Saturday, November 5, 2011


As part of its inducement to the Jewish Agency and the JDC to enter into an Agreement with JFNA in November 2010, the latter promised to require that federations, to be eligible for participation at the "Global Planning Table," "...increase allocations to support the important work of JAFI and JDC" by establishing "...a communal norm for the percentage of annual campaign dollars that are to be allocated for overseas needs." Thus did JFNA promise to establish a meaningful floor for core allocations to JAFI/JDC. Instead, what has emerged as a "Second Membership Criterion" offers nothing to JAFI/JDC and, as in the instance of the GPT itself, JFNA stands in breach of its inducement to the Joint and Agency to enter into the November 2010 Agreement. I think lawyers call this fraudulent inducement.

Here is the 2nd Criterion as proposed -- "In the initial phase of implementation of the second criterion for membership in JFNA (2012 campaign allocations) all allocations for Israel and overseas programming will be counted toward the 10%  minimum membership requirement. This includes both undesignated funds to JAFI and JDC and directed funding and is inclusive of all allocations outside of JAFI and JDC for Israel and overseas." (emphasis added)

In other words, if my community allocates nothing to the Agency or Joint, but 10% to, e.g., Hadassah Hospital, I am welcomed to the Global Planning Table with the same voice and vote as a community that allocates 30% of its annual campaign to JAFI/JDC.

Beginning with 2014 allocations, JAFI/JDC are not mentioned -- you just have to allocate 20% of your annual campaign as the GPT may determine. If JFNA aimed any lower in this "process," its institutional head would hit the floor.

Now, some have told me that it in today's environment it is futile to even argue the principle of collective responsibility and our historic partnership any more -- that's for the "dinosaurs" and "that train has left the station." Certainly these leaders know better than I -- but they also know that the GPT Plan and the Second Membership Criterion make a mockery of collective responsibility, a mockery of the concept and construct of partnership and these documents  anticipate that the federations and JFNA have become nothing more than a confederation of hypocrites. For these documents speak to "collective responsibility" and support for JAFI and the Joint time and time again, but only in the Orwellian sense because what they mean is what the JFNA leaders have demonstrated for at east the past six years -- no support, not for JAFI, not for the JDC and not for the collective. 

What JFNA proposes would upon its adoption turn the entire concept of collective responsibility on its head. It offers nothing to either the Jewish Agency or Joint, and, when coupled with the GPT, less than nothing. It appeals to the least of us rather than creating an aspiration to join the best of us. It opens up "participation" in JFNA and at the GPT essentially to any federation that allocates anything to anything in Israel or overseas. Your federation designates 10% of its annual campaign to, let's say, Haifa University -- you're in; to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs -- you're in; to the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress -- come on aboard. And, I am told "..this is the best they/we could do."

Then, without notice, JFNA's leaders take the SecondMembership Criterion off the agenda of the Board/Delegare Assembly meeting at the GA pushing that vote to the Owners Retreat in January. Why? No quorum for an Assembly vote? Pushback from federations that resist even a "10% of anything/nothing" Criterion? I'd love to suggest that there was pushback from the federations that actually care about and understand collective responsibility....but I dare not.

These "plans," read together or separately, are the dying declarations of a system that has lost its way. Sadly, ours is a system today that responds positively to the least among us. 



Anonymous said...

Richard, are you the author of the emails circulating about the Global Planning Table?

RWEX said...

Dear Anonymous,

I only author this Blog. While I applaud the anonymous Blogger who has underscored the systemic issues with the Global Planning Table and that person's passion and care about our system, about our federations, and pray that his/her message is getting through as mine has not, it isn't me.

Anonymous said...

Over the past decade the core work of JDC has shifted from the diaspora to Israel. In the same time period JAFI has shifted it’s focus to Jewish identity in the diaspora. As you know proceeds from sale of Israeli housing was diverted with little consultation for these purchases. Maybe that made sense maybe these developments do not. Neither agency truly enlisted a public conversation with it’s federation partners in regard to these trends. If a federation exec wanted to talk to the chief planning officer at either agency is there a person so designated? Not really . The GPT may be poorly thought out (or not) but some
cooperative planning component is essential. JFNA may be be grossly incompetent (or not) but relying totally on the
wisdom and good graces of global agencies is not wise.

RWEX said...


I agree that both the Jewish Agency and Joint have to improve their communications and truly engage with the federations and their own Boards. BUT...does a process sorely lacking in details, one that will spend millions of our dollars, and which is supported by JFNA leaders who speak either in tongues or constant jargon -- "robust," "dynamic," "tables," "partner" and the like -- deserve passage.

A valid comprehensive and engaging planning process -- an enthusiastic "YES." Gibberish, the end product of which will be the exclusion and co-option -- "NO."

Anonymous said...

I canot agree more with your last comment Richard. The jargon of JFNA press releases and documents is embarrasing. So the question remains --what's the right plan to plan? Let's be constructive on all sides.



joebrown42 said...

I was very sad and very glad to see the returned activity of this blog. Sad - because it means there's a need.
Glad - because someone needs to provide constructive criticism in times of need.
As someone who is a potential "young leader", the actions of JFNA go against almost everything I believe in. Partnering and cooperation are key elements. Getting along with other elements in and out of JFNA's closed circles is key.
It's why Limmud is relevant for my generation - for Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or what-ever-form-of-mix of Jews I have spoken with.
It's why the focus should be on doing and less on saying.
It's why the focus should be on less bureaucracy and more on fieldwork. Unfortunately, JFNA has not turned in this direction yet.
Sad, but true.