Tuesday, March 17, 2015


OK, let's talk tachlis, shall we; let's talk about allocations. JFNA/UIA has decided to embark on a program called Chaverim: engaged a terrific and energetic Chair  for this effort and is ready to send lay people, ostensibly trained albeit hurriedly, into those federations which will have them to advocate for increased core (and, I presume, designated) allocations for the Jewish Agency.  There is great enthusiasm at JFNA/UIA for Chaverim and most of the JFNA/UIA JAFI Board members have signed on -- and therein lies the rub. More about that program and the "rub" in a moment.

First, let's review where we are:

  1. As anyone who reads this Blog regularly knows, core allocations and allocations/designated in the aggregate have hit an all-time low;
  2. JFNA has managed the "allocations process"  by doing absolutely no allocations advocacy for the past decade  -- not since the short-lived effort led by Jane Sherman and Doron Krakow so many, many years ago;
  3. For the past two years, the Global Planning Table has arrogated to itself the advocacy function for the overseas partners -- and has done absolutely nothing beyond reporting the annual dystopian failures;
  4. The GPT Partnership Committee (the equivalent of Kathy Manning acting unilaterally) determined that the allocations division between JDC and JAFI would no longer be a 75/25% division JAFI/JDC but would instead be a dollar division which...drum roll please...would equal a 75/25% split(??); and
  5. JDC, having finally tired of the fiction of advocacy as written by JFNA, the GPT or both, has unilaterally acted, sending its professionals into the communities and making its pitch for communities one-by-one to determine their own allocations, even giving federations instructions on how to go about the process concluding with communities directing JFNA as to how communal funds be distributed without offset.
Into this mess steps JFNA/UIA with its Chaverim. And, here's the problem, that "rub," beyond 1-5, above (and beyond the threshold question of how can JFNA engage in advocacy for only one of the historic partners to the exclusion of the other): the members of Chaverim, all well-meaning lay leaders and all passionate supporters of the Jewish Agency, in the main come from communities whose allocations support of the Jewish Agency is below the national/continental average for communities of like size. This is a big problem, it is an example of the law of unintended consequences: if you are from Community A, and come to my Community B, to urge us to allocate more to JAFI, you damn well better assure that your Community A can rationalize its own terrible allocation and it had better be higher, a lot higher, than mine. 

I recall when, during the pre-merger era, I got a call from one of my best friends in Jewish communal life, a terrific leader, who told me: "Richard, this is so great. I was just asked by UIA (yep, even back then) to Chair an Advocacy Committee for JAFI."  Taken aback, but thrilled for my friend, I responded: "That's great; UIA could not have chosen better. But your own federation has been reducing its allocation precipitously. How could you come to Chicago, for example, and ask us to increase our allocation when the first question you would get is how much does your own federation allocate?" And, there's the "rub." That UIA effort came to naught; I fear for this one. But, at least one organization has taken the bit in its teeth and appears to be doing something...anything...anxious to do everything and anything that it can.

So, here's what I would suggest: it's a simple "physician, heal thyself." Each "chaver" would need to do one session and one session only for starters: advocate for an increased allocation to JAFI core from his or her own federation. Nothing more, nothing less. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know that "an expert is someone from out-of-town," but if a chaver can't be the best advocate in his/her own community, how effective can he/she be one outside that community? 

The answer to that question seems pretty damn clear. Otherwise this well-meaning initiative will be nothing more than another illusory time-waster. For all involved.



Anonymous said...

Richard, what a spectacular and constructive suggestion -- yes, speak before your own federation advocating for a larger allocation for the Jewish Agency core budget. Let's see how that goes and, after your success, take it on the road. Maybe the UIA Chair can start with his own federation.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little disappointed that you didn't address the issue of advocating for one organization and not the other two. Does this now mean that JDC and World ORT need to make Shabbos for themselves? Also will any of the Chaverim be allowed on the decision making group (whatever it is called)of the GPT? If so how can they be impartial in casting their vote when the time comes? Finally, let's say that community A increases its allocation to JAFI which would push it over the 75% mark? Will JFNA now skim off the cream and re-distribute the other dollars to keep the overall percentages at the 75-25 level? Didn't you recently write that this was an interpretation of what JFNA meant when they factored in "designated" funds in their calculation of what went to each organization.

Anonymous said...

That suggestion that the chaverim first solicit their own community should start with the chaverim Chair whose federation, according to JFNA's own statistics, allocation to core is below the average of the Large Cities.

Anonymous said...

Hey, the same fine leader of this JFNA/UIA effort is also the Chair of the JFNA Nominating Committee. You won't be surprised to learn that of the members of that Committee (including the Chair), almost 60% come from federations whose allocations to the core budgets of the Jewish Agency, Joint and ORT are below (sometimes ridiculously so) the average of their City Size federation core allocations. Be proud.

Anonymous said...

To the last Anonymous...kuvetch, kvetch, kvetch, for JFNA if 40% of the Nominating Committee members come from federations at or above their city-size allocation percentage, that's considered to be both a great victory and an unintended mistake.

Anonymous said...

"...almost 60%...are below average..."

So we have to make sure everyone is above average. Got it.