Global Planning Tables, Transparency and War Drums

Never a dull week around eJP.

Still reverberating in the media: Susan G. Komen for the Cure, an organization that, as of late, knows how to make their donors unhappy. In fact, the ongoing management fiasco at the organization is costing their local affiliates revenue declines of 20 – 30 percent and more. One problem, apparently, is a spineless board, who rubber stamps Nancy Brinker and takes no responsibility for the organization’s well-being. Lessons for all (see “Komen CEO’s Resignation Only Makes Critics Angrier” in The Chronicle of Philanthropy).

Moving on: At the close of business yesterday the Jewish Federations of North America issued this statement:

“The Board of Trustees of The Jewish Federations of North America this week voted to extend the agreement between JFNA/Jewish Federations and their historic partners, The Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), to maintain the current allocation framework until the end of 2013. The resolution was overwhelmingly approved as part of the Aug. 15 conference call of JFNA’s Board.”

In practice, this vote allows both the Jewish Agency and the JDC to move forward on their budget planning processes for 2013.

No surprises here. Almost without exception, every professional and lay leader eJP speaks with – on both sides of the Atlantic (excepting JFNA’s professional staff) – considers the Global Planning Table (GPT) DoA. JFNA needed to provide some formal assurances to their “partners” as to what to expect next year.

One wonders if this resolution will become an annual event – similar to the White House statements of multiple presidents concerning the moving of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – extending the current agreement while still extolling the virtues of the GPT.

Speaking of the GPT, JFNA has a very public PR nightmare on their hands over what was, or was not, said at a recent GPT work group meeting about the word Zionism. We are not going to wade into “he said/she said”, however, we want to call our readers’ attention to this op-ed, published yesterday, by the Israeli journalist who wrote the controversial Jewish Press article about the use of the word Zionism in planning documents. Unfortunately, this behavior is all too typical of big organizations:

So what actually happened at the meeting out of which this ugly fight arose? We have two accounts. One account has remained consistent – Wexler’s. The other, JFNA’s, began as a stubborn silence, then morphed into a personal attack on a reporter, which lasted through several iterations, then shape-shifted again into a long-winded explanation about “mere” word-smithing, capped off with a high-handed and self-serving invocation of the religious obligation – but only of others – to repent.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, every organization needs a media plan for how to deal with this type of PR earthquake. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter what was said at the work group meeting. What matters is how the organization – in this case, JFNA – choose to respond to what happened after. Didn’t Nixon’s legacy teach them anything?

Lastly, the winds of war.

Those who read the Israeli media know that for the past few weeks, the conversational heat has been increasing daily on whether Israel will bomb Iran over the next few months. In fact, the Hebrew media temperature is markedly above what the English media is reporting!

Wading into this fray in a televised interview yesterday morning, Israel’s President, Shimon Peres, said, “Israel must not attack Iran alone, and should instead rely on the United States to assist it in preventing Tehran from developing nuclear weapons….”

The right, as often, has criticized Peres for going where he (as President) does not belong. Joining the critics this time, the Jewish Agency’s Chair Natan Sharansky.

In an official statement issued late last night [just prior to Friday edition deadlines], Sharansky said, “In the State of Israel the division of labor is clear: The president has a symbolic role and the prime minister and the cabinet members are the ones who make the decisions… It is important that this division be preserved for the sake of the democratic character of Israel and it is important that this division be maintained precisely on such important issues.”

Sharansky may be correct, but the Jewish Agency Chair should heed his own words – JAFI does not belong is this type of political discussion. It is neither on their agenda nor do they have the appropriate expertise. And Sharansky definitely should not be using staff and organizational resources to extol these views.

The Jewish Agency Spokespersons’ Office did not provide a response prior to publication.

update: August 19, 2012, 16:35 IDT: The following response was received from The Jewish Agency: “As the head of a body representing the broadest spectrum of world Jewry, the Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency views it as his duty to express himself on matters pertaining to the welfare of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. The Chairman has no intention of becoming involved in internal Israeli politics and respects the distribution of responsibilities determined by Israeli law.”