Wave of staff cuts hits federations across North America

Wave of staff cuts hits federations across North America

NEW YORK — Three of the largest local Jewish federations in the United States announced significant layoffs during the past two weeks, raising concerns about the future health of the country’s main Jewish charitable network.
Since the beginning of March, the Jewish federations in New York, Cleveland and Atlanta have laid off between 11 percent and 25 percent of their professional staffs. Each organization cited shrinking donations because of the economic downturn as the reason behind the moves.
Nonprofits across the board have been hit hard by the recession and forced to enact similar levels of staff cuts. Hillel, Hadassah and a slew of other organizations have all made similar moves, as have Yeshiva and Brandeis universities.
Howard Rieger, the president and CEO of the federation system’s national organization, the United Jewish Communities, expressed significant concern for the system and UJC’s own well-being as an organization that relies on dues from increasingly cash-strapped federations.
“We all know what is going on in the economy, and federations are trying to adjust to the moment,” Rieger told JTA Monday. “Some communities have been hit harder than others and we know some communities where it looks like the status quo.
“A lot of it has to do with the mix of how leadership in those communities earn their living, and the federations that are adjusting to that and those that have been hardest hit are making the biggest adjustments. As a nonprofit organization, the overwhelming share of your cost is staff. There are other things in terms of infrastructure you can’t cut, and I think you are likely to see more” layoffs.
His comments follow a run of layoffs at major federations, among them:
On March 11, the country’s largest federation, the UJA-Federation of New York, which raised some $153 million in its annual campaign last year, announced that it was cutting 52 employees — slightly more than 11 percent of its staff. The federation is 10 percent behind in its fundraising pledges compared to the previous year and 12 percent behind on collections, and has seen its $675 million endowment shrink by 25
The same day, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta laid off 14 employees in an effort to cut 19 percent from its operating budget — the second round of layoffs that the federation has faced, according to UJC staff members.