Birthright Alumni and Federations: A Culture Clash
Staying away from Federation
Birthright, Bronfman says, is producing new Jewish leadership in the U.S. but they tend to stay away from the federation system of the United Jewish Communities – the central framework for U.S. Jewish institutions and their coordination. “Changing the culture of any institution is very difficult,” says Bronfman, who turned 78 last month.
“I’ve been in business all my life and I’ve seen that most mergers fail not because of the numbers but because of the people. If the cultures don’t mesh, you get no deal. And there’s a big cultural difference between the institutional federations and the enthusiastic alumni just back from Israel.”
The problem between Taglit Alumni and Jewish institutions, according to the financier, is that when Birthright participants seek to become active with the federations, “they are usually given a list of names and told to solicit, because that’s what the federations focus on – getting money.”