Thursday, June 28, 2018


A few weeks ago an apparently well-meaning Anonymous correspondent raised questions in response to the JCCA summons to our collective responsibilities -- questions that really depressed me. Here they are:
"What I mean is that Jewish expressions of unity, like Jewish 'collective" giving,' are being done differently. Do you only have to give to a federation to be interested in klal yisrael or Jewish collective giving? Does a federation have to participate in the national funding process to fully express responsibility for all Jews?"
The correspondent is one who, sadly but quite clearly, rejects the core values on which federations have been built; values which are required for their strength. If this person is representative of what passes for federation leadership today, I repeat...oy vey.

Back in the day, the United Jewish Appeal basked in the rreality that, as UJA put it, "No gift touches more lives." UJA's Campaign marketing materials for the federations reflected this -- what was then a reality. JFNA has picked up the mantra but, by inaction, made a mockery of what was once the reality. 

The correspondent above asked essentially, does the federation hold some monopoly on "klal israel or Jewish collective giving?" And, the answer is, must be --  no. There are more and more Jewish charitable vehicles for expressing the solidarity of the Jewish People; fewer are those which are engaged in the collective. If one looks at current communal philanthropic trends, we are seeing far more examples of "bowling alone" than of collective response -- and we have a vehicle -- JFNA -- that should be leading us to greater collective impact but has proved unable or unwilling to do so.

Yet, were JFNA leadership capable of understanding its responsibilities, the so-called "value proposition" that are its building blocks, certainly one would be that our greatest strength is evidenced when the communities come together " fully express responsibility for all Jews" through its collective actions. Absent the collective, my friends, JFNA becomes "just another charity." And so do the federations. 

More and more we have seen community after community decide that the community will go it alone. In Israel the proliferation of "federation offices" has often, but not always, resulted in communities individually funding Israeli NGO's with minimal dollars and even more minimal returns on investment. And, JFNA, with its bloated and ineffective Israel Office, seems  not to understand that one of its functions must be to idntify programs for collective response. This must change.

Even if it is determined, after a 6 month consultant study, that JFNA should be nothing more than CJF with an FRD function, it will fail, as it has failed since the merger, if JFNA, not your author, is unable to respond to our correspondent's questions above. And, that will require a whole new leadership cohort.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The leaders of JFNA consider themselves and their actions to be beyond question. How many federations are today unwilling or unable to pay in full JFNA Dues? Is the amount at risk in excess of $1 million, $2 million or more? Failure is writ all over this failed institution.