Jewish Journal


April 15, 2009

For Jewish nonprofits, ‘a time to close ranks and some organizations’


You’ve probably already read quite a few stories here about how the Madoff scandal and the economic collapse is changing the organized Jewish community. Last week in the New York Jewish Week, Norman Liss, who has served on his share of Jewish nonprofit boards, said that it’s “time to close ranks, and some organizations.”

Liss wrote:

An early victim of the current recession is CAJE, an agency devoted to, and apparently succeeding at, improving Jewish education. Yet other agencies, whose current function and purpose in Jewish life is far from clear continue to function largely as shells, draining funds from more useful counterparts. They seem to exist primarily to allow their volunteer heads to continue to claim a seat at the table of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Other organizations, founded over a century ago to deal with an immigrant Jewish population, continue to exist under a Jewish umbrella, even though social circumstances have changed dramatically in the interim, such that they serve few, if any, Jews. Some of those agencies control large pots of money that could be put to more pressing Jewish uses. Inertia and nostalgia preserve structures and communal assignments that no longer make sense.

The problems alluded to have existed for many years. But now the need for change is of crisis proportion. Unfortunately, although some organizations are much needed and highly productive with dedicated leaders and membership, many in the leadership of the Jewish community are there for reasons other than the collective interests of the Jewish people, some for self-aggrandizement, and some to network for business. Many have simply been too myopic to recognize that their organizations, which have historically contributed much to the growth and health of Jews in America and to the cause of Israel, either no longer do so or are overlapping with the work of other organizations.

Sound familiar to anyone in Los Angeles?

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