Federations Drop Overseas Giving Formula

Israel Agency and JDC Will Vie With Others for Share of Funds

New Method: Kathy Manning, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America board, says a new system will give donors more control over their money.
eric stephenson for jfna
New Method: Kathy Manning, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America board, says a new system will give donors more control over their money.

By Nathan Guttman

Published November 10, 2011, issue of November 18, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The national umbrella organization for Jewish philanthropic federations has abolished its historic commitment to fund the Jewish community’s two largest overseas recipients by using a fixed longstanding formula.

The move, taken by the Jewish Federations of North America at its annual General Assembly conference, will force the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to compete for the first time with other overseas groups for funds from the umbrella group. The retention of this looser structure, dubbed the Global Planning Table, appeared to be a last ditch-effort by JFNA to save its crumbling process for collective Jewish giving abroad.

In a November 8 interview with the Forward during the G.A., Kathy Manning, chair of JFNA’s board of trustees, explained one impetus driving the transformation in the umbrella group’s historic commitment to funding needs in Israel and overseas.

“One of the things we’ve lost over the years is the understanding of what our partners do, how they use our dollars to make a real impact on the needs that they deal with,” Manning said.

Her comment reflected the growing resistance among federation officials to provide a blank check to their recipient agencies, including the Jewish Agency and the JDC, in a way that allows those agencies to manage federation charitable dollars as they please. The new JFNA plan also reflects a continuous drop in allocations by federations for causes outside their immediate communities.

A large majority adopted the new plan in a closed-door vote by JFNA’s board of trustees at the closing of the G.A.

The dramatic change in policy was felt only behind the scenes of the annual Jewish parley. It was not discussed in plenary sessions and was touched on only briefly at a few breakout meetings.

“JFNA will tell you that there was a lot of discussion about it, but for those who have concerns, this is probably not enough,” said the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee’s executive director, Mark Freedman, who attended the G.A. meeting.

An official who works for a large federation and asked not to be named complained that “no one understands the details” of the new plan and that federations were not given a chance to make changes. In an uncharacteristic fashion, debate over the plan was reserved to coffee shop discussions between delegates and anonymous e-mails sent to federation officials. Even the Jewish Agency, the major stakeholder, chose not to take on the plan publicly.

Under the new process, JFNA will decide where to send its overseas dollars based on annual discussions at the Global Planning Table. Federations participating in the process — parts of which will be reserved only to federations actually making donations for overseas — will hear ideas from members, from JAFI and JDC, and from other agencies and providers. It will then decide where to send the community’s collective funds. “This is an opportunity to really think what it means to be a collective entity,” said Joanne Moore, JFNA’s senior vice president for global planning who is in charge of launching the new process.

The collective nature of the federations’ giving to overseas causes has, in fact, been eroding for years.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • 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.