FAQs: The Federation's Policy on Israel-Related Programming by its Grantees

On Thursday, February 18, 2010, the Federation's Board of Directors formally approved the Funding Policy for Grantees on Potentially Controversial Israel-Related Programming. Below are frequently asked questions regarding the policy.

1. What has the Federation done to stop the community’s controversy over the film festival?

The Federation created a working group comprised of representatives on all sides of the issue who collaborated on a new policy governing potentially controversial programming. The new policy was approved on February 18, 2010 and can be viewed here.

2. What does the policy do?

The new policy lays out guidelines and enforcement for Federation grantees about potentially controversial programming. It:

  • Asserts the value of diverse expressions of Jewish life and a broad range of perspectives on Israel and other issues of concern to our community;
  • Creates a clear mechanism for determining whether programs fall outside the policy and a mechanism for addressing potential violations;
  • Sets forth specific expectations of the Federation regarding potentially controversial programming;
  • Requires grantees that have Israel-related programming and that do not have appropriate policies or guidelines to initiate a process to create them; and,
  • Commits to educating grantees about the policies and guidelines, the rationale for them, and the seriousness with which they are to be taken.

3. The policy states the Federation does not fund organizations that:

  • Endorse or promote anti-Semitism, other forms of bigotry, violence or other extremist views;
  • Actively seek to proselytize Jews away from Judaism; or,
  • Advocate for, or endorse, undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a secure independent, democratic Jewish state, including through participation in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in whole or in part.

4. Who worked on the policy?

Rabbi Doug Kahn, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), staffed the working group, co-chaired by Daniel Grossman and David Steirman, including community members who volunteered their time to ensure the community come together over this issue. Jennifer Gorovitz, acting CEO of the Federation, participated, as well as many Federation board members and community stakeholders.

5. How can I be sure that all sides were represented?

The working group consisted of community representatives from all sides of the issue. In addition, the working group consulted with many of the key stakeholders on this issue who were not on the working group. The Federation could not have created such a comprehensive policy without the hard work of this group of volunteers.

6. How can the Federation ensure grantees will follow the new policy?

In order to be eligible for funding, organizations that engage in Israel-related programming are required to produce documentation such as their policies, procedures, guidelines, and mission statement that demonstrate consistency with the Federation’s core values or – in the absence of such documentation – to abide by this policy and to initiate a process to develop organizational guidelines, policies and procedures consistent with it. The Federation knows there can be no uniform set of policies or procedures that is applicable to every organization. Organizations are expected to adapt this policy to their unique circumstances.

7. Will this policy limit free speech or constructive debate in our Jewish community?

The policy supports free speech and constructive debate in our community. In fact, we were concerned that the absence of such a policy would inhibit free speech and constructive debate as our partners would not know the boundaries. The policy includes guidelines for usage which reaffirm the Federation’s long and proud history as a funder of arts and other diverse community organizations which seek to inspire and celebrate Judaism and Jewish life. The Federation recognizes that art, by its very nature, may express a political statement, provoke a range of emotions, or promote ideas that are potentially controversial.

The following kinds of programs generally accord with the policy:

  1. Dialogue groups (i.e. non-public exchanges);
  2. Private meetings;
  3. Presentations on topics other than the Middle East and Israel, that are not used to promote a BDS agenda or provide a forum for leaders of groups that espouse views inconsistent with the Federation’s core values;
  4. Presentations by organizations or individuals that are critical of particular Israeli government policies but are supportive of Israel’s right  to exist as a secure independent Jewish democratic state;
  5. Panel discussions, speaker series intended for the same audience, cultural presentations, or educational programs portraying a range of diverse perspectives that, on balance, are consistent with the Federation’s core values;
  6. Programs that are open to the community and welcome attendees regardless of their individual views;
  7. Participation in broad-based community coalitions on non-Israel-related issues provided that the coalitions do not become vehicles for undermining the legitimacy of Israel; and,
  8. Artistic presentations (displays, exhibits, films, performances) that may include critical perspectives of Jewish life or Israel).

8. How can we be sure another community controversy will not happen again?

We cannot be sure this will not happen again; however, the guidelines are clear, as are the mechanisms for a response. The policy sets out a clear mechanism for addressing any potential violations and clearly communicates to grantees that the Federation expects a greater degree of grantee program management. It asks that grantees not only use common sense when creating programs, but also work with JCRC in advance of potentially controversial programs.

9. What will the Federation do differently from now on as a result of the new policy?

Every Federation grantee that engages in programming related to Israel will receive a copy of the new policy in their new grantee information packet, and grantee leaders will be briefed about the policy in person.

10. Where can I report policy violations or get further information?

When there is a question of whether a particular program violates the policy or on the interpretation of the policy, please contact the JCRC, the Federation's CEO, or the board chair.