Friday, June 14, 2019


While at JFNA celebrations and self-adulation accompanied the white puffs of smoke that announced the succession of Eric Fingerhut to the diminished role of CEO at 25 Broadway, a parallel announcement appeared on the pages of ejewishphilanthropy with the story of the collapse of the Jewish Federation of the East Bay and the "absorption" of that community's functions into the Jewish Federation of Greater San Francisco. East Bay Federation to Close, San Francisco Federation to Take Over.

Coasts apart, the twin announcements were in parallel, sounding in so many ways the death knell of a once proud system -- (1) the self-immolation of a professional cadre that were at the forefront in building the federation system, now, willing to be mere bystanders while the bricks are pulled out one after as another; and (2) the burial of a community of such great and continuous unrealized potential while the national system could only look away...impotent.

For ejewishphilanthropy the story of Fingerhut's appointment was but a minor one, same for jta. These were page 2, under the fold -- mere mentionsThe major story in the former was East Bay's collapse. 

The Jewish Federation of the East Bay was over a century-old when it decided to go out of business on July 1, 2019. And the Jewish Federation of Greater San Francisco wanted everyone to know that there will be no merger -- just a matter of figuring out "how we can work together" according to Dan Grossman, the San Francisco CEO. Or, as the FedWorld rag put it: The Jewish Federation of the East Bay comes together with the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. (Whatever that meant.)

And, to further confuse matters:
"East Bay Foundation Director Lisa Tabak said key community priorities such as Jewish summer camps and youth Israel trips can continue to count on Financial support. 'All our designated and special interest funds will be honored."
Uh huh.

As we have observed on these pages, back in the days pre-Silverman, JFNA had a major, experienced Consulting Services Department that, among other things, helped communities through matters just like these. (In fact, at one point during Silverman's predecessor's term as CEO, Consulting Services was designated to run the Continental; FRD function -- one of the more idiotic assignments in institutional history given that the Consulting Services professionals were not fund raisers, among other things.) Now, San Francisco and the East Bay remainders will apparently work it out for themselves. 

What is especially sad is that the JFNA leadership fail to understand their own irrelevance -- that's what happens when you operate within a bubble of your own making -- the Jewish communal version of Get Smart's "cone of silence." A short time ago a JFNA leader was interviewed by leaders in a SE Florida community: it was hard to watch this leader squirm when asked a softball question about JFNA's roles and purpose: "Jewish unity, bringing people together, yada yada yada." Twenty years after the merger...and...nothing.

Welcome to JFNA, Mr. Fingerhut.


Monday, June 10, 2019


What follows was not jiust predictable, it was absolute certainty. The vindictive acts that follow are the most immediate outcomes of the deconstruction of the United Israel Appeal and the direct result of delegating more power to those who have proved to be least capable of exercising it.

As you read this Post, know that Israeli employment law is far too Byzantine for this defrocked real estate lawyer's feeble brain -- but that that law played right into the hands of those least responsible to execute it; those who demanded the accretion of greater power after over a decade of failure compounded by failure. 

As we examined JFNA leadership's demands that the United Israel Appeal Board be purged, the lay leadership reduced by 60% and the UIA professional leadership in Israel (actually, wherever) be subsumed under the direction of Becky Caspi, probably, if history be prologue, the professional "leader" least equipped to exercise it. This was literally the "perfect storm" for what we predicted on these pages would happen: inasmuch as UIA was performing at the highest levels of professionalism, JFNA would take it over and break it. "If it ain't broke, we'll break it."

And, the breaking didn't take long...not long at all.

Within weeks of that JFNA Board meeting, JFNA-Israel, with what must have been the blessing of 25 Broadway, went forward to deconstruct UIA's professional leadership -- after all, the excellent performance by UIA professionals was making Caspi's JFNA-Israel operation look bad in both relative and absolute terms. Further, Mike Rosenberg, who, after significant leadership roles at JAFI had led UIA-Israel for the past 5 years, through an organizational quirk was, at the least, Caspi's peer, and, at best, her superior. Mike clearly had to go; he could no longer serve as Director, UIA-Israel Office: he was making Caspi and her self-perpetuating Israel staff look really bad in comparison with the excellence of UIA's. Knowing that Silverman had been removed from management responsibilities years earlier, one can assume that this purge was directed by Caspi with Mark Gurvis, JFNA COO's, consent if not enthusiastic approval. (I'm betting on enthusiastic approbation.) 

The message was clear -- if you want to keep your job, you had best keep your mouth shut unless pledging eternal fealty to Caspi. And Caspi's lay leadership -- at every opportunity, they just looked the other way while things like this happened: JFNA-Israel has employed a full-time over-compensated CFO whose job appeared/appears to be supervising payroll for 12-15 persons -- and that's it. No questions asked about that professional or any other in the Jerusalem office. 

This purge was not about making UIA better; it was a power play, pure and simple. Mike Rosenberg was in Becky Caspi's way; he would have to go. And Israel's employment laws played directly into JFNA's hands. Rosenberg received an "Invitation to Termination Hearing" that asserted that this Termination was intended to implement the JFNA resolution that would "integrate" (!) UIA:
"...into the JFNA finance operation with day-to-day oversight provided by the SVP, Israel and Overseas."
Of course, that SVP, Israel and Overseas has demonstrated no oversight ability -- so that function will be delegated to another. And, it is so stated in the "Invitation to Termination" --
"A Managing Director, Finance with appropriate professional credentials and experience will be hired to work under the direction of the SVP, Israel and Overseas and JFNA's CFO."
That "hearing" would be conducted by those who had already determined that Mike must go. If any of this makes any sense to you, dear Reader, please explain it to me -- this is the JFNA implementation of "zero-based budgeting." Of course.

(Terminating Rosenberg was not the only purge. Simultaneously, Ronit Dotan, who had served first the United Jewish Appeal and then JFNA as the head of its Israel VIP Missions and Services, was similarly terminated. Ronit, a terrific professional, who brought incredible enthusiasm and joy to her work with the system's major donors, appears to have received her "Invitation to Termination" because JFNA has gone out of the FRD business. "Zero based budgeting" you know.)

None of this should have happened. Fingers can be pointed in multiple directions: to feeble lay leadership at JFNA and UIA who rationalized the serious damage done to UIA without examining the facts while focused on their own "career advancement"; to a lack of any meaningful evaluation or professional oversight of JFNA-Israel; a new set of leaders at JAFI who were overwhelmed by what must have been a tsunami of misrepresentations by JFNA leadership; and a UIA lay leadership willing ultimately to just roll over. 

This purge is only the beginning. With so many lay and professional leaders in the mix looking out for themselves, the institution that was the United Israel Appeal, and the lay leaders who self-immolated, are now nothing more than road kill. Once again, what was a mighty system has been weakened beyond recognition.

And here is the only possible conclusion: in your pursuit of power you have done incredible damage. Sadly, that seems to be JFNA's message in all things.


Thursday, June 6, 2019


1. Upon the resignation/retiirement/return to Law School of the Joint Distribution Committee's latest CEO (the third in, what, 6 years?), I took a look at the most recent publication/revelation of JDC's executive compensation -- and all I can say is: WTF

How does a public charity pay its EVP/CEO $919,088? To a person who never had worked in Jewish Communal Service before...had no track record in Jewish FRD? And, why is Jack Habib, a venerated JDC professional leader paid $853,288 to lead JDC-Brookdale? (I would wagher we will hear that Habib's compensation reflected retirement benefits and stuff.) These are terrible examples of compensation overreach...egregious!! Is anyone paying attention? Someone write us and justify this kind of compensation. 


Even if that now former CEO raised the tens of millions he claimed over his limited service, the JDC Board has some explaining to do. A lot of it. JDC's new tagline -- JDC is the Global Jewish 9-1-1 -- has been given new meaning. Someone needs to dial 911.

2. The Jewish Agency for Israel is convening its Quarterly (soon to be "thirdly") Board Meeting June 23-June 25. Rest assured there will be the perfunctory Committee Meetings and a "Global Strategic Consultation" but these are just the cosmetics for the true purpose for bringing hundreds to Jerusalem -- celebrations of service:

  • An Opening Board Plenary honoring retiring Keren Ha'Yesod Board Chair, David Koschitzky, and Dr. Nachman Shai, the outgoing Chair of the Knesset Caucus on the Jewish People;
  • A Dinner honoring the "Steves" -- retiring/retired Federation CEOs Nasatir and Hoffman; and
  • A Closing Board Plenary honoring retiring UIA Chair, Andy Groveman, and Jerry Silverman
Ahhhh, JAFI...Na'Aseh v'Nishma.

3. The inexplicable.

        A. Unfortunately, the JFNA Board Meeting convened to ratify the Search Committee's decision to hire Eric Fingerhut was nothing more than Kabuki Theatre. So instead of a Board Meeting open to all, JFNA did something called "polling the Board" and announced the unanimous decision that would have occurred in any event. 

The JFNA Board Chair announced to the "JFNA Trustees and Guests" ("Guests" is an undefined term BTW) that Eric Fingerhut was unanimously elected the new CEO in a Board Conference Call on May 16. As a Past UJA Chair, I serve ex officio on the JFNA Board. Until now I have received every notice of a Board Meeting...yes, until now. Who else was among the uninvited? 

      B. I attended a dinner event last week. One speaker identified follows: "when I first met him, in the first weeks after I became the President and CEO..."
Really, who talks about himself like that? 

Asking for a friend.

4. As we predicted on these pages, JFNA determined that the new "slate" of UIA Directors would contain some excellent leaders but, more, a larger group of leaders who have had no experience with, interest in or advocacy for the Jewish Agency. (The UIA is organically the principal to the JAFI's agency.) Yes, JFNA will "fix it" by destroying it. 

And, the draft JFNA 2019-2020 Budget discloses that the "savings" that will accrue because of the deconstruction of UIA will mainly inure to th4e benefit of the Jewish Agency. 

Ahhh, JFNA...Na'Aseh v'Nishma.


Sunday, June 2, 2019


A keen observer of JFNA noted in a Comment 6 days before the JFNA Board Meeting:
"The JFNA Annual board meeting will be taking place this coming Sunday-Monday in New York.
Even though the meeting has not yet taken place, the minutes have been posted on Fed Central and clearly refute your claim that there is no fiduciary responsibility being exercised by our lay leaders.
Below are the minutes in full:
'AYE! - no against - no abstentions - no questions asked!'"
Even for JFNA, this is a new low.


Friday, May 31, 2019


On May 29, the Chicago Jewish community gave a party in celebration of Steve Nasatir's Over 1200 celebrated together with Steve and his family joined by his colleagues from across the country, Israeli Ambassador Sallai Meridor, Chicago's new Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Governor J.B. Pritzker, Steve's wife, Carolyn, the remarfkable philanthropist Lester Crown, and so many more. It was a night to remember Steve's incredible career; forty years of unheard of accomplishments. I and so many more had the opportunity to be aboard for part or all of Steve's ride...but, at the end of the day, this was Steve's ride...and we were and are so grateful for it.

Not to be too hyperbolic, but to define Steve Nasatir as a remarkable communal professional is like calling Picasso a painter, Pavarotti a singer, Chopin a pianist. Steve Nasatir has been without question the quintessential professional leader of the Jewish Federation Movement in the 20th and 21st centuries -- he has not been a mere observer of Modern Jewish history, he has been too busy writing that history. 

In our lives as Chicagoans, we have been privileged to have lived in the eras of Gale Sayers and Michael Jordan and Frank Thomas (there were probably some Cubs in there too but not in a Post about Steve, the ultimate White Sox fan) -- players who, when they grabbed the football or basketball or stepped into the batter's box, everything seemed to stop so we could watch greatness. And, I/we lived in Steve Nasatir's leadership era, blessed to be part of it; not as observers but as participants.

Steve lived and breathed the cornerstone of federation qua federation: collective responsibility. He built upon Chicago's historic commitment to the collective in incredible ways -- in our communal support of JFNA's Budget, of Chicago's role in leadership of every great Campaign; in our annual allocations to the core budgets of JAFI and JDC. Steve drove our local leadership to greater resource development year-after-year-after year. 

It was Nasatir and Nasatir alone whose creativity led to the conceptualization of the Trust for Jewish Philanthropy, ONAD, Right Start, our own incredible Operation Exodus Campaign (wherein Chicago assured that local agency allocations were protected and, at the end, Exodus gifts were folded into the annual campaigns going forward). Steve literally led generations of donors who contributed in excess of $8 billion to the Chicago Jewish United Fund over his years in leadership -- to continue the sports analogy, the equivalent of Barry Bonds record of 762 career home runs (and with no allegations of steroids!). Sure, there were failures -- but those were not in Steve's ideas but in their execution by others. I, like so many, believe that had Nasatir chosen to accept the offer of CEO of the newly merged entity two decades ago, the Federation Movement would be as strong as it is in Chicago, Cleveland, Baltimore...

And, as Steve passes the mantle of leadership he leaves behind a legacy, the highest bar possible for his successor. He also will steward a $52 Million Fund for the Future created by Chicago philanthropists as they honored Steve for his decades of service. We hear rumors that the first project to be funded will focus on in-depth Israel experiences for young Jews. in the eighth grade -- further the pioneering work embodied in Chicago's in Steve Nasatir's JUF Right Start, already adopted by 6 communities beyond Chicago.

Steve Nasatir always has looked to the future as does this new and important Fund. Chicago's lay and professional leaders of today are his legacy. His work continues.

Thanks Steve.


Monday, May 27, 2019


At JFNA, fiduciary duty is ignored on every possible occasion -- ignored by the most senior lay and professional leaders, by the JFNA Executive Committee and by the JFNA Board. In fact, based upon all of the evidence, there is a lack of any understanding of what fiduciary means, what it is and what it is supposed to be. 

I strongly recommend and fully endorse The Maimonides Fund's Doron Kenter's brilliant analysis of fiduciary duty in his post in ejewishphilanthropy “Rich or King” Redux: What Are Our Obligations to Our Jewish Communal Institutions? Defining fiduciary responsibility as "our obligation" is vital.

Mark Wilf understands fiduciary responsibility as a personal obligation to the institution he was elected to Chair. I would merely point out that others in leadership do not. What I've observed is that there are those who have facilely rationalized that " self-interest and JFNA's interests are one." To these folks there is nothing beyond the rationalization. This is what led to the Global Planning Table, to #ish, to TribeFest, to hundreds of thousands of dollars just taken from the heritage National Agencies, to advising St. Paul they can write-off $3,000,000 owed to JAFI/JDC, to the elimination of FRD, to the deconstruction of UIA, all the way and inevitably right through a recent travesty -- allowing the deployment of the Young Leadership Cabinet lists to promote a "Yoga weekend." 

There is a l'etat, c'est moi ethos permeating JFNA -- it emanates from the senior management and too many in the senior lay leadership. And I know those lay leaders, many of them took their talents from communities where they were taught fiduciary responsibility well to the continental organization where they seemed to forget all in the quest of the next office, the next rung up the leadership ladder. 

Here's one person's prescription of some of what is needed:

  1. Some tough love -- the only person who can administer this medicine is the Board Chair -- perhaps with Michael Siegal. There needs to be a serious discussion of what must be done to apply a fix to the organization where failure has become metastasized. 
  2. A public acknowledgement that all is not well at JFNA, at 25 Broadway. If nothing else, the Bridgespan Group found so much that is wrong. Stop the pretense that all is well. AA has taught us that alcoholism cannot be beaten until one acknowledges that one is an alcoholic; JFNA cannot change until it faces its failure.
  3. Among the changes: broaden the leadership roles (those who have already served in one JFNA leadership position need to be immediately succeeded (like tomorrow) by a new set, broadly diverse and well-mentored.
  4. Speaking of mentoring: assure that the new CEO (who should have been engaged last year if not 5 years ago) has a set of mentors who understand the fiduciary culture so vital to the creation of trust.
But, of course, if past is prologue, nothing will change. Fiduciary responsibility will remain just a memory of some old codgers.


Thursday, May 23, 2019


I hope you read, as did I, the superb piece in ejewishphilanthropy, A Love Letter to the Business I Truly Love, authored by the Executive Director of the Jack and Goldie Wolfe Miller Fund, Alicia Oberman.,+2017&utm_campaign=Wed+Oct+18+&utm_medium=email

I hope that all of you have or will read this cri de coeur. It's worthy exactly because it is a statement of commitment to a movement that once was -- not just a paycheck but subscription to a higher cause, a sacred calling. I, like so many of you, have been blessed to work side-by-side with an array of incredible professionals every step along my lay "career." In Chicago -- with the incomparable Joel Shinsky, and Jim Rice, Hal Rosen, Peggy Norton  and Michael Kotzin, each of whom passed on too young with so much more to offer, and Joel Carp, Beth Cherner, David Rosen and Peter Friedman. And,the very best of the best, Steven Nasatir, who supported me, and who taught me and so many others so much and continues to (and who, from Day 1 right through this moment, has demanded that I cease and desist from this Blog); and nationally -- where Mark Levin at the NCESJ,  David Sarnat, Jeff Kaye and Maxyne Finkelstein at JAFI NA, and  Marty Kraar, z'l, Harold Adler and Howard Feinberg at CJF, Danny Allen, z'l, at UIA, and my great professional partners at the United Jewish Appeal, Rabbi Herb Friedman, z'l, Irving Bernstein, z'l, Stanley Horowitz, z'l, Rabbi Brian Lurie, Morris Sherman, Shimon Pepper, Harold Cohen and Lee Twersky and Gail Reiss; and, today, leading the incredible work of the Jewish National Fund-USA: Russell Robinson, Rick Krosnick and Mitch Rosenzweig and great professional teams around the country. 

Each, to a person, was a partner, a friend and a teacher. Each helped to build and was committed to the profession and to the institutions they represented with such ferocity and, so very often, genius. I look at that list of men and women and I see embodied the creative survival of the Jewish People and the institutions that they built with their lay partners, and, other than JNF, too often institutions either gone, deteriorating or at risk. 

Where are the keepers of that flame of professionalism that once burned so brightly?


Sunday, May 19, 2019


I, and many of you in your Comments, have speculated that, other than its work in Washington, and in its role as constituency convener, JFNA is in business for itself. No longer is there even a stab at support of the system;'s historic partners -- domestic and overseas -- no longer is there even a pretense of a continental financial resource development effort (no training, no solicitation sweeps, no national campaigns, no Mission fund nothing); no longer is there a substantive, continuous community consulting effort; no longer a Speakers Bureau; no longer even a failing CEO Search effort...and on and on it goes, where it stops we all know -- at 25 Broadway. JFNA has been allowed to be stripped down to nothingness while its Dues continue....unaffected, if JFNA were doing something for the fortune it receives annually...while Silverman cries poor while accepting his outrageous compensation...unashamed.

It's come to this: I look at the JFNA of today and that bloated non-entity conjures up the image in my mind of what a whale committing suicide must look like. This is the post-shame Jewish Federations of North America. Its Board is as Winston Churchill described his foes: "Sheep in sheep's clothing." Friends, the Hall of Fame Alabama football Coach, Nick Saban, challenges his teams: "How good do you want to be?" It's clear that JFNA would not/does not even understand the question.

If, as the management guru, Jimmy Collins, has written: "Good is the evil of great," how bad is the evil of mediocrity of failure baked into JFNA? At JFNA it's as if someone should just order the Code Red. One of my favorite columnists has observed: "You just can't teach failing at failing. You either have the gift or you don't" -- JFNA has "the gift of spades."

I despair as never before. The organization has become so feckless, it has run out of "feck." Worthless, useless. In any successful organization you see building on success -- from small successes to great successes; but at JFNA any success (other than the work in Washington and episodes of disaster relief) is a one-off succeeded not by greater success but by folly and failure, Thus a so-called "reorganization" of the Young Leadership Cabinets (it was really nothing) is followed by a Yoga Weekend, great Missions of the past to Israel are eliminated with minor Missions to, e.g., a Leadership Mission to Argentina and Uruguay.

That is all but prologue. In the past months, crises and potential crises have confronted or will soon confront federations -- federations which, in the past, could have turned to the national system for advice and counsel. Today, given the void at 25 Broadway, created and now perpetuated by JFNA, the federations either turn inward, turn to another or are given the worst possible advice.
~ In New Jersey allegations of long-term sexual harassment and abuse by the Director of the communal camping effort were met head on and brilliantly by the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest, Dov Ben-Shimon, who demanded, among other things, the immediate resignation of the entire Camp Board;
~ Within the Jewish Federation of St. Paul, a long-standing $3,000,000 account payable to the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee was written off by the community either in consultation with or at the direction of JFNA professional leaders with: (a) no prior consultation with JAFI/JDC whose funds were voided; (b) and no sense of communal responsibility -- the same lay leaders who decided the write-off remained in power. No sense of moral obligation; no outrage.
~ Just weeks ago, the Dallas community was confronted with a lawsuit against its Jewish Community Centers arising out of alleged sexual assault on a minor at a local J. If the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas believes that it is somehow insulated from claims in this instance, they would have to be unaware of what has happened elsewhere. I am certain that JFNA has offered no counsel.
I do have the strong sense that JFNA has cast the federations off; they are on their own. Send us the Dues, ask no questions, and we'll be fine. Do JFNA's officers understand that they serve the communities...or do they believe that federations should send JFNA their Dues...and, that's about it.

If you and your community like this, just keep semding the Dues, and ask no questions.

Perfect. Right?


Friday, May 17, 2019


As many of you were good enough to call and write yesterday, JFNA has annointed Former Congressman and the Hillel Chief Professional Officer, Eric Fingerhut, as its new CEO.

While it saddens me that the federation system apparently produced no viable candidate (and recall with me that no Federation CEO will admit to even interviewing for another position until such time as they might be the chosen one), we wish Fingerhut well.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019


Groveman, Dweck, Klinghoffer, Kieffer Leonard, Raskas, M. Levy, Bernstein, Rosen Adelman, Arbit, Barish, Braham, Feinberg, Weiss Firestone, Fishbein, Goldstein, Janks, Kleper, J. Levin, Wise Oreck, Pack, Riekes, Sandler, J. Schwartz, Shapira, S. Silverman, Silvers, Sterling, Turkel, Wilf, Zimmerman
I know all of these leaders, most personally; others by reputation -- leaders in their federations, leaders at JFNA; most of them committed to the work of the Jewish Agency -- and almost to a person, each and every one of them engaged in the work and leadership of the United Israel Appeal. 

After the January vote of the JFNA Board, on or about June 1, 2019 most of these communal leaders will receive a letter (if past is prologue, it will be a form letter) from Cindy Shapira, the incoming UIA Chair, telling them their services to UIA have been eliminated and, of course, "thanks" while announcing a "new" Board.

What Jewish communal organization has ever discharged 60% of its lay leadership not for exceeding Term limits set by its governance, but...for no reason whatsoever. Because that is what is happening at JFNA and UIA right now. The rationale for this Draconian action was, what? Efficiency? C'mon now...In the debates leading to this elimination of 60% of the UIA Board seats, JFNA leaders could not/would not respond to direct questions demanding how and how much "efficiency" would be achieved here. And, as you think about this, recall: UIA was fully performing pursuant its charge as this defenstration was imposed upon it. So, of course, fulfilling its operating principle, JFNA decided: if it ain't broke, break it. So JFNA.

"Efficiency" is not/will not be achieved by eliminating dedicated communal lay leaders from the UIA Board -- what was clearly the intent of the authors of these heinous acts was the elimination of the irritants among those who served as UIA Board members and the strange decision to vest much of UIA's work in the ever-failing JFNA_Israel. Just observe the names of those who shall become the next generation of UIA Board members and what their roles have been at will readily understand what the real motivation was for the elimination of 60% of the  UIA Board leadership because these lay leaders just "get in the way."

What communal organization does this kind of thing? What communal organization rationalizes the elimination of dedicated, mature lay leadership? What does this action tell you about JFNA and its leadership -- because this action is really about JFNA's top lay and professional leadership not about UIA's. And that JFNA lay and professional leadership --- those at the very top who engineered this fiasco -- have demonstrated once again how quickly and irrationally they pursue the next shiny objects in their field of vision, picking in this case low hanging fruit while ignoring the rot at the organization's very core.