US federations to be model for Israeli fund-raising body

Takdim, a local charity based on the systems of North American Jewish Federations, is the first organization of its kind in Israel.

May 31, 2011 03:49
3 minute read.
Jewish Federations on North America logo

Jewish Federations Logo 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

It took some time – 63 years to be exact – but the North American federations model, the basic building block for the largest Jewish fund-raising operation in the world, has finally made aliya.

On Monday evening a group of founders, philanthropists and municipal officials gathered in Ramat Hasharon and raised a glass to celebrate the creation of Takdim, a local charity based on the federations system –the first of its kind in Israel.

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“It’s a collaboration that grew out of discussions between the city and residents,” said Takdim Executive-Director Arik Rosenblum, a native of California who has been living in Israel for decades. “Residents wanted to take a lead to raise money, define projects, oversee them and extend their hands to other communities in Israel and abroad.

“We saw that the best vehicle to advance the image of where we wanted to be is to take from the Federations model: an independent organization led by lay leadership that chooses its targets and has a 70-30 percent model, 30% going outside the community.

“It seems natural for an organization like Takdim to form in an upper class suburb like Ramat Hasharon, located just north of Tel Aviv. Many of its 40,000 residents regularly give to charity and have spent time abroad from where they might be familiar with the structure of the Jewish Federations of North America.”

But Takdim is not a JFNA member. Its model diverges from its North American inspiration in several significant ways. Still, its founding members don’t rule out the possibility that perhaps in the future it may officially join the umbrella group.

“In Israel this is all new but it doesn’t mean we’re not going there. We’re going to have a subcommittee discussing that,” Rosenblum said. “We are independent, although the municipality is a partner, but not a lead partner.

Just to say that of our executive council, which holds 17 people, two represent our partners –one from the municipality and a deputy mayor. In Israel, where the municipality is not a foreign entity, they are part of the executive council.” Rosenblum and others have signed up several prominent locals to take part in Takdim. Former Israel Air Force commander and former ambassador to Washington David Ivry has volunteered to be its chairman, and Ramat Hasharon Mayor Itzik Rochberger is the honorary president.

“I think the most important thing here is that we need to help ourselves and not be reliant on the communities in the Diaspora,” Ivry said. “We need to give help within Ramat Hasharon and outside of it. Forget about asking for assistance from the US, let’s do ourselves a favor.”

In the US, philanthropy has long been a pillar of the Jewish community, and federations raise hundreds of millions of dollars each year. In Israel, however, both overall and per capita fund-raising lags far behind.

“We’re not misers,” Ivry said. “When something happens people give, but Israeli society, starting from long before the establishment of Israel, lived off donations from abroad and that habit needs to be changed.”

One of the first projects Takdim is slated to be part of is the creation of a park catering to children with disabilities on land that was reclaimed from an Israel Military Industries factory.

At the launch on Monday, several representatives of JFNA were present to show support.

“As an Israeli-American I am happy to see an organization created which tries to combine the best of both worlds,” said Director-General of JFNA in Israel Rebecca Caspi.” We wish them well.”

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