01 November 2019
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend The Jewish Agency for Israel’s Board of Governors meeting. During our time together, we discussed the many ways the organization is evolving alongside Jewish life and community around the world. Much like Federation, The Jewish Agency (JAFI) is taking a strategic look at the future; exploring how they can carry forward their longstanding legacy and core programming while also growing and changing with the times.
Founded in 1929, JAFI played a pivotal role in the creation of the State of Israel. Since then, the organization has continued to help connect Jews with Israel and to serve vulnerable populations in the Jewish homeland. Its mission, however, is truly global in scope. JAFI is working to strengthen the Jewish future by supporting, securing, and bringing together Jewish communities around the world, wherever they may be. Federation is both a supporter of and a partner in this work.
We invest in JAFI to help ensure that the work we do at the local level occurs on a global scale as well. For instance, both of our organizations will be focusing more and more on providing leadership development opportunities to rising leaders who want to help tackle the challenges the Jewish people face. Federation wants to help ensure that passionate individuals have the support and connections they need to strengthen our community here in Greater Washington. Likewise, JAFI wants to support and connect Jewish leaders around the world.
As the organization enters its tenth decade, JAFI will be taking a critical look at its priority areas. The team knows that to be as effective as possible, they must consider the areas in which they want to deepen their impact as well as the areas in which they want to innovate and try something new. Already, JAFI has identified five trends they want to address, including fragmentation in the Jewish world, growing alienation from Israel, changing relationships to institutions, increasing global anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment, and communal demographic and geographic shifts.
These challenges call on JAFI to navigate new questions and adapt to changing circumstances. To this end, for example, JAFI is increasingly looking after the physical security of Jewish communities. Indeed, there would have been many more casualties during the synagogue shooting in Halle, Germany if it had not been for a new security system put in place by JAFI one month before the attack. Federation’s support, as well as that from communities around the world, enabled JAFI to address this critical need.
Of course, change is rarely easy for an organization with many stakeholders and a global reach. Beyond identifying high-level priority areas, JAFI leadership must also develop specific strategic goals, programs, and implementation plans. My time at their Board of Governors meeting, however, left me optimistic for their success.
I know that no matter what the future holds, we need organizations like JAFI who empower and connect Jews around the world and inspire the next generation to build a brighter Jewish future. Though our individual communities each exist within different contexts and face distinct challenges, we will all be stronger if we work together and assume responsibility for one another.
Federation is proud to be a partner in this work and to allocate significant funds to JAFI’s mission. I look forward to keeping you posted on the ways that Federation and JAFI are working together to strengthen a changing community in a changing world.