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Merger of 2 New Jersey Jewish federations is largest in history

The merger of two New Jersey Jewish federations, the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey and United Jewish Communities of MetroWest, was a nearly unanimous decision. But as one member of the smaller organization aptly described it, the merger was also something of a leap of faith.

The union of the two groups is the largest of its kind in history. Executives of the newly formed Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ hope that combining fundraising efforts, philanthropy and social services will allow them to better serve a growing population in Union, Essex, Morris and Sussex counties, along with parts of Somerset.

The merger was prompted in part by the economy, but leaders of both groups say combining resources makes sense for other reasons. The groups were already collaborating on a number of social service programs and both have relationships with sister cities in Israel. The chairman of negotiations for the larger of the two federations said the groups were offering many of the same services, but in different areas. He said joining together will allow both groups to have a much bigger community impact.

But as with all mergers, this one wasn’t without concerns, particularly from the smaller federation. The Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey served a population of 35,000 people, while the United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ’s population hovered around 90,000. Some from Central expressed worry that they would lose their identity, and that being the smaller of the two groups posed a risk of having a smaller voice in the new federation. Furthermore, the leaders of the new federation say some redundancy layoffs are likely, a downside of most mergers.

The merger coordinator for Central acknowledged that the organization could become “diluted” to some extent, but remaining independent would have resulted in increasing economic hardship and struggles to raise funds, and maintaining all of its services would have become difficult. The tradeoff of the merger is an ability to invest in a bigger way than ever before, he said.

As for what kind of voice Central will have, coordinators from both groups say the new board and governance structure has been designed to give Central a strong voice. Central’s executive vice president will act as the Jewish Federation of MetroWest’s new executive director.

Only time will tell whether the merger is a success, but the strong support from both groups is definitely a positive sign.

Source: New Jersey Jewish News, “Merger is official after Central federation vote,” Elaine Durbach, June 6, 2012

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