In 2006 JFNA created The Negev Work Group to engage JFNA and "the North American Jewish Community" in "the development and advancement of the Negev." A wonderful Chair, Montreal's Marilyn Blumer, was appointed and even a cynic like me had high hopes. Then, in 2011, the Work Group created The Negev Funding Coalition. (This is JFNA, after all.) I would assume both the Work Group and the Funding Coalition are being staffed out of JFNA-Israel, which explains why so little has been accomplished...so very little.
Last month, JFNA convened a teleconference on "Major Developments and Opportunities for Advancement of the Negev;" this month, this weekend in fact, an "international conference, The Negev: Shaping the Future Together" -- www.NegevConference2014.org. The Funding Coalition is comprised of 10 federations and one Foundation -- the members pay another $25,000 in annual Dues. From year-to-year, much like the JFNA National Agency Alliance, no one knows who will be in, who will be out.
What Federation project has the Coalition funded? A $150,0000 grant through American Associates of Ben Gurion University for two projects at the University -- a "clean tech business competition" and support for two graduate fellows. Meanwhile AABGU has raised millions for the BGU's work in the Negev. Even more incredible, about which we have written before, is the Jewish National Fund's investment of over $85,000,000 to date in Beer Sheva and the Negev.
Yes, the Federations which have partnered with Negev communities through P2gether continue their important work and investments. Like JNF and AABGU, they are actually doing. Meanwhile, JFNA is convening Teleconferences and international conferences, giving the illusion of doing. And, as to that International Conference -- how many lay leaders actually attended? Were there more than 30? Did the imported speakers outnumber the actual Registrants?
The facts are the facts -- in 8 years, with all good intentions and a committed lay Chair, JFNA has merely spun its wheels, ending up in, more or less, the same place that it was in 2006 when the Work Group was created. A suggestion: The Negev Work Group merge its efforts with those of the JNF and the AABGU, if those organizations will have them, declare victory and end the illusion of actually impacting on this critical area of Israel's present and future.
Illusions, our stock in trade.