Home  Principles & Statements  Positions of the ACJ  Articles  DonationsAbout Us  Contact Us  Links                                         

Merger Of Jewish Fund-Raising Groups Indicates "A New Agenda In The Jewish World"

Allan Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
March-April 1999

In March, North America’s three most prominent Jewish fundraising and fund-distribution organizations decided to merge. The alliance of the United Jewish Appeal, the Council of Jewish Federations and the United Israel Appeal represents "a dramatic change in the Jewish American philanthropic landscape," declared The Jerusalem Report (April 12, 1999).  

Jeffrey Solomon, president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, who has been acting as a consultant in facilitating the merger, states: "There’s a recognition that there’s an enormous change in American philanthropy. All the assumptions of the past are no longer valid. The openness of America and the success of Jewish life in America has given people who are Jewish and philanthropically active many more choices—some of them not Jewish choices."  

The merger, The Jerusalem Report points out, "gives the local federations a much larger role in determining how the funds will be spent. Essentially, the merger takes the power to distribute funds worldwide from the national UJA...and gives it to the federations, which actually raise the funds and can be more responsive to their local constituencies."  

Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, sees the merger as moving away from giving to Israel and focusing on a domestic agenda, such as Jewish education. "I think there is a deeper understanding...that Israel doesn’t need American philanthropic money like it did in the 1960s," he said. "I don’t think the bulk of young Americans are motivated by the vision of a Jewish state the way they once were. And while that certainly doesn’t mean that American Jews are going to stop worrying about Israel, it does suggest that the central campaign, the focus, where the majority of the money goes, will be different."  

Opposition to the merger came from Zionist groups within the United Israel Appeal. J.J. Goldberg, writing in The Washington Jewish Week (March 25, 1999) reports: "What happened was not a pretty sight. One after another, the Zionists rose to criticize the merger negotiations; claim they’d been hoodwinked; defend their role as Israel‘s leading supporters; and demand seats on the new board....The response they got from federation representatives veered between sympathy and derision, once even descending into a shouting match. When the vote came, the Zionists lost badly. Not one federation leader crossed over to support the Zionists. Sadly, the Zionists had lost their fighting spirit. Years ago, they were the feistiest hellraisers in the Jewish world. But for generations, they’ve been just the opposite: loyal followers of Israeli diktat. Now, when they had to fight for their own survival, they couldn’t remember how to put up a fight."  

The latest developments, states The Jerusalem Report, shows that there is "a new agenda in the Jewish world."

< return to article list
© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.