Tuesday, August 23, 2016


It was May 2011 when the grand experiment was announced:
"Ramat HaSharon has joined the American and international philanthropic world by creating Israel's first community Federation.

Takdim” – the Ramat HaSharon Community Foundation will be led by local civic leaders, similar to the way Jewish Federations are led in the United States.
Funds for the organization will be raised from local business and community residents for projects to be carried out in the same area.

The chairman of the new organization is David Ivry, president of Boeing Israel and former Israeli Ambassador to the United States. Ramat HaSharon Mayor Yitzchak Rochberger has been named honorary president.

Included on the board of directors are singer Yehoram Gaon, former IDF spokesperson Col. Miri Eisen (ret.), ad agency CEO Rami Shalmor, IAF Commander-in-Chief (ret.) Herzl Bodinger and Shlomo Nechama, chairman of the board of directors of Bank HaPoalim.
 “By establishing Takdim we are setting a precedent and we hope this will start a movement in other Israeli communities,” said Ivry. “We believe it's our responsibility to work toward improving society and this starts at home,” he continued, quoting the halakhic injunction positing that charity begins at home." 
And six years later, the experiment quietly died and no one seemed to notice.  We thought the birth and death of this dream at least deserved a proper burial.

The Takdim effort was a noble example of both hope for a new model of Israeli philanthropy and the mistaken paternalistic belief of many in North America that what our communities have built in North America is immediately transportable. This patronizing did not find a welcoming home in Ramat HaSharon. I kinda knew this experiment was doomed when I learned that the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund of San Francisco, etc., saw itself as the "model" for Takdim, essentially taking the Israeli "federation" under its own broken wing. When I read in that community's Blog Post on the subject, authored by the then CEO, Jennifer Gorovitz, that "[T]he JCF's reputation in Israel as a leading innovator in strategic philanthropy is what led the leadership of Takdim to reach out..." to San Francisco, I broke out in laughter.

Leaders from Ramat HaSharon visited San Francisco but what might be learned there? How to build the strongest of Community Foundations -- yes, but would any community start-uo begin with building endowment? Governance? Maybe? Support of its historic partners? Not at all. Building a strong FRD base? Hah!! "Strategic philanthropy?" HaHaHa. Great restaurants? Yes. A beautiful JCC? Sure.The community was floundering to such an extent at the time that it had been through multiple CEOs over multiple years -- that Federation should not have had the time to spare with the Takdim folks when it should have been focusing all of its time on itself. But it was very gracious of them.

And San Francisco wasn't alone. My own federation, offering itself as a model, jumped in with our collective feet, even forming a "partnership" that may still be in place -- albeit without a partner. The noble underpinning of Chicago's effort can be found in 2013 in http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/looking-backwards-to-find-innovation/

San Francisco and Chicago weren't alone -- community lay and professional leaders of great good will and, though they would never realize it, a sense of noblesse oblige, were running into each other, crossing each others paths in their honest desire and belief that the North American communal experience was somehow transferrable to Israel. How many federation CEOs showed up with their Israel reps in tow ready to unpackage their communal building experiences to help Takdim - - many the self-same chief professional officers who haven't the time or interest to focus on the absolute ineptitude of their own continental organization. 

And, in its ineptitude, JFNA, which should have been the focus of these efforts or at least managing them, if they were ever...ever...to have a chance of success, could not offer anything. Not from the woeful JFNA-Israel office where the bloated staff is lacking an intensive federation experience; not out of 25 Broadway, where Silverman still hadn't learned the most basic ethos of federation qua federation -- so lacking in the basics of organizational roles that it didn't/couldn't/wouldn't  coordinate the North American communal "invasion" of Ramat HaSharon.

Certainly the seeds of a federation still-birth were there from the beginning given the demand by local politicians that they have a leadership role that politicized the Takdim "federation" construct externally before it even had the chance to politicize itself internally. The JDC, which had invested significantly in building indigenous communal and philanthropic leadership in Israel, was strangely detached. And, as any of us who had been exposed to the Israel brand of philanthropy could have advised, it was and is something totally different from the American communal experience where our communities have been built upon women and men of great wealth trust in the communal leadership and the communal entity -- a trust, of course, that has been breaking down; a breakdown to which JFNA has contributed mightily and about which its leaders have been, of course, oblivious.

Someone, some organization, might take a serious look at the brief life and death of Takdim as a case study -- because this experiment was noble and serious and we and our Israeli mishpacha have so much to learn from it.


1 comment:

RWEX said...

One knowledgeable Federation leader, involved for a time with the Takdim experiment wrote to me:

"For the majority of American Jews, federations as THE way of donating was a given since they were kids. Takdim started out and really only aimed at established, individual donors who had no federation-like experience or benchmark. For them Takdim itself was an investment risk, in some ways not dissimilar to their willingness to take gambles with other grants they make. Failure was an option and even "proof" of their self image of venture philanthropists."