Federations in the Public Square: Our Community’s Stake in Our Fight for Civil Rights and Social Justice

public squareBy George T. Caplan
and Steven Windmueller

Excerpted from: The Wind Report

… Today, our federations sadly reflect the general political polarization afflicting our country. This is particularly detrimental to the effectiveness of the federation movement and its community relations’ function, locally and nationally. We as a community must resist polarization and stress the need for seeking common-sense solutions.

The changes that have occurred over the past 25 years within our federations have shifted the focus and priorities of our communities away from addressing the issues of the public square. As more emphasis has been given to securing larger gifts, federations have moved away from supporting our historic positions affecting the welfare of society. Beyond withdrawing from the public arena, we note with concern the reduction of funding of core Jewish community organizations, including Jewish family service agencies, the community center movement and bureaus of Jewish education. In many cases, federations have downsized their boards, excluding key voices of leadership from recipient agencies and other institutions, as well as individuals who reflect the diversity of our community. In general, the impact of all of these changes has been to reduce the effectiveness of local federations and the national movement in fulfilling their roles as locally based community action organizations and nationally oriented opinion leaders on these important policy questions.

In this political season, our communal institutions need to articulate our social values loudly and clealry. As we have witnessed, candidates have demonstrated a shameful display of ignorance, prejudice, racism, intolerance and pandering to the lowest common denominator in our society. It is time for American Jews to provide solid, principled leadership.

The complete article can be found here.


eJewish Philanthropy invites the CEO of Jewish Federations of North America and the CEO’s of the large city federations to publicly respond to this article. Responses will be reprinted in full.