Jerry Silverman 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy Jewish Federation)
The Jewish Federations of North America’s (JFNA) General Assembly, drawing some
4,000 people from around the world, will kick off in Denver on
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During the three-day event organized by the network of loosely
affiliated fund-raisers, participants will debate a wide range of issues
affecting the Jewish world, while officials meet on the sidelines to discuss how
to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars raised over the past
“This 2011 GA offers a powerful opportunity for our community to
connect around the critical challenges and opportunities of the day, and come
away energized to do even more to help Jews in need, nourish Jewish identity and
grow our community worldwide,” said Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of
In recent years the federations have been buffeted by the double
blows of the 2008 financial crisis and the Bernard Madoff scam, making it harder
to raise donations. Their annual intake from donations that fund an extensive
system of community centers, schools and organizations around the globe has
dropped from a peak of $1.04 billion in 2008 to $921 million in 2010. But
federation officials say most have weathered the storm well, arguing that
donations have not decreased dramatically, despite the ongoing economic
One of the most anticipated announcements out of this year’s
GA is the expected formation of the Global Planning Table, a committee that is
part of a major shakeup in how federations spend money abroad.
committee will help JFNA decide how to divide a purse of $135m. in overseas
funding among the Jewish Agency and the American Jewish Joint Distribution
Committee and other groups on the basis of need and merit, rather than the
existing 75:25 percent split between the two, respectively.
year’s GA in New Orleans, which was attended by Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu, opposition leader Tzipi Livni and US Vice President Joe Biden, there
are fewer big names on this year’s list of speakers.
Vice Prime Minister
Silvan Shalom (Likud) and MK Shaul Mofaz (Kadima) will be the highest-ranking
Israeli politicians at the event, while Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie
Wasserman-Schultz will be the most senior US representative.
the wife of Jewish- American contractor Alan Gross, who in 2009 was sentenced to
15 years in prison by a Cuban court for “subversion,” announced that she would
speak at the event. She is likely to try to enlist members of the community to
work for the release of her husband, who says he is innocent. Gross was arrested
while working under contract with the United States Agency for International Development to help the Cuban-Jewish community
improve its Internet access.
The GA is often used as a platform to
bolster ties between US and Israel. This year, Israeli Ambassador to the US
Michael Oren and US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro will both be present, their
personal backgrounds illustrating the bonds between the countries: Oren was born
and raised in the US and had to give up his American citizenship to become
Israel’s ambassador, while Shapiro spent considerable time in Israel and is
fluent in Hebrew.
Besides the plethora of panels touching on politics and
philanthropy, many social events will be held at the GA including a concert by
Jewish singer Matthew Paul Miller, better known by his stage name
“We are thrilled to welcome so many of the Jewish world’s most
influential leaders to the GA stage in Denver this year,” said Judy Silverman,
the co-chairwoman of the GA. “This is the preeminent Jewish event on the
communal calendar, where we, as a community, can come together to examine every
facet of Jewish life.”