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October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
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US Jewish Federations to Drop ‘Zionism’ from their Global Plans


Susan Stern, the 2011-2012 National Campaign Chair Designate of The Jewish Federations of North America, visited the Wailing Wall in 2005 with then U.S Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Now Stern et al may be dropping the term "Zionism" from their organizational vocabulary.

Susan Stern, the 2011-2012 National Campaign Chair Designate of The Jewish Federations of North America, visited the Wailing Wall in 2005 with then U.S Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. Now Stern et al may be dropping the term "Zionism" from their organizational vocabulary.
Photo Credit: Flash90

See an update at the end of this report.

In what has been described as “a closeted and cowardly move,” the Jewish Federations of North America last week rejected the inclusion of the term “Zionism” in a major system-wide planning document.

The JFNA’s Global Planning Table is the mechanism by which JFNA and Federation leadership come together to determine the allocation of dollars for new Federation initiatives outside of the United States.  The Report issued by this collaborative is considered a building block of the allocations decision making process, and it was the call to include Zionism in the recent report that was rejected.  The Global Planning Table page of the JFNA website does not include either the term Zionism or Israel.

Richard Wexler, former chair of the Chicago Federation and national chairman of the United Jewish Appeal in the late ’90′s, revealed yesterday, July 26, that JFNA’s leaders have rejected the inclusion of the term “Zionism” in their Global Planning Table Work Group Report  because the term “is too controversial.”

In 2008 Wexler stepped down from his position as chairman of the United Israel Appeal, a subsidiary of what later became the JFNA.  He also was one of the architects of the merger of United Jewish Communities, the umbrella group for the local Federations.  Even while in a leadership position, however,  Wexler was critical of the management culture, writing in his blog “UJ Thee and Me” that “criticism is not merely ignored, it is not tolerated.”

Some fear the JFNA move will be seen as a watered-down acceptance of the notion that Zionism is to blame for the problems in the Middle East, or at the very least an effort to hold at arms length the idea that Jews are entitled to a national homeland.

“I am beyond disappointed and upset,” Wexler told The Jewish Press, about the decision to hide from the idea of Zionism.  He said, “that is at the heart of all we do.”

Members of the GPT work group who were present at the meeting and frustrated by the outcome told Wexler about the decision.

One of those most closely involved in this decision making effort was Joanne Moore, senior vice president for JFNA’s Global Planning Department.  Moore oversees the Global Planning Table, JFNA’s research department and the General Assembly.

Prior to joining JFNA, Moore, a former U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, spent more than a dozen years working on USAID-funded public health projects in Africa, Haiti and Asia.  She also was a consultant to the Institute of Reproductive Health.   In addition, Moore had been a lay leader in various capacities for JFNA.  Moore did not respond to a request for comment.

The rejection of Zionism by JFNA leaders was described by Wexler in his blogpost and in comments to The Jewish Press, as a continuing trend by Federations to distance themselves from Israel.

Several years ago, Federations changed the name of their non-domestic efforts, which had been called their Israel and Overseas Department, to the Global Operations Department.  In response to pushback from local leaders, the name was changed once again to Global Operations: Israel and Overseas.

Further evidence of this trend, according to Wexler, is a drift from the close connections the JFNA had with its actual overseas partners, the Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Acknowledging that there might be better, more efficient ways for the Federations to encourage North American Jewry with Israel than through the Joint or JAFI, he was adamant that this latest decision — the excision of the term Zionism from their planning documents — was morally disastrous.

“What we cannot permit is an implicit denial of the centrality of Israel in our lives and a denial [of] the absolute responsibility we as Diaspora Jewish leaders have to engage more Jews here with Israel.”

Although repeated efforts to reach JFNA leaders were unsuccessful, it is possible that the decision may be reversed before the report is finalized.  Richard Wexler, for one, hopes this is what attention to this decision may bring.  Otherwise it is simply a “terrible commentary on what Federations are today.”

Update:

After this story was published, JFNA officials issued a statement sent to Federation executives and others, by Kathy Manning, Chair, and Jerry Silverman, President/CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America:

On July 27, 2012, Lori Lowenthal Marcus wrote accusing the Jewish Federations of North America of moving away from its support of Israel and Zionism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ongoing support of Israel is fundamental to Federations and to JFNA. Our system sends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to Israel to support the vulnerable, to assist in education programs, to help new immigrants, to assist in job and skills development, and to provide concrete expressions of solidarity during Israel’s darkest hours. We connect American Jews to Israel and Israelis by supporting birthright and other youth and young adult programs, community and national missions to Israel, and innovative partnerships between our communities and Israeli communities. We are proud to be holding our 2013 General Assembly in Israel, where we will have an opportunity to highlight the important work we do with our partners in Israel.”

The decision to remove the term “Zionism” in an important global planning document because that term is “too controversial,” which is the point of the article, is not denied in their statement. Repeated efforts were made to contact Federation and JFNA officials before the story ran.

About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.


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37 Responses to “US Jewish Federations to Drop ‘Zionism’ from their Global Plans”

  1. Eve Folley says:

    This is most distressing that the Jews in America are hoodwinked by what is or is not “politically correct”. The Dispersed Tribes enjoy their captivity more than going into The Promised Land. It is a time of decision 4 them. God said He would Bless those that blessed Israel n He would curse those who cursed Israel. Who’s on The Lord’s side, Who???

  2. Chaiya Eitan says:

    COWARDS!

  3. Anonymous says:

    TYPICAL REFORM ATTITUDE: they are just going back to their origins!

  4. Rc Fowler says:

    They are cultural Marxists–and Godless wh*res and dogs!

  5. Bracha Bennett-Garland says:

    Wow. I am shocked at this cowardly decision. I really hope the Omaha Federation does not share this philosophy.

  6. Rifki Orzech says:

    Sick.

  7. Why?

    Isa_48:20 “Come out of Baḇel! Flee from the Chaldeans! Declare this with a voice of singing, proclaim it, and send it out to the end of the earth! Say, ‘יהוה has redeemed His servant Ya'aqoḇ!’ ”.
    Isa_49:3 And He said to Me, ‘You are My servant, O Yisra’ĕl, in whom I am adorned.’.
    Isa_49:5 And now said יהוה– who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Ya'aqoḇ back to Him, though Yisra’ĕl is not gathered to Him, yet I am esteemed in the eyes of יהוה, and My Elohim has been My strength –.
    Isa_49:6 and He says, “Shall it be a small matter for You to be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Ya'aqoḇ, and to bring back the preserved ones of Yisra’ĕl? And I shall give You as a light to the gentiles, to be My deliverance to the ends of the earth!”.

  8. Jeremy Gaisin says:

    Losers!

  9. Bruce Becker says:

    liberalism is a dangerous mental disorder.

  10. As a Bible believing follower of Jesus the Messiah I am shocked to read that any jewish group would do this.

  11. Eran Spiro says:

    Get rid of Joanne Moore! She is a turncoat at best. If the JFNA is not going to reverse its position it will not survive as an organization.
    It seems to me that the Arabists in the State Department/USADI are successful in manipulating Joanne. I'll not be surprised if there are skeletons in her closet.

  12. Anastasia Klein says:

    So what is the point of a Jewish Federation? Please tell me. This is along the lines of the Jewish Federation in LA ditzing Pamela Gelller as she was about to speak to Jews about the dangers of the Islamificaton of USA. KAPOS

  13. Once again the Jewish establishment shows the lack of moral courage it is justly famous for. As Rav Kahane forsaw a generation ago, they are the reason for death by a thousand cuts of American Jewry.

  14. Anonymous says:

    This is the ideological equivalent of the withdrawal of Gaza: we're doing something the other side objects to, so if we abandon that, then the other side will stop objecting. What neither the Oslo-advocates, nor these Federation people, understand is that the objection is not to what we're doing: it's to the fact that we exist. When we yield territory, physical or ideological, the other side simply advances onto the ground we abandoned and keep pressing. they'll stop pressing when we stop abandoning – either because we don't exist or because we wake up.

  15. Marc Berezin says:

    Truth in advertising. Since when have the Federations been a fighter for Zionism? In a few years they will drop "Judaism" as well.

  16. Fred Klein says:

    As a federation employee, a rabbi who lived in Israel and whose father was involved in the creation of the global planning table, I can tell you this is grossly inaccurate. Whatever did happen, to claim that we are distancing ourselves from Israel is not only absurd, but deeply untrue and hurts our mission in supporting Israel. The following is the response from CEO Jerry Silverman and Chair of the Board Kathy Manning, and as an 'insider' I can tell you all of this is true.

  17. The following statement from Kathy Manning, Chair, and Jerry Silverman, President/CEO, of the Jewish Federations of North America, was provided to the Jewish Press earlier today:

    Accusing JFNA and the Federations of moving away from Israel and a lack of commitment to Zionist ideals is absurd. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ongoing support of Israel is fundamental to Federations and to JFNA. Our system sends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to Israel to support the vulnerable, to assist in education programs, to help new immigrants, to assist in job and skills development, and to provide concrete expressions of solidarity during Israel's darkest hours. We connect American Jews to Israel and Israelis by supporting birthright and other youth and young adult programs, community and national missions to Israel, and innovative partnerships between our communities and Israeli communities. We are proud to be holding our 2013 General Assembly in Israel, where we will have an opportunity to highlight the important work we do with our partners in Israel.

  18. Cindi Benson says:

    They will still hate us no matter how much you kiss their ass.

  19. Not only must we NOT withdraw any support for Israel 's existence as a Jewish nation, we must NOT HAVE THE APPEARANCE of retreating from this position! Whether this move is trually a restreat or just looks like one, it is equally dangerous. Please reconsider!

  20. Hal Switkay says:

    Weasel words. You ignore the substance of the article. Why did you drop the word Zionism? What are you ashamed of? Who are you trying to ingratiate yourselves with? How many of your Federations financially support the anti-Semitic Media Matters? How much money to you give to support Jewish day schools? How much money do you get from running advertising for Christian day schools in your local newspapers? How do you permit BDS supporters to march in Israel Day parades? Real Jews know your agenda – same as the Hellenists, same as Korach. Save American Jewry by boycotting the Jewish communal establishment!

  21. Before G-d's people O Jerusalem.
    right in your midst, within his habitation.
    I shall fullfill my vows with jubilation.
    shout Hallelujah, Zion praise His name.

  22. Israel Rozemberg says:

    And now let's see the contributions to the JFNA fall as a result.

  23. Noam Ayal says:

    What a telling photo, Susan Stern and Hillary Clinton. We have as much to fear from one as from the other. Common folks, it's time to defeat these left-wingers and Democrats.

  24. Alain Malka says:

    The next move should be to take out the term jewish in their publications because it is too controversial

  25. Yori Yanover says:

    Fred — We still haven't received confirmation or denial of the wording of the document in question. And we've asked many times. Instead of a yes/no response, we get a lot of copy on how the federations love Israel and spend a lot of money there, which was not contested in the article. In the end, the document is yet to be made public. Let's hope that out of sheer shame they will change the wording and drop in a couple of Zionist references, just to be yotze…

  26. Jael Michaelson says:

    The Jewish fed. Ot nortjph America no longer has a reason to exist.

  27. The Torah is zionist… if someone is anti-zionist, then he is also anti-Torah and anti-Jewish…

  28. It is true that JFNA provides a tremendous amount of financial support to communal and organizational innitiatives impacting life in Zion – so why shy away from the term? As we witness the great tikun take place, the healing of Israel (its nation-state, Jewish Peoplehood/People of Israel), organizations realigning their focus on identity and peopelhood – the time is ripe to reclaim our collective identity, irrespective of denomination or political views. Coming off the heals of the 9th of Av – memories of destruction and exile – we must remember that ALL of Israel is responsible one for the other.

  29. Late last week, the Jewish Press published this story that absurdly and falsely calls into question the Jewish Federations’ unshakable commitment to Israel and Zionist principles. For decades, Federations have been wholly committed to ensuring that Israel is stable, thriving and integral to Jewish people throughout the world. Such deep support for Israel and dedication to Zionism has been, and always will be, a fundamental Federations principle. So when our values and the principles upon which Federations are built are attacked so carelessly and baselessly – when we are confronted with lashon hara – we must set the record straight.

    This Jewish Press story is based on distorted, second-hand reports from a recent Global Planning Table working group meeting in New York. Let us reiterate what actually was discussed at the June meeting – not the imagined and invented version.

    The Global Planning Table will help ensure that Federations extend our vital mission to support Jewish communities in Israel and globally through the 21st century. The June in-person meeting featured important discussions about how the Global Planning Table can succeed in its mission to embrace the most compelling challenges and opportunities to strengthen and build the Jewish people, ensuring that our collective philanthropic investments have meaningful impact where most needed.

    As part of these discussions, group members separated into four working groups to focus on different areas of need in the Jewish world. The working groups, like JFNA itself, are comprised of volunteer and professional leaders representing 155 Jewish Federations. The working groups are scheduled to meet three times during the summer to recommend priorities to the full GPT Committee this fall.

    During its initial meeting, a working group focused on Supporting Israel’s Civil Society discussed how Federations could work to strengthen Israel and the connections between Israel and Diaspora Jews by focusing on such issues as religious pluralism. While the working group made significant progress upon the issues and priorities, there was some disagreement about the precise language to describe its vision in its recommendations back to the larger GPT Committee.

    Specifically, one member of the working group recommended using the phrase "enhancing the Zionist enterprise." Another member of the group recommended using the phrase "enhancing the State of Israel." Members discussed a variety of language options for the vision statement. However: the working group made no decision about language. It did not vote on any specific language. It produced no report.

    Where there was clear and firm consensus, however, is that the work being proposed will strengthen Israel and the connections between American Jews, Israelis and Israel. On policies and priorities, the working group reaffirmed our deepest support for Israel and Zionist principles. Following the meeting, we heard from a number of participants who are excited about the progress of the working groups and about how the Global Planning Table will support our larger work to stand with Israel and the Jewish people.

    The ongoing support of Israel has always been fundamental to Federations and to JFNA. Our system sends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to Israel to support the vulnerable, to assist in education programs, to help new immigrants, to assist in job and skills development, and to provide concrete expressions of solidarity during Israel's darkest hours. We connect American Jews to Israel and Israelis by supporting birthright and other youth and young adult programs, community and national missions to Israel, and innovative partnerships between our communities and Israeli communities. We are proud to be holding our 2013 General Assembly in Israel, where we will have an opportunity to highlight the important work we do with our partners in Israel.

    So why are we faced with a story that is so wrong? One member of the working group shared his thoughts about the language discussion with a blogger critical of Federations and the Global Planning Table, who twisted what really happened into a version with no basis in reality. The Jewish Press subsequently picked up this false account. What should have been a positive story about how Federation volunteers and professional leaders met to discuss how to strengthen our support for Israel and Zionist principles turned into a demonstrably false story that hangs on a phantom, non-existent report.

    It is our responsibility – on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of individuals in the Federation movement who have selflessly devoted their lives to supporting the State of Israel and Zionist principles – to refute these false allegations and set the record straight.

    Ultimately, this unfortunate episode is a distraction. Our focus is to support Israel and Jews in need around the world, to build connections between Jews and their homeland, and to strengthen the Jewish People and the Jewish State. These are the fundamental values of JFNA, the Federation system, and our new Global Planning Table.

    We have just observed Tisha B’av, commemorating the destruction of the second temple, which tradition teaches was brought about by sinat chinam, causeless hatred and deliberate disunity. We will soon enter the month Elul, a time of great introspection, as individuals and as a people. We welcome this time of teshuva – of returning – to our better selves in order to bring about a perfected future.

    Thank you.

    Jerry Silverman
    President and CEO.
    The Jewish Federations of North America.

  30. Smadar Dvora says:

    Dear Jerry, thank you for your warm support of our country . I am sure that someone with a malicious intentions against our unity made sure that those false allegations were spread and discussed

  31. Thank you for this detailed and thoughtful clarification.

  32. thank you for clarifying. I was reconsidering my pledge.

  33. thank you for clarifying. I was reconsidering my pledge.

  34. Lori Lowenthal Marcus noted in her article that "repeated efforts to reach JFNA leaders were unsuccessful". Perhaps JFNA should have clarified their position by responding to her requests rather than issuing a statement afterwards regarding their support for Israel. JFNA should explain their current stance on Zionism to avoid the continued, albeit unintentional, appearance of a distancing of support for Israel.

  35. Justin Stern says:

    Couldn't this whole debacle have been avoided if Federation had simply returned the journalist's apparent, repeated requests for comment? If Federation had nothing to lose by commenting before the publication of the story, why didn't they answer Marcus' calls and emails? The only logical answer is that contradicting Marcus' assertions would be contradictory to Federation's intentions.

    Lambasting Marcus after the publication of an article which Federation could have been an integral part of is not only cowardly, it is blatantly disingenuous. More often than not, where there' smoke, there's fire, and in this instance, it seems that Federation is now just pouring oil on the flames after they were offered the chance to stamp it out early-on.

  36. Stan Kreis says:

    Anytime criticism is met with the re-joinder invoking Tisha B'av, the defender loses me. Silverman is saying that if I read the Jewish Press article with an open mind, or read his re-joinder with skepticism, then I am of the mind-frame that destroyed the Second Temple. He already sounds fishy to me. Then reflecting on the Jewish Press article and his re-joinder, the meat of the articles that is, he admits there was a discussion about use of the word "Zionism." In point of fact, according to him, the group is still thinking about the use of the term. Again, nothing there that does NOT comport with the Jewish Press article. In short, he does not answer the charges stemming from the article and therefore makes me feel he is hiding something about the use of the term "Zionism." The use of the term, support for "The State of Israel" is NOT the same as the more inclusive word "Zionism."

  37. World ORT says:

    In the sadly fractious generations that have followed the war, support for Israel has been a unifying force for good. We must do everything we can to work together for the benefit of all citizens of the Jewish State and, in so doing, not only benefit those for whom we strive but also better ourselves.

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