JDC, JAFI Step Back From the Brink

By Gal Beckerman

Published May 17, 2010, issue of May 28, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

A confrontation between the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has been averted, though no one is exactly saying how or why.

For weeks, the JDC was threatening to opt out of the current overseas funding structure, in which it gets 25% of funds collected by The Jewish Federations of North America, with the rest going to the Jewish Agency. But after a meeting between the two agencies and JFNA on May 17, the principle of collective funding was reaffirmed.

“We came together in a collaborative process, and we are going to move ahead in a positive and constructive manner,” said JFNA Chairwoman Kathy Manning and President and CEO Jerry Silverman in a statement issued after the meeting. “We will continue our discussions, and ultimately we remain unified in our goal of more effectively meeting Jewish needs worldwide.”

The two agencies had met periodically with JFNA since last year, to try to reconfigure the funding status quo that has been in place for more than half a century. In the past few months, the leadership of the JDC had described the negotiations as having reached a stalemate. In May, a special taskforce established by the welfare agency recommended that it find alternatives to the collective funding model, including approaching the federations individually. Such a move would effectively constitute an end run around the current system.

But the results of this most recent meeting indicate that the negotiations will continue. None of the three sides believe that the status quo will remain intact, but for the time being, they seem to have agreed on the general principle of collectively distributing American Jewry’s charity abroad.

“Today we reaffirmed our joint commitment to increase fundraising to meet critical needs in Israel and around the world,” said JDC’s president, Irving Smokler, and Steven Schwager, JDC’s executive vice president and CEO, in the statement.

Echoing a theme newly adopted by the Jewish Agency, the statement also included the following quote from Richard Pearlstone, chairman of the board, and chairman Natan Sharansky: “Through our efforts together, we will continue to build Jewish identity — and ultimately our community — around the world.”

None of the meeting’s participants would speak on the record about the deliberations or what was done to get the JDC to step back from the brink.

Observers who had spoken with those present described amicable interactions between representatives of the three groups. The meeting was almost canceled by Silverman and Manning, who demanded that the JDC first drop the two recommendations from its taskforce’s report that suggested the JDC go it alone. So the presence of all three groups was in itself a concession.

“I think it’s very good news for the system and for the two agencies,” said Misha Galperin, who is currently executive vice president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington and will be the Jewish Agency’s senior officer in North America as of June 1. “Everybody needs more money to do what they want to do. They made a decision to try and look together at how to enlarge the pie, as opposed to everybody pulling the blanket their way.”

Others were skeptical that the meeting went as positively as the press release indicated. A few noted that no date was set for the next meeting and that no new compromises were reached.

Richard Wexler, most recently chairman of United Israel Appeal and an architect of the umbrella organization that has become known as the Jewish Federations of North America, has been a critic of JFNA’s role in the negotiations between the two agencies. He feels that the organization has not done enough to encourage federations to increase their fundraising for overseas. If this were done properly, he contends, there would be no need for the fight now taking place over dwindling funds.

If the meeting reaffirmed a belief in the system and its ability to support the two agencies, that would be positive, he said. But if its results were more ambiguous, it could be detrimental to the future of the federation structure.

“If JDC stepped back from the brink, that would be a good thing,” Wexler said. “On the other hand, if JDC left the meeting upset at the results or lack of results, that would be a treacherous thing. I think everyone agrees that the JDC threat is a threat to the entire federation system and therefore to JFNA itself.”

Contact Gal Beckerman at beckerman@forward.com






Find us on Facebook!
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.