Stephen Solender, who oversaw the successful 1986 merger of the United Jewish Appeal and Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, is being asked to do the same thing on a national scale.
Solender, the executive vice president of UJA-Federation, was tapped this week to assume the professional helm of the new national entity for the Jewish community's central fund-raising organization, the United Jewish Communities. But it is to be for no longer than six months while the search for a president continues, and while Solender maintains his current post as well.
Gitel D., a college graduate, was living an upper-middle-class life in an apartment on Central Park West. Married to a professional with a doctorate, she did volunteer work for UJA-Federation, joining its Business and Professional Women's Division and sitting on its government relations committee.
"Then my life took a detour," she said.
As she sat down for lunch at a Midtown restaurant, Sandy Cahn set her cell phone on the table. Within minutes, a client was calling. Minutes later, the phone rang regarding an appointment later that day at UJA-Federation.
Cahn, 50, who in July will become the first full-time working woman to head UJA-Federation's Women's Campaign, is already juggling her workload. She is not only vice president of sales for The Weeks, Lerman Co., an office supply and furniture company in Maspeth, Queens, but chair of the Women's Campaign in Manhattan, where she lives.
Despite an economic downturn and the attacks on the World Trade Center that virtually halted fund raising by UJA-Federation for nearly three months, the organization announced it raised a record $252 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30.
"These are extraordinary results," said John Ruskay, UJA-Federation's executive vice president. "A year ago the economy was weak and many of our senior volunteer leaders were predicting a huge decrease in giving. Some feared [the annual campaign] would be down as much as 15 to 20 percent."
UJA-Federation of New York expects the economic crisis here to deepen in 2009 and is gearing up in various ways to provide more social services for those in need of help, including dipping into its reserve funds if necessary.
Fewer people gave more money to UJA-Federation of New York in the fiscal year that ended June 30.
Contributions reached a record $231 million even though the number of givers to the campaign, 69,600, was the lowest in recent memory. Last year there were 71,600 donors, down from 79,000 the previous year.
Of the money raised, $140 million was donated to the unrestricted annual campaign: an increase of nearly $9 million from two years ago.
It was a moment that almost perfectly defined this week’s United Jewish Appeal young leadership conference in Washington. In one section of the vast Washington Hilton ballroom, hundreds of young Jews were intently listening as special U.S. peace envoy Dennis Ross and Israeli Ambassador Eliahu Ben-Elissar gave sharply differing views of the current Israeli-Palestinian stalemate.