There was a pretty interesting set of table discussions at the recent JFNA Board Retreat lat January's end. The lengthy presentations and discussions on the relationship with Israel -- what Richard Sandler termed "Brand Israel" -- were a focus on what was the entirety of the Sunday evening session and flowed from a presentation on a Mission that, to me, sounded like any other, and, then, into a set of table discussions and reports on Monday morning. I won't repeat the results, but some of the recommendations from the tables reflected the sad reality that JFNA, when isn't screwing up old programs is busy restating the obvious. The entirety of the sessions was almost a rehash of some of the naivete reflected In the pablum of FedCentral.
But the lengthy sessions were built on the premise that JFNA is engaged in "Israel advocacy." Let's be clear: It is not engaged and has not been. National Mission participation is so depressed that even the 2017 Prime Minister's Mission has been canceled; and JFNA has been at the forefront of redirecting Missions away from Israel (see, for example, our Post on January 28, Israel Is So Last Year) while community missions have remained mainly focused on Israel and planned independent of a JFNA which offers little value added.
Sure, one would think that with $13 million budgeted for Israel and Overseas this year,
JFNA would have had, at some point over the last, let's say, 7+ years, set forth an Israel Advocacy plan, vetted it with the Executive Committee and Board, and implemented it. And, OK, let's admit that there was an almost four year distraction with a Global Planning Table that had not a single element of Israel Advocacy within the hundreds of pages of gobbledygook and millions wasted before it was killed in an assisted suicide. But that left about 4 years when that Israel Advocacy might have been planned and implemented.
It wouldn't be appropriate to ascribe blame to the JFNA: Israel and Overseas Department; we all know that leadership on JFNA policies must come from the Board and while "leadership" might come from Retreat Table discussions, a more rational outline might be this: the Board Chair and Executive Committee, and the Israel/Overseas Department in consultation with the CEO, identify "Brand Israel" as a priority for JFNA; the CEO/President would be charged to produce an Israel Advocacy Plan within, say, sixty days; the draft Plan would be vetted through the Israel/Overseas Department Committee; and then presented to the Executive Committee and Board. But, at least up until this point in time, at JFNA, there has been no process for anything that isn't purely ad hoc -- a new "process" for every new "thing," or, more likely, no process at all. In the context of Israel advocacy, if past is prologue, friends, there will be none flowing from JFNA at all. (And, never ever expect to read the summaries of those Retreat Table discussions -- they always appear to be nothing more than meeting filler.)
So, now, after the presentations and the Table discussions, and knowing of Richard Sandler's passionate embrace of the subject matter, let's see if JFNA moves this matter to the top, or near the top, of its so-called priorities -- directing that its many silos (FRD, Israel and Overseas, maybe whatever becomes of community consulting) collaborate on an Israel Advocacy Plan -- one we can all read and understand before it is adopted -- and that Plan's implementation.
Or. maybe, JFNA Jerry will just farm it out to the Israel Action Network or JCPA or some other. Then JFNA won't have to worry about being held accountable -- as in all things.
We'll be watching.