Simon Family JCC and United Jewish Federation of Tidewater seize the opportunity to merge

by | Jun 10, 2016 | Featured

Successful nonprofits must change with the times. And so, to remain vital to their communities, Jewish organizations across the nation are making strategic structural moves. In the Tidewater Jewish community, two organizations with a closely aligned vision, the Simon Family Jewish Community Center and the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater, are doing the same, resulting in a merger. The merger is slated to be complete in time for the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, 2016.

“The genesis for this merger,” according to Marty Einhorn, JCC president, “began when JCC leadership approached the Federation in late 2015 about combining operations.” A task force was then formed of community leaders from both organizations and a decision was made to move forward with consolidation.

“The merger makes so much common sense,” says Jay Klebanoff, UJFT president. “After all, since moving to the Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus of the Tidewater Jewish Community in 2004, both organizations have shared the same building, the same lobby, the same offices and meeting rooms. Plus, in some cases, we’ve also shared the same board members, financial resources and even employees.”

The “transition team” worked through months of careful thought and planning to work out the details of the newly combined organization. A decision was made to create seven departments—Development, Finance, Marketing, Human Resources, Wellness, Children, Family & Jewish Education and Programming with a department head for each functional area. The task force also created the Chief Operating Officer position to assist the CEO and provide depth of senior management.

Members of the Transition Team are Marty Einhorn, immediate past JCC president; Andrew Fink, JCC board member; Harry Graber, UJFT CEO; Jay Klebanoff, UJFT president; David Leon, prospective JCC president; Sandra Porter Leon, former JCC president; Art Sandler, UJFT board member; Terri Sarfan, former JCC president; and John Strelitz, UJFT president-elect. This group met recently for a round table discussion.

Jewish News: Why Merge?
John Strelitz: The combination of the JCC and the Federation is a natural process. The two organizations have shared physical space for many years and now we are utilizing the strengths of both to create a better sustainable model. This will allow the community to raise funds through many different avenues to appeal to diverse interests throughout our community. As incoming president, I am excited to lead our new, better, stronger organization into the future.

Jewish News: What spurred the merger?
David Leon: There is a tremendous overlap in programming and development between the JCC and UJFT, and we saw a benefit in combining the staff, operations and programming to create something bigger than the two running separately.

Our ultimate goal is to bring more people to the Campus, make people feel more involved and connected to the Campus and raise more dollars to support all the good both agencies do. Having a combined organization that can do more with less overlap is a good thing.

The departure in January of Scott Katz, JCC executive director, and the pending retirement in 2018 of UJFT CEO Harry Graber, seemed to be a rare opportunity to hire a new CEO and COO to take the organizations to a new level.

Jewish News: What opportunities does this merger present?
Jay Klebanoff: We’ll see better coordination of events and programming so there’s less overlap. Better-run events and programs will, hopefully, bring more people to the Campus. The more people we can touch, the better off we are.

In addition, there will be more sponsorship opportunities, as well as improved and efficient coordination of our fundraising efforts.

Jewish News: What will stay the same?
Marty Einhorn: We will maintain the separate branding associated with the Simon Family Jewish Community Center, the Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus and the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

The JCC will continue to provide quality programming such as Camp JCC, Kids Connection, the Lee and Bernard* Jaffe Family Book Fair, the Festival of Jewish Film, Celebrate Israel, Adult Education, etc.

The UJFT will continue to be the primary fundraising agency through its annual campaign. It will also continue to sponsor its legacy programs such as the Holocaust Commission, the Community Relations Council, Jewish News, Israel and Overseas, etc.

Jewish News: What’s changing?
David Leon: From the outside public’s view, there really shouldn’t be any changes. As Marty said, we’re keeping the brands. These organizations have decades of history, and we recognize the value there.

What we’re really doing is reorganizing the back office operations so that we have shared resources and programming, spending our donor’s dollars more efficiently.

Jewish News: What is taking place now on the Campus?
Sandra Porter Leon: What’s going on behind the scenes is very exciting. There is a renewed energy among department heads, with open lines of communication and consolidated programing, which will result in improvements in the quality and quantity of programming on Campus, from Cultural Arts to CRC to Children and Family. Stay tuned for an exciting, year long, integrated campus program focusing on art, food and politics, ensuring an opportunity for everyone to connect to Israel.

Jewish News: Which JCCs/Federations were considered for inspiration when crafting this merger?
Harry Graber: We looked at communities that had successfully merged and were of a similar size, such as the Jewish Community of Louisville, which merged five years ago. We also contacted communities that had more recently completed the process, such as Austin.

Simply discussing the process, what worked and what didn’t gave us a wealth of knowledge to pull from as we planned for our own merger. In addition, these communities helped us develop our new organizational chart and committee structure that will play major roles in our success.

Jewish News: Can you tell us about the board structure and what it will look like?
Terri Sarfan: Each individual who sits on either the UJFT or SFJJ board will be offered a position on the newly established board of directors for a three-year term. The important factor here is that the committee structure will change and be aligned with the seven departments mentioned above. We are looking to have strong working committees, enabling the board to take a more strategic role in the community.

Jewish News: How will this merger impact the future of the Tidewater Jewish community?
Art Sandler: The community leadership came together to make our future better through a dynamic and creative process. We now are able to fully integrate what we offer.

Marty Einhorn: With our shared resources and programming opportunities, we hope our community’s involvement will be more robust, stimulating and welcoming to everyone throughout Tidewater.