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The Adaptation Process of Jewish Philanthropies to Changing Environments: The Case of the UJA-Federation of New York Since 1990

Abstract

This paper considers the process of organizational adaptation that took place at the UJA-Federation of New York (UJAFED) between 1990 and 2014. It aims to enhance theoretical understanding about the process of adaptation by philanthropic organizations to their changing environments, the strategies they develop to cope with these changes, and the implications of these changes. Findings demonstrate that over the last two decades, the UJAFED has operated in turbulent and unstable environments, characterized by a reduction in resources and increasing needs in the communities. These changes have led UJAFED to establish a new domain for its activities that prioritize its mission of Jewish continuity by funding services and programs that emphasize Jewish identity, education, and culture. In this new domain, UJAFED has expanded activities to reach diversified client populations in New York and in Israel. The development of a new domain of activity has had implications for UJAFED’s traditional and new roles, since it has influenced its operating strategies, reshaped its mission-driven goals, and changed UJAFED’s relationships with its peer organizations and partners.

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Notes

  1. Council of Jewish Federations, Large City Presidents and Executives, Current and future challenges to federations. September 3, 1991 (American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS), Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 60/Folder 5).

  2. Reinventing UJA-Federation: Raising funds for the implementation of Jewish values (American Jewish Historical Society–AJHS, September 1996): Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 6/Folder 33).

  3. Alan Jaffe on the Jewish Continuity Commission as a designated organization. Minutes of the Board, March 18, 1993, (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 2/Folder 1).

  4. Summary of the Proposed UJA-Federation Strategic Plan, April 1993 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 2/Folder 1).

  5. Ibid. Ukeles Associates Inc., First fruit: An assessment of year one of the Jewish continuity grant program, January 1996 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 7/Folder 15).

  6. Letter from John Ruskay to Gary Tobin, August 16, 1994, UJA Federation, New York (AJHS, Subgroup VI, I-433/Box 8/Folder 34).

  7. Ibid.

  8. Barry Shrage, Federation/Agency Relations, Large City Federations Executives Winter Institute, March 18–22, 1990, Palm Springs, California (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 6/Folder 1).

  9. Kehillah Team strategic report, August 17, 1997 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 7/Folder 4).

  10. Minutes of the Board meeting, April 29, 1993 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 2/Folder 1).

  11. Ibid.

  12. Direct Perspectives, UJA-Federation Donor Segment Profiles: Findings Summary, August 22, 1995 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 1/Folder 16); Proposal to B. and L. Tisch, draft, March 8, 1996 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 8/Folder 1).

  13. D. Sacks and S. Solender to the UJA-Federation community, Overseas Affairs Division, January 29, 1990 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 6/Folder 1).

  14. Interim Economic Development Action Plan, October 10, 1991 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 1/Folder 11).

  15. Stephen Solender, UJA-Federation participation in fundraising for religious in Israel. December 30, 1997 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 2/Folder 7); J. Solomon, July 8, 1997 (AJHS, Subgroup V: Oral History Project). UJA-Federation of New York Annual Report, 1990–1991, p. 16. Executive Committee meeting minutes, December 13, 1990 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 1/Folder 14). Executive Committee meeting minutes, June 15, 1998 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 2/Folder 7).

  16. Stephen Solender, Jeffrey Solomon and Adam Kahan, Shaping a Jewish community renaissance for the 21st century, draft, June of 1995 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 1/Folder 16).

  17. Minutes of the Executive Committee, October 3, 1995 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 2/Folder 1).

  18. Minutes of the Executive Committee, October 15, 1998 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 2/Folder 8).

  19. Minutes of the Board meeting, September 17, 1998 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 5/Folder 5). Minutes of the Board meeting, December 1, 1994 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 2/Folder 3); Jeff Solomon, June 25, 1997, United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York Collection (AJHS, Subgroup V: Oral History Project); Sacks and Solender to the UJA-Federation community, Overseas Affairs Division, January 29, 1990 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 6/Folder 1).

  20. Lee Lowell to the “Management Committee, Summary of September 29th Meeting,” October 11, 1994, (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 1/Folder 12).

  21. Executive Committee meeting minutes, July 13, 1995 (AJHS, Subgroup VI; I-433/Box 1/Folder 15).

  22. Stephen Solender (AJHS, Subgroup V: Oral History Project).

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Correspondence to Hanna Shaul Bar Nissim PhD.

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The author would like to thank Prof. Hillel Schmid and Prof. Eleanor Brilliant for their valuable comments and suggestions for this paper. The author would also like to thank the anonymous reviewers and the editor for their helpful and constructive comments that greatly contributed to improving the final version of the paper.

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Shaul Bar Nissim, H. The Adaptation Process of Jewish Philanthropies to Changing Environments: The Case of the UJA-Federation of New York Since 1990. Cont Jewry 38, 79–105 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12397-017-9235-4

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Keywords

  • Jewish federations
  • Philanthropy
  • UJA-Federation of New York
  • Jewish organizations
  • Jewish community of New York
  • Federation-synagogues relations
  • Domain creation