Connect. Inspire. Empower.

Or, why we all should care about the Jewish Agency’s new strategic plan.

After almost a year’s work, the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) is about to formally present its newly revised strategic plan to the Board of Governors for discussion and approval. For the past year, we have written on and off about both the process, and the issue of Jewish Identity – which is a core component of the new vision. And the question has been posed by several, why should we care? We are not a part of JAFI; we are not a grantee of the U.S. federation system, etc etc.

The fact is, whether your relationship is with AIPAC or J Street, Jewish Federation of Cleveland, JDC, JNF-UK or World ORT, we are a global Jewish people. Further, the Jewish Agency is the only body in the global Jewish world involved in shaping the agenda of combing communities, generations and more, that ultimately has a direct effect on the fundraising dynamics of each and every of the previously mentioned organizations. For overseas giving is the engine that powers so many campaigns, and therefore is vital to the health of so many.

Some say JAFI’s new plan is just one more in a continuing cycle of unsuccessful strategic plans. I choose to look at this through a different lens: JAFI realizes their current mission is in need of revision. Unlike other organizations in a similar situation, JAFI is taking aggressive steps to redefine themselves in order to better fulfill their role. Truth be told, others need to be doing the same.

As Natan Sharansky said yesterday, “there is no other table around the Jewish world where we can dream together, fight together and change together.” This week is a showcase in that dynamic.

So, it came as no suprise that JAFI has rolled out the top brass, Sharansky himself, Alan Hoffmann (JAFI’s Director-General) and Misha Galperin (president and CEO of JAFI’s newly reconstituted North American based organization) to sell the vision to members of the Agency’s Assembly.

You could actually hear a pin drop in the auditorium as they took to the stage to present JAFI’s reasoning and respond to [to few] questions.

Hoffmann led off by explaining how “JAFI’s role is as a connector of Jewish Identity”. That the “issue of the future of the Jewish people as a people is the bigger issue we are facing.” Galperin added, perhaps drawing on his long federation system background, that we “often talk about community but not about why we have one.”

In getting to some of the tachlis, it is apparent that JAFI is trying to move itself away from being a quasi-governmental entity to a new entrepreneurial culture. Radical thinking indeed for this organization.While recognizing the strength of partnerships with Israel’s government, there was also acknowledgment that JAFI should only do things that JAFI is capable of doing. That the organization needs to relinquish those areas that are not core. No easy task.

Let’s look at just one of the areas where JAFI looks to build together.

As we’ve written previously, the new plan is built around the idea of Identity, including “engaging young Israelis with the Jewish people.” As Hoffmann went on to say, “there is an ever-growing base of them losing their connection to the Jewish people.” From those from the Diaspora, the “connection to Israel is part of their personal experience.”

The new plan envisions an expansion of Birthright Israel and MASA programs, along with adding new initiatives in a “service gap year”, where the “energy of these chalutzim will be directed to building a strong Israel as a major energizing force.”

This is just one of the many revised initiatives.

Tall challenges; and that’s the easy stuff!

(more coming; in the meantime the entire proposed plan can be found here.)