Wednesday, January 17, 2018


In the often bizarro world of Jewish organizational life, relations between the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel are fraught with incredible and often inexplicable conflicts. On January 14, a further conflict erupted over the future of the JAFI-GOI Masa program "amid disagreement between partners."

As federation support for JAFI has been reduced in almost Draconian fashion, our Israeli "partner" has become more and more dependent upon Government of Israel funding. It hasn't always been a mutually supportive relationship. Remember that World Jewry Initiative created by JAFI contemplating a real Government/JAFI/federation partnership that collapsed when the Diaspora Ministry pulled the plug on the JAFI/federation involvement? Then, of course, the lingering reality that the Prime Minister himself led the breach of an agreement he and his Cabinet approved that would have created an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel? And, now Masa.

All of us know that Masa, the year abroad study program that JAFI initiated in 2004 with GOI financial support, has brought over 120,000 young women and men to Israel. The Jerusalem Post and ejewishphilanthropy reported that the legal advisor to the Prime Minister's Office "...had asked to stop transferring funds to Masa due to a "conflict of interests."

It was alleged by the Prime Minister's Office counsel that JAFI, which had agreed in the Masa funding contract to limit the involvement of its JAFI Israel Experience Company to a maximum of 20% of the participants had exceeded that limit; the Masa CEO responded that JAFI was in compliance with the contract limits and that because of the PM's actions, 340 Masa participants were turned away on the cusp of their departure to Israel. 

Now, perhaps "conflicts of interest" may mean something different in Israel than here, but no one has explained how a contract which seems to permit "conflict of interest" to the tune of 20% of the Program annually, can be postured as the basis for claiming a breach of contract if the services exceed 20%. As Amos Hermon, the Israel Experience CEO, one of the finest professionals with whom I worked during my years of service on the JAFI Board, pointed out, that 20% "maximum" can only be determined after the fact given that that maximum percentage can only be determined after all of the other MASA service providers have completed their annual Masa recruiting and delivery.

And, then, as if this scenario wasn't bizarro enough...the Prime Minister's Office told the Post that Masa is " important project and it will continue" and a resolution would soon "be reached." 

And, then, JAFI chimed in. in a letter to its Board. It is such an incredible missive, I offer it to  you complete:
"Dear friends,

For thirteen years, Masa Israel Journey has existed as a strategic and historic partnership between The Jewish Agency, on behalf of the Jewish people and Jewish communities around the world, and the Government of Israel, via the Prime Minister’s Office. In recent months, we have been conducting an ongoing dialogue with our partners in the government, mainly regarding the role of the Israel Experience company as a provider of Masa experiences.

The issues under debate are currently under review by the Government Secretary in full partnership with The Jewish Agency, with the express intention of both parties to reach an agreed-upon solution to the matter at hand and open registration for the coming year.

It is clear to all that Masa is a flagship program whose importance to the State of Israel and to the Jewish people is beyond question. Government Secretary Tzachi Braverman has stated the following: “The Prime Minister’s Office ascribes great importance to the continued existence of Masa Israel Journey, which has thus far brought tens of thousands of Jewish young people to Israel in order to strengthen ties between Israel and Diaspora Jewry. This important initiative is currently under discussion with The Jewish Agency, with the goal of continuing it as in years past and strengthening it even further.”

The leadership of The Jewish Agency and of the Government of Israel will spare no efforts in order to ensure that Masa’s future is even brighter than its past.

We will continue to update you on any developments in our ongoing discussions with the Government Secretariat. Meanwhile, we expect partial references to the matter—which will not necessarily reflect the entire picture—to appear in the media. We suggest taking those reports with a grain of salt and relying only on reports to the Board of Governors and on communiques from the Chairman.

We are confident that Masa Israel Journey, which is a strategic asset to Israel and the Jewish people, will continue in full strength.

Sincerely, "
Friends, this letter is such a work of bureaucratic art, so devoid of facts, of information, even an explanation of why it was sent, that it is nothing less than a classic. It explains nothing; it offers nothing. It's a joke. My congratulations to the author.

At one and the same time, this is a cinflict that should easily be resolved among people acting in good faith. In the interests of Masa, let's hope it will be settled immediately.

This entire circumstance is tragic comedy. It is another cautionary tale of the complexities of dealing with the Government of Israel; let alone relying on this Government as your major source of funding.

Caveat emptor; caveat omnis.



Anonymous said...

Maybe it was written by Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe she knows how to write.

Anonymous said...

All joking aside, WTF??!! Is this another effort by Netanyahu's Governmnet to pull the rug out from under JAFI? Is it a message from Bibi "put my man in as successor to Natan, or you won't be getting funding for anything"? So the Government did this and then lets the word out "never mind"? This whole thing borders on the insane; and, then, that Sharansky-Hoffman letter!! This is as bad a circus as JFNA.

Anonymous said...

JAFI's issues and relationship with the government can't be blamed on less funding from Federations. This marriage is historic and JAFI is broken.

Anonymous said...

Pretty sad that you allow anonymous negative statements about people not connected to the JFNA.

Anonymous said...

Maybe JAFI should divest one of the two operations so that they can't be accused of a conflict of interest in any way, manner or form?

Either the staff of the Prime Minister's office are venal and stupid, or perhaps there is a real financial conflict or worse going on.

JAFI is far from transparent financially. Try getting detailed or any Amigour financials. So, perhaps where there is smoke there is fire?