We interrupt this Blog for a Post about an UJC "priority" that exemplifies the issues your Blogger has been hoping against hope would inspire the federation owners to (a) ask the important question "what the hell is going on here" and (b) its subset "isn't it time we took back the UJC from those who seem not to factor the federation owners into the policy-making/budgeting equation?" For this Post is all about the Israel Advocacy Initiative (the "IAI"); it is about UJC, its "priorities" and the shell game it has played with its Budget.
A little background. Forget for a moment whether the IAI has been or will be effective, and forget for a moment the question of whether it is appropriate that UJC delegated its advocacy for Israel to the JCPA through the IAI. Just as there is a critical need for a vital planful
UJC, there is a parallel critical need for a vital, planful IAI. In one of those hyperbolic Howard's Views on February 1, 2008, Rieger wrote: "IAI was created during the second intifada in 2004 when Israel was under siege physically and her public image was under attack in the media.
UJC and the JCPA established the IAI as an interim effort. The Second Lebanon War showed us that, in the world of Jewish vulnerability, nothing is ever episodic. So our Board took stock of what we we have achieved through IAI, assessed the threats and reviewed a variety of initiatives bolstering Israel's public image with opinion-makers, various religious groups and by strategically supporting communal advocacy.
Shortly, we will be presenting recommendations to the field for funding IAI on a more permanent basis. The cost will not be extensive, but the impact will be dramatic." (emphasis added)
Accept all of the above as true -- even though with long speeches on the subject at the Newport Beach Board conclave there was no time for real discussion or debate -- this presentation was followed by no process...none. There was no vote by the UJC Board to support a request for additional funding over and above dues; there was no process within the UJC Work Group, Task Force infrastructure. UJC "leaders" used a presentation to a small group of Board members at a California Retreat with no vote, followed by a presentation with no line-by-line itemization to its Executive Committee, as a mandate to assess/"ask" federations for hundreds of thousands of dollars per year over and above dues. Friends, is this how your UJC should work?
But the attempts to structure how to fund the IAI went forward only within a small group of UJC's leaders with no apparent input from UJC's owners whatsoever. Then, out of the blue, from the mountaintop on high came down a letter from Howard Rieger on May 6, 2008, three months after the Board Retreat to Federation Executives -- no discussion with the City-size groupings of Presidents and Executives (even though Budget discussions were taking place within these groupings at the same time) ...no external discussion with anyone beyond the Executive -- asking for, in my federation's case, $300,000 ... $300,000...over three years over and above dues to support the IAI. (How much are they asking from yours?) Chicago has the resources to pay and the enthusiasm for the IAI to do so...but what of the 158 other federations?
Initially, the IAI was funded from the Israel Emergency Campaign. When looking for this additional and significant funding my understanding from friends in the national agencies, is that UJC tried to squeeze funds from the National Alliance pool (which was created by the federations to fund the national agencies) -- and drained $80,000 from the only source of additional dollars for the funded national agencies (with no apparent consultation with them) for the IAI. UJC even went so far as to try to get money from the underfunded JCPA Budget. Turning back to the IEC for funding was to no avail as that Campaign had ended and UJC had yet to figure out how to fund the commitments to the victims of the Sderot terror when the IEC well was dry as a bone. The one place UJC did not look to...refused to look to...was its own 2009 budget. In point of fact, the Budget & Finance Committee, meeting two weeks ago in New York to consider the 2008-2009 Budget was not asked to examine funding for this "high priority" of UJC within the Budget.
So, the UJC Board will consider a reduced 2008-2009 Budget of $37,000,000 when it meets on May 27. Dues will be reduced by 8%. At one and the same time, UJC has an "ask" out to the Federations for IAI that would, if met, over and above dues eat up, as I compute it, a real portion of the federations' Dues savings going into the new UJC Budget year. Refining UJC's Mission indeed.
Way back in my "youth," I chaired our Chicago Federation's Jewish Education Committee. The JFMC then had a process in place for funding Jewish educational institutions called "program priority packages." We would fund core priority needs of the institutions and then fund schools' priorities to the extent of available funds according to the funding priorities of the institutions. One school, operating out of a derelict facility cited by the Chicago Building Department for Code violations, thinking itself smart and clever, listed as its lowest priorities -- fire extinguishers and sprinklers. We at federation had a very long talk with them; it didn't happen again. Now, we see this manipulation raised to the level of the national organization that we, the federations own, and to which we owe the obligation of demanding that it meet our highest hopes and expectations. Yet, we find in the IAI circumstance -- a critical priority of the federations essentially delegated away by UJC to the JCPA for which funds are now sought with no process, no coordination, and no consideration by the federations themselves.
It is almost impossible to conceive that the leadership of our national Jewish organization would behave in this brazen, imperious manner. Unless, of course, you know them