I am writing to you today as my second month as Chair of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors comes to a close, along with summer. I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank my predecessor, Mr. Richie Pearlstone, for his dedicated service to the Agency. The Jewish Agency has a long history, an extraordinary leadership, and institutional partners who are essential to our mission of securing the Jewish future. The Jewish people and Israel need collective strategic action, and this is where the Jewish Agency comes in: Together with our partners, we can impact the Jewish future and address some of the major challenges facing the Jewish world today.
Board of Governors Annual Giving Campaign
We recently launched our annual BOG campaign, co-chaired by Julia Koschitzky, Member of the Jewish Agency Executive; Raya Strauss, Member of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors Committees; Marlene Post, Associate Member of the Board; and Harold Gernsbacher, Member of the Board. Please click here to read the letter we sent to the Board launching the campaign. In the coming days, each and every one of you will be personally contacted regarding your gift. This year we expect maximum participation from all Board and Committee members.
June Board and Assembly Meetings
At the June BOG meetings, the Board approved the Governance Task Force’s final recommendations. In accordance with their recommendations, we subsequently launched our new committee structure following the completion of the nominating process for Committee Chairs by the Jewish Agency General Nominating Committee. Please click here for a list of the new committees, and here for a list of all Board Committee Chairs. Also at the Board meetings, a first gathering of its kind was held between the Chairperson of the Board and the Chairperson of the Executive, with the Chairs and Deputy Chairs of all Board Committees, in order to start an ongoing forum for dialogue amongst the leadership of the Board of Governors. We will reconvene this forum in February and will continue to do so three times a year.
Global Jewish Forum
As I told everyone in my opening remarks at the closing Board plenary, I intend for the Board to hold a special Forum on Global Jewish issues at each Board meeting, focusing on pressing issues facing Israel and the Jewish people. The inaugural seminar produced by Makom was held in June - a special day-long seminar focusing on Jewish resilience in the face of the assault on Israel›s legitimacy. The Forum was an enormous success with great participation of Board members and input from noted speakers. The intriguing day was further enriched by Masa participants, returning shlichim, and Israeli diplomats and we managed to explore ways for the Jewish people to fight boycott, divestment and sanctions. We have been informed by JFNA that they would like us to assist in producing a similar event at the GA in Denver this Fall.
An updated budget was presented to the members following the Executive's approval of budgetary changes in mid-June. Some of the deficit was covered by additional income and some – by budgetary cuts. The budget resolution as approved by the Board is available on our website.
Summary of the Discussions in the Program Committees
in June Aliyah & Rescue Committee
A description of the strategic changes in the Jewish Agency and the mandate of the committee, including promoting and encouraging Aliyah and the rescue of Jews in countries of distress, was given by the Chair, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein. This was followed by an open discussion as to the goals and directions of the committee. A presentation of the Agency’s new vision for Aliyah was given by the Deputy Director General for Programs, Leah Golan, emphasizing our target Aliyah populations – Ethiopia, FSU, Aliyah of Choice, Aliyah of Rescue, and our overall focus on young adults. Reviews on Aliyah from the FSU, a statistical overview of the Aliyah & Rescue unit, and an overview of the issue of immigration from Ethiopia were also presented to the committee; An open discussion was then held on the dilemma of where to focus our efforts in light of limited resources.
Israel Engagement Committee
Following an introduction of committee members as well as an overview of the relevant program units and the functions of the Israel Engagement Committee, facilitated discussions were held in five small groups on the term «Israel Engagement» and on the committee›s objectives. During the discussion that followed, the below points were raised: The need to create more desire and personal initiative to come to Israel; Defining quantitative measures of success; The question of establishing subcommittees; Regional differences in building policy and priorities; Our programs and their need to reflect the needs of young people; The need to involve more young people in the Jewish Agency brand; The need to serve Jews…and not only the Jewish Agency; The committee›s role in developing programs and policies for the staff to implement; The committee as governing but not managing body; Using older people as a resource and source of knowledge, even given the focus on the young.
Activism & Partnerships Committee
During the introduction that was held at the beginning of the meeting, it was mentioned that it is vital to foster unity and create relationships with the Diaspora. Secretary General Josh Schwarcz gave an overview on coordinating expectations with committee members and clarifying the limits of responsibility of the committee. He emphasized the committee›s role in synergy and integration. Andrea Arbel spoke about Partnerships and future planning. She presented the new Partnership2Gether brand and emphasized the Partnerships unit›s role as a Jewish Agency Peoplehood platform. Andrea also spoke of the development of Partnership Spiral and Platform-to-Platform. Niir Lahav presented his vision for the Social Activism unit. There was a broad consent amongst the members of the need for Tikkun Olam programs.
Russian Speaking Jewry Committee
The goals of the meeting were describing the work of the Task Force (TF) appointed by the Jewish Agency, setting visions and priorities and moving forward with a new plan for Russian-speaking Jewry (RSJ), based on the strategic plan. The Committee unanimously approved the TF›s recommendations, based on the strategies that were outlined during the meeting: Camping, informal education; Israel experiences, Birthright and Masa; Leadership development; Encouragement of Aliyah; Shlichim (emissaries). Part of the discussion was devoted to the Committee›s role and its modes of operation. It was decided that the Committee will develop Jewish Agency policies for RSJ with relative emphasis on various regions and set the priorities; will discuss basis for funding particular programs and the proportion between the overall support and the targeted support; will decide where and how partnerships should be made; will hear reports from the field; will be developing supportive networks and bringing potential funders with potential programs together; will be receiving updates from the staff between the BOG meetings; will develop synergy between Aliyah and education in the work of the new Unit.
June Plenary Resolutions
All Board Plenary resolutions are available on our website here.
Board of Governors Meetings in Buenos Aires
As you know, the November 2011 Board meeting will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on November 14th-16th. In Buenos Aires, we will be hosted by local Jewish organizations, engage with local Jewish leadership, and see firsthand the broad spectrum of Jewish Agency activities in South America, including formal and informal educational activities, ulpanim, and programs that connect Jewish youth with their heritage and with Israel. Highlights include: a Gala Event with the Heads of the Jewish Communities of Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Uruguay (Co-Hosted by Keren Hayesod); a guided tour of highlights of Buenos Aires; a tango performance; and a happening at Club CASA, with graduates of Masa and Birthright, and members of youth movements. We look forward to this incredible opportunity to being hosted by the Jewish Community in Argentina and to see the very important work we do there. Click here to view the latest schedule of the Board meetings.