Bracing for Cuts, Federations Hold Tongue on Taxes

As 'Fiscal Cliff' Looms, Worries About Social Service Spending

Cuts Looming: Jerry Silverman, chief of the Jewish federations umbrella group, is staying out of the fight over higher taxes for the wealthiest Americans.
ROBERT A. CUMINS/JFNA
Cuts Looming: Jerry Silverman, chief of the Jewish federations umbrella group, is staying out of the fight over higher taxes for the wealthiest Americans.

By Nathan Guttman

Published November 16, 2012, issue of November 23, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

In 2002, after the Bush administration and Congress approved legislation cutting marginal taxes for 10 years, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a policy organization affiliated with the JFNA, passed a resolution calling on lawmakers to let the cuts expire when that period ended. This would return tax levels to the higher marginal rates in force during the Clinton administration. Under heavy pressure from major donors, JCPA did not repeat the call and has since refrained from making any public statements regarding tax policy.

Similarly, the federation system sat out the debate over Obama’s Affordable Care Act and did not provide lawmakers and communal leaders with a clear view of the Jewish federation system’s opinion on health care reform as a whole, despite the fact that universal health care had been a key issue for local community relations councils for decades.

In July 2011, when federation officials met on Capitol Hill with a group of Democratic senators during last year’s fight over tax and budget cuts, the senators complained angrily when the federation leaders pleaded with them to protect social services. According to JTA, Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Ben Cardin of Maryland — both Jews with deep personal roots in their home communities — urged JFNA board chair Kathy Manning to help them help JFNA by lobbying against an across-the-board extension of the tax cuts that were about to expire. Continuation of the tax cuts, they explained, would require deeper cuts in government social service spending to make up for the lost revenue. But federation officials declined to take a stand.

In the current discussion, federations are taking on only one relatively small tax issue: a proposal to put a cap on charitable and other tax deductions. Federation officials fear this will lead federation donors to decrease their giving. “This is our big red line,” said William Daroff, JFNA’s vice president for public policy. Daroff added that JFNA recognizes “that there will be cuts” to services but said the group’s advocacy staff has already began talks with White House and Congress staffers to ensure that any such measures “should not disproportionately fall on vulnerable populations.”

JFNA’s annual Jewish Community Budget Letter, which presents lawmakers with the community’s reactions to budget proposals, is currently in preparation. In recent years, the letter focused on the need to maintain foreign aid to Israel, keep charitable tax deductions in place and avoid cuts to social services.

“It is a shame they are only willing to talk about the money-outside and not about revenue and justice of the tax system,” said Hadar Susskind, director of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, a progressive Jewish organization.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.