I think my sense of humor has gotten me through some dark passages; I try to find the humor in all but the worst of times. And I have been fortunate -- the "worst of times" for me have been few. Then, on February 18 I read a JFNA Leadership Briefing that brought together in one two page document so many of my concerns with JFNA's focus, purpose and direction. The subject: Cross-Border Philanthropy Circle Announces First Project and Seeks New Members. You may not have known that we have been engaged as a system in a Cross-Border Philanthropy Circle -- the marketing professionals dream name for what was once something called 10 x 10. You remember that one -- 10 Israeli philanthropists would be brought together with 10 North American counterparts, each contributing $50,000 annually and, voila, project funding. Except no American donors were interested.
So JFNA announces that with Sheatufim...of course, Sheatufim...it created this Circle and the Circle will fund Seeds of Hope, a nice program with the goal "...of helping under-privileged young adults achieve social mobility empowerment by participating in volunteer programs and leadership training." The North American side of the effort is led by the once ubiquitous Toni Young who has stood at the center of the so-called JFNA-Sheatufim partnership -- you know, the partnership about nothing, like the old Seinfeld show. (Only at least that was funny.). Now, in the Briefing, no mention is made of how much money has been raised in North America, from whom, and through what process with the federations. (You will remember that last year Ms. Young and the then staff attempted to coerce the JFNA Endowment to fund the North American side, suggesting that their own fund raising effort had come to naught.) By the way, if you contribute, you are not a "donor," you are an "investor" -- and Toni is looking for more.
Now if you go to sheatufim.org.il you will find that organization's noble purposes spelled out clearly. Those purposes do not include the fund raising purposes of the Circle. But, that's ok because clearly among JFNA's prime purposes in Israel should be to enhance the work of JAFI and JDC with Israeli philanthropists not compete with them. Thought that was now clear under the new JFNA leadership.
So here's what I'm betting: Toni Young, a generous philanthropist put up some money as did a few JFNA insiders (maybe including those who spoke at Sheatufim Conferences). Then, lacking additional funds, couldn't get 'em from the Endowment, couldn't raise them, JFNA prevailed on Sheatufim to deploy dollars from the "annual" JFNA Partnership allocation to the Sewing Circle -- er, Circle of Friends, oops, Cross-Border Philanthropy Circle of a Few Good People. Correct me if I am wrong...please. No matter, wrong idea, wrong time, wrong effort.
The then UJC now JFNA relationship with Sheatufim has always been fraught with both opportunity and problems. It has been a stealth relationship, operating under the radar and outside of scrutiny. That it continues to do so should trouble everyone -- except those lucky enough to be in the "Circle."
No, this doesn't come close to the "worst of times" for me...not close. But it is bringing the "worst of times" for the "new JFNA" closer and closer and closer because it is down such a similar path traveled by the "old UJC."