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Monday, July 30, 2012

US Jewish Federations dropping 'Zionism' from major global planning document

Writing at the Jewish Press, Lori Lowenthal Marcus reports that the Jewish Federations of North America have removed the word 'Zionism' from a global planning document.
The JFNA's Global Planning Table is the mechanism by which JFNA and Federation leadership come together to determine the allocation of dollars for new Federation initiatives outside of the United States. The Report issued by this collaborative is considered a building block of the allocations decision making process, and it was the call to include Zionism in the recent report that was rejected. The Global Planning Table page of the JFNA website does not include either the term Zionism or Israel.

Richard Wexler, former chair of the Chicago Federation and national chairman of the United Jewish Appeal in the late '90's, revealed yesterday, July 26, that JFNA's leaders have rejected the inclusion of the term "Zionism" in their Global Planning Table Work Group Report because the term "is too controversial."

In 2008 Wexler stepped down from his position as chairman of the United Israel Appeal, a subsidiary of what later became the JFNA. He also was one of the architects of the merger of United Jewish Communities, the umbrella group for the local Federations. Even while in a leadership position, however, Wexler was critical of the management culture, writing in his blog "UJ Thee and Me" that "criticism is not merely ignored, it is not tolerated."

Some fear the JFNA move will be seen as a watered-down acceptance of the notion that Zionism is to blame for the problems in the Middle East, or at the very least an effort to hold at arms length the idea that Jews are entitled to a national homeland.
After the article was printed (and despite repeated attempts to contact them before it was printed), the Federation issued the following statement:
After this story was published, JFNA officials issued a statement sent to Federation executives and others, by Kathy Manning, Chair, and Jerry Silverman, President/CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America:
On July 27, 2012, Lori Lowenthal Marcus wrote accusing the Jewish Federations of North America of moving away from its support of Israel and Zionism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ongoing support of Israel is fundamental to Federations and to JFNA. Our system sends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to Israel to support the vulnerable, to assist in education programs, to help new immigrants, to assist in job and skills development, and to provide concrete expressions of solidarity during Israel's darkest hours. We connect American Jews to Israel and Israelis by supporting birthright and other youth and young adult programs, community and national missions to Israel, and innovative partnerships between our communities and Israeli communities. We are proud to be holding our 2013 General Assembly in Israel, where we will have an opportunity to highlight the important work we do with our partners in Israel."
Note that they don't deny the substance of the story, namely that the word Zionism was removed.

Read the whole thing before you contribute to your local Federation.

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