Change Does Not Always Mean Progress: Looking at JFNA Today

change-progress

I am concerned that the Federation system has been and is being weakened by an approach that seeks to protect vested interests instead of initiating and developing ways for Federations, individual and collectively, to meet the challenges of the local and international Jewish community in the 21st century. by Stephen G. Donshik Over the last few years I have written a number of postings about the status and needs of the North American Jewish Federation system and the umbrella organization of the local Federations, now called the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). Although at times I have been critical both of the Federation system and the JFNA, I am a staunch supporter of them and their central role in strengthening the Jewish community as a whole and in meeting the needs of individual … [Read more...]

We Have Proven Good at Talking the Talk. Now it’s Time to Walk the Walk.

Ben Avrum Jerusalem

We are fond of using timeless quotes at conferences and gatherings talking about the importance of change ... Yet, our basic playbook is the same today as it was 15 years ago. How we do business hasn’t changed. by Keith Greenwald The Pew study is not “breaking news.” It is the latest in a long series of studies, reports, white papers and conversations to highlight these trends. Declining donor numbers in both absolute terms and as a percentage of the community population was an established issue when I first got involved over 15 years ago. Assimilation, intermarriage, generational values, etc etc were the known challenges (I could say excuses) back then and still seem to be today. As I read the commentary and opinions on the Pew study two main questions jump to mind: Why is the … [Read more...]

America’s Philanthropic Priorities are Hurting Israel’s Nonprofit Sector

If you were an American Jew you’d think that Israel’s civil society is made up of Masa, Ethiopian absorption, and the many social programs that The Jewish Agency and JDC operate in Israel. by Jonathan Ben-Dor When American Jews donate to Israel, they generally do it by supporting their local Jewish Federation, which in turn supports two strategic partners - The Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). These two organizations operate hundreds of programs in Israel, and impact the lives of hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of people. But Israel has over 30,000 different nonprofit organizations. Why is it that only two organizations receive the bulk of American philanthropy? And what kind of damage is this doing to Israel? Israel’s 30,000 nonprofit organizations … [Read more...]

Strengthening Jewish Life in Europe

by Seth Cohen After a whirlwind week in Budapest and Berlin, having a day in Jerusalem to reflect was exactly what I needed. And now that Jerusalem is hosting philanthropists and federation professionals from across the United States for the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly, I am hopeful they will reflect on what role they have in strengthening Jewish life in Europe. A few questions to ponder (and even answer!): How will we define our role in supporting emerging communities of leaders who have ideas and energy, but not necessarily the homegrown resources to build communities on their own? How can we strengthen the networks of young adults in America and Israel with individuals scattered around the world - if we live in an era where young adults truly want to be global, … [Read more...]

A Global Jewish Marketplace of Dialogue and Ideas

by Jerry Silverman and Michael Siegal These days, many of us spend a lot of time in echo chambers. Increasingly, we pay attention to columnists, bloggers and commentators who support our worldview, and we associate with people who think like we do. That divide is most evident during election seasons (and recently in light of the US government shutdown) but as Jews, we see that divide in everyday life: What denominations we affiliate with (or don’t), what organizations we support (or don’t) - and, of course, where we stand on Israel. It’s rare that we come together regardless of ideology to think, debate, hear varying perspectives and, most important, connect as Jews concerned about Israel and Jewish life, whether we’re Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist or unaffiliated; … [Read more...]

Making the Most of the JFNA General Assembly in Israel

Most of the [GA] program is taken up by plenary sessions and large group sessions where people are making presentations and speaking at each other - not with each other. High-profile Israelis make their presentations, express their opinions, and then leave the conference. by Stephen G. Donshik The annual General Assembly of the Jewish Federation of North America (JFNA) will be taking place in Israel, November 10 - 12, 2013. It has become a recent tradition to hold the annual gathering every few years in Israel. It provides a wonderful opportunity to expose the Federation system’s professional and volunteer leadership to Israeli culture and leadership and to expose Israelis to the North American Jewish communities and the issues that they face in building, maintaining, and strengthening local … [Read more...]

Revisiting the Global Planning Table

Pingulated-ping-pong-table

We should remind ourselves why the Council of Jewish Federations and Welfare Funds, the precursor of the JFNA, was created three generations ago, and we should recognize that the GPT may not be the answer but rather be part of the problem. by Stephen G. Donshik After two years of planning, the Global Planning Table (GPT), which was developed by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) with the participation of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, The Jewish Agency for Israel, and World ORT, recently held a series of meetings with the JFNA board. According to the GPT Executive Summary on First Year of Work, the GPT “is designed to provide a structure for examining the challenges and opportunities of today and igniting action to address them.” After reading the full report of … [Read more...]