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Some explanation from Pearlstone on JAFI resignations

We told you in last week’s newsletter that the entire board of the Jewish Agency for Israel’s North American Council had been asked to step down so that the organization could reconstitute itself.

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This morning, a few days away from the Jewish Agency’s summer board meetings, the organization’s top lay leader, Richie Pearlstone, sent out an email explaining officially the move. Hat tip to eJewishPhilanthropy for coming up with the letter.

Here is an excerpt:

I am pleased to announce that one of the leading philanthropists and communal leaders in the Jewish world, Charles Goodman, has agreed to serve as chairman of the board of the Fund for the Jewish Agency, the new name for what was until recently called JAFINA. Jay Sarver will serve as treasurer, Jane Sherman, Natan Sharansky and I will serve as members of the board.

I am also writing to update you on new and important developments regarding our lay structure in North America and to clarify some issues which have come up in recent days.

The name JAFINA is being changed to reflect the global nature of our external affairs efforts. Some structural changes in the composition of the existing board and its bylaws are being made, such as expanding the number of directors and frequency of its meetings.

It is for this reason, that JAFINA Board members were asked to step down so JAFINA could be reconstituted into this new body, to be called the Fund for the Jewish Agency (FJA). It is our hope that members of the JAFINA Council will agree to serve on the new board of Fund for the Jewish Agency.

You can check out the whole letter on eJewishPhilanthropy.com, or continue reading below from last week’s Fundermentalist newsletter:

The shake-up at the Jewish Agency for Israel continued this week with the resignation of the entire board of its North American council, known as JAFINA. That includes Carole Solomon, the chairwoman of JAFINA and a former chairwoman of the agency’s board of governors. The North American branch was founded to help spur fund raising in North America.

In part as a response to the success of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the agency hired several professional fund-raisers, known as "relationship managers,” and enlisted about 100 lay leaders who were charged with making the Jewish Agency case to leaders at local Jewish federations and perhaps beyond. But JAFINA council members have been disappointed with the results of their branch. The relationship managers have brought in more than the $2 million annual cost of the program — but not enough to meet expectations, said Jewish Agency officials. The relationship managers, however, have been able to raise additional money even though dollars in other areas have dropped precipitously over the past couple of years. 

In January, the agency’s top lay leader, Richard Pearlstone, said that even though the model pays for itself, it might need to be tweaked or perhaps scrapped.

It appears that at the very least, it will be a very heavy tweaking. Several high-up sources within the Jewish Agency say the North American branch will be reconstituted under a different name. It appears now that JAFINA will become focused on fund raising worldwide rather than just in North America, requiring the name change, according to Misha Galperin, who is coming in to oversee the Jewish Agency’s global operations and global financial resource development.

As part of the reconstituting of JAFINA, the entire board was asked to resign for legal purposes. Some of the members will join the board of whatever new entity emerges, but not Solomon. Galperin, who officially assumes his new post on July 1, said he will have a new top lay leader.

Back in January, it was rumored that Solomon was upset that the agency’s chairman, Natan Sharansky, was pushing out the North American branch’s current executive director, Maxyne Finkelstein, as part of a rethinking of JAFINA. Solomon would not comment then, and she did not return a call this week.

At the time, insiders suggested, the decision to seek out a new top professional had little to do with Finkelstein’s performance but was mainly about the agency’s rethinking of JAFINA. The agency is set to ratify a new strategic plan at its upcoming board of governors’ meetings, which will start June 20 in Jerusalem. Galperin has been working with a task force headed by Jay Sarver to rethink the agency’s entire financial resource development strategy. The plan is still in the works, but it is expected to be passed at the agency’s board meetings in October and be put into effect by Jan. 1.

Rumors of discontent among some board members have been swirling, especially after Shoel Silver said last week that he was resigning as the chairman of the Jewish Agency’s budget and finance commitee.

Some have speculated that Silver resigned because he was unhappy with the move of the Jewish Agency’s communications and financial resource development operations from Jerusalem to New York. Silver, a Canadian, is a top lay leader in Keren Hayesod, the Jewish Agency’s Canadian and European funder, which supplies about 20 percent of JAFI’s board members.

Silver would not comment on the speculation. He would say only that he felt it was best for him personally to resign. Silver will remain in his post until October.

Pearlstone, JAFI’s top lay leader, told The Fundermentalist that Silver has the hardest job at the agency and that he tried unsuccessfully to convince Silver to stay on board.

 
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