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End of an era – Danbury Federation shuts its doors

The Danbury Federation’s decision to close began with a leadership crisis. The last two presidents had been rabbis because the organization was not able to find laypeople to take the position. There had been no fundraising chair for the past three years. Even so, at the end of 2013, the board made the decision to continue at least one more year without either of those offices being filled.

Four past presidents (Rabbi Jon Haddon, Dr. Alvin Goldman, Laurie Kilchevsy, and Jean Haddon) who were serving on the board at the time agreed to share the job. Jean Haddon was the president for the final quarter of the year, and by that time the group had to face the fact that there was not only a tremendous leadership crisis but also the campaign was falling precipitously each year. Something had to be done.

The good news was that there was about $200,000 put aside in various funds.

Those funds could have kept the local chapter going for two or three more years, but many board members felt uncomfortable about using those funds as allocations and in the meantime, having to solicit from the community to cover overhead. Given these circumstances, the board voted that it was time to close the doors.

According to Jean Haddon, “We did not feel that we were disappearing but rather reinventing ourselves by closing our local high-overhead operation and becoming part of something larger. Nor did we feel that our inability to continue was a failure on the part of our community. My husband, Rabbi Jon Haddon, had recently returned from the JFNA (Jewish Federations of North America) General Assembly and reported that we are certainly not alone: all Federations our size are merging and having trouble supporting themselves and raising enough money for allocations, while the big cities and areas are doing just fine. Once the decision was made, the next step was the rewarding one – deciding how to disperse the available allocation funds.”

Jewish Family Services was a committee of the Federation and the board members all felt that it was one of the most important things they were offering the community. So one of their first priorities was to find a home for JFS. United Jewish Center in Danbury donated housing and some funding and the board gave JFS an allocation of $30,000 to support the agency for three years.

Another large percentage of the available dollars went to the JFNA Network Communities. And, $5,000 was allocated to each of the eight local temples. The board felt that the temples were all struggling financially, and their members have been our supporters, the people whom we will be going back to when another Federation comes in to serve our community.

Allocations were also made to the local food pantry and to a number of state and national organizations that have been helpful to the Federation.

Jean Haddon says, “The majority of our board and membership look at the closing as the next step in an ongoing process. Our community looks forward to once again participating in the wonderful work of the Jewish Federation.” n

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