To innovate and maintain

 How do you innovate, educate and create a dynamic future for Chicago’s Jewish community, while still maintaining the essential services that keep it vibrant today?

 That may not be the first question that comes to mind when diving into the long, laborious, number-intense task of budget-crunching. But for the hundreds of community leaders who collectively spent thousands of hours crafting the plan for how the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago will allocate $150.5 million over the next year, that mission was the essence of their efforts.

 “We set that as our challenge,” said David T. Brown, chairman of the JUF/Federation Board. “The broad web of social service agencies and programs JUF supports does an amazing job caring for those in need, and the future of those services needed to be assured. But we also must be alert to emerging and future needs, and create effective responses to them. That’s what this budget is all about.”

 Case in point is the Breakthrough Fund. Created last year as a pilot project, this year the fund will award $1 million in grants to spur exciting new responses to needs throughout the Chicago Jewish community. The 17 grants – awarded to agencies both within and beyond JUF’s network – will support efforts ranging from creating an online resource for families with young children and educating day school students about how to respond to bullying and anti-Semitism, to establishing an incubator for Jewish social entrepreneurs and providing grandparents with tools to connect with their grandchildren around Jewish values.

In another area, the more than $26 million the FY15 budget allocates for Jewish education and continuity includes expanded grants designed to stimulate innovation and broaden programming in priority areas, including early childhood, supplementary education, teen programming and adult education.

At its core, JUF’s overall FY15 allocations plan, which provides funding to some 70 agencies and programs, provides the lifeblood for critical human services, community-building efforts and advocacy throughout Chicago, in Israel and around the world. Each year, those services aid 300,000 Chicagoans of all faiths, and 2 million Jews in need in Israel and around the world.

The largest share of funding for the allocations comes from JUF’s Annual Campaign, which raised $81.5 million last year. Beyond that, JUF also distributes funds it receives from government agencies, foundations, endowments, donor-advised funds, the United Way and other sources. Although the Annual Campaign continues to grow, revenues from some of those other sources are down. 

Under the new budget, $25,044,913 will go to core Chicago-area social service agencies and programs, including Jewish Child & Family Services, CJE SeniorLife, Jewish Vocational Services, Sinai Health System, and The Ark. An additional $6.8 million is targeted for health care, family services, vocational programs, refugee services, academic scholarships and other areas.

Programs and initiatives promoting Jewish education and continuity will receive $26 million. Of that, $17,673,759, will be used by the Jewish Community Center of Chicago, the Community Foundation for Jewish Education, Associated Talmud Torahs, 16 Chicago-area Jewish day schools, Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, Hebrew Theological College and other programs. Another $8.4 million will be used for other education and continuity efforts locally and nationally.

Another $4,505,309 will go for national efforts to combat anti-Israel campaigns and a nuclear Iran, Israel studies programs on campuses, cultural agencies such as the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, and programs that promote outreach, advocacy and Israel connections at the local and national levels, such as JUF-sponsored Birthright trips.

To care for Jews in need in Israel and other parts of the world, $34,477,315 will help fund JUF’s international partners – the Jewish Agency for Israel, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and World ORT – as well as other agencies that provide vital services to Jews around the globe.

Most of the remaining allocations in the FY15 budget cover distributions from donor-advised funds, community programs and services provided directly by JUF and the Federation, support services to affiliated agencies, and operational expenses.

Critical to the entire allocations process is the broad base of communal leaders who assure funds are distributed in the most effective way.

“These allocation decisions are not only made for the community; they’re made by the community,” said Bill Silverstein, who chairs JUF’s Overall Planning and Allocations Committee. “Serving on OPAC and on our commissions are people from every part of our community, reflecting its diversity socio-economically, denominationally and demographically. A large number of people have a hand in making these very important decisions, which impact the lives of everyone in our community and beyond.”

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