Good news budget – no cuts to local agencies

Jack Hasen, President Federation CJA

Jack Hasen, President Federation CJA

by Jack Hasen, President Federation CJA

I am proud to share with you that on March 29, Federation CJA’s Board of Directors approved a balanced budget for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. The highlight of the budget is the fact that after two years of budget cuts to our constituent agencies, we were able to approve a flat budget for the agencies this year, not cutting our allocations locally. The success of the 2010 Combined Jewish Appeal Campaign, although a marginal increase over the previous campaign, provided us the opportunity to maintain local budgets without reduction. This budget means our continued investment in ensuring that we have a strong, efficient system that has the flexibility to meet ongoing as well as new needs.

Thanks to the generosity and the commitment of our donors, Federation CJA is allocating $32.2 million to our family of agencies and communal organizations in order to address the pressing needs of our community in areas from poverty relief to Jewish education to the fight against anti-Semitism, 73% of this sum is being used to address local needs, 20% will support needs in Israel, while the remainder fulfills our national responsibilities including advocacy.

It is a pleasure to announce that after weathering the economic crisis we are back after two years of reductions. We have worked with the agencies to become more efficient and do more with less. We are excited by all the new initiatives we support. Sending more kids to Jewish camps and schools, strengthening the quality of our schools, camps and synagogues through GenJ, sending 1,555 young Montrealers on Israel experiences, developing families’ Jewish identity on the West Island, and offering new programs to help the most vulnerable among us. We can all be proud of what we have achieved and have confidence that there is more to come. For example, since we began Le Café, it has already provided over 40,000 free meals and this year we will be opening this inspiring service one additional night per week.

Statistics don’t tell the whole story but they can speak loudly, when we remember that each statistic represents a Jewish member of our community whom we were able to help. For instance, last year, our human services agency Ometz provided services to over 6,600 individuals including 2,414 children and 2,400 families, and these numbers don’t include thousands more needy children receiving occupational therapy and speech screening or participating in prevention groups or receiving camp scholarships. I am being selective but I will speak at another time about all the people helped and inspired by our whole family of agencies.

Putting together this budget was challenging. Although our 2010 Combined Jewish Appeal campaign was up from previous years, we faced increased needs and commitments of about one million dollars.

I am grateful to our family of agencies for being full-fledged partners and for ensuring that this budget was, in every way, both information-driven, collaborative and transparent.Together, we were able to set, and adhere to, a series of guiding principles, including:

  • presenting a balanced budget;
  • respecting the fundamental communal priorities of serving the vulnerable and ensuring community vibrancy and identity;
  • ensuring stability and sustainability in the communal system by making fiscally responsible decisions that promote operational efficiencies and maximize impact.

At the same time, we recognized that we face challenges in terms of fostering Jewish identity that require a commitment in resources. Our community requires new programs and services and the budget had to address those needs.

Going forward, we will focus on implementing the recommendations of our Imagine 2020 strategic revisioning process and on taking actions that make sure that Jewish life in Montreal continues to be vibrant, rich, diverse, and a model for North America and beyond. At the same time we continue striving to improve the way in which we do business. This will include work to optimize our model for funding our agencies and strengthening Agency-Federation relationships, and ensuring that Jewish communal structures are efficient, effective, and sustainable.

I want to thank all of the lay leaders and professional staff from the agencies who participated in this year’s budget process. In particular, I wish to acknowledge the Executive Directors of our agencies, David Martz, Chair of the Community Planning and Allocations Committee, and Jonathan Bicher, Treasurer, along with their professional counterparts, Elizabeth Perez and Susan Szalpeter, and their teams at Federation CJA. Difficult choices were demanded, and taken, in the spirit of cooperation and partnership for the broader good of our Jewish community.

I think it is especially important to remember that the budget is not just a financial process. It is a tool to ensure that we will continue having a positive impact on people’s lives. Let’s never forget that all of our efforts are about helping the Jewish people, whether in Montreal, in Canada, in Israel, or around the world, and that we are here for one another, for today and for tomorrow.