350,000 -- The number of Jews at risk this Winter in the Ukraine
$2.7 Million -- The amount in the aggregate raised at JFNA to assist
Ukrainian Jews through the Ukraine Assistance Fund
Maybe you had some hope that JFNA would emerge from what is now approaching a decade of building on one failure after another, and might actually succeed at something...anything. But it was not to be. After the fiasco of its non-existent failed Continental response to the terror atrocity on the streets of Paris, the totally inadequate action to assist Ukrainian Jewry is like a period at the end of a sentence. As the NCESJ's latest Weekly Update asserts: "We continue to receive alarming news from Jewish communities in Eastern Ukraine" and the WSJ headlined yesterday "In Ukraine Civilians Again in Crossfire." Apparently the majordomos, lay and professional alike, at 25 Broadway don't read.
Across the Continent there appeared to be a recognition that with winter upon them, and the country still under direct threat with the prospect of peace talks having foundered and war reignited, we would step forward with an enhanced and focused effort for our brothers and sisters in the Ukraine. At the 2014 GA there did appear to be the hope of a real commitment to raise the tens of millions necessary to provide the Ukrainian Jewish community, through the JDC, with everything from blankets to food to medical care to our support for JAFI's efforts at increased aliya, at a time when it appeared that the Evangelical Christian community through the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews was on the cusp of meeting our historic and very Jewish responsibilities -- all at a time when the Ukrainian currency has been devalued exceeding 50% and, in Eastern Ukraine, occupied by Russian separatists, pensions wiped out, and the daily terror of renewed war everywhere. The speeches at GA 2014 -- as always with JFNA, words...just words; the effort...none.
Yes, once again, JFNA "efforts" consisted of an impassioned speech or two, maybe a letter or two, and some calls to the City-size groupings of federations. But fund raising, hell no. As I write this, there is a -31 degree wind chill and I am sitting at my computer in my well-heated office in Chicago thinking of my/our visits to the apartments of our Ukrainian mishpacha, bringing food packages, vital medicine and a human touch in the Summer and Spring, the apartments drafty even then, maintained with dignity, no matter the circumstances. I can only imagine the conditions under which our extended family are living in the midst of the bitter winter in Donetsk or Kiev, or wherever they may live -- with electricity blackouts, food and medicine running short and hope running out and war all around. The situation in Eastern Ukraine right now has been described by the NCESJ as experiencing "..a dangerous escalation of fighting and rising death toll." "The war is exploding anew in Ukraine" the New York Times reported one week ago. And JFNA does nothing, its leaders' ostrich heads in the sand.
The two Co-Chairs of the JFNA Ukraine allocations process are terrific leaders -- I know they would go anywhere to help raise the dollars to effect real "fund raising;" I know that they could recruit other lay leaders to join them. But, JFNA doesn't know how to raise money any more -- it is not even a shadow of what once was the greatest and most respected fund-raising vehicle in Jewish or non-Jewish life -- it does not even try.
For JFNA -- just can't be bothered. After all, they had to plan a Retreat, a high end donor Mission to Shanghai, maybe another illusory Signature Initiative, and other, equally important stuff. And there were vacations. Oh, there is a Ukraine Assistance Fund and a nice link on the JFNA website to the "Mailbox" (JFNA must have a helluva time keeping track of all the Mailboxes it has opened over just the last year) it has opened to collect the pledges it doesn't solicit -- even Jerry "Mr. Mailbox" Silverman probably knows after five years that this Mailbox Method isn't fund-raising but with Jerry one never knows what he knows.
Ahhh me. Where is the effort? Where is the passion? Where is the fund raising? What the hell does "Philanthropic Resources" do? Is there a National Campaign Chair any more? Is there a National/Continental organization any more? Was the Ukraine Emergency on the agenda anywhere at the JFNA Retreat concluded just days ago? Of course not.
The scoreboard tells the whole story. This episode is beneath contempt. It is not just a shameful episode, and it is just the latest one; it is a shame; it is our shame. It is our embarrassment. It is JFNA 2015 playing violins while the Ukraine burns.
My friends, it didn't/doesn't have to be this way.