Letter from EAJC Cofounders to Congress President
To: EAJC President Mikhail Mirilashvili
From: the leaders of EAJC cofounder organizations
Michael Chlenov, Josef Zissels, Alexander Baron
Dear Mikhail Mikhailovich!
This last year had been one of hope for us; hope that we would finally leave behind the permanent crisis that the EAJC has been in for the last several years. Our hopes were pinned on the reorganization of the Congress, the creation of a reformed Charter, and the election of a new President. For all of the EAJC founders, it was very important to make the Congress a more stable, predictable organization that would be filled to the brim with creative international projects and busy with diplomatic activity.
Now the previous year is finally over, and a new financial year has begun. At this time of year, it is customary to look back at the interim results of one’s life and work, to analyze one’s mistake and plan for the future. We are writing you this letter as part of this customary analysis. In it, we present our view of the results of 2017, and in particular of the first five months that have passed after the last Extraordinary General Assembly. Over the last five months we have been getting certain incomplete, unsystematized bits of information from the new directorate of the Congress, but we have received practically nothing from the new President. This circumstance leads us to our first unpleasant conclusion: the president prefers to interact with the directorate instead of his partners in the Congress’s reorganization. The new directorate, however, has neither the necessary experience nor the necessary competence in international Jewish activity, which leads to systematic errors and omissions in the first steps of the newly reinvented Congress.
When we speak of a lack of communication between you and ourselves, who are the leaders of the co-founding organizations of the Congress, we are not doing this in service to our personal ambitions, but because we lead teams of professionals who are greatly experienced in working in the international Jewish milieu. In a loss of succession, the new directorate ignores their access to these teams, therefore ignoring their unique understanding, which has no equivalent in the whole of Eurasia. This absence of communications does not allow for the correction of mistakes that the new EAJC executive bodies are making, which paints the new leadership of the Congress in a rather unflattering light internationally.
The new EAJC Charter and the decisions made by the General Assembly are supposed to determine the roadmap for the next several years. However, the activity of the new directorate of the Congress is not only out of line with the Charter and the decisions of the EGA, but at times goes directly against them, despite all of our warnings, written and given in conversation both. For example:
- closing a large international union of Jewish community and international organizations - that is, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress - and replacing it with a typical Israeli amuta which does not correspond in level, form, or potential to the spot which the EAJC has been occupying in the Jewish world for many years;
- closing down Congress branches, both long existing and newly created, which were confirmed by corresponding EGA decisions;
- the behind-the-scenes, non-transparent budget allocation in the Congress;
- Josef Zissels has written you about the legal misunderstandings, and we fully agree with the legal problems he has noticed in the reorganization of the Congress;
- the fact that the new leadership has been ignoring the Congress’s original projects and programs, which had been created, tested and disseminated by the EAJC’s teams of professionals says that the new directorate lacks an understanding of what is really important for an international Jewish organization.
Since 1991, the Congress has been a continent-wide section of the World Jewish Congress. The EAJC has united approximately 40 Jewish communities and has sixteen years of experience in international work, both on a program level and on a diplomatic level. No regular amuta could ever hope to live up to this format. An attempt to make the EAJC into one will only cause a number of perplexed questions both inside of the Congress and among the wider international Jewish community.
It was possible - and it was necessary - to create a direct line of transmission between the old EAJC and the reorganized EAJC. We are obliged to do so by the decisions of the Extraordinary General Assembly, but neither you nor the new directorate have done anything to this end.
None of the collegiate bodies that were elected by the EGA have begun their work: neither the Governing Board nor the Executive Committee have had a single meeting within the space of these five months, even though the EGA delegated a number of important tasks to them. Other governing bodies, such as the Strategic Council, the International Commission, the Revision Commission, and the Trustee Board, have not started working either.
The transitionary budget of 2017 has not been made known to us. According to what we do know, many of the agreements we had made on this budget remained unfulfilled, which is hardly surprising, considering how non-transparent it is.
The budget for the new financial year is also being prepared in a non-transparent manner. Only the Program Commission has done its work: it has given its recommendations to the governing bodies of the Congress, but all other steps necessary to draft the budget are either not being done at all or are being conducted outside of the scope of the Congress’s governing bodies, which can only make further mistakes and misunderstandings even more likely.
You did not need to become the President of a large international organization merely to give your money away to different organizations without systematically planning a budget - you have done that many times during your long and wide philanthropic career. But we deeply believe that there is a large gulf between the generous charity of a private philanthropist and the systematic activity of an international organization.
To our great chagrin, no systematic work is being conducted with the vice presidents named at the EGA. These people believe themselves to be vice presidents, they use the titles when talking to other institutions and the media, but they are in no hurry to fulfill the obligations stemming from their positions - that is, giving the Congress the financial aid that they have agreed to give. Any excuses, such as that they are already helping Jews and other organizations, must not be accepted - and particularly not by the president alone, without the confirmation of the EAJC Executive Committee at the very least.
Everything said above is not merely abstract musing, but a very pressing need for the Congress to continue its activities, both programmatic and diplomatic. A reduction in these activities is a reputational loss for the Congress. Formally, we have overcome our crisis, and after the EGA the entire Jewish world expected the Congress to resume its work. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Judging by the first steps taken in the financial situation of the Congress, its president and directorate would like to turn the Congress into some sort of fund, whose only job will be to give out wantonly grants to various organizations while ignoring the Congress’s experience in conducting programs and diplomacy. If our presumption is correct, then we believe such an illegitimate transformation to be a great mistake. The true strength of an international “political” organization lies not in the number of funds that it has given out. There is a veritable host of charitable foundations that do this better, but their “political” weight and role in the Jewish world is supplementary at best and can be hardly considered significant. An international organization’s strength is rooted in its programs and projects, in its professionals, in its infrastructure. This allows for such an organization to rise up to any challenge and to be able to solve a wide range of problems.
We could go on, but the question is whether it is at all possible to overcome the misunderstandings and correct the mistakes which have piled up. We believe that it is not too late to make the situation right. This only requires a few steps. First, one must carefully read the EAJC Charter and the decisions of the Extraordinary General Assembly. Second, one must launch the work of actual collehiate bodies. And finally, one must begin to execute what is laid out in the Charter and the EGA decisions.
For example, the legal misunderstanding which stemmed from the de-facto existence of two Congress organizations can be minimized if the Israeli amuta becomes international, if the two Charters are united, and so on. This was the subject of the Extraordinary General Assembly, and this was the task that the Assembly set before the Governing Board and Executive Commitee. However, the actions of the directorate show that it is ignoring the legitimate decisions of the EGA and is conducting highly unprofessional, arbitrary activity that serves only to breed more and more misunderstandings.
We would like to repeat, time and again: the position that we occupy in the Jewish world, which spans the last 30 years of the history of the Independent Jewish Movement and is both personal and public, hinges on the creation of the EAJC as a large international organization, and on its activity and renown in this sphere. It does not hinge on some obscure Israeli amuta.
It should be clear from everything said above that we do not believe the crisis of the Congress to have been overcome - and moreover, that the directorate is taking no steps to overcome it in truth.
January 10, 2018