The Synagogue-Federation Partnership

Spotlight on Beth Israel Judea

Five years ago, Beth Israel Judea of San Francisco was in a state of crisis. Deborah Schweizer, the current co-president, recalls, “We were in a six-figure deficit, our membership was declining; we had once been a congregation of over 400 family units and we declined to just under 200.”

It was at this time that Beth Israel Judea was approached by the Federation to participate in its then-nascent Synagogue-Federation Partnership. “The Federation reached out to synagogues and gave everyone a choice of programming or financial consultants,” explained current Rabbi Danny Gottlieb. “Our folks chose financial consultancy because we were experiencing some financial hardship.”

Deborah Schweizer

The Federation connected Beth Israel Judea with a financial consultant, Stewart Bogen, who worked with them for two years to “institutionalize a culture of asking and giving and supporting the synagogue philanthropically,” in Deborah’s words. She noted that “Stewart came in and met with the task force that we had formed, as well as our board, and helped us figure out best practices in communicating the mitzvah of supporting your synagogue.”

Five years after beginning their work with Stewart, Beth Israel Judea is financially back in the black.

In pursuing their fundraising campaign, however, Deborah reflected that Beth Israel Judea soon realized that, “Key to any fundraising endeavor is to have your community feel more engaged and participating, and that’s what drives giving. We realized that we kept saying, please help, please volunteer, but we didn’t have the infrastructure to support it.”

Rabbi Gottlieb

Rabbi Gottlieb further explained that, “We had identified a need to change the culture of the congregation in terms of professional and lay leadership. The congregation had, for many years, been a congregation that was run by the professionals, and the board members were support people for the professionals who ran the congregation and its programming. And that served the congregation well for many years but, with the change in demographics and the reduction in the size of the membership over a period of years, we couldn’t sustain that model. We had hit the 200 family size of congregations, where in order to be successful you have to have a members-driven leadership in which the professionals support the board members and volunteers who are running the congregation, instead of the other way around. So we knew we had to switch to a model in which the lay leaders took responsibility for running the congregation and the staff would be the resources to support that effort.”

So, in the summer of 2014, when the Federation offered a second round of opportunities to work with consultants through the Synagogue-Federation Partnership, Beth Israel Judea knew it wanted to work on engagement and new leadership structures.

The Federation connected Beth Israel Judea with consultant Jenni Mangel, who worked with them to “figure out a way to shift the organizational structure from a very hierarchical one, where very few people hold a lot of the information and influence and ability to make things happen, into a more distributed model of leadership, where more people hold the knowledge and more people hold the ability to make things happen,” noted Jenni.

Jenni Mangel

Jenni explained that her work with Beth Israel Judea took the form of working with “a core task force of four to six people plus the rabbi. They have worked with me very carefully to develop their plan and vision and how they’re going to move things forward. They then expanded the work out to involve the board of directors, so we did a couple different board retreats to help them think about the organizational structure and how people can work together and share the responsibility of running the community. Just this summer, they launched a community-wide listening session that will feed into whatever happens next.”

Rabbi Gottlieb emphasized that “Jenni is an excellent facilitator and consultant who really understood the nature of the congregation, the goals, helped us identify our strengths, helped to shape the leadership model that we had been working toward so it would be most effective.”

“The relationship between the Federation and the synagogues here in San Francisco is unparalleled,” Rabbi Gottlieb continued. “The support that the Federation has provided to our synagogue has really been essential in strengthening and maintaining the success of the synagogue. So I’m very appreciate of the Federation, and especially this Synagogue-Federation Partnership.”

To learn more about the Synagogue-Federation Partnership, visit our website or contact Rabbi Marvin Goodman at or 415.512.2660.


October 01, 2015


Noa Silver