Saturday, May 7, 2016


Recently, the Chair of JFNA's Israel and Oversea Council sent out a form letter to, apparently, the members of the Council (I am not one of them; few of you are). Here is how David Brown's letter began:
""One of the findings of the recent Pew Study Israel’s Religiously Divided Society that resonates with me as chair of JFNA’s Israel and Overseas Council is that 69% of Israeli Jews believe a thriving Jewish diaspora is necessary for the long-term survival of the Jewish people. While Federations have long linked our destiny to that of the people of Israel, their reciprocity was stirring to see in print, underscoring a shared commitment to a strong global Jewry."
Now that the recipients were sufficiently inspired, I think, I guess, Brown moved to the real subject and focus of the Council -- allocations. And the message was spot-on:

"The publication of the Israel Pew report coincides with the start of spring which is also allocation season at Federation, the time of year when financial decisions impacting Jews around the corner and around the world get made.  Yet unlike representatives who speak for local programs and agencies, those who live in Jewish communities far away rely on each of us to help ensure they are remembered and make the case in our Federation board rooms.
This year, I urge you to speak up and speak out on their behalf.  The needs are great, including for ongoing support and winter relief for Jews affected by the sustained crisis in the Ukraine; supporting families in Israel’s periphery living below the poverty line; ensuring that lone soldiers serving in the IDF receive the ongoing support they require as they fulfill their military service, and more and more." (emphasis added)
This is exactly where advocacy has to start -- within one's own community. I thought that David's message should be one heard by every JFNA Board member, not alone the few members of the Israel and Overseas Council, and the day after its original limited publication, Richard Sandler distributed it to the rest of us .

But because there is no viable -- make that just "no" -- financial resource development function at JFNA today (just a fine Campaign Chair, his faithful (and, perhaps, perpetual) consultant) and a "plan," where the allocations effort should reside inasmuch as fund raising and allocations are binary, JFNA will be stymied in this effort as in almost all others. Further, today, unlike that time before a great professional, Cheryl Lefland resigned, there is no professional with allocations and cash as her/his focused area of professional work, leaving the professional leadership of allocations advocacy in the hands of JFNA's bereft Jerusalem-based Israel and Overseas Department; one that anyone who reads these pages knows hasn't a single accomplishment on its institutional CV. Can this Department truly be the professional partner that will lead JFNA to North American allocations success? Reading the materials to which the readers of David Brown's letter are linked, at least at this point the answer is "no."* But, the "links" aside, the message is important.

Brown's message is one that must be taken to heart by JFNA's professionals -- from top to bottom. Starting with Silverman, whom you might recall (he won't) on one of his first out of town federation visits, that one to Dallas over five years ago, pandering to them as well as any presidential nominee is doing today, "promised" the community that JFNA will never ask a federation to increase its allocations. 

To me this effort could be a watershed moment for JFNA -- the moment in time at which leadership chose to meet one of its moral responsibilities. 

Or, of course, it could be nothing at all.

We'll see.


* As an example of an apparent lack of understanding appeared in David Brown's transmittal:
 "Get access to materials that support the I and O agenda. Did you know that a 16-year-old girl was arrested in January for planning bomb attacks against a Jewish school in Copenhagen and another school in Denmark? Read more about the Jewish communities of Scandinavia"Somehow someone at I and O believes stuff like this will inspire allocations...has anything at all to do with allocations.


Anonymous said...

The I&O Chair's message is right on target but doesen't he realize that this I&O effort needs to be based States-side where it can work in close coordination with campaign (at JFNA if it ever realizes that it should be involved in campaign and allocations I&O advocacy and meanwhile at least as an important Israel content resource to individual federations).
The JFNA Israel Office should be a back office for support and liason functions - not a so-called center of "global operations" which are duplicative and competative with existing organizations that can and do cover them anyway and are better equipped to perform them well
The I&O Chairman is supposed to be responsible for this area of JFNA activity, so when is he going to take charge and fix what needs fixing?
He cannot possibly believe that effective I&O advocacy in North America can best be managed and coordinated by staff located in Israel.
I hope that he isn't simply waiting for the professionals to take the lead on fixing this!

Anonymous said...

Richard, it seems to me that it has been more than 4 months since you wrote about the new "envoy" program under the management of her "royal highness". Are there any results to date? It might be helpful to "expose" the names of the envoys, the communities they are from, how the allocations have been effected by their own efforts, how many communities they have reached out to already, what are the results, etc. I can only assume that it is an impossible task since it will almost surely require that Caspi (the ghost)actually has to report on something. Perhaps David Brown can get the information and if he is as sincere as appears in his article will reveal the information.