Friday, February 15, 2019


Kirby Smart is the extremely successful head football Coach at the University of Georgia. He has offered his philosophy: "We gotta keep making the main thing the main thing." Sadly, that advice is lost on so many in so many places in organized Jewish life. 

JFNA's Board has just heard the findings of its consultants at The Bridgespan Group ("TBG") -- it was a high quality study with some important findings that, perhaps, JFNA itself will publish. Unfortunately TBG failed to identify with Coach Smart's dictate -- the TBG fidings and recommendations wholly failed to identify the "main thing" and, having failed to do so, omitted the dictate that JFNA "gotta keep making the main thing the main thing." I'll leave it to you all to reach your own conclusions as to whether JFNA and the federations received a real return on its very heavy investment in this Consultant Study.

So, instead of finding the "main thing," and I think we all know what that is -- it was the merger dictate, 20 years ago, that the merged organization be the steward of "more dollars and more donors." It hasn't been; in fact it's impossible to determine today what it has become other than The Bridgespan Group's finding of "great communal dissatisfaction" with JFNA.

JFNA's lay and professional leaders have been so unfocused that they allowed the institution to collapse and now they inherit the rubble. And The Bridgespan Group's Report does not really help them in climbing out of the deep hole they have dug with what I believe, were those professional leaders competent, would be a singular cry: FOCUS. DO SOMETHING WITH EXCELLENCE.

AND, AT ONE AND THE SAME his introduction to the Global Operations Review Committee Recommendations, Board Chair Mark Wilf read that this was some form of "comprehensive report" supporting JFNA's work in Israel. It was neither. Sadly, it was a "made as instructed" set of conclusions and recommendations designed to coopt and defenestrate an actual working part of JFNA -- its subsidiary UIA -- eliminate a significant number of UIA Board members dedicated to both the Jewish Agency and overseas advocacy (characterized as "a streamlining of governance approach"), absorb UIA functions further into the bowels of JFNA where they will surely die (as does almost everything JFNA touches) while, incredibly in light of constant and repeated failure, irresponsibly assuming that JFNA-Israel will carry out a broad array of functions, many of which those for which it has been responsible and with which it has failed time and again. Yes, these assigned functions include many which JFNA-Israel has failed to perform over the past decade.

The reality that the JFNA's Board would consider the deracination of UIA and the absorption of its governance and operational functions in many areas within JFNA or literally designated away, while unrestricted cash allocations to JAFI and JDC have literally collapsed under JFNA's faux stewardship while suggesting that JFNA-Israel should "carry on" as if it has enjoyed any success, is deserving of nothing more than rejection out of hand. is JFNA after all.

This may be worse: drumming up support for these basically unsupportable Recommendations, Mssrs. Silverman and Gurvis were telling leaders of the City-size groupings that opposition was just "emotional and posturing," nothing more. This is how they played it -- JFNA professionals claiming publicly that federation/UIA lay leaders were "posturing." Then I heard a message from leaders for whom I have great respect that because these Recommendations emerged "from a JFNA Committee," they must be supported without question.

Of course, after a respectful discussion, the JFNA Board rubber-stamped its approval, ignoring the pleas to Table the matter for further review and consideration, supporting the Chair's sense of unexplained "urgency" and demand for "immediate implementation."



Tuesday, February 12, 2019


Here, it is the very outset of 2019, and I am admittedly frustrated...already. Why? The dilatory approach to replacing Jerry Silverman as JFNA CEO. First, somewhere a decision was made to let Jerry linger on as the titular CEO after the decision was made to not renew his fat contract (some within JFNA told me that Silverman was actually offered a further extension of 3 years, which he refused demanding a longer term -- hard to know under that set of facts, who was more irrational -- but never mind) -- yes, a decision to just let Jerry run out his contract.
Rather than find an interim CEO, JFNA's lay leaders seem happy that Jerry is doing some kind of farewell tour, attending the Trump White House Chanukah party, you know, important CEO stuff. While his name appeared among the draftspersons of the destructive Global Affairs faux history and worse recommendations, everyone with whom I've spoken admits that this woeful document was drafted by Gurvis and Caspi. 
And, in the meantime, the Search (being chaired by Richard Sandler [!!]) shows no urgency, leaving JFNA in stasis. We just saw the RFP for interested applicants, published by the Search Consultants. Read it and we'll discuss on the other side:
The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) is the umbrella organization for the Jewish Federation movement. JFNA represents 147 Jewish Federations and over 300 Network communities, which raise and distribute more than $3 billion annually. The Federation system, collectively among the top 10 charities on the continent, protects and enhances the well-being of Jews worldwide through the values of Torah (Jewish learning,) tzedakah (charity and social justice) and tikkun olam (repairing the world).

JFNA serves as the framework to connect local, national and global Jewish communities through the Federation movement. JFNA is a dedicated and proven leader in many areas: 

  1. In Washington, DC, JFNA lobbies to secure $10 billion in public funds that flow to thousands of agencies, including hospitals, nursing homes, community centers and family and children service agencies. 
  2. In Israel, JFNA partners with the Jewish Agency for Israel, Government of Israel and a variety of agencies to secure and sustain the Jewish State and help the most vulnerable groups, including immigrants and holocaust survivors. 
  3. Across the globe, JFNA, with its partner JDC, leads a continental response by providing assistance and rapidly raising and distributing funds for immediate relief and long-term support to Jewish and non-Jewish victims of natural and manmade disasters. 
  4. In local Jewish communities, JFNA provides thought leadership and services that help Federations learn from one another, support their fundraising capacity, build national affinity groups and provide training, collateral materials and seed funding for innovation. 

JFNA continuously builds on its core strengths while finding new opportunities to enhance Jewish life at home and around the world. From delivering essential social services and educating and empowering Jewish communities and leaders, to mobilizing for relief during conflict and crisis, JFNA’s impact has been both broad and profound and has transformed the lives of so many around the world. 

JFNA is headquartered in New York City and has 175 staff members. The agency is governed by a 127-member Board of Trustees and has a budget of approximately $52 million. 
To learn more about JFNA, please visit: 
During the past decade, JFNA has worked diligently to help Jewish Federations adapt to the challenges of change in Jewish life, in the critical issues affecting North American communities and in relations between Israel and the Diaspora. It has been innovative and flexible in adjusting its programs and resources to support the changing needs of communities, Federations and their professional staffs. Each Federation has a history of accomplishment and yet each faces similar and different challenges as they engage with a changing community. Like most national organizations, JFNA must address the priorities of different size communities, reflecting varying demographics and cultures, which have different needs and expectations for their central organization. 
Anticipating the transition of JFNA’s CEO and Board Chair, JFNA has undertaken a strategic review to study JFNA and the Federation system. Through a broadly distributed survey and interviews with professionals and volunteer leaders, they sought to learn about the needs of community Federations, how they value the support that they receive from JFNA, and garner ideas about what JFNA could be doing in the future to advance its work and the work of Federations.
The initial findings acknowledge the value of national programs, especially those that motivate and educate lay and professional leaders, advocate for the system in Washington and Israel and rally collective action for crises and emergencies. There is considerable support for JFNA to focus and excel in its work in Talent Development, Fundraising Support, Community Planning and Marketing. JFNA’s partnership with the Jewish Agency, JDC and World ORT continue to be the major focus of its international responsibility.  There is also strong support for JFNA to lead a collective initiative that would rally the imagination and strength of the North American Jewish Community. 

Candidate Qualifications: 
JFNA’s leadership have clearly defined their expectations for the new CEO. In meetings and conversations they underscored that they are drawn to JFNA by the role that the Federations can and should play in conveying Jewish values, strengthening Jewish communities and Jewish life and providing for the Jewish future. 
JFNA leadership views this CEO role as one of the most influential professional leadership roles in the international Jewish communal system and seeks to find an individual with the knowledge, experience, courage and humility to provide that leadership. 
JFNA’s leadership look forward to meeting candidates who:
  • Are “Jewishly literate”, embracing the Jewish values that inform the organization’s work and who can develop and communicate an inspiring vision about how JFNA and Federations together can meet challenges. 

  • Understand the role that Federations play in communities, and the role that JFNA can play in supporting and elevating their work. Candidates must appreciate the impact that Federations can have locally and the wider impact the Federation system can have on behalf of global Jewish communities in Israel and the Diaspora. 

  • Are experienced in marshalling support for ideas and initiatives in organizations with many constituents with diverse perspectives and needs. The CEO will work closely with JFNA’s officers and Board, Federation CEOs and their board chairs. Ideal candidates have been described as diplomat, executive, coalition builder, spokesperson and leader. 

  • Are experienced executives capable of analyzing opportunities, situations and data. Candidates will know when to lead boldly, how to create an environment for difficult but constructive conversation, and how to build support. 

  • Possess the skills and experience to lead change, and can develop ideas and priorities and build the resources and operations required to implement programs with excellence." 

Friends, after the past decade of failure compounding failure, some of which are just now being exposed, there is no longer, if there ever was, the luxury of a dilatory Search effort. Get on with it -- Interim Executive (not Gurvis, not anyone from the current professional staff) followed by a person of proved excellence -- and, no one, who has been associated in a professional or lay capacity during the decade of debacle is eligible.


Friday, February 8, 2019


Following our article on February 6...

This is a cautionary tale -- it is what happens when community professionals and JFNA professionals are allowed to operate without accountability, and when lay leadership fail to meet their responsibilities. It represents systemic failure of the worst kind.

When the Jewish community of St. Paul, Minnesota, changed its name It announced:
“While our name is changing, our mission is not. We are and always will be the organization in St. Paul that builds and sustains our Jewish community, educates our children, feeds the hungry, provides for our elderly, responds to emergencies and helps Jews in need in Israel and around the world.”
What the leadership, or what passed for it, of what is now the Jewish Federation of Greater St. Paul didn't announce at the time was that its former long-time CEO and an unspecified number of communal leaders, who chose not to know, had, in a passive if not active manner worked with professional leaders of JFNA -- yes, our JFNA -- in what can be characterized as a cover-up of the community's $3 million accounts payable balance built up over years of unpaid overseas core allocations due the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Joint Distribution Committee and WorldORT. 

Yes, as disclosed in TC JewFolk, in every year forward from 2008, the St. Paul federation sent letters assuring an overseas allocation, and, for every one of those ten years...each and every one...St. Paul did not comply with the commitments it made. This outstanding liability owed to JAFI and JDC and WorldORT, grew over the decade from $100,000 to $3,000,000 and JFNA raised no issues, contacted no communal lay leaders, and wholly failed to communicate that membership in JFNA required compliance with outstanding financial obligations -- after all Dues were being paid, weren't they?

In fact, the only local Federation person whom JFNA senior professionals may have contacted over that time was the same long-serving federation CEO who was the person sweeping this reality under the rug. At no time did JFNA raise the horrific account receivable, raise any issues at all, with local leaders. The St. Paul Federation Board of Directors Minutes dating back to October 2017 through the end of 2018 recite that JFNA professionals told the new CEO (who left the community after little more than one year) to tell no one. And, at no time over that decade did JFNA's professional leaders alert the true owners of what became a $3,000,000 debt owed to them -- JAFI/JDC/WorldORT -- that there "might be a problem."

These local leaders, at the initiative of the then newly hired Chief Executive,  upon "discovering" this accumulated/accumulating account payable  apparently hidden in some way by the Federation's long-term retired CEO, reached out to JFNA and, ultimately, allegedly were told by those lacking any authority to do so, to "just write it --the "it" being the $3,000,000 receivable -- "just write it off." And,  to keep this Draconian information from the Federation lay allegation denied by a JFNA flack.

It was always right there: right on the pages of the Federation's Annual Financial Statements. First listed as a large unidentified Account Payable transformed on the 2016 Financial Statement to "Due JFNA" -- an incredible amount given the stagnant state of the St. Paul Annual Campaign. We do not know how this past due amount was shown on the books at 25 Broadway, if at all. Perhaps, someone might wish to question the JFNA CFO (whose response to most inquiries has become a rote "it's confidential").

This entire matter came to light when the long- (too long) serving St. Paul CEO retired and his successor began to ask questions: serious questions, questions that his Board over the years should have been asking. Questions that would have disclosed that the Federation Annual Campaign results announced to the community were a fraud; that allocations to overseas needs had not been paid (or had been vastly underpaid) for years while local allocations were paid as if the overseas account was an ATM. 

So what did JFNA do? The 2018 Federation Minutes reflect exactly what was going on -- as St, Paul's Board had allowed itself to be left in the dark on how the "Account Payable" had been built up over years; now the JFNA professionals would leave their Board behind, preempting the write-off process absent any governance authority to do so. (The JewFolk article does report that JFNA cut a "deal" with St. Paul -- a write-off of $3,000,000 for a promise to pay JFNA [presumably for overseas] 10% of its annual campaign going forward.) At no time were JAFI/JDC/WorldORT engaged on what was, in fact, a write-off of their allocations/funds.

The St. Paul Minutes reflect that the Board and new CEO were first concerned with the massive Federation debt disclosed in the 2017 Financial Statements. It is clear that St. Paul leaders were negotiating with the JFNA CEO, the COO and the CFO. Then...

  • On May 23, 2018 the Minutes recited: 
"JFNA Write-off Status: JFNA’s CEO unofficially agreed that JFNA would write off our debt of $3.2 million; however, JFNA has not held an official vote. The target date is May 29, but that might be pushed back by a week to coincide with JFNA’s national board meeting."

  • Then silence until October 2018 when the Federation CEO announced to the Board:
"Rob Jacobs (the then CEO) announced the JFNA agreed to write off all outstanding debt for the St. Paul Jewish Federation, with the stipulation that we commit at least 10% of our annual campaign to JFNA."

And, since...nothing....except the November Minutes disclose that now this CEO had resigned, and then the excellent, in-depth expose on the pages of JewFolk.

Friends, it is obvious that both the lay leadership of the Jewish Federation of St. Paul and at JFNA need to immediately examine these circumstances and take the necessary actions: And, JAFI/JDC/WorldORT need to assert their rights to allocated funds.

  • The St. Paul Board leaders who failed in their stewardship of donors' funds need to immediately resign. They failed in their fiduciary responsibility;
  • The JFNA lay leadership must determine through an independent investigation whether members of their senior management advised others to hide this payable from St. Paul's lay and professional leaders, and, then, if so, immediately let them go. 
  • JAFI/JDC/WorldORT need to creat a joint venture the purpose of which shall be two-fold: to advocate for increased core allocations and cash collections and distribution of federation overseas core allocations.
How is it possible that in its Recommendations, the JFNA Global Operations Committees demanded that JFNA itself lead global advocacy when the reality is that not only has JFNA proved over the past decade its own lack of interest in and ability to do so, but has led a write-off effort that has resulted in millions lost to the overseas beneficiaries? The Recommendation is specious.

It is clear that the massive failings here arose out of an expressed policy of "getting out of  the professionals way" unencumbered by any accountability. Can anyone doubt that the JFNA senior professionals, like the retired St.Paul CEO, considered themselves to be empowered in ways that led to the outcomes in St. Paul reported in TC JewFolk? And the question is no longer "how did this happen?" -- that evidence is now right in front of all of us -- the question is: did JFNA "authorize" similar allocations write-offs in other communities-- how many and how much?

This is a sad chapter among sad chapters. If those at both St. Paul and JFNA fail to take strong actions and then demand accountability -- of themselves and of their professionals going forward -- the system is no more.

No more.


Wednesday, February 6, 2019


Friends, you are about to read an article from a publication serving the Jews of the Twin Cities for the past decade -- TC JewFolk. It was to me as it will be to all of you, a revelation. The facts recited so well by Editor Lonny Goldsmith's brilliant reporting and analysis, must, finally, be enough to make anyone with a brain, a conscience and an ounce of courage dizzy with outrage.

The article, published earlier today and benignly headlined Amidst Financial Struggles, St. Paul Federation Looks to Move Forward, must be read in full at discloses so much. For example:

"According to documents reviewed by TC Jewfolk, there were several differences between the annual reports’ “planned allocation,” the “actual commitment” to JFNA, and the “final payment” to JFNA:
  • In 2012-13, the annual report stated $664,538 would be allocated overseas. $572,958 was committed to JFNA; $110,316 was paid.
  • In 2014-15, the annual report stated $668,172 would be allocated overseas. JFNA reported a commitment of $578,625. Payments of $308,304 were made.
  • In 2015-16, St. Paul stated $709,934 would be allocated overseas. They committed to JFNA to pay $593,434 and paid $118,000.
In four campaign cycles, St. Paul’s commitment to JFNA was paid in full: 2010-11, 2011-12, 2013-14, and 2016-17. In two of those cycles, 2010-11 and 2016-17, the commitments and full payments to JFNA were lower than what was recorded in annual reports and on the St. Paul Federation website. In 2010-11, $532,209 was indicated in the annual report as an allocation for overseas and $44,761 was committed and paid to JFNA; in 2016-17, the annual report and website stated $731,500 would be allocated overseas, and $55,856 was committed and paid. In summary, the St. Paul Jewish Federation made payments toward their JFNA commitments over the time period in question totaling approximately $3.4 million and came up short by approximately $2.7 million."
Until a successor Federation CEO to his predecessor who served for the 17 years prior, saw an incredible account payable on the books as he took office, it is clear that no one in St. Paul Federation leadership questioned this rising tsunami of communal debt and, equally clear, no one at JFNA made any inquiry -- after all, Dues were being paid if not fully, at least in part. Further, although denied by JFNA professionals, St. Paul's professionals were telling the. CEO not to share the information of the massive amount due from St. Paul to JAFI/JDV/WorldORT with their lay leadership.

In the article a subsection is devoted to the Role of JFNA:

"According to the minutes of the December 2017 St. Paul Federation board meeting, Jacobs (the successor CEO who discovered the coverup) said that based on the JFNA’s advice, Federation, “ha[s] not informed the general community about the Federation’s budget and allocation issues.” JFNA disputes that characterization of their advice. In an email, Rebecca Dinar, the associate vice president for strategic communications at JFNA, said: “JFNA advised the Federation to determine the facts and a course of action as a first step in preparing to engage stakeholders.”
Said Linsk (the St. Paul President-elect): “When Rob helped bring this to our attention, the decision was made to meet with a lot of our major donors, organizations we work closely with, and communicate it in a direct way and fix it. We got some advice from JFNA about messaging and we didn’t want to do damage and make things worse by scaring people. The idea was first to try to work with JFNA to fix it.”
Linsk said this situation has JFNA changing how they communicate issues to their member organizations.
“JFNA is making plans to be more careful that they don’t communicate about issues like this just through the exec,” Linsk said. “Why all those years did they not say anything to the board president?”
Just last month, Silverman and Marc Gurvis made their first and only visit to St. Paul.

This is clearly the time for the most intense introspection within the St. Paul Federation and at JFNA. Cosmetic changes are insufficient. When Federation "leaders" can merely dismiss what has happened in St. Paul with a "hey, no one got hurt; our local agencies always got paid, and the overseas beneficiaries shouldn't have relied on our annual representations" something is seriously wrong within our system. And, when JFNA senior professionals circle the wagons and go into their ritual of denials, something further is terribly wrong at 25 Broadway.

And, the question surely must be asked: what other communities have engaged in the same pattern of conduct as St. Paul and what have been the consequences. We know that none of JAFI/JDC/WorldORT knew of this malfeasance.

Yes, chèvre, the fault is not in our stars, it is in ourselves...and there is enough fault to go around.


Monday, February 4, 2019


At the JFNA Board Meeting on January 27-28, a significant block of time was spent on the Strategic Review Taskforce Initial Findings and Recommendations arising out of the 
work of the Bridgespan consulting group, at great expense, filtered through a lay-professional JFNA/Federation team.

Here is the powerpoint supporting a set of "emerging recommendations." It's a must read:

It is impossible for me not to observe that these findings and many of the recommendations in The Bridgespan Group report have appeared many times on the many pages of this Blog....and were offered at no cost. But, never mind!!

In Bridgespan's presentation to the Board, it noted that in the feedback from federations there was an " alarming level of dissatisfaction with JFNA" today. Hmmm. So, the recommendation, right out of the box is the launch of a "NextGen Initiative" that presumes that this JFNA, in the existing structure...this JFNA which federations neither trust nor respect, will raise a yet to be determined millions over Dues to support an undefined effort. 

Further, while TBG recognized that "[S]uccess will require a fundamental culture change" federations to JFNA and JFNA to the federations, the Consultant's Recommendation for that "change" relates strictly/solely to the sharing of data and communications. Not enough...not nearly enough...and, certainly, TBG knows it.

To the Consultant's credit, TBG appeared to recognize that Dues issues relate directly to benefits received by the communities from JFNA.

All of the Recommendations have merit; yet, JFNA has demonstrated, over the past decade (if not longer) --

  1. JFNA has been unable to deliver positive results
  2. JFNA has been unable to deliver excellence
  3. JFNA has failed to develop and compensate the best and brightest
And, yet, TBG is persuaded -- in a frank denial of reality -- that JFNA can accomplish the Recommendations. And, it may do so without first being changed itself.

Here's my own first Recommendation: hire a new CEO and do it today, even if that person is an Interim CEO.


* Throughout these Posts I have mistakenly identified TBG as a tire company. My apologies.

Thursday, January 31, 2019


Just when one believes that the failures at 25 Broadway can get no worse, they do. The allocations figures are in and core budget cash to JAFI and the JOINT from the federations have fallen to lows that none of these could have ever imagined when these organizations, these legacy partners agreed to merge and put the federations in charge. 

I recall being at a meeting in Jerusalem a decade ago when the Jewish Agency Board Chair said core allocations from the federations falling below $95 million would be "crossing a red line." And, like other "red lines," that line was crossed again and again and again. And what were the results of JFNA's feeble cash collection effort as at calendar year-end 2018? Read these and weep with me:

Unrestricted Core Allocations:

  • To JAFI: in 2018 -- $79,200,000 reduced from $89,600,000 in 2015 a 12% reduction of $10,400,000.
  • To JDC: in 2018 -- $29,700,000 reduced from $30,800,000 in 2015 a 4% reduction of $1,100,0000.
JFNA, in presenting these grim numbers includes, among other things, designated gifts/electives (generally raised by the organiizations themseves) and, in the Jewish Agency's case -- the U.S. Refugee Grant. Yet, these data included, the comparative numbers are even worse:
  • To JAFI: in 2018 -- $120,300,000 reduced from $144,600,000 in 2015 a 17% reduction of $24,300,000
  • To JDC in 2018 -- $44,400,000 reduced from $54,300,000 in 2015 an 18% reduction of $9,900,000.
If past be prologue, at the earliest opportunity, Joint and JAFI leaders will publicly express their appreciation while, in private, these leaders know that these reductions are doing great damage to the organizations basic ability to perform the roles assigned to them by, among others, JFNA for the federations.

What has been proved over the past decade, perhaps since the merger itself, is that the federations have breached their fiduciary obligations to the overseas partners. If the JFNA Global Operations Review Committee Recommendations are followed, among them you will note is the assigning of overseas advocacy (presumably including cash allocations advocacy) will be vested in JFNA-Israel -- the silo within JFNA that has already proved itself incapable, especially in implementing an overseas advocacy intensive effort. 

Listening to the presentation of these abysmal numbers to the JFNA Board boggled the mind. Though the "process" of cash collections is identical today as it was when UJA was collecting 44% of gross campaigns, JFNA staff, its current CFO, had the chutzpah to state that this December's cash collections were somehow different, the results surprised them. 

What has been allowed to happen without JFNA meeting its moral obligations is this: To paraphrase: JFNA took the passion and commitment of the predecessor organizations and ground those into debris, into dust. And, worse, serious questions are being raised as to how JFNA deals today with unpaid allocations from the federations. More on this issue to follow.

On these pages we have recommended time and again that JAFI/JDC recapture the advocacy effort. They should do so NOW. And, these partners should joint venture the cash collections effort, JFNA haviing proved it has no interest in doing so.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019


In response to our Post, Too True, we received  some very insightful Comments -- here are two excellent ones -- ones with which I wholeheartedly agree. The totally unnecessary emasculation of UIA appealed to the Kool-Aid drinkers. Bless 'em:
"Anonymous said...
Getting rid of UIA will do nothing to solve JFNA's problems or to relieve budgetary pressure. Its functions would have to be created if they didn't already exist. The whole thought is a mere tactical attempt to distract us from the real issues and the real problems of the organization.
UIA operates efficiently and with serious and passionate involvement of true lay leadership.
Leave it alone so that it can continue its good work and start fixing what is obviously truly broken."
"Anonymous said...
So, despite some refreshing but "manageable" opposition, they have gotten consent to lay the groundwork for the following:

* "reaffirm" commitment to advocacy for the Israel and overseas agenda (less so for our "partners") - really?

* kill UIA as we have known it for over 90 years, including "retirement" of 25 dedicated UIA lay leaders (even more if we include the Advisory Committee) and totally controlling at least 4 of the 7 board members left - no outside lay advice needed - get out of our way!
Getting rid of UIA will do nothing to solve JFNA's problems or to relieve budgetary pressure. Its functions would have to be created if they didn't already exist. The whole thought is a mere tactical attempt to distract us from the real issues and the real problems of the organization.
UIA operates efficiently and with serious and passionate involvement of true lay leadership. 
Leave it alone so that it can continue its good work and start fixing what is obviously truly broken."
Anonymous said...
So, despite some refreshing but "manageable" opposition, they have gotten consent to lay the groundwork for the following:

* "reaffirm" commitment to advocacy for the Israel and overseas agenda (less so for our "partners") - really?

* kill UIA as we have known it for over 90 years, including "retirement" of 25 dedicated UIA lay leaders (even more if we include the Advisory Committee) and totally controlling at least 4 of the 7 board members left - no outside lay advice needed - get out of our way!

* close down and get out of the Israel missions business - there are more popular global targets for missions anyway 
          * "restructure" and "integrate" UIA's work - exert total control with no further lay interference!*
          * get JAFI out of JFNA - let them take care of their own affairs! 

         * let the I&O Global Operations Office in Jerusalem continue to run rampant supporting and    promoting "boutique philanthropy" by bypassing our traditional partners whenever possible and even competing with them by duplicating efforts in areas where our 3 traditional partners have much more experience, knowledge and capacity.

         *This will be a serious setback for our overseas partners, for Israel and for our ailing organization which has just decided to make things worse.

         * Lets hope that things can be fixed, probably by creating alternative operational vehicles and coalitions outside of our suicidal current organizational framework."
As bad as this decision was, as bad as the Report that led to it was, things are even worse than even I imagined. More on that in the days ahead.

Stay tuned.


Sunday, January 27, 2019


This evening and tomorrow the JFNA Board will convene in New York City. Many of you have written the Blog (anonymously) with incredible insights both as to what to expect (more of the same) and what needs to happen (growth of a collective spine) in response to a self-defeating set of Recommendations on JFNA global responsibilities -- Recommendations which, if adopted, will defenestrate UIA in so many ways.

In Tragically Blind we pointed to the consequences of JFNA Board members'lemming-like response to these Recommendations that should never have seen the light of day. Here is what one of you wrote:
'They will probably suggest a "compromise" to get rid of only 20 UIA board members instead of 25 (leaving 12 instead of 7). Hopefully folks will be smart enough to realize that this would make no difference at all because the real isssue is that they want to make the UIA Board a total "puppet" board of the JFNA Board, which is itself, at least up until now, a "puppet" of the bureaucrats that run the organization. 
The true ideological basis of the proposed changes in the Global Operations recommendations is CONTROL: to get active lay leadership out of the way, to gain complete bureaucratic control of UIA's functions (free of UIA lay interference), to get the Jewish Agency and advocacy for it off the JFNA agenda and to let the I&O Israel Office continue unsupervised to do whatever it pleases (no need for control there evidently).
If Board members are going to go along with this, they should at least uderstand that this is what is really on the table. If they do understand, they shouldn't be looking to compromise, just to say NO!" 
Excellent insights...excellent advice.


Thursday, January 24, 2019


My dear friend and great Zionist, Gary Erlbaum, recently reminded me of a critical truth: None are so blind as those who will not see. And, in the case of far too many, among those who will attend the upcoming JFNA Board meeting, who have chosen to blind themselves from the realities we have discussed on these pages time and again -- you know, it's just better to be in denial than to actually confront and deal with the challenges right in front of their closed eyes.

  • Denial that JFNA has absented itself from the need to build federation annual campaigns, offering nothing more than lip service and an occasional consultants' visit to federations;
  • Denial that other than its LBTQ mIssion JFNA has led its constituencies away from Israel, choosing to send its own national missions to India, Argentina and Uruguay, Tbilisi and St. Petersburg and the International Leadership Reunion to Moscow. Why? If the argument is that "we just held the GA in Tel Aviv" or "we go to Israel on Missions so often, it's played out:" the response should be: "We have a moral obligation to take our constituencies to Israel." Period. Full stop. The answer we learned at UJA and continued into 2007 at JFNA is the hard work of recruitment -- fact: it still works (for other organizations).
  • Denial that JFNA is on the cusp of defenestrating UIA, one of its only functioning parts, solely because: (a) it can; and (b) to vest greater control in JFNA-Israel, one of JFNA's most dysfunctional silos. If this happens -- and it can only happen if JFNA's Board and leadership allow it to -- that would confirm that JFNA is only concerned with concentrating power in itself...and nothing more....nothing.
  • Denial that the incredibly successful Lion of Judah Conference (a holdover constituency of United Jewish Appeal BTW) is but an aberration, like an oasis in a fund raising desert.
  • Denial that the organization has no enhance the sorry state of Diaspora/American Jewry's relationship with Israel. We have seen nothing, other than quotes in the media decrying the sorry state that suggests that JFNA has a clue of what steps...even baby steps...might be taken to restore what was once the beauty and power of this relationship. 
There is, sadly, so much more; the list is never-ending.

As one of your wrote in response to our Post "Collapse:"
"Lets hope that the Jewish People will never need us again because without UJA (already "merged to death") and UIA (the next target), there is no chance that any true collective response will be possible beyond maybe another pathetic "mailbox" opportunity.
"Once UIA is "retired" after more than 90 years of service there will indeed be nothing left but a bloated trade organization for federation professionals - no collective response capability, no advocacy or real support for our overseas partners, no lay leadership, no activism, no passion - nothing to stand in the way of the bureaucrats hiring lots of outside consultants, setting up task forces, establishing review committees and studying ourselves to death instead of supporting what needs to be done.
"When will we wake up and put a stop to this fiasco?!"
So what is on the agenda for the JFNA Board meeting that might suggest that Mark Wilf and the Board he Chairs will lead JFNA out of the brier patch into which it has been driven? 

We'll soon know if sight has been restored.


Sunday, January 20, 2019


We are living in a time of unanswerable questions and the incomprehensible demand for "walls." As we have written on these pages time and again, the federations' continental organization has built an opaque wall, constructed on the flimsy foundation of claimed "confidentiality" and protected like the holy grail by a group of disinterested lay leaders and senior professionals just protecting their positions.

In that light, one of you, sadly anonymously, has raised some serious questions:

"JFNA’s Form 990 for the year ending June 30th 2017, shows total revenues of $261 million, down from $274 million in the prior fiscal year.
Grants, which one assumes are pass-through funds using JFNA as a conduit, were $213 million, down from $234.6 million.
Salaries were $23.7 million as compared with $21 million, but other expenses were $24.4 million vs $21.5 million.
Shockingly, page 2 (of 73) says FRD spent over $22.8 million. How is that even possible?
On page 19, one can see that they are getting fleeced by Blackbaud for their donor management system, when charities like the American Red Cross pay under half that amount.
Any clue on page 20, lines 2a-f?Line 3 on that page shows the astounding result of JFNA making $1 million a year just by sitting on the cash of other Federations.
On page 22, lines 11-12, we learn that JFNA is playing the stock market with $56 million of funds for which it is a fiduciary. I wonder how that amount did in the last few months? And who is their stock broker?
Page 43 is most instructive. Who donates $45 million a year to JFNA? Is this your friends at IFCJ?
On page 38 we learn that the entire DC lobbying activity which you laud is run for well under $1 million."
"So, I neglected to ask, given the opacity of the JFNA financials, how does one calculate a $30 mill budget as opposed to something closer to $45 million?" 
I wish that I had answers for you beyond knowing that the International Fellowship isn't donating to JFNA. Perhaps you,my friends, have some -- if so, send them on. These 990s are almost impregnable. While we have urged JFNA transparency time and again, there has been little evidence of any -- if anything, behind the claims of "confidentiality" with regard to every consultant contract, and the clear evidence that JFNA expenditures have nothing to do with Budget lines, the imprenetrability of JFNA is worse than a decade ago.

More's the pity.