Three weeks ago Hadassah began cutting 80 of its employees across the country, accounting for nearly a quarter of its national staff.
Those cuts affected the Pittsburgh office, where the entire staff was released this past Thursday, including two full-time and three part-time employees. However, according to Judy Palkovitz, national chair of planned giving and estates for Hadassah, the office will not be closed.
“It’s not just happening in the Pittsburgh office,” she said. “We are restructuring nationally. The Pittsburgh office is not closing. We will still have a professional office staff there.”
President of Pittsburgh’s Hadassah chapter, Lynda Heyman, said that the chapter would be hiring local people to replace the ones laid off. In some cases those that got laid off could reapply for their old job.
“In cases where the jobs didn’t change, we of course approached our employees first,” Heyman said. “If they weren’t interested we moved on to look for other people.”
Currently there are two staff members working at Hadassah until Feb. 20, when the new office staff is scheduled to take over. Heyman said the organization is looking to hire for two new full-time positions, but will hopefully add more.
“We will hopefully add more as we need them and as the economy picks up,” she said.
Nobody has been hired though for the new full-time positions.
“We have started putting out feelers to see who might be interested,” Heyman said. “But we have not interviewed anyone yet.”
While the national organization was badly hurt by Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scam, losing nearly $90 million, Palkovitz said Hadassah had already been in the works of restructuring its offices nationwide for the past two years.
“Hadassah was in the process of reorganizing itself long before the Madoff scam,” she said. “The Madoff scandal just trip wired the entire Jewish world.”
Heyman said that while anytime there is a layoff it comes as a shock, the announcement wasn’t out of the blue.
“I think they had some concerns as to how this will be handled,” she said. “If you know your organization is making changes, there’s always going to be those questions of what is going to be.”
Initially the layoffs and office restructurings were going to take place over an 18-month period, but the Madoff scandal turned that 18 months into 30 days.
“This was a painful and difficult step for us,” Hadassah’s national President Nancy Falchuk said in a mid-January JTA story. “This reduction was accelerated by the ongoing downturn of the current economic environment.”
Both Palkovitz and Falchuk assured Pittsburgh and the country that Hadassah will still be fully operational and is just figuring out how to best serve the Jewish community.
“Hadassah is assessing its ability to carry out its mission and do it in the leanest way,” Palkovitz said. “That is happening all over the country.”
(Mike Zoller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)