JAFI’s Board Comes to Order

The winter session of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting opened this morning in Jerusalem – with the overriding issue the 2009 budget. Or, to put it another way, how with all the cuts – past, present and future – can JAFI meet its strategic plan.

Beginning on a somewhat low-key note, Richie Pearlstone, JAFI’s Board Chair, informed us that partly due to a $10 million shortfall from the UJC, JAFI ended 2008 $25 million in the hole – the biggest loss in a decade.

When the November Board meetings concluded, JAFI was left with a balanced budget for 2009, but many questions were left unanswered – including how we get there from here. Richie informed us the situation is fluid and there is no perfect solution. Pretty much, this is what the next three days will be about.

During the morning plenary we also witnessed an especially moving film, produced by Keren Hayesod, showing the real-life effect of the continuous rocket barrages on Sderot. The film highlights, even for those of us who have visited the Gaza periphery, the chilling effects of eight years of living under the threat of rockets. We also listened to a personal account by JAFI staffer Ravit Ochayon, who lives with her family in Ashkelon, and like many others found her life turned upside down two months ago.

Before concluding the session, Zeev Bielski, JAFI’s Chairman of the Executive, made his last offical address to the assembled group. For at 3:59 pm Tuesday, one minute prior to being sworn in as a new member of Knesset, Zeevik will resign his post as he moves on to different (greener??) pastures. Speaking in a very out of character undersatated manner, he let us all know that the Jewish Agency will always be a part of his life and he will continue to find ways to raise new money to help ensure the future.