Do We Need National Organizations?

Originally published on, February 24, 2014

by Joe Kanfer and Marcella Kanfer Rolnick

2014 will see the closing of two organizations that have been part of the landscape of American Jewish life for more than a generation. The announcement towards the end of last year by the Foundation for Jewish Culture (FJC) that it decided to wind down its operations, following soon after a similar announcement from JESNA (Jewish Education Service of North America), was greeted with relative equanimity in the Jewish media. In part, this may be due to the fact that, to their credit, the leaders of both organizations have thus far managed the close down process with dignity and deliberation, and without recriminations or desperate appeals for support. But, it likely also reflects a sentiment apparently shared by many observers that changing times not only made national organizations like FJC and JESNA financially unsustainable, but rendered the very model of national umbrella organizations serving a broad field and acting primarily as intermediary agents and support systems outmoded.

But, is this premise true? Continue reading