The Jewish Agency: a PR Nightmare

A media firestorm has erupted in Israel during the past twenty-four hours over the “outing” of an internal working paper by JAFI Director-General, Moshe Vigdor.

As we posted yesterday, and reported in both the Hebrew and English versions of Haaretz, The Jewish Agency is planning to close one of its most historically important branches, the Immigration and Absorption Department, as part of a radical restructuring plan.

Then this morning, from the Jerusalem Post, two related articles:

Jewish Agency officials angrily denied on Thursday media reports suggesting that the agency had committed to dismantling its Aliya Department and scaling back its commitment to aliya.

“This was an evil leak that caused damage,” said agency head Ze’ev Bielski. “Aliya is our lifeblood. I have dealt with aliya all my life and was an [agency] emissary in South Africa. Aliya was, is and will be the core of the Jewish Agency’s activities.”

read the complete story here.

In a related column, veteran Jewish world correspondent Haviv Rettig has this to say in ‘Analysis: Playing with fire‘:

There is nothing new or dramatic about media leaks indicating that the Jewish Agency is considering restructuring its departments to deal with a budget crunch.

The budget crunch is not new, and not the agency’s fault. The nearly 30-percent drop in the value of the dollar is a drastic blow to an organization that solicits all its donors in dollar terms, receives most of its money from American donors and organizations, and spends nearly all its money outside the US.

It is noteworthy that the final tally of dollars the agency takes in each year for Jewish education and welfare programs worldwide has not declined, but has transformed into “designated gifts,” where donors, not the agency, decide where the money should go.

Haviv concludes:

The problem, then, is that the agency found itself utterly vulnerable to a simple media leak, without the ability to coherently respond or coordinate its response. For an organization that, because it does not fundraise, is utterly dependent on the goodwill of others, “controlling the message” and knowing how to explain itself is a survival skill no less important than the capacity to streamline itself during a budget crunch.

read Haviv’s complete ‘Analysis’ here.

It is probably nothing more than a confluence of the calendar, Friday in Jerusalem along with the city being in the midst of a multi-day Purim celebration, but JAFI has not yet responded to a request for comments.


Also, considering the uproar late last year about the $45. million gift from the IFCJ to JAFI and the granting of an executive board seat, this comment from yesterday’s Haaretz has pretty much flown ‘under the Israeli radar’…“another pledge, valued at $45 million, from the Evangelical International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, is in peril.”

As I have indicated in the past, at least in the English speaking world, JAFI is in serious need of a PR makeover. What about your organization; are you equipped to handle this type of damage control?

Meanwhile, stay tuned; we’re certainly in fluid and interesting times on this subject.

Shabbat Shalom from Jerusalem

Hag Purim Sameach


Related posts, The Jewish Agency, An Organization in Crisis

Christian Supporters to Join JAFI B.O.G.