Aleph Bet Matzo Ball Soup

The following blog was written by JFN member Tracy Salkowitz and originally appeared on her blog Tracy's Treks.

Oy Gevalt.  JFNA, UIA, UJA, JAFI, CJF, JCF, JF&CS, JFSA.  With all the acronyms in our Jewish world I think we are at the point that we can't remember who does what and why.  This really struck home when I participated in a number of Conferences recently and folks I met had no idea who was responsible for what.

I think this is a challenge especially for the Jewish Federation movement as it is such an institution but as many younger Jews approach their philanthropy differently than did their parents, they don't understand the nuances of our Jewish community. Let's see if we can unravel it a bit.

Let's start with the JDC, or the Joint.  The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee was founded in 1914.  They are celebrating their 100th year and they are remarkable (See the exhibit and the NY Historical Society).  Did you know that the Jewish people have their own rescue and relief organization?  That we have airlifted entire Jewish communities out of distressed regions?  That is the JDC.  During the Holocaust they smuggled in food and supplies to suffering Jewish communities.  They helped with transportation and resettlement and absorption in Israel.  Today they make sure that home bound elderly Jews in disappearing Jewish communities receive food and visits.  They also are working to see to a resurgence of Jewish engagement in the former Soviet Union.

The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI),  who along with the JDC, is one of the two major beneficiaries of Federation overseas support.  Founded in 1929, JAFI has managed and funded Aliyah for Jews wishing to move to Israel from around the world. You may think that is is a shrinking effort, but think again. French and Ukrainian Jews are able to move quickly because of these two agencies that have been working on the ground for generations and have internationally connected networks.

The United Jewish Appeal or the UJA is and has been the fundraising arm for the Jewish people.  In larger communities the fundraising arm is the Jewish Federation system.  In many smaller communities it is the United Jewish Appeal.  The United Israel Appeal or UIA, on the other hand, has been the funnel through which funds from around the world are funneled to support absorption and social welfare programs in Israel.  This includes funds from the U.S. government.

Are we confused yet?  So how does this all fit together?  How do Jews as a community get it all together to support world wide Jewish relief, rescue and continuity?

For 153 communities, Jews turn to their Jewish Federation.  Jewish Federations were created to provide a centralized fundraising arm for local communities.  The hope was that through a combined campaign that donors could make one gift and it would meet the needs of the local Jewish community along with global Jewry needs.  Indeed, when one makes a donation to their local Federation part of the gift stays to meet local needs, part goes to help Israel grow and thrive and part goes to wherever it is needed around the world to make sure that the needs of our Jewish people are met.

In 1999 the United Jewish Appeal, the United Israel Appeal and the Council on Jewish Federations first merged into the Untied Jewish Communities and more recently into the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA).  The aim of merging these organizations was to develop a more cohesive and holistic approach to national and international fundraising.  JFNA brings best practices and models to the 153 Federations and 300 smaller communities that provide support for our global Jewish fundraising effort.

The new piece of this fundraising puzzle is the Jewish Funders Network.  Founded in 1990 by a group of Jewish Community Funders, this group wanted to focus on private and community foundations that were looking to have an impact with their philanthropic dollars.  Up until this point the planning for the community was really the purview of the Jewish Federation movement and certainly Jewish federations do centralized planning for their local communities,  but just as many younger donors want to feel and have a more direct connection with the organizations that receive their dollars, so too are a growing number of baby boomer donors.  They found that by joining together to look at local, national and international trends, they could work together, leverage support and have a greater impact with combined grants.

The challenge now is to keep up with our changing community and the changing nature of our donors and funders.  Our community has an extraordinary opportunity to create intersections of creative philanthropy.  We just have to make sure that we don't trip over our own feet by thinking that one model is better than another model, or that our leadership is the true leadership of the Jewish community.  There are plenty of opportunities for everyone and we need to celebrate and leverage each other's talents and energy.

Personally, I love that we have the JDC and JAFI and that the Federation makes sure that elderly Jews in Cuba are receiving visits and that young Jews in Budapest are given an opportunity to connect with other young Jews and the wider, global Jewish network.  I also love that Funders can leverage dollars by working together.  We just have to make sure that members of our community keep up with the changing landscape and don't get lost along the way.

The final acronyms above?  Jewish Community Foundation, Jewish Family & Children's Services and  Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona just to see if you were paying attention!