Monday, January 28, 2013


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 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.



Anonymous said...

I am the President of a large Federation.

I believe with all my heart and soul in Federation Giving/Collective Giving/Collective Responsibility.

My Executive shared the GPT toolbox and related materials. I am appalled.

This process is engineered to encourage every Federation to ignore our historic partners and make their own party. Even calling them historic as opposed to our partners says it all. We will be encouraging small programs instead of community strength.

From my perspective, this GPT will simply reduce the real value of Federation in the overseas agenda.

How Michael Segal can sit by and let this happen just because it is perceived by the promoters as their personal legacy is beyond my understanding. Michael may perceive that he is being a mensch (which he is) for not wanting to hurt these people's feelings, but he knows better. Michael: stand up before it is too late.

I have made up my mind. I will be forced to vote with my checkbook. I will complete my term and maintain my gift. But when my term is over and if this GPT goes forward, with tears in my eyes, my family's gift is leaving our Federation's overseas efforts.

We will have our own Family GPT Partnership Committee, thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

What makes the situation even more tragic is that for the first time in years a new Israeli electorate has emerged that looks and talks like their modernist American brothers and sisters. It could be an opportunity for a new unified common agenda to emerge as well - one that secular and modern traditional young people on both sides of the ocean can unite around.

Anonymous said...

Richard, I was in attendance at the JFNA Retreat to my everlasting regret. Silverman presented the allocations results and said that the drop in allocations to the Jewish Agency in 2012 was "only $100,000." I had the distinct sense that he was just making it all up. I am sorry that I lacked the courage to question what JFNA had done to encourage federations to increase their allocations, but I believe I knew ther answewr to be nothing.