Federation downsizes, lays off 13 people

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. Photo by Geoffrey Melada

Updated July 23, 7:32 p.m.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington announced Wednesday that due to the impact of the global pandemic and resulting economic crisis that altered the needs of the Jewish community, it was forced to consolidate 21 positions, which will result in the laying off 13 employees.

Those who lost their jobs were told July 22.

“The challenges we had four months ago are different now,” Federation CEO Gill Preuss told WJW. First, “the pandemic has changed our work. Our building is basically closed,” as are the Jewish community center buildings in Rockville, Northern Virginia and the District.


These changes forced the Federation to focus on needs that have arisen, for both the Jewish agencies involved in human services and individuals, some who find themselves without a job and not enough money to cover the basic necessities.

To assist with these needs, it is important for The Federation “to decrease its own budget overall” so that more money will be available for those in need, Preuss said.

Also, Preuss said, “There is uncertainty about the future.” No one knows how bad the recession will be, how long it will last and what the stock market will do during the next few years.

“All these factors together led us to this decision” to lay off staff, Preuss said.

Donations have been strong, he said, noting that The Federation has raised $4 million through its emergency response efforts. Still, he said, donations could drop and needs could increase at a moment’s notice over the next two to four years.

“So far, the campaign has been going fine. Those who still do have the means to give have been extremely generous,” he said.

The restructuring and layoffs will ensure that the Federation will have enough money during the next few years to help individuals and families in need, ensure that Jewish agencies, camps and schools remain strong and also continue making sure synagogues and other organizations are safe from terrorism and vandalism, Preuss said.

Preuss estimated that about 1,000 people who had never turned to the Jewish community before, now need to. There has been an exponential increase in community members seeking interest-free loans and cash and food assistance.

If unemployment and other benefits decrease, Preuss expects the number of needy people to grow.

The Federation is preparing now to make sure it will be there to help those who need it and also to provide scholarships so everyone who wants to can participate in Jewish life, he said.

Also hard hit are the Jewish camps, synagogues and JCCs that were forced to shutter. They have been meeting some of the needs of the Jewish community through virtual programs and services. Revenues at some of these organizations are down 90 percent, he said.

Vital Jewish agencies face at least a projected $17.5 million in budget shortfalls over the next three to four years due to lost revenue coupled with increased costs.

It is important for The Federation to have enough resources “so that these critical organizations don’t go under,” he said. “We can’t let the pandemic determine the future of our Jewish community.”

Area Jewish agencies now receive the same funding they have been. This summer, Federation staff will be deciding what the allocations will be for the rest of the fiscal year, he said.

“Now we will do a full review of quarters two through four,” he said. One goal is to see what has been working during these past four months and what has not, he said, and then work from there.











The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington announced Wednesday that due to the impact of the global pandemic and resulting economic crisis, it consolidated 21 positions, resulting in the layoff of 13 employees.

According to details in a letter signed by Federation CEO Gil Preuss and President Mark Levitt, “restructuring now is one of many carefully considered steps we are taking to ensure long-term capacity to deliver on our work.”

Jewish agencies are facing a projected $17.5 million in budget shortfalls over the next three to four years combined with increased expenses including people seeking free loans, cash and food assistance, according to the letter.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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