”
Morris Offit, the group’s immediate past president, pointed out that the money raised for the Israel Emergency Campaign was used in part for “trauma relief initiatives to help [Israelis] cope with the grinding psychological effects of terror and violence.” He added that locally UJA-Federation is providing support and recreation to the families of those with autism. And he said it is distributing kosher food to more than 100,000 needy New Yorkers, as well as helping 15,000 “impoverished children and adults.”Kane said the organization’s success last year demonstrated once again the viability of unrestricted giving at a time when more and more people want to specify where their money goes. “Every time we talk to people we tell them our message,” he said, noting that a man who had contributed $30,000 last year donated $1 million this year.
“He told us that he trusts UJA-Federation to maximize his philanthropy in the Jewish community,” Kane said.
Asked whether UJA-Federation was attracting young donors, he said the organization’s events for emerging leaders and philanthropists have been sold out, including trips to Israel. He recalled that one young man of about 30 said the Israel trip was “the most meaningful of his life and that he had made friends” for life.
“We have the right formula,” Kane said. “There has never been more of an affluent young population. They are working on Wall Street and there are lawyers making well over six figures. There is tremendous wealth in the young Jewish community and they have been consistent supporters.”
Ruskay added that in the last year “there has been enormous energy and dynamism in our multiple divisions that reach out to the next generation.”