Beyond fundraising: UJFT’s Israel and Overseas allocations

by | May 30, 2014 | Featured

The responsibility of raising millions of dollars each year through the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Annual Campaign is an effort that is undertaken by a small core of staff members and a larger, dedicated group of community leaders and volunteers.

Over a six-month, or sometimes longer, time span—after all the checks and cash donations have been deposited and credit card gifts totaled—it is time for the Federation to distribute funds to recipient agencies and organizations.

The process of allocating funds is equally, if not more, challenging than meeting the Campaign’s ambitious, annual fundraising goal (this year set at $4.6 million). Members of the two UJFT committees in charge of determining who gets allocations, and how much to allocate, meet regularly from March through June to review applications, ask questions and make the sometimes difficult decisions of distribution.

Led by experienced and professional community volunteers, including leaders from some of Tidewater’s largest beneficiary agencies, the committees overseeing allocations are the UJFT Israel & Overseas and UJFT Finance Committees.

“We take our responsibility very seriously,” says Linda Spindel, chair of the Israel & Overseas Committee. “Before we make our recommendations, we do thorough research and make sure everything we recommend is well vetted.”

Both the Israel & Overseas and Finance committees receive requests submitted via forms made available by the UJFT. They regularly review performance operations, budgets and read updates provided from organizations and constituent agencies already funded, and seek more information from new requests they receive.

Occasionally, members of the committees meet with visitors who present their requests for funding in person, as was the case this past April, when representatives from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) paid a special visit to the Tidewater Jewish community. The group included Arnon Mantver, director of JDC-Israel, Sandy Katz, executive director of JDC International Initiatives, Danny Pins, chief financial officer Africa & Asia and Special Projects JDC-Israel, Eli Bentata, JDCTevet Division for Young Adults, and a non-JDC visitor, Israeli Ran Nachum, who is the director/conductor at Kiryat Yam Music Conservatory.

Members of the Israel and Overseas Committee heard updates on last year’s Annual Campaign allocations to JDC programs, and discussed new Tidewater, JDC, and Israeli partnering opportunities. In particular, the JDC made inquiries and overtures for Tidewater to partner, or “twin,” with the seaside city of Kiryat Yam, in Israel, and to build a relationship among citizens of that city and Tidewater.

“They discussed with us an unmet need in their community, and we listened closely,” says Spindel. “We already support a World ORT program in a school in Kiryat Yam, which helps when we consider a partnership there, and we have, in the past, allocated funds for their Young Adult Center.

“When looking at allocations, we would like to engage as much of our community as possible—whether that’s HAT [the Hebrew Academy of Tidewater], our religious schools, or our UJFT Young Adult Division,” Spindel says. “One thing that struck me in the presentation about Kiryat Yam, was how their young adults have started realizing the value of their volunteerism. That speaks well to our Tidewater community—that they’re not just recipients, but that they’re using what we give them to develop their leadership.”

Arnon Mantver, who since his visit has retired as director, says that because of funds invested by JDC and the Israeli government, even a relatively small allocation can have a major impact on social policies, and the implementation of those social policies in Israel. The funding goes beyond talking and research, to actual action.

“American Jewry really benefits from a very effective Center that creates new realities In Israel, but if we don’t get the core money, we won’t be able to continue,” says Mantver. “Kiryat Yam is a classical Israeli city, which can be a fertilizing ground to new ideas, and a partnership between Tidewater and Israel would entail and include much more equality: not only that the Americans give and the Israelis take, but also that the Israelis have to give, too.

“We are in a new era,” says Mantver. “We have to share, and we have to have a new model. And the challenge for Tidewater and Kiryat Yam is really to be pioneers in pursuing such a model, and then maybe other communities will follow.”

Whether or not the Federation will allocate additional funds to Kiryat Yam in the coming year will be announced soon, after the Israel & Overseas committee makes its recommendations to the board of directors at its June meeting. The Finance committee, too, will make its recommendations during that session, and will advise the board about continuing, increasing or decreasing allocations to local organizations such as Jewish Family Service of Tidewater and the Simon Family JCC, Virginia organizations such as the Hillel at George Mason University (newly funded in 2013), and national organizations such as BBYO.

Miles Leon, UJFT president, says the value of the committees and their work is crucial to the Federation’s mission of improving Jewish lives in Tidewater and around the world.

“The allocations process is so important to get community input on where our money should be divided up, and where it will have the most impact,” says Leon. “The committee members put in a lot of thought, a lot of hours, and their recommendations are not done haphazardly.”

Once approved by the board, the UJFT begins the process of distributing funds. Two months later, in September, the process begins again, when fundraising for the 2015 Annual Campaign kicks off.

For a full list of last year’s allocations, visit Look for updates to the allocations list in the 2014 UJFT Annual Report, which will appear in the August 18 edition of the Jewish News. To hear more about how Tidewater’s funds have helped and can help JDC initiatives in Israel from Arnon Mantver, and ways your gifts make a difference, visit

by Laine Mednick Rutherford