JEFF Feldman, the newly appointed CEO of the United Israel Appeal (UIA) Victoria, comes from a background of management, consulting, finance, strategy and corporate governance, and is keen to apply new business principles at the Jewish fundraising organisation.
“I’m bringing business disciplines into the organisation, but I’m not changing it into a business, I’m changing it into the best charitable organisation that it can be,” he told The AJN.
Feldman, who is chairman of Central Shule and recently worked on the committee of Magen David Adom, accepted the UIA position when the organisation revived the role of a CEO. He came on board on July 1, in an era marked by “challenges and opportunities”, he said.
In the midst of COVID-19, he emphasised the need “to cope with the pandemic and how it affects the local community – and how do we balance that against the needs of the people in Israel”. But he added, “The Jewish nation has always supported one another. There are many stories of shtetls in eastern Europe where there were more charities than there were Jews living in the town.”
A mass-movement to online communal events is crowding cyberspace, said Feldman, and the challenge is for UIA to develop a program of dynamic events that stand out from the welter of Zoom, Facebook and YouTube gatherings.
But the advantage of virtual fundraising events, when they are done well, is that instead of some 1000 people attending a gala to hear a visiting speaker, people can take part in webinars in which overseas and local speakers communicate more intimately with their audience, and answer questions. Virtual fundraising enables national events, but also customised events at which community groups can discuss particular interests and projects in Israel.
In its centennial year, Feldman emphasised the transformation of Keren Hayesod-UIA from its historic role of developing key institutions in Israel’s infrastructure to a humanitarian role, with a focus on youth, education, aged care and immigrant absorption, particularly helping those caught up in socio-economic inequities.
Feldman, who traded a law career for commerce, immigrated from South Africa in 1997 with his late wife Robyn, who passed away in 2011. Raising his children, Joshua, 21, and Abby, 17, without their mother, he said, “I’m very proud of them. We’re part of a very select club to which nobody wants membership. My kids are extremely resilient and very connected to their Jewish identity.”