For the first time, two Jewish umbrella organizations are combining forces across Tampa Bay for a major fundraising effort.
The Jewish Federation of Pinellas and Pasco Counties and the Tampa Jewish Federation will hold a joint kickoff program of their annual campaigns today.
Historically, the organizations have cooperated on small programs and held their fundraising campaigns separately, but the current economic climate has encouraged change, said Bonnie Friedman, executive director of the Pinellas-Pasco group.
"Especially when everyone is doing more with less, this is our way of showing we can do that," Friedman said.
"We've always wanted to bring both communities together, and this event made a lot of sense, said Emilie Kuperman, director of development for the Tampa Jewish Federation. "We've shared the speaker. We've shared the invitation costs. We've shared the venue costs."
Each organization, though, will take separate pledges for its work.
New this year, as well, is a heightened effort to reach out to churches. Invitations have gone out primarily to evangelical congregations, traditionally strong supporters of the state of Israel.
"For this event, we reached out directly to over 100 churches in Hillsborough County," Kuperman said.
Stuart Berger, director of development for the Jewish Federation of Pinellas and Pasco, sent an e-mail blast to more than 100 Pinellas churches and hand-delivered fliers to a few of the largest ones.
Organizers say that their keynote speaker, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christian and Jews, offers special appeal to an interfaith gathering.
"He not only speaks on behalf of Jewish organizations, he is very much in demand as someone who builds bridges," Friedman said.
Money raised will help local people and those abroad, including ones affected by catastrophes.
The Tampa Jewish Federation is doing well, even as many nonprofits are struggling. "Our donations have been very strong over the past few years and in our most recent campaign, which ended in June, we saw an increase of 3.7 percent," Kuperman said.
The Pinellas and Pasco organization, though, is weathering a 15 percent drop in donations, forcing it to make cuts "straight across the board," Friedman said.
Waveney Ann Moore can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2283.