Tuesday, August 22, 2017


This Post first appeared in ejewishphilanthropy on August 17

I am with those who share the belief that if we didn't have a JFNA we would have to recreate one; but I also believe that recent events have highlighted the reality that today we don't have the strong continental organization that can lead us, collaborate with us and offer us excellence.  Events of the last two months offer all of us the worst of examples of how this iteration of JFNA has failed us, the federations and the the Jewish People.

First there is the lack of any coherent approach to the decisions of Prime Minister Netanyahu and the GOI Cabinet to breach the agreement to create an egalitarian prayer space adjacent to the Western Wall and to support legislation in the Knesset that would vest all power to conduct and approve conversions in the hands of the Ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate. As we've written, on the Sunday these actions were taken by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet, JFNA's leaders happened to be in Jerusalem; and piggybacked themselves on to a Jewish Agency meeting with the PM, seemingly approved of JAFI's decision to cancel a Knesset Dinner Gala that Sunday evening, saw UIA JAFI Board members deploy to lobby in the Knesset and were open to interviews. It appears that as Bibi ordered that consideration of the Conversion legislation be "suspended" for 6 months, and that construction of the prayer space would consider (but under the aegis of a governance controlled by the Ultra-Orthodox), JFNA determined that it would sit by (oh, wait, JFNA-Israel pros are intensively visiting the Knesset maybe daily) and await outcomes -- because it has done nothing further; the Diaspora Jewish laity doesn't know what the position of JFNA is let alone strategy and tactics. 

Let's face it: these GOI actions impact upon the Jewish Diaspora; they are at the same level, if not worse, than the challenges to World Jewry embodied in the "Who Is A Jew?" challenges in the 1980s and 1990s. The difference: in response to those challenges, the system was represented by UJA and CJF which mounted a planned, constant pressure on the then Government of Israel and members of the Knesset -- and Diaspora Jewry prevailed. Today -- nothing. Example: on two Missions to Israel less than one month after the Cabinet actions, no apparent thought was given to educate and then send those lay and professional leaders to buttonhole Knesset members and/or meet with the PM and emphasize the necessity of reconsideration of these actions which threaten the vital relationship between Diaspora Jewry and Israel. And there appear to be no plans to send North American Jewish leaders to Israel weekly to do the same; or to do anything else.

Then, there is this. On July 20, JTA reported: Uganda's Jews are down to one meal a day because of East Africa's famine.
As reported by Ben Sales, 2,000 Ugandan Jews are at immediate risk of starvation (two
have already died) as  confirmed by the United Nations. There has been to date a "trickle of dollars" from the organized Jewish community -- from synagogues , a coalition organized by the JDC, American Jewish World Service. And what has been JFNA's response: has it 
even opened a Mailbox, JFNA's "regular" response to emergencies? Has it done a damned thing? No: it has been silent. Not even a mailbox.

And two other things that I found astonishing:

  1. JFNA couldn't rouse itself to send a delegation to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Reunification of Jerusalem; and
  2. Worse, not even a small delegation of JFNA lay leaders were convened by JFNA in Charlottesville after the terrorists' anti-semitic attacks there to express our collective solidarity with the Charlottesville Jewish community. Read: http://reformjudaism.org/blog/2017/08/14/charlottesville-local-jewish-community-presses?utm_source=Share&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=BlogPost&utm_content=Zimmerman
I have no doubt that in the era of UJA and CJF these 2 omissions -- omissions which disgrace JFNA and our federations even further -- would not have occurred for these expressions of Jewish Peoplehood were responses that were baked-into the n'shama of both organizations. Not any more.

JFNA's tagline -- Touching More Jewish Lives Than Any Organization in the World -- blares in huge font on the sad JFNA home page, might be true if JFNA were doing its job with excellence anywhere in the World. It isn't...anywhere. 

It is the worst of times -- leadership's willing indifference to all that is so wrong at 25 Broadway is more than unacceptable. What is amazing, sickening to me is that these events that so transparently prove the ultimate collapse of JFNA into embarrassment is that 
they have taken place in the full view of everyone -- and continues to be. 




Anonymous said...

Excellent piece Richard. One correction: JFNA's leaders happened to be in Jerusalem but they did not "[piggyback] themselves on to a Jewish Agency meeting with the PM, seemingly approved of JAFI's decision to cancel a Knesset Dinner Gala that Sunday evening". Rather, the Large City Execs met Sunday night, decided to cancel the Gala with the Prime Minister that was scheduled for Monday, then informed Sharansky of that fact. This was led by the Execs, not JFNA. My sources tell me that Sharansky was, in fact, sitting in the room next to the Execs waiting for their decision, and reluctantly agreed once it was made clear to him that the Execs would not show up.

RWEX said...

Thanks so much for the correction. Given this reality -- Large City Execs taking/demanding the appropriate response, what is it that JFNA has contributed at all during this critical time and its aftermath?

Anonymous said...

Good for those LCE folks! But if they were able to "force" this action why is it that they are not doing anything at all to fix the fiasco at 25 Broadway?
Is it that they don't care enough or that they care too much about their own selfish status quo "don't rock the boat" policy?
We all know that the power lies in what is left of the once central LCE group but even here it seems that the tradition of strong leadership and standing up for what is right has become a thing of the past.
No leadership will lead us from fiasco to total disasteer in what will be a surprisingly short period of time.
The writing is on the wall but evidently nobody wants to read it!

Anonymous said...

Don't worry folks. JFNA Israel has the Knesset fully covered and under control. Our efforts there will surely pay off someday and are no doubt worth every dollar spent. By the way, does anybody have any idea how much it is costing us?

Anonymous said...

It is not the "the worst of times" - it will get much worse as time goes by.
The worst is yet to come unless we come to our senses very soon.

Anonymous said...

Question for 7:32 - what makes you think there is still time?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps wishful thinking but the stakes are too high to give up hope.

Anonymous said...

But kicking the can down the road just adds to the oncoming disaster

Anonymous said...

Re Anon 6:52 am:
This is the tradition of the JFNA Chairpersons.
Shapira or Wilf will inherit all of this, as their predecessors have.
Makes one wonder why someone would want the job in the first place.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 9:07


And what is your source of this meeting of large city execs in the room next to Sharansky?

Were you there?

If that were true, why hasn't a single one of them acknowledged such a meeting or decision independent of all the JAFI press for orchestrating this response in the past two months?

RWEX said...

To the most recent Anon:

Thanks for "catching up" to a Post and Comments now two weeks old. Deploying the now also stale rubric of "Fake News" (in caps no less) doesn't mae your objection to the Comment any more valid. In fact I heard directly from two Fed CEOs who were present confirming the account you so fervently reject.

If you have facts to refute the Comment to which you have appended your ugly claim, let's have them. If not, retract your "Fake News" claim.

Anonymous said...

Read any of Natan Sharansky's many interviews at the time with the Israeli press.

And try to read the original Hebrew versions.

It is still a false narrative, or in today's vernacular, fake news