Saturday, January 9, 2010


At its December 2009 Executive Committee meeting, The Jewish Federations of North America resolved that annual allocations to ORT America (I guess as distinguished from World ORT or ORT Israel. Don't ask, there isn't time.) continue to be the same level at which it has been frozen while the allocations to JAFI and JDC have been reduced, reduced again and reduced again and reduced again and again. Why? What is the logic? Is this like some local agency that is favored by one or two federation leaders so decisions benefit that agency?

I can almost hear the arguments -- we are observing the "split" decisions embodied in the prior agreements and those agreements provide a fixed dollar allocation to ORT so, what's the problem? OK, let's look at those agreements between JAFI and JDC dating back to 1947. (Yes, I have read them as have a few in leadership of The Jewish Federations of North America. I think the latter are sharing their conclusions not the documents themselves.) They do provide for a fixed sum to ORT (to be paid by JDC out of its allocations) BUT they also provide that in consideration of the fixed grant ORT will not conduct fund raising in the United States except for the solicitation of its own membership. My friends at ORT are actively fund raising in America and the fixed allocation pays for it...we pay for it -- in all ways.

As I have come to understand it, ORT America raises funds which it transmits to World ORT for all of that body's important work (and, apparently, to pay for the litigation that has been on-going with ORT Israel for too many years -- but, who really knows, World ORT's financials appear not to be available. JFNA has no audit of World ORT, never has.). The fixed distributions to ORT were decisions made by that infamous ONAD Committee and ratified by the federations in approving ONAD recommendations. At the end of ONAD's fifth year, ORT, through some inexplicable process, was permitted to raise funds for designated projects from the federations without restrictions or conditions -- and ORT has done so with some success. While JAFI and JDC negotiate the so-called "split," ORT is at the periphery of those negotiations, awaiting the outcome which, presumably, will see ORT's allocation rise (wishful thinking) and fall to the same extent as do JAFI's and JDC's.

So, here we are -- The Jewish Federations of North America leaders support the continuation of the "split" as reflected in the prior agreements between JAFI and JDC until such time as a new agreement is reached (and JFNA has appointed a Work Group to "help") and endorses a fixed multi-million dollar allocation to ORT out of those allocated dollars while ORT fund raises in our midst with the implicit (or is it explicit) endorsement of JFNA. We pay for those who fund raise in competition with us. Does this make any sense at all? And, none of this is ORT's fault -- it is the fault, if that's the word, of a system without discipline

I am almost certain I will be told that I have misstated the facts -- as would any one who has been denied the facts by leaders who hold them so tightly as not to release them. A shame.


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