Sunday, February 22, 2009


In the last edition of The Jewish Week, Walter Ruby had an interesting article on the evolution of HIAS from an organization whose primary focus was immigrant aid to Jews to the expenditure of over 80% of its funds on immigant aid, often in situ, for non-Jews, the latter an expression of our Jewish values. I was fascinated by Howard Rieger's statement of unconditional, unequivocal support for HIAS' work, the kind of endorsement never heard by, for example, JAFI or JDC. HIAS receives $700,000 in federation financial support through UJC processes.

As JAFI struggles under the burden of mounting deficits and reduced federation support, UJC, among other things, has engaged lawyers in Israel and the United States to confirm the quality of UIA's monitoring of JAFI's application of federation allocations (that quality was confirmed and extolled not that you have ever heard that from UJC), suggested that core allocations to JAFI and JDC were "relics" of another age and questioned whether the federation-nominated representatives to the UIA Board and to Committees and the Board of JAFI truly represent the federations who recommended them. In so doing, UJC's leaders have undermined the federations' allocations processes as if that was their intent.

So, HIAS has UJC's leaders' support, JAFI and JDC not so much. Why, you might ask? (In fact, the question "why UJC" might be equally appropriate.) Well, for starters, this UJC leadership is bound and determined to establish an alternative charitable "product" in Israel -- in fact, it is desperate to do so. Relationships with Sheatufim and Zionism 2000 without an infusion of UJC cash have been relatively meaningless -- UJC is looking for a start-up that it can control. Can't control JAFI; can't control JDC -- and to these "leaders" there is a constant need to deprecate that which they can't control. As UJC continues to lose touch with the Vision and Mission of the merger, and further disengages from its federation owners, it has also lost all sense of reality.

I have always been proud of the work of HIAS, an organization on whose Board I was privileged to serve when its work was focused primarily on assistance to Jews. My pride today is mitigated by the reality of where HIAS has been forced to almost exclusively focus by the world Jewish circumstance today. While The Jewish Week's reporter, Walter Ruby, raised the right questions, it astounds that Rieger raised none when asked for comment. Or, then again, maybe not.


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