The JFNA's Invisible Jews
The JFNA's Invisible Jews

Capping the 80th annual General Assembly (GA) of The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), their Board of Trustees approved a new initiative that strengthens the way the Jewish community prioritizes and takes collective action to confront the major challenges of Jews throughout the world.

“Our greatest strength in the Federations movement has been our willingness to envision a better world and our ability to work together as a global people to accomplish big goals,” said Kathy Manning, Chair of the JFNA Board of Trustees.

Hearing about the energy and good will generated by the GA, and their expected impact not only on the Jewish world but on the actual communities that will receive their assistance throughout the world, I was left with a sense of deep pride.

At the same time, I felt an equally powerful sense of disappointment in knowing that none of this good will and immensely important partnerships will reach the Jewish residents of the Judea and Samaria. It does not cross the 1949 Armistice lines, often called the "green line", which marked the ceasefire in the Israeli War of Independence.

Despite our communities being on the frontline for the past 44 years, enduring years of incessant terror in our homes and on the roads, the Fogel family massacre from the community of Itamar (which has lost 22 of its residents to terror attacks) being only a recent example of our ongoing reality, we remain invisible and distinctly excluded from the Federation vision of reaching out to all Jews.

We are the invisible Jews of Judea and Samaria, denied our rightful place to be part of the Federation's global initiative.

Case at point: The communities of the Shomron, the largest regional council within Judea and Samaria, equal to 11 % of the geographical size of all of Israel, comprised of over 35 communities, are in need of major support from the Jewish world. The needs are great and the large geographical dispersion of the communities makes the provision of programs that much more challenging.

Whether it be over 150 terror orphans living in the Shomron, or first response emergency teams, or even smart boards for our children's classrooms, the Federation is nowhere to be found. Why is that?

Despite there being no legal prohibition that disallows funding from tax-exempt donations (501 (3) (c) status) to be distributed in Judea and Samaria for education, cultural, or health/medical related programs, Federation funding does not reach the communities of the region. We the Jews of the Yehuda and Shomron are invisible to the Federation eye.

Whether it be over 150 terror orphans living in the Shomron, or first response emergency teams, or even smart boards for our children's classrooms, the Federation is nowhere to be found. Why is that?

The Shomron Liaison Office, one of the major organizations operating on behalf of the residents of the Shomron,  has over the past three years been building partnership programs connecting Jewish children around the world to their peers in the Shomron school system.

In addition the Shomron has reached out to  Capitol Hill connecting with and making positive traction with members of Congress. Despite the enthusiastic response by not necessarily Jewish members of Congress visiting the Shomron and narrowing the gap between the reality and the biased, false narrative that has been portrayed about us, the Jews of Judea and Samaria, we still haven't succeeded in piercing the hearts and minds of our Jewish brothers and sisters who represent the Federation organizations throughout the United States.

While this may at first seem to decision makers on the board of the Federations of North America as simply a question of priorities, it becomes apparent that as GA's come and go year after year, that what may have begun as a question of priorities seems more an issue of self-imposed discrimination based on "selection".

This should be an anathema to all Jews, who help Jews because they are in need wherever they are, and should especially bother those involved in the field of philanthropy.

Over the past year, at least 2 senior officials from the JFNA have visited the Shomron as private individuals. The Director General of JFNA in Israel, Rebecca Caspi, a warm and genuinely concerned person, has been kept abreast of developments in our communities in the Shomron, yet has refrained from personally visiting the Shomron region.

Despite the ongoing and public visits of members of Congress, the JFNA continues to be continuously numb towards the Jews of Judea and Samaria and no change is seen in how expected program implementation is prioritized.

Will tens of thousands of Jews, holding their heads high unashamedly, making an honest living and raising their beautiful children to live in and love Eretz Yisrael, without apologizing for  prospering in the heartland of Israel, Judea and Samaria, continue to be invisible?

Now is the time for a tectonic change in how Judea and Samaria is valued, perceived, and seen by the Federations of North America.

We, the Jewish nation, have always shared a spirit of a common and shared destiny. The time has arrived for the Federations of North America to reach out to all of the Jews living in the State of Israel and end the current "gentleman's agreement" of thundering silence and blindness concerning the communities of the Shomron and all of Judea and Samaria.