The JAFI Aliyah Saga, cont’d

Over the past several days articles have appeared in numerous media publications, including here on eJP, focused on a new government-owned company to be established to facilitate European aliyah. Despite the first reports reaching the U.S. during Shabbat afternoon, reactions were immediate and explosive (to say the least).

Following are three letters – the first from JFNA to the Prime Minister; the second from The Jewish Agency to its board; the third, a response from eJewish Philanthropy to The Jewish Agency.


June 9, 2014

The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister’s Office
State of Israel
3 Kaplan Street
Hakirya, Jerusalem 91919 Israel

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

The aliyah and rescue of Jews has been the sacred responsibility of the Jewish Agency for Israel since before formal Israeli independence. This task was enshrined in a covenant between the new sovereign State of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel that provided to the Agency the exclusive responsibility for aliyah and rescue.

The Jewish Agency, our agent and partner, has performed these tasks magnificently over the course of decades. We have had the privilege of supporting the upbuilding of Israel through aliyah as a direct result of these agreements and through the extraordinary work of our campaigns.

Aliyah is a central part of our fundraising mission in support of Israel and the Jewish Agency. It is a cornerstone of the Diaspora-Israel relationship and the efforts of building global Jewish identity with Israel at its center. Moreover, keep in mind that this mission is recognized by the Congress of the United States as the basis of their grant to our subsidiary, the United Israel Appeal.

Our efforts to support Israel, the Jewish Agency in particular and the programs of aliyah are in jeopardy if the agreement with your Ministry of Aliyah and Klitah and the Keren Kayemet L’Ysrael comes to pass. In just the past 48 hours since the initial press story, we have been besieged by communications from major donors and Federations asking why we should continue to support the Jewish Agency.

Aliyah is a fundamental element of our fundraising narrative. The Jewish Agency has been and must continue to be the exclusive body to deal with aliyah. Anything less than such clarity will have dire consequences for our collective efforts to support our work.
We speak on behalf of the 153 Federations whose donors represent the single largest group of activist and affiliated Jews in America.

Michael D. Siegal
Chair, Board of Trustees

Richard Bernstein
Chair, United Israel Appeal

Diane S. Feinberg
Chair, Executive Committee

Jerry Silverman
President & CEO


Jerusalem, Sivan 11, 5774
June 9, 2014

To: Members of the Board of Governors
Re: Joint Initiative for Aliyah Encouragement

Dear Friends,

We would like to update you on a proposed joint initiative between the Government of Israel and the National Institutions (JAFI, WZO, KH and JNF) for Aliyah Encouragement.

In the last year, Aliyah from France has almost tripled and Aliyah from Ukraine is up 150%. In light of this, both the Jewish Agency and the Government have much greater need for resources for Aliyah.

Shortly before the Shavuot holiday, the government informed us that JNF was willing to offer 100 million NIS to the GOI for Aliyah encouragement. In discussions with the Government over the past 10 days, we, Keren Hayesod and the WZO, have made it clear that Aliyah encouragement is the historic role of The Jewish Agency and the WZO, and accordingly, the government has decided that the project will be implemented by a wholly owned subsidiary company of the National Institutions. While being owned by us, the company will have a joint steering committee with the Government. The issue will not be brought to the Government before next week and the proposed resolution is still being discussed with them.

We have been dealing with this for a very short time and unfortunately the item appeared in the press before we had a chance to update the board. The reports in the press were misleading and did not accurately represent the facts.

The responsibility of the company will be to encourage Aliyah and will not affect any of our current Aliyah responsibilities or the Government’s relationship with us, as responsible for Aliyah worldwide.

We will be discussing this new initiative at our upcoming Board meetings and please feel free to be in touch with us if you would like to discuss this further.

Natan Sharansky
Chair of the Executive

James Tisch
Chair of the Board


June 10, 2014

An open letter to Natan Sharansky and Mr. Tisch:

As a long-time observer, a long-time supporter of the work of The Jewish Agency (most of the time), and one of several publications that allegedly “did not accurately represent the facts,” I would like to respond to your letter above. As The Agency clearly has done, and continues to do, good work, please take all my comments in the vein of constructive criticism.

First and foremost we live in a 24/7 media world. For you as an organization, and for us as a publication, we need to be able to turn on a dime. We all need our strategies in place which include having the proper team to execute them. In tandem, as an organization, for you it is critical (just because situations like this do happen) to continually take a proactive role with the media so they are available to assist in delivering your messaging when requested. (Proactive behavior involves acting in advance of a future situation, rather than just reacting. source Wikipedia) The Spokesperson’s Office, which historically has been proactive and has provided a huge advantage in The Agency’s messaging, has in recent years gone from being proactive to being defensive.

The Chair’s office, while telling me on the one hand, “we’re not going anywhere and you’re not going anywhere so we need to work together” informed me in the same conversation, “we don’t care if we’re never in the press.” Then disappeared from the radar.

Turning to this new initiative, as of this writing, the Spokesperson’s Office has still not responded to clarification questions emailed over 24 hours ago. And yet, you say [we] “did not accurately represent the facts.” How can we?

I ask you, is this any way to run media outreach in an organization the size and scope of The Jewish Agency?

As to whether the media did, or did not, accurately represent the facts, time will answer that question. As to The Agency’s media approach, I respectfully suggest it’s time to hit the reset button.

p.s. And now we have the Jewish National Fund denying their financial involvement! Unbelievable; the tuches covering by all to their respective constituencies is in high gear and the spin doctors are really earning their pay today!!!

Dan Brown
founder, eJewish Philanthropy