Friday, March 30, 2018


There are times when I marvel at the genius of our organizations -- local, continental and international. An announcement in a recent transmittal -- an Update -- from the Jewish Agency for Israel raised some serious, maybe even existential, matters for me.

The announcement of a new JAFI Campaign Chair, succeeding our friend Richie Pearlstone, raised serious questions in my mind -- certainly not in JAFI's, but so be it. Let me be clear, I'm certain that the new Campaign Chair is a wonderful leader, probably inspirational and, certainly, committed. But that alone doesn't trump the serious questions:

  • Can a leader be separated from the comunity from which he/she comes? The question arose when I read the bio of the new JAFI Campaign Chair who comes from a federation, one of which she is a Past Chair, whose allocation to the Jewish Agency is almost non-existent...according to its last 990 of record, almost nothing at all. In each leadership role I was privileged to play in organized Jewish life, I always felt that I was serving because of my community. Clearly that's not the case today; but, should it be?
  • This is not the first time I have raised this question. Back in our respective youths, a dear friend, a terrific communal, national and international leader, called me to tell me how thrilled he was to have been named the "Allocations Advocacy Chair" for UIA. After congratulating him, I told him the truth from my perspective: UIA could not have named a better leader or a more articulate spokesperson. Then came the "but..." "But, you come from a community that is reducing its allocations to JAFI and JDC by 20% a year. How are you going to respond if you come to Chicago or Miami or Baltimore and are asked 'what is your federation doing with allocations?'"
  • And, then, there was another communal leader, a great, dedicated philanthropist who called to ask me what I thought. He had been asked to Chair the infamous JFNA Overseas Needs and Assessment process back in the day. He would have been brilliant at the job. Then came the "but." "But, as we discussed at the last GA, your federation is over $1 million in arrears in the payment of its allocations. It just doesn't compute." He thanked me with a "I thought that's what you might say."
In my communal leadership career, I was so fortunate. I came from Chicago. I learned the values of and from my community. I tried my damnedest to pass them on. At times and in some places, I succeeded; in other times, in other places, I failed...but never from a lack of trying or caring.

I have suggested to JFNA that its "Envoys" be challenged to advocate for increased allocations for Overseas needs in their own communities. (Inasmuch as no community to my knowledge is allocating more to meet the core budgets of our partners today than the communities allocated 5 years ago, it strikes me as having "potential.") I would wager that my suggestion, as with most (all?), made a quick detour to the wastebasket.

I wish JAFI's new Campaign Chair great success.



Anonymous said...

Not sure if 990s will necessarily show overseas allocations. With new IRS accountability guidelines, many Federations, like mine, no longer grant anything (directly) to overseas organizations. Instead the grants are made through JFNA (who performs all the accountability requirements), American Friends groups, PEF-Israel, etc.

Anonymous said...


While many of us share your concern it's important that you (and your readers) know that there are some communities who ARE answering the call. Our community has increased it's overseas allocation each of the past 6 years. While it is "small potatoes" and incremental, we are very proud of the direction and the message that goes with that allocation. BTW...each of those 6 years has had an increased campaign total.

Chag Sameach

RWEX said...

My apologies to Anon 8:01 and his/her community -- my genera;ization did your federation a disservice just as your federation distinguishes itself by its commitment to Israel and Overseas needs.