Reading a comment of the head of Chicagos federation, we almost said, O for the halcyon days when federations dictated what a community thought, and had to think. Steve Nasatairs remarks sounded so reassuring and so outdated.
It is true, Chicago, to its credit, has one of the few remaining federations that operate successfully on the old model: the primacy period, when all organizations in a city were banned from raising funds if they wanted a federation allocation, because thats when the federation conducted its campaign. Indeed, these organizations were the recipients of significant, communally decided allocations. That was the method, and those were the days, when federations raised very large sums.
Were not hankering for those days because, while the money was raised well, it was not spent well, after the 1970s. Which brings us to Nasatir’s comment: Our Operation Exodus campaign helped fund the unprecedented resettlement of one million former Soviet Jews in Israel and about 40,000 in my hometown, Chicago.
Read related news coverage, “More Israelis give tzedakah; socialist habits hard to break“
From about 1985 on, Israel did not need help resettling Soviet Jews. Israel had become a strong, emerging economy. The portion of the Israeli budget funded by Diaspora Jews had dropped from high double figures to a very low single figure. Jewish leaders in the Diaspora didnt acknowledge the drastic improvement in Israels economy. Jewish education in the US was way underfunded.
And now, there a newer development in Israel: Personal, not just state, wealth. We refer readers to a page 1 report on Israelis struggle to assume their own tzedakah responsibilities. Its time.
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