We have recently begun processing several hundred boxes in the Community Services Division. This division at Federation was organized into the same Functional Groups as the Budget Department’s files, which have been noted in previous posts. Community Services staff communicated directly with Federation’s agencies, working closely with them on appropriate programming for the agency’s mission, on annual budgets and in long-term planning for future community needs.
Some issues that Federation tackled involved professional staff from many of the functional groups – when public policy changes would affect funding for school lunches, for example, community centers and day camps might have to increase funding meals for children. Or changes in Medicare rulings could affect health insurance coverage for agencies and their clients in hospitals as well as in nursing homes.
Certain staff members specialized in specific geographic locations – Suffolk County, the Bronx, the Upper West Side of Manhattan, or Greater Coney Island. One initiative in the 1970s was to support or encourage the creation of Jewish Community Councils in neighborhoods throughout Federation’s reach. Federation created a part-time staff position within Community Services, in a department called Community Organization, which handled the Jewish Community Council program (among others). Arnold Eisen filled this role at the same time he held other positions at Federation, including working closely with Community Centers and with the Comprehensive Health Planning Agency (CHPA) program.
Although it seems that the creation and support of Jewish Community Councils in Jewish communities around New York was a logical area of involvement for Federation, at least one member of the staff, Herman Sainer, had his doubts about the Councils.
Herman L. Sainer (1909-2002) had succeeded Graenum Berger as Federation’s Consultant on Camping, serving in that position from 1969 through 1973. Previously, he was the director of Cejwin Camps, established by the Central Jewish Institute in New York City shortly after World War I, in Port Jervis, New York.
In a memo to Sanford Solender dated June 12, 1972, Sainer reiterates his misgivings to Solender that he had initially voiced at a meeting the previous Friday: “I am now deeply troubled by even more significant considerations. Shall we not be engaged in furthering the polarization of ethnic groups … ?” He continues, “There must be some other, better road to Utopia: I should prefer an honest, caring central city government which would manage a better distribution of this-worldly favors among all its poverty-stricken citizenry.”
Sainer’s memorandum initially caught my eye because of the beautiful quote with which he begins. I had to look it up to learn it was from Wordsworth’s poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud“; he begins: “I have been reviewing in my ‘inward eye which is the bliss of solitude’ the prolonged discussion we held …”
Federation meetings may have been cacophonous and divisive in order to reach ultimate consensus; from this memo it appears that Herman Sainer may have had a different style, and did his best thinking alone.