Jake Farber definitely has his work cut out for him.
The longtime, active supporter of L.A.'s Jewish community this week starts his two-year term as the new chairman of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
"I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Jewish community and in the community-at-large to live up to the Jewish people's biblical mandate of tikkun olam -- making the world a better place," Farber said.
An upbeat statement for these tumultuous times, as The Federation's standing within the L.A. Jewish community has hit turbulence that included layoffs and the near shutdown of the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Los Angeles (JCCGLA).
"We have a very good working relationship now with the JCCs," Farber said. "And we're going to do our best to help their cause."
Farber's immediate past predecessor, outgoing Federation Chair Todd Morgan, has confidence in Farber's leadership abilities.
"Jake is always going to do the right thing," Morgan said. "He's got a very large heart." (See box below.)
One of Morgan's main objectives had been to bring down the average age of Federation board members and to involve more young professionals in the decision-making process. Farber wants to continue that.
"We've appointed more young people to the board," Farber said, adding that they have "something planned in terms of new leadership," though he would not divulge details.
Farber knows firsthand the importance of introducing Jews to philanthropy at an early age. He himself was raised with a sense of tikkun olam. Farber's father died when he was 8, and despite their poverty, his mother, a seamstress, emphasized the importance of raising charity dollars in a blue-and-white tzedakah box.
As a teen at L.A.'s Roosevelt High School, Farber delivered newspapers and found other odd jobs to help support the family. After serving in World War II, he enrolled at USC, where he graduated in 1950 with an degree in accounting.
Farber joined his father-in-law's metal recycling firm, Alpert and Alpert Iron and Metal, where he became president in 1980 and board chairman in 1996. In the 1960s, Farber chaired The Federation's Machinery and Metals Division. He has served as a Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance board member, and has been a major contributor to the recently constructed sports and youth complex at the Bernard Milken Campus in West Hills.
Farber has also chaired Camp Ramah and currently serves on the board and executive committee of the University of Judaism. He is also a board member of the Anti-Defamation League.
"We both have been involved in [Federation] activities since it's been knocking on doors," said Farber's wife, Janet, who, for the past 2 1/2 years, has served as president of the Bureau of Jewish Education, a Federation beneficiary agency. Since 1960, the Farbers, who reside in Sherman Oaks, have belonged to Adat Ari El Synagogue in Valley Village, where they helped lead the synagogue's drive to establish a day school.
Several years ago, Farber told The Journal that he could not reconcile why The Federation, over the past few years, could only muster an annual general campaign in the $40 million range.
"We should be able to raise it to $50 million," Farber said at the time. He still believes this is true.
"We're the second largest Jewish community in the United States," Farber said, "and we don't rank second in the amount of money we collect. The city of Chicago raises $60 million. We should and we will try to get to that point."
Farber believes that more fundraising needs to be done in the entertainment industry and among the unaffiliated philanthropists within the Jewish community. "We have to get out the word who we are and what we do," Farber said.
Another of his goals for The Federation's fund raising is the overseas campaign. "Janet and I have been to Israel more than 30 times," Farber said, "so we have a very strong connection there."
For now, finding resolution for the JCCGLA crisis will remain his immediate top priority: "I didn't expect to come in under these conditions that we have now," Farber said, "but you know what, these problems will all be solved. We have a tremendous staff at The Federation, lay leaders who give a lot of their time. I'm going to enjoy it. I'm looking forward to the next two years."