Last update: Thursday, December 06, 2012 02:27:36 PM
Anshel Pfeffer | Oct.26, 2012 | 2:05 AM | Ha'Aretz
THIS ARTICLE IS A DISASTER !!! (See Below for Similar Article)
The 120 most important Jews in the world will meet next week in Jerusalem for two days (supposedly a very important endeavor) to discuss how best to use the money of the Jewish world. (You'll notice that in the entire article the problem is not articulated. It is mostly a description of futility.) This may sound like a scene from the fevered paranoid imagination of the shadowy author of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but it is actually a paraphrased abbreviation (what does this mean) of a press release put out by the Jewish People Policy Institute. JPPI is holding its Conference on the Future of the Jewish People, where the assorted luminaries including Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu, Dan Shapiro, Bernard-Henri Levy and Natan Sharansky will discuss among other things, according to JPPI President Avinoam Bar-Yosef, "the entirety of the resources available within the Jewish world"
|and will "consider more efficient ways to utilize them to meet future strategic needs of the Jewish people." (I wonder if the religious world is included, I don't think so.) What I find striking about thisAvinoam Bar-Yosef conference is that while there may be a few philanthropists among the 120 wise men (and women I assume ), the great majority of those gathered, despite being well-paid professionals and public servants, will not actually be discussing how to use their own fortunes. The "resources available within the|
JPPI President Avinoam Bar-Yosef
Jewish world" means essentially other people's money - that of Israeli taxpayers (and in some cases that of citizens of other countries ) and the hard-earned cash of Jewish givers, be they humble middle-class synagogue membership payers and annual subscribers or billionaire mega-donors. (I don't believe that throwing money to a problem is always the solution. Sometimes character building and decency is the solution, which I believe is the case.).
This isn't a shareholders' AGM, none of them will actually lose a shekel if millions are squandered on harebrained schemes and through chronic mismanagement. (They takeh won't lose a shekel but risk every thing else, this dope of a columnist.) Neither are the conference's participants accountable to "the Jewish world" in any way - none of them will have to resign next year over shortfalls in revenue. (Well, isn't this the truth about any responsibility. One would think that the UN would be the venue.) That doesn't mean they don't have vested interests, indeed many if not most of them will be there to defend the interests of the organizations they head. JPPI itself is hardly a disinterested host, being a creation of the Jewish Agency and partly financed by the agency's budget (a typical case a non-starter, making the solution undoable at the outset).
On the other hand, they probably won't be fighting very hard since none of the well-written and researched reports and studies published by JPPI are more than policy recommendations - the moment the conference is over, everyone will go back to doing whatever they like (more of the same, negative from the start, suspicious motives).
Still, it is intriguing to think what a real plan for better use of Jewish resources would look like if it was being drawn up with no axes ground, no bread buttered, no kosher pork barrels cast upon the waters and no metaphors mixed. Here are a few ground rules for such a plan that probably will not be discussed at the JPPI conference (failure from the outset !):
Rule 1 (BLAME !).
Hold the Israeli government responsible (who should? Always someone else !). There is no greater Jewish fund-raiser in history than the Israeli Tax Authority. Before any discussion of Diaspora philanthropy in Israel, ask the basic question - but what is the government doing about it? This doesn't mean Jews from around the world should not donate to Israeli causes, quite the opposite, but if they really want to help Israelis (deflecting the original problem, the "Jewish World"), first demand from one of the strongest economies in the world to grow up and treat itself seriously. (The chain of command seems to be missing in this narrative.)
Neither has this anything to do with the debate on whether the Israeli welfare state
(oh, Welfare is the problem ? Isn't welfare what's being
discussed ?) should grow or shrink, it is about responsibility. Every
philanthropic dollar going to Israel should pass two tests:
First, is it going to a cause that the Israeli national or local government does not have a clear responsibility to finance? (The meeting is for "how to use the money of the Jewish world". Is he distinguishing between "Jewish" and "Israeli" ? Confusing and defeating test.)
Second, are there matching funds? Will the receiving organization or authority have enough skin of its own in the game to treat the money seriously ? (What is missing is a cooperation between interested and and responsible parties, clearly absent in this analysis.).
If an Israeli cause doesn't conform to these standards don't bother, there are more deserving charities closer to home. (The AGM is trying to address a world Jewish problem and the author flip flops to local charities. Not sticking to the point !)
Rule 2 (RECKLESS SUGGESTION !). Stop financing organizations that have outlived their usefulness. Everyone knows which agencies and foundations exist today only because they were founded in a more austere and pioneering age and have survived only due to the fact that they still manage to raise funds, control valuable assets and provide a convenient space to park failed politicians. Most of what they still do should be done by the Israeli government, established Diaspora communities or the private sector, or not all. Close them down and no one will notice they have disappeared. (Not comprehensive advice.)
Rule 3 (LOSE TRACK OF THE ISSUE. IF YOU ARE REFERRING TO ALL JEWISH MONIES, WHY ARE YOU SINGLING OUT A SPECIFIC CAUSE ?). Use funds for what they were meant. The fact that any Holocaust reparations have gone on "education" and "commemoration" while there are still needy survivors alive is a travesty impossible to describe in words. If executives had the effrontery to make that decision with the survivors' money, just think how other funds are being misused.
Rule 4 (FIRST EXCLUSIVELY A JEWISH SOLUTION AND THEN COMPLICATE IT TO A WORLD PROBLEM. HOW FOOLISH ARE WE?). The market knows best. One of the reports prepared for the JPPI conference contains the statistic that only 25 percent of Jewish philanthropy goes to Jewish causes. The rest is donated to hospitals, universities, culture etc., for the benefit of the general public. This isn't because these donors have forgotten they are Jews. They have understood that giving is the opposite of a zero-sum game (??? !!!) and donating to a wider population benefits Jews also. Clever Jewish organizations and foundations, mainly in the United States and Britain, have already realized that they have to operate within a wider social and global framework to be effective. All serious donations should be measured by a benchmark of whether it benefits a wider constituency than just the Jewish one. ("Just"? One could get carried away with such rhetoric !)
A greater proportion of the largest Jewish resource, Israel's state budget, should be earmarked for international aid, certainly much higher than the current pitiful 0.07 percent of national income. (Fix your own backyard first before spreading out.)
Rule 5 (CONFUSE THE GOAL. HOME OR INTERNATIONAL ?). Responsibility begins at home.
Money buys influence over public affairs, but it doesn't necessarily acquire responsibility. Jewish tycoons who expect to exert pressure on politicians through their philanthropy shouldn't expect their communities not to hold them accountable for side-effects closer to home. Jews can use their money however they like but if they want to bask in the glory of their largess, they have to be prepared also to bear the spotlights of scrutiny.
(Personal interests and selfishness will prevent an individual from taking responsibility and getting scrutinized. When it can be shown that a combination of gratuity, responsibility, virtuosity and altruism will benefit philanthropy and the reverse will harm it, only then can problem solving begin.)
Here is what Barack Obama said in the debate this week when Mitt Romney attacked him for not visiting Israel during his first term:
"I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn't take donors, I didn't attend fund-raisers, I went to Yad Vashem ... to remind myself the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable. And then I went down to the border town of Sderot ... I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their children's bedrooms."
There is a delicious irony here. Obama is using his visit to the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem to endear himself to Jewish voters. The largest single donor to Yad Vashem is Sheldon Adelson, who gave $50 million for the new museum there, the same man who has pledged the Republican Party $100 million to defeating Obama on November 6.
But beyond irony, how sad it is that the president feels that the best way to connect to the feelings of the most successful community in history is to highlight Jewish suffering, victim hood and vulnerability. And how sad that he's probably right, that's what works. (Off the subject ! Either it's a Jewish problem and suffice it to say that the President is of a competing religion, it's a slam dunk that this article leaves a lot to be desired and missing the mark. It's either a Jewish problem or more pandemic and endemic than that. IT'S THE RELIGION, STUPID !)