JA Board of Governors to vote on mission change

Proposed plan will be most significant mission change since 1948, seeks to expand activities from traditional focus on aliya.

GIDEON SA’AR at Jewish Agency  311 (photo credit: Brian P. Hendler)
GIDEON SA’AR at Jewish Agency 311
(photo credit: Brian P. Hendler)
The Jewish Agency’s Board of Governors will vote Monday on whether to approve the biggest change to the 81-year-old organization’s mission statement since 1948.
The proposed plan seeks to expand the organization’s activities from its traditional focus on aliya; it will now also promote Jewish education and identity in Israel and the Diaspora.
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The Board of Governors convened at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel on Sunday for a series of meetings that will last three days.
The board will be asked to okay the plan it already approved in principle last June.
In a letter cosigned by the agency’s chairman Natan Sharansky, Board of Governors chairman Richard Pearlstone and directorgeneral Alan Hoffman, the three men explained how the agency decided on its new mission goals.
“Over the past four months, we held a twoday workshop with more than 50 of the Jewish Agency's top professional staff, reviewed extensive research and conducted more than 30 personal interviews with the strategic planning committee, as well as with our other partners and funders,” they wrote. “At the same time, we have been engaging with the government of Israel on these issues.”
In the letter, the strategic plan cited five key components: cultivating activities for Jewish youth; connecting Israel and Diaspora Jewry; bringing youth to Israel on trips and extended stays through programs like Masa; strengthening Jewish identity in the Diaspora; and aliya, the organization’s historical mainstay.
“Having thoroughly discussed these policy choices, the overriding consensus of the feedback we received was that the [strategic] plan should encompass both people-building and nation-building by using the two strategic drivers as described in the third choice, with an emphasis on the younger generation,” they wrote.
The plan constitutes the most significant redefinition of the Jewish Agency’s purpose since the declaration of the state. When the agency was created in 1929, it served as a quasi-governmental body for the Zionist movement. In 1948, with the creation of Israel and its old role obsolete, it became an arm for bringing immigrants to the Jewish state. However, with aliya steadily in decline in recent years, the organization has realigned its mission once more; maintaining its commitment to bringing olim while cultivating Jewish identity abroad.