Jewish Federations Renew IAN, Support Gov. of Israel Peoplehood Initiative
Feb. 11, 2014
The Jewish Federations of North America’s Board of Trustees convened in a lively session of 100 top volunteer leaders and professionals from 52 Federations across North America this week to tackle several major issues. In addition to the board meeting, a variety of diverse groups met, including Western Region leadership and city size groups.
The meetings were graciously hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
Top Action Items:
• The board voted to renew support for the Israel Action Network for three years • The board agreed to a resolution to cooperate with the Government of Israel in an initiative to strengthen global peoplehood and Jewish identity • The board voted to endorse a slate of public policy priorities
Support for Israel Action Network Renewed
After hearing a presentation from Israel Action Network (IAN) chair David Sherman of Chicago about IAN’s accomplishments in its first three years and about continuing challenges to Israel’s legitimacy from the BDS community, the board overwhelmingly voted to continue IAN’s funding for an additional three years.
Since IAN was established in 2010, Federations have built community capacity and hosted skill-building workshops. “Thank you for having had the wisdom to fund IAN,” Sherman said. He mentioned IAN’s recent efforts to combat the well-publicized effort to isolate Israel’s academics at the Modern Language Association meeting, and noted ongoing efforts to quietly generate support among progressive groups. With renewed funding, Sherman said, IAN would continue building relations with Christian moderates and partnering with campus groups.
IAN Managing Director Geri Palast thanked the leadership of the Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Toronto Federations, which have been especially involved in and supportive of IAN in its first two and a half years.
Global Planning Table Signature Initiatives Discussed
The board heard a presentation about the first two signature initiatives that the Global Planning Table (GPT) advanced the following day. The GPT is a dynamic new forum designed to engage Federation leaders in a new, communal dialogue about global Jewish needs. The GPT Committee will convene small working groups to finalize implementation plans and oversee fundraising efforts, share the plans with all Federations and present the Signature Initiatives to the board for a formal vote.
GPT chair David Butler of Washington, DC, outlined the initiatives:
• J-Quest: designed to leverage the proven success of experiential travel in identity building and dramatically increase rates of participation in immersive experiences, specifically service learning (around the world) and career-building internships (in Israel). Eligible programs will promote Jewish peoplehood and provide continuing opportunities to engage before and especially following the immersive experiences themselves.
• Israel Children’s Zone: a comprehensive, community-based approach to coordinate a range of quality education, skill-building opportunities, family stability, psycho-social well-being and community support that Israeli children and their families need to break out of poverty. The demonstration project will build on existing programs, including Tevet, Better Together and Youth Futures.
• Civil Society: a third initiative, still being refined, which will most likely relate to religious diversity and civil marriage in Israel. The task force has hired a consultant in Israel to make recommendations on how the GPT could achieve impact in this area.
Government of Israel Initiative with World Jewry
The Government of Israel (GOI) is prepared to invest an additional $100 million in programs to build Jewish identity and connection with Israel in the Diaspora. Cynthia Shapira of Pittsburgh reported on this initiative and the GOI’s interests in collaborating with Federations and others, offering a dollar for dollar match with philanthropic funds raised in North America. An intensive content development process related to this initiative is underway, with strong participation from local Jewish Federations. The Board voted to endorse the Jewish Federations’ participation in this potentially historic collaboration.
Pew Study-Inspired White Papers
In response to the Pew Study on Jewish Life released in October, three Federation executives (Jay Sanderson, LA; Barry Shrage, Boston; and Steve Nasatir, Chicago) prepared white papers on possible responses. Steve Rakitt, chief executive officer of the Washington, D.C. Federation, summarized the contents of the white papers, which were made available to the board along with a speech that John Ruskay (New York) delivered on this topic. Rakitt added comments on the response of his own Federation.
Public Policy Priorities
The Federation movement’s domestic policy priorities for the coming year were presented by David Brown of Chicago, chair of the Human Services & Public Policy Council. The issues on this agenda include maximizing incentives for charitable giving, meeting the needs of Holocaust survivors, sustaining community services to alleviate poverty, protecting the healthcare safety net and advocating on behalf of people with disabilities. The board voted to endorse this agenda.