In talking about the flotilla incident, we told you that we were getting the sense that the federation system could become more involved in Israel advocacy.
It turns out that our hunch might be right.
I had a fascinating conversation this week with Conrad Giles, the new chairman of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella group of the network of 125 Jewish communal relations councils across the United States (plus two dozen or so national organizations).
We spend so much time here talking about the federation system’s overseas partners, sometimes we forget that it also has significant domestic partners, too, including the JCRCs and JCPA.
During my talk with Giles, which took place just after the organization’s board meetings in New York, he mentioned that the Jewish Federations of North America could be committing several million dollars over the next few years to working with the JCPA on an intense Israel advocacy program and to fight the growing international movement to delegitimize Israel.
According to Giles, the JFNA had made the decision at its recent board of trustees meetings in New Jersey — before the flotilla incident — and that the organization would be taking the lead on the initiative, with the JCPA as its partner.
“It will be housed at JFNA, but we have 157 Jewish federations and 125 CRCs. That is the platform from which this will be launched,” he said.
Check out the blog next week for more on my conversation with Giles.
Fundermentalist’s take: While Israel advocacy has always been a part of the JCPA’s mission, the organization has often placed more of its emphasis on domestic social issues and on foreign issues like the Save Darfur movement.
With this new initiative, however, the JCPA looks poised to step up its efforts at improving Israel’s image. It could be a delicate balancing act for a group that has tended to lean center-left on a host of issues — and displayed a willingness to foster debate on Israel. For example, shortly after the launch of J Street — at a time when some establishment types were furious over the new group’s criticism of Israel’s invasion of Gaza and working hard to marginalize the organization — JCPA invited its leader to take part in a panel discussion.
Of course, a sensitivity toward the liberal side of the spectrum, where most mainstream Jews sit and plenty of criticism of Israel has been brewing, might make the JCPA an ideal candidate for this mission.