Happy 2009?


Two weeks ago, Rabbi Kerry Olitzky and Levi Fishman of the Jewish Outreach Institute wrote an op-ed for The Jewish Week about how 2008 was a year of advances in the field of outreach. 2008 may have been a good year for outreach, but 2009 looks like it could be far different.

The big difference in 2009 will be funding–or rather, the lack of it. A number of financial supporters of outreach have been hurt by Bernard Madoff’s $50 billion investment fraud. One small foundation that focused on engaging the unaffiliated in Boston’s North Shore closed down in mid-December; more recently, the Picower Foundation, a much larger foundation that funded both us and JOI, closed its doors after its nearly billion-dollar endowment was wiped out. Because of the complexities of the investments involved, the full impact of the scandal on the Jewish non-profit world has yet to be determined.

Last night, on NECN (New England Cable News), our CEO, Ed Case, spoke about the impact of the Madoff scandal on IFF’s fortunes, and Jewish non-profits in general:
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While we were hurt by the Madoff mess, we will still survive, and continue to offer new resources. But I can’t help but worry about what happens to all the city-based outreach programs that receive their funding from local federations that have yet to set their budgets for the next fiscal year. In years past, outreach programs have often been among the first victims of local budget cuts.

In outreach, as in investments, past results are not a guarantee of future success.

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