The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee leadership started a fight with the federation system and the Jewish Federations of North America last month. As a "cease fire" now appears to hold (and JFNA and some Large City Federation CEOs deserve credit for imposing it), both the Joint and JAFI have "staffed up" their FRD efforts and JDC, while having "agreed" to take its two most threatening demands of the federations off the table, implementation of their Development effort is on-going. But, when one looks at the most recently available data on income derived by both "partners" (from their 2009 IRS Form 990) for 2008, the question arises -- why has the Joint chosen this fight at this time?
Here are the U.S. Income results for 2008: JAFI -- $238.5 million; JDC -- $244 million. (All funds accounted for as reported.) The Joint down <$10 million> from 2006; JAFI is a negative <$150 million>. Shouldn't the question, therefore, be about federation allocated cash not about a fictitious "split?" For the Joint to raise the 75/25 "split" is but a red herring, a MacGuffin, a fiction, designed to distract the federations and JFNA from the real issue: because of drastically diminished campaigns, the economic collapse, the partners' messages not being heard and a failure by JFNA to advocate for federation collective responsibility, the actual cash allocated by the federation for both partners' core budgets and for project giving have reduced, in the Joint's case, by a relatively small but important amount; in JAFI's case by a staggering sum.
So, why the JDC's "preemptive" threats at this time and place? One can only speculate: the demands of some of its more extreme lay leaders who deprecate the federation system to which they owe so much; the looming threat of a revitalized JAFI under Natan Sharansky's creative leadership; an invigorated JAFI global Development effort being constructed by Misha Galperin reflecting the evolving Agency emphasis on Jewish identity as well as JAFI's more compelling core functions, etc. I am not even certain that JDC's top leaders fully comprehend (a) why they have attacked the federation system when that system, as the data evidence, has responded to them and remains devastated in many places by failed campaigns and the economy or (b) what the consequences of their attacks could be to the Joint itself? (Reading the Report of the Joint Committee whose Recommendations threaten the federations one could ask and answer: "Why are we doing this? Because we can.")
It's time for an accounting by the JDC. It's past time for JAFI to challenge those within the federation family, to do what is right. And for JFNA, it's time for a reckoning.