Twelve years ago, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the United Israel Appeal and the United Jewish Appeals Boards voted to merge, creating with our federations what is today the Jewish Federations of North America. For the JDC and the Jewish Agency, one can only say that this merger has been a financial disaster...in fact, a disaster in all ways. Perhaps the easiest way to define disaster in the this merger context is to look at annual cash distributions: since the merger, cash allocations to the Joint and the Agency have fallen by 52.4% and advocacy for both organizations by the federations' national organization has fallen to 0%. World ORT, since it was "welcomed" by JFNA as another "historic partner" in 2009 has seen its core cash allocation fall by 1/3.
Almost beyond comprehension is the reality that unrestricted cash to the Jewish Agency had fallen from $185,000,000 in 2001 to $99,700,000 at the end of calendar year 2011 -- the first time in my history of involvement that unrestricted funding to JAFI had been reduced below $100,000,000. Whereas the UJA annual cash collection effort had always been a source of pride to its professional and lay leaders, today it can be nothing short of a source of embarrassment to the small cadre of professionals at 25 Broadway who still care deeply.
How does this happen? When federation campaigns felt the crushing blow of economic recession, some core allocation reduction was inevitable, but with the national organization sitting on its hands and with no advocacy for restoring core at least pari passu as federation campaigns regained traction and gained momentum, there was and there is no voice for those of our People most in need other than from the JDC and JAFI themselves. (And, yes, as our two historic partners continued to battle with each other over formulas and "splits," they, too, lost track of the bigger picture.) The Jewish Agency's past Chairs had told JFNA directly and pointedly, that a $100 million allocations floor was the "red line" beyond which it could no longer sit by and await JFNA action. Today, JFNA's professional leaders have expressed neither concern nor apology for the federations' breach of this red line; continuing to expect JA and JDC to be nothing more (and a lot less) than limited partners in the ever more specious Global Planning Table assault upon them.
At the end of the day, JFNA, the organization formed in large part because of federations commitment to use the national vehicle to raise more revenues and more donors, has evidenced no commitment to do either.