Defiant JNF wants to boost its brand

By Barry Frankfurt, March 3, 2011
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In what could be the tale of two chairmen, the UK Jewish community's relationship with Israel is being defined by the words and actions of UJIA's Mick Davis and JNF UK's Samuel Hayek. The broad communal consensus that the Board of Deputies looked to promote through its failed motion on the two-state solution is looking increasingly unlikely.

In resigning from the JLC, and choosing to make the announcement in the Jerusalem Post, Hayek is making a very clear statement. JNF UK is going it alone.

Hayek talks of a decision "based on principle". If this is the case, it is the principle that charities need to raise money. The past five years have been tough for Anglo-Jewry's oldest and most famous Israel charity. Its brand has become more synonymous with controversy and court cases than the cause it looks to support. Unrestricted voluntary donations (the lifeblood of any organisation) were down to under £1.3m in 2009. JNF UK has had little to shout about, until now.

All brands search for a genuine point of difference and, in extricating itself from the JLC, JNF UK has created one. Ever since UJIA chairman Mick Davis started the big conversation on the diaspora's relationship with Israel last November (a theme he followed up at the Herzliya conference last month), fault lines have emerged.

On the Davis side are those who believe that the UK Jewish community should have a voice in the debate over Israel's future (particularly with reference to the Palestinians); in Team Hayek are those who just want to support the Jewish state, leaving the harder questions for Israel's politicians and citizens.

Hayek's message is clear. If you want to support an old-school Israel charity that is unwavering in its support of the Jewish state, then JNF UK is the charity for you.

It could turn out to be a masterstroke as, for many, there is now a positive reason to support JNF again. But, will it be enough?

Barry Frankfurt is MD of communications consultancy Creative & Commercial

Last updated: 12:42pm, March 3 2011