Thursday, June 1, 2017


Carmi Schwartz, was an esteemed professional leader of the Council of Jewish Federations. To honor Carmi, CJF established the Carmi Schwartz Fund, and hundreds of lay leaders contributed, I among them. As Mark Gurvis, JFNA's Executive Vice President, explained in a letter to donors last month:
"The purpose of the Fund was to establish a fellowship that would enable a veteran CJF staff member to spend two months studying contemporaneous issues in Israel"
This fellowship was intended to help fulfill Carmi's "commitment to staff development and to the Federations' Israel and overseas agenda."

Without explanation as to "why," Mark's letter went on to explain:
"Unfortunately, the fund has been dormant for many years because it has proven impractical to send seasoned JFNA staff on two-month sabbaticals."
I'm pretty sure that all of us can offer reasons why the "impracticality."

And JFNA's "solution:"
"JFNA, as successor to CJF, would like to continue to use the Fund to support professional development opportunities for JFNA staff in Israel or otherwise related to its Israel and overseas activities, without requiring that the recipients be veteran staff members or spend two months studying in Israel." (emphasis added)
By the time the donors received this "proposal," it had already received rubber stamp approved by JFNA's Endowment Committee and Board. It had also been blessed with Carmi's approval.

I hate to see this Fund unexpended while at the same time I would have been interested to learn, as a donor, what JFNA offered in answer to the "why?" "Why" was there no longer a process for honoring the original intent? "Why" were no options offered other than to convert the stipend to "JFNA staff in Israel (and what would they use it for?) or otherwise?" For example, why was no consideration given to offering the stipend to seasoned Federation Israeli and overseas professionals for a two month study period? What other alternatives were considered by and offered to the Endowment Committee and Carmi Schwartz?

Friends, we have lamented time and again the deconstruction of the communal profession by JFNA itself. The inability to identify eligible Fund recipients is just further evidence of this deconstruction; further evidence of constant failure.

Constant failure.



JProactivists said...

One question to be asked is why was the fund dormant?

Dan Brown said...

While I am not a lawyer, I do have a fairly good understanding of the issues involved in the high profile lawsuit between the heirs to the A&P supermarket fortune (Robertson family) and Princeton University. According to your post, this has already received rubber stamp approval by JFNA's Endowment Committee and Board. The problem is, it's not JFNA's choice - but the DONORS' choice. Unfortunately, as you point out, the board just rubber stamps - to the point of likely approving illegal actions.

Anonymous said...

Reply to Dan Brown. It may or may not be the donor's choice. There are IRS laws that limit the donors' post donation control/influence over the charitable assets. Typically, donor control ends at the point of the donation and the donors' use of the donation for a charitable deductions. Second, the document that created the fund may have outlined the procedures for changing the stipulations over the use of the funds. At our community's endowment foundation, we do have such provisions built into our standard "fund agreements." In those cases the fund agreement, usually entered into by donors/family members, dictates what will happen to the funds, or the annual distribution, if the purpose is not longer feasible, or if the designated organization (e.g. a synagogue, a JCC, a Jewish day school) is no longer in existence. The Princeton/A&P heirs example may not be relevant to this situation.

Dan Brown said...

To anon at 2:15: I indicated I am not a lawyer but agree the fine points of IRS law may well apply. We do not know, based on the post, whether the original agreement contained any such clauses. Richard indicated he was a donor; perhaps he has some recollection or a copy of the document. (I can't imagine JFNA ever making the document available.)

Anonymous said...

Much more important to Anon 2:15 point, however, is whether legal or not, when a board makes a change such as this doesn't at the least "consult" the donor whether, legally required to or not, it sends a message to future donors - be careful about trusting the organization with the intent of your donation as the board may change your intent after you donate the money. This is not a good way to entice further donations.