NewsBits: The Hebrew Press

An article appeared in yesterday’s Maariv on the funding discussions taking place between the UJC, JAFI and the Joint (here is the background). We would normally just provide a link but in this case we are posting the English translation so it is available to all our readers. Here is a pdf of the Hebrew article: maariv_jafi_0202.

The United Jewish Communities has embraced free enterprise

In lieu of the automatic and exclusive transfer to the Jewish Agency and the Joint – the United Jewish Communities of North America will transfer donations to Israel on an economic and competitive basis

By Eli Bardenstein – Maariv 2.2.09

A revolution in the allocation of contributions to Israel: the United Jewish Communities of North America (UJC) is planning to transfer funds to the various bodies in the economy on an economic and competitive basis, instead of the automatic and exclusive transfer to the Jewish Agency and the Joint, the hitherto existing situation.

The innovation, that follows a decline in contributions due to the recession, is the decision to open the area of contribution funds to additional nonprofit agencies aside from the Jewish Agency and the Joint, and transfer them budgets for health welfare and education services.  Should this decision be adopted, the financial predicament of the Jewish Agency and the Joints is expected to aggravate still further, because they will receive a lot less money in comparison with what they’ve been accustomed to receive up to now.

The UJC is the umbrella organization of 157 Jewish federations who view it as a channel for transferring the money to Israel.  It raises about $ 3 billion per annum, $ 800 million as the result of the annual fundraising appeal, and the rest comes from foundations.

The Jewish Agency reacted with extreme irritation to the United Jewish Communities’ intention to withdraw from its exclusive partnership with the Jewish Agency and the Joint,.  Senior officials in the Jewish Agency noted that if this proves to be the case, the Agency will embark on an independent fund-raising campaign of its own within the Jewish communities that could potentially damage the United Jewish Communities that serves as the umbrella organization for all the Jewish federations and the major address for transferring funds to Israel.

The Jewish Agency and the Joint have been the strategic partners of the United Jewish Communities for decades.  In 2007 the Jewish Agency received from it $ 140 million while the Joint received $ 70 million.  In 2008 the budgets were cut and totaled $ 125 million for the Jewish Agency, and they are expected to decline still further in 2009.

The Recession Accelerated the Process

Dissatisfaction with the partnership between the United Jewish communities and the Jewish Agency and the Joint began already a long time ago, but the recession and the constriction of contributions accelerated the dramatic change in the distribution of funds.  The UJC is also contending with the increasing erosion of its status among the federations of North America, who prefer to resort to other channels for transferring the monies to Israel.  This is the background to the decision by the United Jewish Communities to amend the methods for transferring funds Israel.

“For decades the contributors were prepared to raise money and transfer it to the Jewish Agency and the Joint and allow them to do with the money whatever they wished.  Today the atmosphere has changed and the donors want to be genuine partners and enjoy greater involvement.  We have a responsibility towards the donors, and that is to ascertain that the work is being done in the best possible fashion in return for their money.  “We are no longer prepared to transfer the money and let them decide what to do with it”, declared the Chairman of the United Jewish communities the billionaire Joe Kanfer.

The Jewish Agency’s reply: “The Jewish Agency did receive the draft of a working paper from the UJC leadership that deals with proposals for new strategic directions in the work of the organizations.  The Chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, Richie Pearlstone, responded to this document in a sharp letter that he dispatched to members of the UJC leadership, in which he implored them to leave the historic obligation of North American Jewry to the State of Israel via the Jewish Agency and the Joint in place.