Old Men want an Old Man to Succeed Sharansky

Screenshot: Harvard Health

The Jerusalem Post is reporting that “The US heads of the Jewish Agency and Jewish Federations of North America have given Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a list of at least six candidates they deem worthy to succeed Natan Sharansky as Agency chairman…

The list includes Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz; opposition leader Isaac Herzog; Zionist Union MK Nachman Shai; Consul-General in New York Dani Dayan; Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer and former ambassador to the United Nations Ron Prosor.”

Assuming the accuracy of this report – and there is no reason to doubt it – it shows, once again, that the leadership of JFNA is totally out-of-touch with the needs of their own constituents.

While the Jewish Agency manages some stellar programs – camp shlichim and the Adaptive Leadership Lab are two that immediately come to mind – the absence of forward thinking leadership [and all too many losing public fights with the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and the Ministry of Aliyah and Absorption] have taken a meaningful toll on budgets, programs and employee morale. The Agency is unlikely to see improvement from the short list of possible successors.

The list also begs the querstion, “where are the female candidates?” A female has never served as JAFI’s Chair of the Executive. And, even under the archaic coalition commitments involving the choice of Chair – which JAFI’s board “claimed” to officially disregard a number of yeras ago – there are many prominient, capable women who should be considered.

The Agency – a storied player in Israel’s history – has needed to deal with smaller budgets and decreased influence every year. While the budget decreases are, to some extent, a result of less federation money allocated to core programs, the decreased influence is the direct result of uninspiring and ineffectual leaderhip.

Looking to a post-Shransky / Hoffman era, one does not see optimism. All of the proposed names come from a generation that needs to be phased out of our organizations to make room for the next generation of leaders – not enshrined by high profile, high-paying (for Israel) political positions for another four years or more.

As for the leadership of JFNA and the lay leadership of the Agency, it’s time to step up to the plate and make inspiring choices – ones that new generations of constituents can identify with. While MK Shai and Ambassador Prosor are both well qualified for the position, they – like all the others on the list – are simply out-of-touch with the demographics they need most to reach.

What it all comes down to is, the Jewish Agency cannot afford four more years like the past nine.

Dan Brown, the founder of eJewish Philanthropy, is a former member of the Jewish Agency Assembly.