JDC and JAFI seek conflict resolution

Representatives of the Jewish Agency, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Federations of North America met Monday at the New York offices of the JFNA in an attempt to solve their continuing struggle over how much each of the two overseas organizations should take home from the federations’ annual campaigns.

The JDC and the agency have been negotiating for nearly two years over how to divide what is now about $130 million in unrestricted funds that the federations raise for overseas needs each year.

Traditionally, the agency has taken home about 75 percent and JDC about 25 percent. The Joint has become adamant that that formula is no longer appropriate, while the agency is trying to preserve it. The disagreement has become particularly heated in recent weeks as the JDC has taken an aggressive stance that if the federations don’t change the formula, the Joint will simply raise money in the federations’ backyards. JDC outlined the strategy in a memo for its board laying out a series of suggestions revamping the organization’s fund-raising strategy.

The memo rankled the federations, who insisted that JDC remove the suggestions from its document or the JFNA would end negotiations between the three parties. When the Joint acquiesced last week at its own board meetings, the three parties agreed to sit down Monday for a regularly scheduled negotiation session.

Some had hoped that this would be a final negotiation and that the three parties would reach an agreement Monday. Others feared that the entire negotiation process could fall apart.

According to a statement released late Monday after the three sides met, it appears that neither of those scenarios played out. Instead, the three sides will continue to negotiate and will try to work together to help the federations raise more money for overseas needs.

We will report more when we find have more. For now, here’s the three-way media release:

Joint JFNA, JDC, JAFI Statement 

The Jewish Federations of North America, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and the Jewish Agency for Israel met this week and agreed to pursue a framework to revitalize Jewish Federation collective overseas funding for Israel and Jews worldwide. 

The three organizations, which together deliver social services and care to needy Jews and provide Jewish and Zionist education in more than 70 nations worldwide, have been convening since late last year to consider ways to increase overseas funding amid the economic downturn. Meeting at JFNA offices in New York on Monday, a committee of the organizations’ leadership agreed to explore several key strategies to increase the share of Annual Campaign funds the Jewish Federations provide overseas. 

The organizations have been meeting since last December to find ways to meet growing overseas needs.

The economic downturn has affected the ability of JAFI and JDC to maintain programs, with funding down generally and with the dollar’s purchasing power declining. Meanwhile, social needs in Israel and worldwide have only intensified. 

“We came together in a collaborative process, and we are going to move ahead in a positive and constructive manner,” said Kathy Manning, chair of The Jewish Federations of North America, and Jerry Silverman, President and CEO of JFNA. “We will continue our discussions, and ultimately we remain unified in our goal of more effectively meeting Jewish needs worldwide.” 

The three organizations agreed to continue studying key proposals to increase funding for overseas needs.

“Today we reaffirmed our joint commitment to increase fundraising to meet critical needs in Israel and around the world,” said Dr. Irving Smokler, President of JDC, and Steven Schwager, Executive Vice-President and CEO of JDC. “Through our efforts together, we will continue to build Jewish identity – and ultimately our community – around the world,” said Richard Pearlstone, Chairman of the Board of JAFI, and Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive of JAFI.

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