Monday, September 8, 2014



balagan - definition of balagan by The Free Dictionary

Noun, 1. balagan - a word for chaos or fiasco borrowed from modern Hebrew 

When the Government of Israel Ministry of the Interior announced earlier this year that the Jewish Agency's historic role in aliyah was being severely reduced just as aliyah -- from France, from the Ukraine, from Germany -- was exponentially increasing, JAFI leaders were quick to issue denials. It was easy to convince JFNA CEO See-No-Evil-Hear-No-Evil that all was well -- and so he trumpeted to the press, brainwashed as he was. Now, the so-called Director General of the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs (who rarely even talks to anyone relevant in the Diaspora), Dvir Kahana, has proposed to preempt and co-opt the JAFI/GOI Jewish People Initiative, thereby throwing that Initiative into the total chaos we have come to expect. And, no surprise, even though the Government will/may provide substantial funding, the Jewish Agency and JFNA pretend that nothing at all is amiss. Those blinders sure come in handy.

Once again, the Chair of the Jewish Agency Executive decided to strike back in the media, essentially challenging Kahana's public attempts to override the Prime Minister's alleged "decision" to vest the operation of the Initiative in JAFI just as he had determined that JAFI should frame the Initiative from braishit,, which it did.

Here's the sad result of this mess: Diaspora Jewry (viz, in North America, the Federations) are expected to raise twice the Government's funding commitment, or over $100 million to fund this Initiative (forget for the moment whether that is even feasible and remember if you will it, it is no dream) -- 1/3rd GOI, 1/3 funders and 1/3 program providers [e.g., Birthright]) -- but our fund raising cannot take place in a chaotic environment...and this is now a most chaotic environment. We have JAFI posturing, the Director General of an obscure Government Ministry, interfering and you have JFNA and the federations...wondering. To even imagine the GOI "operating" a critical program such as this, is to say: OMG. Natan Sharansky's characterization of Dvir Kahana's very personal and directed interference in JAFI's role as "petty games" isn't sufficient to define this kind of "pettiness."

But all of this became a battle taking place on the pages of e-jewishphilanthropy and the Jerusalem Post, among other publications of note. The ultimate article (so far) was an explanation of the consequences of a public battle on philanthropic choice grounded in an interview with Jay Ruderman, JFNA's favorite philanthropist in the Post  in which he explained the reality that this kind of public "pissing match" between the Minister of Diaspora Affairs and his Director and the Jewish Agency will mean that philanthropists will just walk away. And, though one might ask why would Ruderman use the media to deliver his message about using the media (and whether he would clear the interview with JFNA before doing so), he did it. And the balagan continues.

Bottom line, the Government budget for this Initiative has been "set" (whatever that means in Israel) at $50 million (that's dollars) through 2017 to be matched by an additional $100 million from the Diaspora over the same timeframe. I don't wish to appear cynical, just realistic, when I write that based on all of the accumulated evidence amassed over JFNA's sad history there is not a chance in hell that JFNA can raise its share of that number (hence the demand by some Large City Executives that the Jewish Agency and Joint have "skin in this game" [meaning pay most of the tab] while so many these LCE have overseen the draconian reduction in core allocations the past 14 years -- JFNA's idea of fund raising). 

Friends, while the Government of Israel may have legitimate concerns with whether the Jewish Agency has the capacity to implement the Initiative with the GOI and JFNA, there is no question that the Government itself is incapable of doing so. Nor should it. The manner in which Dvir Kahana is operating out of the glare of the media suggests the possibility that he has some deal in place with JAFI  on exactly the terms announced by Kahana and denied by Sharansky. Is that even possible...even in Israel?

It is time for the Prime Minister to step in and direct Mr. Kahana (and whomever is pulling his strings) to step out. To get to this place, might it be nice if the JFNA Board Chair, who has speaking privileges from a long-term relationship with the Prime Minister, were to call Bibi and seek his intervention. And, maybe, other lay leaders, here and in Israel, need to step up and in as well, in a planful, coordinated manner. Otherwise this thing is dead before it begins.



Anonymous said...

Gosh, Richard, a combination of JAFI, the Government of Israel, JFNA and Keren Ha-Yesod. What would you expect other than the fiasco you have described?

Anonymous said...

What you have described is not a balagan, it is business as usual at the circus.

Anonymous said...

Let's say that the Government provided the money (!!). does anyone believe that the federation system today, with all of the financial pressures facing them and a national organization with no FRD capacity or ability whatsoever and an even more inept Keren Ha-Yesod, could double the Government grant? If you believe that, I have a Brooklyn Bridge to sell you.

RWEX said...

I have been assured by someone I absolutely trust that JFNA and UIA have been "unequivocal" in their support for the JAFI role in this Initiative. That is a very good thing in an otherwise bad situation.