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September 23, 2014 / 28 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘JFNA’

The Zionist Girl the Jewish Federations Love to Hate

Friday, August 17th, 2012

My friend and colleague Lori Lowenthal Marcus writes today in Arutz 7 about her entanglements with the Jewish Federations of North America, and how, instead of confirming or denying a simple question she posed to them, they chose instead to start a campaign of personal attacks against her. (By the way, for a version of the article with all the links intact, go here.)

It began with “one former high-ranking leader of global Jewish philanthropy has claimed that the largest Jewish charity in the world succumbed to the polling/fundraising dilemma by rejecting the use of the term Zionism because that term is ‘too controversial’ – at a recent high level meeting. When this reporter tried to investigate the truth, she unwittingly became, like the title of a popular book, the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest..”

She continues:

In writing the story, I did what reporters are supposed to do. First I researched and then interviewed the person making the claim. I then reached out to JFNA people who were at that meeting, and/or who are major players within the JFNA world. I reached out to them for hours, across several states, time zones and levels of leadership, in attempts to include in my story the JFNA response. I was explicit about who I was and what I was making contact about.

I contacted New York City UJA-Federation Chair John Ruskay, his press contact person Jane E. Rubinstein; president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland Steve Hoffman; JFNA’s senior vice president for Global Planning, Joanne Moore; JFNA Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington, D.C. JFNA office, William Daroff; and JFNA spokesman Joe Berkofsky. I was stonewalled at every turn: I got literally nothing of substance back.

Needless to say, she got bupkes. They were either out on vacation or they stonewalled her. So she—and I, her editor—went ahead with the story. “And then it really hit the fan,” Lori reports.

“What should have been a minor story about a credible critic’s claim that JFNA leadership had rejected the term Zionism as ‘too controversial,’ followed by a JFNA response denying that that’s what happened, and making clear Federation’s Zionist credentials, disappeared in a barrage of personal and unfounded attacks on me.”

“The hornets were angry; she writes, “I kept getting stung.”

“I and my article were labeled “scurrilous,” “vituperative,” “false,” “evil,” misleading,” and “lashon hara.” And in their latest statement, JFNA leadership used the most somber day in the Jewish calendar to reprimand me and to accuse me publicly of “sinat chinam”– the baseless hatred of one Jew for another that, according to Jewish tradition, caused nothing less than the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of Jewish sovereignty in Israel for 2000 years. In Federation’s narrative, I was presented as the one who needed to repent.”

My editor joked that he wouldn’t be surprised to see me being used in JFNA fundraisers the way Rachel Maddow is used by Republican fundraisers and Sarah Palin by Democrats. He wrote: “I can see it now, a local Federation brochure: ‘Lori Lowenthal Marcus wants you to hate Jewish Federations, but we won’t let her. Send your checks to the address below.’”

So now you know. As usual in these cases, the cover-up is worse than the crime. It’s possible to imagine a Jewish federation opting to dial it down on the Z word when fundraising within its constituency, seeing as some of said constituents might be busy BDS’ing Israel. But the way they went about destroying the reputation of a writer who is beyond reproach makes you wonder just what kind of hornets live in that nest…

US Jewish Federations to Drop ‘Zionism’ from their Global Plans

Friday, July 27th, 2012

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/jewish-news/us-jewish-federations-to-drop-zionism-from-their-global-plans/2012/07/27/

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