Fiscal focus

JFNA board OKs ‘core priorities’ for next year: fighting antisemitism, aiding Ukraine

Chair Julie Platt says organization looking to help White House implement its national strategy to combat antisemitism, support Israeli civil society

The Jewish Federations of North America’s Board of Trustees on Monday approved the organization’s “core priorities” for the coming fiscal year, chiefly Ukrainian aid, improved security for Jewish communities and efforts to more broadly combat antisemitism.

Most of these are the same priorities as in the current fiscal year. “I’m not a believer that we need to do all new things when some of the things that we are already doing are extremely important,” the group’s board chair, Julie Platt, told eJewishPhilanthropy.

The approvals were finalized on Monday after a two-day meeting of the Board of Trustees, JFNA said.

In addition to those “core” issues, the trustees signed off on three lesser priorities for the 2024 fiscal year: strengthening Israeli civil society and Jewish pluralism in Israel; building new strategies for JFNA’s Israel Educational Travel Alliance, which was created during the COVID-19 pandemic and is still sorting out its long-term goals; and expanding the organization’s JEDI (Jewish Equity, Diversity and Inclusion) initiative.

At the meeting, the board also approved five chair positions. J. David Heller, currently the emergency campaign chair, will now serve as the national campaign chair; Iris Kraemer as the national women’s philanthropy chair; Danielle Gross and Brett Tanzman as the national young leadership cabinet co-chairs; and Dena Boronkay Rashes as the lay leadership development chair.

The goal of strengthening Jewish communal security will be addressed primarily through JFNA’s $130 million LiveSecure program, which helps communities develop and fund security plans through matching grants.

“Our goal is to make sure that every community in North America has a comprehensive security program. And we’re not going to rest until we’re finished,” Platt said. “Now we’re at the point where over 90 communities – and we are 146 federation communities – have security programs… That was, is and will be a priority until the work is complete.”

In addition to improving Jewish community’s “physical security” through LiveSecure, Platt said JFNA would work to otherwise address antisemitism, including through working with the White House to advance its national strategy to combat the issue. 

“We felt really good about our participation in the White House strategy and we see the fruits of many of those conversations, but that’s only just begun, and we need to make sure that we are the right partners and to help them to meet all the deadlines that are so specifically laid out in the plan,” Platt said.

She added that Jewish federations are particularly well-positioned to assist the White House as “half of its goals are community goals, and they’re going to need federations in order to accomplish those goals in communities.”

Heller, the newly named national campaign chair, will lead JFNA’s efforts with regard to Ukraine as the war progresses and the needs of the country and its Jewish community change.

Heller’s committee “will assess ongoing needs and make sure that we continue to have the right strategies and the right fundraising and the right allocation process to meet the needs until there aren’t any more,” Platt said.

On the Israeli front, JFNA will focus on issues like LGBT rights, shared society and religious pluralism.

“These are not new priorities for us, they are ones where we have already been engaged,” she said.