Michael has some great gifts -- an incredible philanthropy, a person of great good will, a friendship with Bibi and a willingness to take on/jump into leadership roles when prevailed upon as evidenced by his past Chairmanship of Israel Bonds and, then, JFNA. It was wholly appropriate that Michael was named a "2016 Difference Maker" in Cleveland. Of course there is that one negative -- his chairmanship of JFNA -- three years of organizational drift and malaise and worse. There is no doubt that Michael will do his best and that coming from Cleveland he will have the benefit of the constant advice and direction from that Federation's CEO, Steve Hoffman, who has been more or less (and probably even more) directing/dictating the positions of American Jewry within JAFI for...well, for a long time. But is this the way our organizational leadership should be chosen -- no succession plans, no in depth involvement?
We wish Michael well, every success, G-dspeed, just as we did on his election as JFNA Chair.
2. Ethiopian Aliyah. We all remember with pride those incredible chapters in Modern Jewish History when World Jewry took responsibility for aliyah. Nowadays...not so much. Recently, as we've written on these pages, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews began its own aliyah operation, apparently out of the personal pique of its Chair, Yechiel Eckstein, who, for reasons known only to him, has turned his great financial support for JAFI into what appears to be a scorched earth policy. Then we read of the work of the ICEJ (not to be confused with Eckstein's IFCJ) has stepped up its own immigration work. As reported in The Jerusalem Post:
"The ICEJ, which belongs to the evangelical denomination of Christianity, said it had handed over $500,000 to Keren Hayesod to cover the cost of flights for 523 Ethiopian Jews, as well as to sponsor flights for another 104 Jewish immigrants due to make aliya soon from France and the Ukraine."The difference -- the ICEJ effort funds Aliyah through JAFI not in competition with it; just as Eckstein once did. But, World Jewry's role: we accept the money offered by the ICEJ and pass it on to JAFI. The ICEJ funding has enable 120,000 Jews to make aliyah though JAFI. World Jewry's funding of JAFI's work, of JDC's work, of World ORT's work has fallen through the floor breaking all records for futility.
Yep, let's leave it to the Evangelicals. Let's leave it to others.
3. The Israel Action Network. Since its creation in 2010 as a kind of "joint venture" of JFNA and JCPA, the annually underfunded Israel Action Network has done some very good things with a small staff, a terrific lay Chair* and, apparently, no Board whatsoever. Given the Missions the IAN runs, which often require visits to areas of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinians, and visits with Palestinian leadership, and its important activities, one might question why the IAN isn't spun off to its independence with minimum long-term funding guaranteed? The IAN's actions are often political, no one would argue that, just look at its website ("IAN Presented by JFNA..." Jeeez). Having a Board might be good -- adding lay support to Chair David Sherman's efforts, and now those of his successor, Skip Schrayer; continued "ownership" by JFNA may not be good for either entity.
But, to JFNA it's all about (1) control and (2) out of that control the ability to bask in light of the accomplishments of IAN as if those were JFNA's own.
Because, remember JFNA has no accomplishments of its own.
* As at November 10, Chicago's Skip Schrayer succeeded Chicago's David Sherman.