We recently wrote of the pathetic letter from JFNA-Israel's Becky Caspi abjectly pleading that some select group of federations reach out to JFNA and request that a lay "Envoy" make a set (for one will not do) of visits to educate in consultation with federation leadership and advocating for an increase in core allocations to the legacy overseas partners. The outreach was banal; the response not surprising. See The Daily Tragic-Comedy Continues, June 14, 2017.
Here's where we are and from where we have come...
A few years ago, under then UIA Chair Rich Bernstein, the UIA Board adopted a Futures Report that set forth an ambitious program for the JFNA Subsidiary he chaired, one that included an advocacy effort, the Chaverim Program, among other initiatives. The entire Futures Report was adopted by the JFNA Board. Led by strong UIA lay leadership -- not only within UIA but, also, JFNA -- the Chaverim effort, sending lay leaders into the communities to educate and advocate for the Jewish Agency, went forward. Remember this fact, discussed at a recent UIA Board meeting: 16 communities were visited by UIA's Chaverim in 9 months.
And, then, the Chaverim Program was discontinued.
Why it was discontinued and who ordered its termination are questions that would be appropriate, even debated. But, of course, there was no debate and no answers offered. What we have pieced together is this:
- After a decade of ignoring its moral responsibility to advocate for core budget support for JDC, JAFI and WorldORT, watching in silence as those allocations dropped to the lowest levels in history, some at JFNA wanted advocacy within the federations to be conducted by JFNA and JFNA alone. Among the "some?" I'm guessing, David Brown, the then incoming Chair of JFNA-Israel, Jerry Silverman and Becky Caspi.
- In a meeting to "sort out" the responsibilities of JFNA Israel-Overseas, UIA leaders were told (and agreed) that JFNA would henceforth be the exclusive lead on that advocacy. And, of course, UIA capitulated.
- So JFNA, as it always does, started from scratch over 18 months ago to build what it described as an advocacy program, branded (!!) it as "Envoys" and began a recruitment effort and what it described as "training" which included, among other things, materials irrelevant to the three organizations' work (anti-semitism in Europe?) and an in-person training thing that restricted the legacy partners presentations to, as I recall, 5 (maybe it was 10) minutes each.
- Now, remember, UIA's Chaverim visited 16 communities in the 9 months over which UIA implemented the effort; JFNA's Envoys have visited 5 federations in 18 months. And, as we wrote, now JFNA's Caspi somehow believed that a personal plea from her might interest more federations in allowing the Envoys in. Read the whole pathetic Caspi epistle: http://ujtheeandme.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-daily-tragi-comedy-continues.html
Now, surely there were serious limitations to the UIA advocacy. By its mission, UIA was and is the advocate for JAFI; and JFNA should have been the place where advocacy for all three partners would take place. But rather than employing the methodology used in JFNA's only prior foray into the advocacy effort -- the chair of that effort, Jane Sherman, is still around and in a normal organization might have been consulted -- the "decision" was made to remake the wheel. I assume that that was because as usual there was and is no institutional memory -- not even short-term. Does anybody believe that JFNA could possibly create a viable advocacy program out of whole cloth, even with a troup of dedicated, well-intentioned lay leaders engaged as Envoys, when it has wholly failed its responsibilities to the overseas partners over this administration? Does anybody share Richard Sandler's well-intentioned belief that relations with JAFI and JDC "have never been better?" (Certainly no one in leadership at JAFI/JDC when speaking candidly and in confidence believes that.) So, the Envoys have more visits scheduled; let's see how those work out.
But, here's my suggestion: stop digging. Do an "advocacy reset:" let JAFI/JDC/WorldORT lead the advocacy effort coordinated by JFNA with the federations instead of being bystanders to continuing failure that impacts them, not JFNA. And, if this is truly a serious effort by JFNA, let's have the Envoys start in their home communities before they come to yours.
BUT, I'll just watch the digging. They just can't help themselves.