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Big Difference

J.J. Goldberg, in the course of his incisive (and entertaining) column on the New York Jewish Community Relations Council’s annual congressional breakfast (“Bagels and Iran: The Congressional Breakfast,” February 3), feels obliged to parse for the perplexed the difference between public-affairs groups like the JCRC and fund-raising-and-allocations bodies such as the UJA-Federation: The Federation is Park Avenue liberal and Armani; the JCRC is middle-class, polyester, and black yarmulke.

Cute — but Goldberg misses the point. The difference between JCRCs and federations obviously has everything to do with role and mission: The federation system is all about coordination of fund-raising for social services, allocations and social planning; JCRCs coordinate public policy and inter-group relations on the local level.

But there’s more.

This division of labor derives from an agreement hammered out in 1944 that in effect created the discrete sphere of Jewish community relations. The dilemma in recent years, and resultant confusion, arises from the fact that the federations, in disregard of the hoary 1944 contract, have gone into the public-policy arena big-time. Israel, anti-Semitism, international affairs, heretofore the province of community-relations agencies national and local, have been “hijacked” by the federations. These are “cash-cow” areas for fundraising.

It’s all about the money.

Jerome A. Chanes
New York, N.Y.

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