Saturday, July 19, 2014


The Global Planning Table has established two "Signature Initiatives" -- JQuest and the Israel Children's Zone -- neither of which has been funded anywhere approaching the minimum condition precedent of 10 federations $1.5 million each ($500,000 per year for 3 years). Add to those two a so-called "Voluntary Project" (aren't the other two as well) among a "coalition of the willing" with the GPT acronym iRep -- the Israel Religious Expressions Platform -- I am not making this up. The focus of this Initiative will be on civil marriage in Israel.

This is a noble theme, one that resonates with many Jews worldwide, but one may question why it would rise to the level of JFNA involvement when JFNA has already walked away from its interest in advocacy for equitable treatment of non-Orthodox (with a focus on women) wishing to pray at the Kotel and its periodic pique with conversion legislation as that subject periodically appears on the Knesset agenda (even as this is written). 

I am just guessing here, but my intuition informs me that iRep is nothing more than a Global Planning Table response to one or more donors to whom it couldn't just say "no" or "now is not the time." (Or, maybe someone thought, "Wow, is this going to be great!!") After all, each time JFNA has dipped its toes into the waters of Israel's civil society, it has come away declaring victory much like former President W declared "victory" in Iraq. You remember that CEO What-The-Hell-Is-This? found himself in Jerusalem when two and 1/2 or 3 years ago, the "Who Is A Jew" issue arose in the Knesset, as it has again this month, and Jerry being totally unaware of the existence of a "playbook" somewhere in the files on how to deal with this issue, spun like a top in the halls of the Knesset and with the few federation leaders also there, declared, what else, "victory." It wasn't.

Then there were the issues that arose in Beit Shemesh where women were assigned to segregated seating on public buses and subjected to abuse for their dress, etc. JFNA? Roused to a strong letter to the Prime Minister. Then...nothing.

And, last November, during the Jerusalem GA, when 1200 people, mostly strays, marched to the Kotel to join Women of the Wall in protest at the gender inequality at the Wall. This was "celebrated" by CEO "We-Had-1200-Marchers" as, what else, "a great success." Then...nothing.

Now, the Global Planning Table will focus an effort, no doubt underfunded, to support civil marriage in Israel. I have no doubt that this effort, along with the other two "Signature Initiatives" about which we have reported, are designed to, as GPT Chair Butler described it "...identify and excite the donor base, expand the campaign, increase dollars to support JFNA activities, and work with federations who share similar interests." So far, all I see is the running of ideas up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes in the hope that something will actually come of them,,,AND that JFNA will gain budget relief from this programmatic funding. Never mind that JFNA lacks any expertise in any of the areas of "Signature Initiatives" or this iRep -- not even the capacity to monitor and evaluate others' work.

We all remember that in advance of last year's desultory GA Chair Siegal and CEO Jerry gave interviews to the Jewish media announcing the further brilliant concept of a $1 billion Special Campaign to provide a free Jewish pre- and day school education to all. They did so without any discussion with (a) the federations or (b) Jewish educators -- not that they couldn't, they just didn't. And, so it is with iRep -- already Mizrachi has gone public with its criticism -- no prior discussion except among the brilliant minds around the Global Planning Table...not with the religious movements, not with the Government of Israel, the Jewish Agency...

Is there not enough to do in North America? Isn't it time to call a halt to the inanity that the Global Planning Table has always been after a waste of unaccounted millions and before the waste of millions more?



Anonymous said...

This is a great idea, really. What other organization might solve the societal issues in Israel other than an organization that has accomplished nothing for Jewry in North America? Let me think.

Anonymous said...

As an Israeli I wonder why an American agency would choose this subject as the "battleground" in the fight for a civil society? With whom in Israel did they speak? Why is this the priority for North American Jews? Do they believe it is a priority for those of us in Israel trying to build a civil society for all? If so, they are so, so wrong.