There are some misperceptions that I believe require clarification:
"...so much of this blog is thought-provoking and worthwhile, but it's hard to read the blind defenses of JAFI and guaranteed "partner overseas allocations." Maybe Federations have cut their blessed "core" allocations to JAFI because it's still bloated, still doesn't know what its mission is, still isn't transparent, still can't execute and is still a weak partner?"
- "...blind defenses of JAFI" -- I can (and have been) be accused of many things but I would hope that even the Anonymous Commentator would agree that "blind defense" wouldn't be one of them. There are areas in which the Jewish Agency is doing superb work on the ground -- one only need look at its daily work in the Ukraine as one example.
- "...guaranteed 'partner overseas allocations'..." have never been the argument on these pages. There are no "guarantees" of funding in Jewish communal life. I have long been an advocate for a market-driven overseas allocations process -- instead we have JFNA engaged in faux overseas advocacy, and nothing more -- our partners JA, JDC and World ORT deserve so much more. What none of us should abide are the cuts to core allocations over JFNA's time of in excess of $140,000,000 and the expectation that these "partners" continue their work at the highest levels of achievement when that work has been assigned to the partners by JFNA and the federations themselves.
- When Corky Goodman first asked me to serve on the Jewish Agency Board, he did so with the admonition that I join him and other leaders in "bringing the Jewish Agency into the 20th Century" -- now the 21st. What Corky started others have continued -- the Agency was depoliticized, the "bloat" of which it was historically accused is gone, truly gone. Yet, JAFI is burdened by its history, and many, including our Commentator, are still referencing the JA that was, not the JA that is.
- I have been an interested observer of a succession of Jewish Agency lay Budget and Finance Chairs -- Richie Pearlstone, Jay Sarver, Shoel Silver and Chuck Ratner. These leaders dedicated themselves to a new transparency at JAFI. I sat with some of them in their deliberations and negotiations at JAFI and shared their pain in achieving balanced budgets at the cost of core services and core staffing. I can say without question that the Jewish Agency's budget transparency today so far exceeds that of, e.g., JFNA as to shame our continental organization -- were it capable of shame.
- This does not mean that all is right at the Jewish Agency. It can be fairly criticized by those who disagree with its changed mission or its "execution" or its apparent reluctance to "partner" growing out of an institutional need to control. But the Jewish Agency of 2014 is not the JAFI of 1988 when I joined its Board; it's time for all of us to realize that.
I feel so much better.