Friday, October 29, 2010


Continuing the analysis begun in the last Post...For two years, in a truly transparent process, the Jewish Agency for Israel, our federations' exclusive agent in Israel, significantly revamped its governance -- a massive albeit incomplete set of changes designed in part to assure that representation on JAFI's governing board would be enthusiastic supporters of the Agency. The culmination of this governance process took place at a time that JFNA's leaders began their own exploration of placing on the Jewish Agency's Board only those loyal to...JFNA. (Readers will remember the rant -- "you're not JFNA and I am.") So, how does this play out?

When I was elected a JAFI Board member, as in all Jewish organizations in which I have been engaged, I came and continue with what JFNA's leaders seem to perceive to be heavy baggage. For I believed and believe that I represent the core values and beliefs of my federation and serve Chicago's and JAFI's best interests -- the great news is that those values and beliefs intersect. At no time have I sensed that I served JAFI in the interests of JFNA -- which, to the best of my knowledge, has neither core values nor a set of core purposes that support either my federation's or JAFI's work. To JFNA, service anywhere must be, first and foremost, to serve the interests of...JFNA...interests that are as undefined today as ever before.

So, under the current JFNA leadership's definition of whether I (or anyone else) should serve on JAFI's Board, the Blog aside, I would be disqualified. Forget that I have been nominated by my federation -- one whose JFNA Dues approach or exceed $3 million annually -- I am "not JFNA" (at least not this one). While I sense that there are very few federation leaders who serve on the JAFI Board who are not enthusiastic supporters of JAFI, the current JFNA leaders want only those who meet the "loyalty oath" of enthusiastic, even unquestioning support of JFNA.

Today, JAFI's Nominating Committee will still look to UIA/JFNA for JAFI Board nominees but not necessarily be bound by those recommendations. I have little doubt that the JFNA Board Chair would wish to control that JAFI Nominating process just as she would want to control the JAFI Leadership (Officers)Nominating process populating both Committees with those who "are JFNA" while JAFI searches for those who "are JAFI." There's no subtlety to this approach, just a wrongheadedness as in most things.

What seems clear is this -- the fiduciary duty and moral responsibility of those serving on the Jewish Agency Board is to the Jewish Agency. Those who feel and articulate some other duty need to resign or reevaluate their service. In our service we bring with us the basic historic principles and core values that inform our Jewish public service. But, we do so without regard to whether we are or are not "JFNA." For those whose service is not informed by those communal values and principles -- but only by their need for the accretion of ever greater control -- I only feel pity seasoned with a soupcon of contempt.


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