JNF CANADA RESPONDS TO ITS CRITICS
January 16, 2019
As you may know the CJN has published an article as a follow up to the CBC story on allegations made by Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) Canada, longstanding opponents of JNF Canada.
With regard to the substantive issues made in the article about our projects in Israel we wish to reiterate our position.
JNF has in the past carried out projects mainly of a charitable nature, such as parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities on land owned by the IDF. Our charitable funds never flowed to the IDF. The charitable funds were directed toward the hiring of indigent labourers to construct these projects. These expenditures represent under 1% of our expenditures over the past decade.
When our legal counsel advised us several years ago that the indirect association with the IDF may be misconstrued or criticized by the CRA, we stopped them. We no longer carry out projects located on IDF land, and we continue to operate in accordance with CRA regulations governing our status as a charitable organization. Please note that we stopped these projects on the advice of counsel well before this issue was brought to the public’s attention by a group trying to sensationalize it.
With regards to projects located in disputed territory, JNF is committed to continuing to work with CRA to ensure we are in full compliance. The CJN story, however, accurately reflects our views on Canada Park, a magnificent natural wonderland we have helped create and is open to everyone.
The other issue raised in the article relates to governance and transparency. JNF operates in compliance with the Canada Income Tax Act. We have Israeli staff on site to direct our projects in Israel and regularly report on our activities.
It is important to emphasize that JNF, a donor directed charity, is extremely transparent. We do not have an allocations committee that disburses a pool of undesignated funds. When you make a donation to JNF, it is to a specific project and the funds are flowed directly to it. Furthermore, we provide facts on the ground, which is the greatest form of transparency. We are helping build the foundations for Israel’s future, and in any given year you can find a dozen JNF Canada projects building the social infrastructure of Israel.
Regarding, fundraising ratios, they change year to year and vary according to the success, the timing of the collection of donations and costs associated with the 8 to 10 Negev Dinners we host annually across the country. The administration costs to which the article refers vary annually, but within reason.
It is critical to point out that costs related to our community services are included in administration. These relate to our extensive work with Jewish schools across the country which is spearheaded by a full time educational emissary from Israel reaching thousands of children. We started JNFU on campus a number of years ago, providing students with positive programming about Israel at no cost. We have a leadership development program for students which brings young people to Israel for an immersive Israel education experience. We also offer programming to the next generation through JNF Future.
JNF is committed to enhancing the Zionist spirit of the next generation and invests heavily in this effort. We will, however, no longer include these expenses under the heading administration. We will create a separate category to track those investments in the future, so that there is no confusion about how our funds are spent and our fundraising ratios are a true reflection of our performance.
Our fundraising ratio in 2017 was higher than expected due to unforeseen circumstances and accounting-related issues. In 2016 our ratio was 21.87%, which includes the community services expenditures. These results are in keeping with industry benchmarks and are more reflective of our traditional and longstanding performance. The 2018 financials are not yet prepared as our accounting is based upon the calendar year.
We work diligently to minimize expenses and maximize revenue as JNF Canada’s mission is to build the land of Israel. We take great pride, and nothing makes us happier, than disbursing millions of dollars which touches lives of Israel’s citizens in a profound and impactful manner. Please rest assured that the Board and management are committed to finding ways to work more efficiently and to increase our revenue streams.
We were also contacted yesterday by the CJN about an IJV initiated petition sponsored by Pierre-Luc Dusseault of the NDP focusing on the same subject matter. We anticipate an article on this initiative in next week’s edition.
The petition focuses on the same issues, and we have responded as follows:
While JNF has provided the CJN with its views on the issues raised in the petition and appreciates that petitions can be an important vehicle in a democracy, this petition is as empty and scurrilous as earlier efforts to de-legitimize the outstanding work of the JNF, and by extension the existence of the State of Israel. Our outreach suggests that those who are applying any degree of critical thinking see the petition for what it is and are dismissing it as not worthy of engagement. JNF is committed to always improving what we do and how we do it. What will never change, however, is our commitment to the People of Israel, the Land of Israel and the State of Israel – a commitment that is shared by our thousands of partners and donors here in Canada.
Thank you for your continued support of JNF and for the development of Israel’s social infrastructure. In the interim if you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.