One thing you can always count on at JFNA, the one constant, is a total lack of follow-through...on anything and everything. We can (and have) look back at overseas allocations, the National Agencies-Federation Alliance, any and all Special Campaigns, the issues with WZO and Survivors funding, the Global Planning Table (where organizational failure was a welcome condition precedent to its demise) -- the list of failure after failure just goes on and on and on, ad infinitum. At 25 Broadway there is an institutional attention deficit disorder that has become self-evident in all things. And, as JFNA flits from issue to issue, failed program to new program assured to fail, no one...not a single JFNA leader is holding the staff to account. Irresponsibility has led to unaccountability.
Nowhere has JFNA's lack of follow-through been more evident than in its failed substantive advocacy for religious pluralism in Israel. In 2012, and even earlier, JFNA claimed to have been a partner with the non-Orthodox religious Movements, Women of the Wall and the Jewish Agency in pushing a deal through the Netanyahu Cabinet in January 2016, that was to assure egalitarian prayer space by the Kotel. JFNA was one of the greatest of cheerleaders for the deal in which had played no role whatsoever but for which it attempted to grab as much credit as possible. Why it even organized a "march" of 100's in Jerusalem in support of these efforts in conjunction with the last Israel GA. And, while claiming "victory" last January, JFNA leaders put on their blinders against the reality that the deal was falling apart, killed, as are so many things in Jerusalem, by coalition politics; or, maybe, these, our leaders, will claim they have put their faith in Israel's Supreme Court -- but I don't recall any "friend of the court" brief on behalf of our claimed "partners." The Court has acted but, as with so many things in Israel, few expect that the Court's actions will be the final word on the subject.
And so it came to pass that at the GA last November, the JFNA Board -- the Board -- spent most of its meeting redrafting a letter to the Prime Minister that from its draft state to its final wording was what JFNA leaders termed "strong" but most felt to be obsequious. Even the vote on approval has yet to be disclosed to the Board where we have learned at least two Large Cities voted "no" and the Minutes of that meeting recited a "approved by majority vote." The "letter" approval process required the intervention of the Wall Deal's main architect, JAFI's Natan Sharansky, to push for language that would not upset the Prime Minister. JFNA, as is its practice in matters of this kind -- i.e., any matter of controversy -- satisfied itself that was doing something by writing a letter.
And, then, JFNA just moved on. Our organization sent a letter and moved on. When Women of the Wall and others supporting the implementation of the agreement received death threats, maybe JFNA organized a conference call; maybe it's drafting another letter, And maybe it's doing nothing at all.
I have heard in Comments from some friends of this Blog, and off-line, that JFNA is wise to never take a stand on any matter because doing so would further divide the North American Jewish polity. Those intelligent and well-meaning leaders ignore the reality that for our continental organization there must be certain basic principles on which it must "rise up" or be perceived as ineffectual, even spineless. Thus, if religious pluralism is a cause worth fighting for, then fight for it, mobilize for it and do more than give it lip service and agonize over a letter...a letter...to the Prime Minister who has a radar detector against weakness in all events. If we have convictions -- even if they are few -- don't we need to stand up for them? Our friend, MK Nachman Shai, who directed the JFNA Israel Office when it was actually effective, forwarded an incisive article in The Jerusalem Post that stated clearly that the Shas "Western Wall Bill will drive away Aerican Jews." http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Politics-And-Diplomacy/MKs-warn-Shas-Western-Wall-bill-will-drive-away-American-Jews-476884 Apparently, the organization that is presumed to represent American Jews, JFNA, can only bring itself to write a periodic letter.
I expressed my pride in JFNA's immediate and public response to the Obama Administration's refusal to veto the UNSC Resolution 2334. (JFNA Rises Up, 24 December 2016) Days later I learned that the organization only did so at the "urging" of Israeli government officials and the Conference of Presidents suggesting that a failure to publicly object to the abstention might result in the Prime Minister no longer being available for, e.g., Mission meetings and GA videos among other things. Now we at least understand what will get JFNA to speak out.
Inasmuch as the leaders of JFNA have no shame, by their silence on the Shas legislation they are stating: this isn't our issue. Even though it is.