Monday, November 27, 2017


I think it is great that the JFNA Israel and Overseas Department convened an I & O Institute in conjunction with the LA GA. It must have been great -- multiple topics, some of great complexity, jam-packed into one three hour "Institute." And raising all sorts of questions.

First, here are the topics outlined in a pre-GA mailing to the registrants:
  Religious Pluralism in Israel and Federations: Responding to the Challenge and Educating our Communities (and ourselves), facilitated by I&O Chair, David Brown
ü  Free Mengistu Committee Report
ü  Collaboration is Key: Emergency and Preparedness and Response, including speakers from JFNA, Israel Trauma Coalition, the Jewish Agency for Israel, and JDC.
ü  Update on ENP Project 1460
ü  Transformations: How our Overseas Partners are Adapting to New Realities and Challenges, a moderated dialogue with Avi Ganon, World ORT, Alan Hoffman, Jewish Agency for Israel, and David Schizer, JDC
ü  Federation Impact in a Changing Negev, Heschel Raskas
ü  Closing thoughts"
I would almost...almost...have wanted to be there just to learn what the "Free Mengistu Committee" is and why it is a focus of JFNA. If, dear Readers, you know what this Committee it, what it does and why it's work is on the JFNA agenda, please let me know ASAP.

And, while you are at it, help me to understand:

1. Why was World ORT not included in the discussion of "Collaboration is Key"?
2. Did the "Religious Pluralism" agenda item include the "intensive "work by JFNA-Israel on the Kotel and the Conversion legislation and where is the under-funded I-Rep?
3. Did the Update on the ENP include data on JFNA's fund raising failures? BTW, on the JFNA effort to fund SPACE, a truly important program, who at 25 Broadway wrote the "ask" suggesting that foregoing two lattes a week would deliver the goods -- we are our own worst enemies.
4. Did anyone ask whether the Federations might have a real impact in the Negev were they to partner with the Jewish National Fund and/or Ben Gurion University of the Negev whose investments in the Negev exceed hundreds of millions?
5. And, finally, where exactly is a presentation on the JFNA Envoys allocation advocacy effort -- or has that effort gone the way of all JFNA efforts? We know that 2017 cash allocations to WorldORT, JAFI and JDC will reach the lowest levels in history -- not a mention. 
6. And what the hell is this: ü ?
Just asking...



Anonymous said...

Richard, I can't answer your questions, however your comment about the JFNA Envoys Program struck a chord: It was absent at the GA, not one word; but if I'm wrong, someone please correct me.
Also, the ENP SPACE campaign, also; not mentioned; again, if I'm wrong, please correct me.

Speaks volumes about JFNA and how incompetent an organization it is (sorry for the poor syntax).

Anonymous said...

Tone deaf!

Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia

Avera Mengistu (Hebrew: אברה מנגיסטו, Amharic: አበራ መንግስቱ?) is an Israeli Ethiopian Jew from Ashkelon, Israel, who crossed into Gaza through Zikim beach on September 7, 2014. He was interrogated by Hamas. He has been missing since then.[1] His family has stated that he is mentally unstable and had been admitted to a mental hospital in the past. He had been treated with medication, which he stopped taking a few weeks prior to his crossing.[2]

On the day he disappeared, Mengistu was spotted near the security fence with Gaza carrying a bag. Israeli Patrol who were guarding electrical work at the time saw him and let him pass. By the time the camera on the watch tower has called the patrols attention to Mengistu it was too late. A soldier on the scene stated that he thought Avera was a Sudanese refugee who had decided to move to Gaza. [1][3] Israel contacted the Red Cross and officials in the Gaza Strip and demanded that Mengistu be returned to Israel.[1]

Background Edit

Mengistu was born in Ethiopia and made aliyah (i.e., immigrated to Israel) with his parents and 6 siblings. He grew up in the southern development town of Ashkelon, which is twenty kilometers (twelve miles) from Gaza. He went to school in the Israeli public school system.

In a column in The Jerusalem Post, Tal Harris described the Mengistu family as extremely underprivileged and belonging to the poorest socio-economic sector of Israeli society.[4]

Around 2011, Mengistu's older brother, with whom he was very close, died from an illness. Mengistu's mental condition began to deteriorate; he was hospitalized in a mental facility twice and received psychiatric and medicinal treatment.[3]

Incident Edit

On September 7, 2014, Mengistu walked on the beach in the Zikim area and arrived at the security fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The camera on the watch tower tracked his movements and notified the border patrol. They arrived and called for him to stop but he continued to walk towards the fence and ultimately crossed into Gaza.[3] Since then, he has not been seen by any Israeli.[5]

Initially, a Hamas official said Mengistu was interrogated and seemed to have psychological problems. Israeli officials said there is "credible intelligence" that Hamas holds Mengistu "against his will".[6] Later, Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy chairman of Hamas' political bureau, said in an interview with Al Jazeera that Mengistu wore a uniform, was mentally healthy, and that his case had came up during truce negotiations related to the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, which took place weeks before the date Israel says Mengistu crossed into Gaza.[2]

Gag order Edit

In Israel, a blanket gag order regarding the incident was put into place. It lasted 10 months, until July 9, 2015. Discussions took place in social media forums and some reports were published on foreign websites.[1] Some clues about the affair were leaked to different Arabic media outlets, from which the story made its way to international media and was published by blogger Richard Silverstein.[7] The gag order was lifted following a request from Haaretz.[1] The Associated Press speculated that a statement made by Khaled Mashaal the previous day, in which he spoke of an Israeli request through a European intermediary for the release of "two soldiers and two bodies", may have "forced Israel's hand".[6]

Anonymous said...

The effort to fund SPACE was a terrible idea that would have significantly damaged the annual campaigns in many federations. My Exec told me that the best way to deal with this would be to let it quietly die, rather than offend different sides by thrashing it out ad nauseum.

Anonymous said...

". Did anyone ask whether the Federations might have a real impact in the Negev were they to partner with the Jewish National Fund and/or Ben Gurion University of the Negev whose investments in the Negev exceed hundreds of millions?"

No, thank goodness. Because JNF has no mission anymore, and just hungrily looks for mission-creep funding at every step, and because Ben Gurion University is doing a great job at Ben Gurion University and doesn't cover the depth and breadth of Federations' commitments. Why don't you drive around the Negev and see the work that Federations are actually doing?

Anonymous said...

I live in the Negev and see the impact of JNF's work here every day. The Comment at 12:53 must have come from someone with a vested interest inJFNA because they attempt to elevate the federations' minimal effort (almost totally unseen by the human eye) by deprecating the work of JNF and BGU. Let the last writer detail "the depth and breadth of Federations' commitments" in the Negev and then we will all have a good laugh. BTW I thought your suggestion that the federations partner with BGU and/or JNF was an excellent one but for the fact that neither federations nor JFNA bring anything of real value to the table.

Anonymous said...

But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Federations’ prograns tend to be about social capital, building relationships and partnerships and improving civil society in the Negev. JNF wants its name on buildings. So, sure, you live in the Negev. I believe you. Why not? But not everything valuable is visible and not everything visible is valuable.

RWEX said...

Any one who believes that JNF's Hurculean efforts in the Negev are about "names on buildings" should be ashamed of themselves. Yet, one thing on wich I am in total agreement with the last Commentator is that JFNA's "work" in the Negev is almost totally invisible.

Anonymous said...

JFNA work in the Negev is a drop in the bucket - nothing to be proud of except that it funds a dedicated staff person for its Israel office who can lobby for the importance of the Negev.
But since when is it the role of JFNA to be doing direct programming rather than supporting those whose job it is to so?

Anonymous said...

Israeli politicians are one group that can rejoice about the weak leadership of JFNA. They will be able to effortlessly push into office whoever they want to without having to worry about any serious "advise and consent" process or a selection process driven by serious criteria where the best person has a chance of being selected. No Diaspora leadership means Israeli politicos being able to as they please for their own political convenience.

Anonymous said...

It isn't invisible - it simply isn't there, but if wasting of resources counts then JFNA is doing a lot!

Anonymous said...

maybe I missed something? But since when should JFNA be working in the Negev? Isn't that the job of the individual Federations partnered there?