Yad Vashem is having a financial crisis and is expected to have a deficit of NIS 42.7 million by the end of 2023, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
For the past year, the organization’s senior management has been in talks with its more than 500 employees, telling them that many workers would be laid off and sent to retirement, some of whom will not be replaced.
The deficit is a combination of various factors and something that current chairman Dani Dayan hopes to change as part of his strategic plan to move Yad Vashem forward as a healthy, up-to-date and modern institution.
“As part of our renewed in-depth comprehensive examination of Yad Vashem’s modes of operation and [taking] a fresh look into our institution’s ability to fulfill its current and future mission, as well as implement our newly formulated vision statement for years to come and in compliance with the Yad Vashem Law, we have embarked on a process of restructuring and streamlining our organization, as well as taking steps to increase the state’s share of Yad Vashem’s budget,” Dayan told the Post.
“As part of our renewed in-depth comprehensive examination of Yad Vashem’s modes of operation and [taking] a fresh look into our institution’s ability to fulfill its current and future mission, as well as implement our newly formulated vision statement for years to come and in compliance with the Yad Vashem Law, we have embarked on a process of restructuring and streamlining our organization, as well as taking steps to increase the state’s share of Yad Vashem’s budget.”Dani Dayan
The new vision statement is very similar to the prior one, but it broadens the Holocaust memorial’s target audience and puts an emphasis on communications and modern technology.
“We live in an age of instant communication and progressive technology,” Yad Vashem says in its mission statement on its website. “The world is rapidly advancing through the third millennium under the pressure of an open-market economy, hyper-consumerism, a world communications revolution and a flood of boundary-reducing tourism.”
According to sources in the organization, the restructuring process will encompass “optimized productivity, consolidation of departments, incentives for early retirement by eligible employees, streamlining and improving work processes, as well as manpower reductions.”
“This process is being implemented with full transparency and in coordination with the Workers Union,” Dayan said.
How many people work at Yad Vashem?
Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority, was established in 1953 by the Knesset as the state authority charged with commemoration of the Holocaust and its victims. It currently employs a staff of 522 plus some 200 tour guides, alongside security guards and custodial staff who are indirectly employed.
In August 2021, Dayan, who formerly served as consul-general in New York, was appointed chairman of Yad Vashem. Shortly afterward, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Zvika Fayirizen was chosen by public tender to serve as the organization’s CEO.
The two new leaders immediately faced a complex institutional reality, including that only 30% of Yad Vashem’s budget is funded by the state. The remainder is secured either through private donations or via revenue-generating sources.
“If the organization continues on its present financial course, we will end the fiscal year of 2023 with a deficit of NIS 42.7 million,” Dayan said.
“If the organization continues on its present financial course, we will end the fiscal year of 2023 with a deficit of NIS 42.7 million.”Dani Dayan
Yad Vashem has engaged external organizational consultants and has embarked on a process of extensive structural change to avoid this, he said.
“We discovered an existing revenue structure that is utterly unsustainable in the current reality – an excessively large workforce whose salaries are dependent primarily upon donations,” Dayan said. “Obviously, such a situation cannot be maintained for long. We must now reduce our workforce significantly.
“Furthermore, we will update our collective employment agreement to improve the salary structure for employees in low- and mid-level positions.”
“Their current salaries are comparatively low relative to similar organizations in the Israeli job market,” he said. “We must also take measures to streamline work processes and increase the proportion of state funding of Yad Vashem.”
Some 60% of Yad Vashem’s budget is reliant on donations, which fund a large portion of employees’ salaries. The State Comptroller’s Report in 2021 noted the problems of such excessive reliance upon donations and the resulting risk to Yad Vashem activity in the event of a crisis requiring cutbacks.
Events over the past two years have changed reality, Dayan said. First, the COVID pandemic has greatly impacted the world of philanthropy, either due to a significant reduction in donations or because of a shift to philanthropist preferences for short-term donations.
Another result of the pandemic was the extended closure of Yad Vashem’s museum, which caused considerable losses to the organization’s self-generated income. This deepened the deficit, and Yad Vashem received no pandemic compensation from the state, unlike other cultural institutions and businesses in Israel that received bailouts.
An additional factor affecting the organization’s fiscal health was repeated delays in the passage of the state budget in recent years. These delays hindered the determination of an appropriate budgetary basis for Yad Vashem, also blocking the formulation of a new collective labor agreement aimed at wage stabilization for the workers, in alignment with economic conditions.
The Russia-Ukraine war has led to the imposition of significant sanctions upon some donors, including the closing of foundations and the cancellation of donations by contributors as a result of global instability. Donors such as Moshe Kantor, Roman Abramovich and others who donated and were intending to continue donating toward specific projects in Yad Vashem cannot do so any more.
“Upon completion of this restructuring plan, Yad Vashem will be able to fulfill its mission of spearheading Holocaust documentation, research, education and commemoration and to convey the chronicles of this singular Jewish and human event to every person in Israel, to the Jewish people and to every significant and relevant audience worldwide,” Dayan said.
He said he and his staff were in the midst of changing this old-school institution for the good.
Dayan said he has met with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Pope Francis, during which the Vatican allowed the opening of the Church’s Holocaust archives.