Friday, September 21, 2018


I retrieved a bizarre e-mail from my Spam folder at the end of August from something called "Jewish Federation." 

Here is how it read:

"Hello All,

Receiving this e-mail insinuates that you are an alumni of one Jewish Association or another. There is a debate going on globally and your opinion and worldly contribution is necessary if not compulsory.

Attached is a confidential document shared via DocuSign FYA, Kindly download the attachment and, login with your respective e-mails to access the PDF document and process your feedback.

The content of the attachment would have been discussed openly but the loopholes in cyber security is alarming lately.

NOTE- Don not open attachment if you are not an alumni of any Jewish Association or if you think you received this e-mail in error. This e-mail list is acquired from the JFNA database

Thank you all for the audience.

Jewish Federations"
"Insinuates?" "one Jewish Association or another?" "audience?" Multiple punctuation and grammar errors. So, of course, it could have come from JFNA couldn't it? 

I didn't think so -- especially the sentence: "The content of the attachment would have been discussed openly but the loopholes in cyber security is alarming lately." No, not even JFNA could have conjured a sentence like that one.

I forwarded this email directly to Jerry Silverman knowing that he would want to alert the JFNA Board of this phishing expedition. He didn't; I was wrong...again. Never a warning to the Board: another "this is none of our business, we're not getting involved." Or...something.

So, I will never know whether this fake email was Russian hacking, someone(s) phishing expedition or worse. 

Probably worse.


Thursday, September 20, 2018


On Yom Kippur I received and published this Comment to our Post on the upcoming GA -- although the Comment was much more focused than that Post:

"Anonymous said...
On this Yom Kippur, those of us who work on the sinking ship known as JFNA, must say the prayer that best describes what our employer does every other day of the year. I too have a hand in this deceit. It is what the boss demands. Thank gd he is leaving, but you lay leaders who allow him to remain in the building cannot say your Al Chet until you right the wrong by removing him. Then you can begin the teshuva.

He has destroyed everything that was good in CJF and UJA. All that is left that works is Washington Grants, the Bond Fund and UIA

The Al Chet of JFNA

For the sin which we have committed before You under duress or willingly.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by hard-heartedness.

For the sin which we have committed before You inadvertently.

And for the sin which we have committed before You with an utterance of the lips.

For the sin which we have committed before You with immorality.

And for the sin which we have committed before You openly or secretly.

For the sin which we have committed before You with knowledge and with deceit.

And for the sin which we have committed before You through speech.

For the sin which we have committed before You by deceiving a fellowman.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by improper thoughts.

For the sin which we have committed before You by a gathering of lewdness.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by verbal [insincere] confession.

For the sin which we have committed before You by disrespect for parents and teachers.

And for the sin which we have committed before You intentionally or unintentionally.

For the sin which we have committed before You by using coercion.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by desecrating the Divine Name.

For the sin which we have committed before You by impurity of speech.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by foolish talk.

For the sin which we have committed before You with the evil inclination.

And for the sin which we have committed before You knowingly or unknowingly."
One of our comrades described this Comment as a cri de coeur -- and it is certainly that. It is the deepest expression of pain, isn't it? 

Al chet -- loosely translated to "on account of this sin..." Well, chevre, as our correspondent makes clear in his/her charge to us, there is a cntinuing sin in doing nothing, saying nothing while JFNA does nothing.

It's bad.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Friends, here is the seminal question: 
At long last are the Jewish federations of North America prepared to take over the Jewish Federations of North America?
What brought this on, you ask? Well, I just saw the GA "Program Highlights" released by JFNA just a couple of weeks ago -- "Highlights" being hyperbole to the extent that I thought this was some form of Purim shpiel.  (It wasn't; it is the Program.) It was reported that a week ago lay registration was at 604 (that's based on a "hand count" of 784 total NA registration times 77% [Don't ask; it's Jerry-math.) -- as if this were a good thing. 

You can review this thing for yourselves at -- if you dare. 

The Plenaries will contain a mixed bag --the good, Andy Tisch, in his role as Founder of the Tisch Center for Jewish Dialogue, will be on a Plenary Panel; there will be speeches by the Co-Vice-Chairs of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, Bougie Herzog will offer his first address to the federations as a whole (or such as may be there) as Chair of the JAFI Executive; and the Prime Minister will address what appears to be the Closing Plenary.

There is the bad: Jerry Silverman will speak (not certain why Richard Sandler has not yet been scheduled); some "outside the box" Israeli entrepreneurs; there is no "scholar in residence" to tie the Plenaries together;; there is no continuity.

There are a whole bunch of Breakouts, Rooftop Raps and Dialogue Dens (again, don't ask), some of which appear to have value, and something called Deep Dives: Dialogue in the Den.

And here is my absolute favorite: The Knesset Event --
"We can't tell you what it is yet, but we promise you won't be disappointed. Stay tuned for more details on this exciting event in Jerusalem!"
I'm not making this up -- it just sounds like it. (And, N.B., RSVP Required)

The GA "planners" have scheduled three Prime Minister's Council events from which most, nearly all, will be excluded: "Home Hospitality with "Israeli leaders," A Seminar "with HealthTech Trailblazers" (not to be confused with the Portland Trailblazers); and an Ambassador's Reception at the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem "with Ambassador David Friedman" (have a great bus ride from Tel Aviv).

To paraphrase the Marketing/Communications professionals who appear to be driving this GA -- federations, This is why We Need to Talk. It appears clear that the Program for this GA is driven by nothing more or less than...austerity. It's GA Lite; it's GA On the Cheap except for the Registrants for whom this will be an extraordinarily expensive General Assembly. 

I would hope that those of you going to the GA take a Deep Dive together into the swamp that is JFNA and vow to fix it...NOW.

Vayezmir. It just goes  from bad to worse.


Sunday, September 16, 2018


On the New Year, ejewishphilanthropy published an op-ed over the "by-line" of A Senior Israeli Nonprofit Consultant,,+2018&utm_campaign=Wed+Sept+12&utm_medium=email.

The article saddened me so much, and, then, sadness turned to outrage. Is the GA Scamming Israeli Nonprofits? is an excellent question; given that JFNA has been scamming its own owners, the federations, and its former "partners," JAFI, JDC and WorldORT for over a decade, not so surprising. Essentially, the author, who clearly has a keen insight, states forcefully that small (and, for that matter, large) Israeli NGOs are paying an exorbitant price for a booth -- for visibility -- at the upcoming Tel Aviv GA. As Chicago's Caryn Adelman, commented:
"Standing behind a table giving out pamphlets and free candy is not relationship building...meeting on common ground, sharing ideas and values are what it's all about.
Donors are smarter than you think." 
Israeli non-profits don't realize, but, if they rent a booth, they soon will, that JFNA GAs are nothing more than a numbers game for the convener, JFNA. Facing annual deficits from the failing General Assemblies, and an ever-reducing number of quality sponsors, the pressure is on to "sell" more booths without any sense of responsibility to the NGOs to advise them, as has the anonymous author, that they expending more for less in terms of return on investment -- more, in many cases, than the NGOs can afford or should expend. The same numbers game has driven JFNA to offer steep registration discounts for Israeli professional staffs of American organizations operating in Israel.

And, of course, as is their way, JFNA will soon be inflating the number of lay registrants for the TAGA -- in mid-September lay registration stood at less than 700 -- a shocking number that confirms the need to use 2019 to undertake a long and fresh look at the value-added from an event that has lost what it once had. It would have been great if the GA were still what the author of Scamming recited:
"The GA is the gathering of all of the staff and lay leadership involved in the Jewish Federations across North American whose primary purpose is to support Jewish life, community, and identity in America. heir Jewish identity and increase their participation in their home Jewish communities."
Oh, if only it were so.

G'mar hatima tova.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018


At some point, my friends, more and more leaders -- especially communal professionals -- have to start asking -- "what, exactly, do I and my community get in return for the outrageous Dues we pay to JFNA?" One of the answers has to be "next to nothing;" another, "less and less and less."

Instead of a continental organization that partners with them, providing the expertise for federation CEO searches, federations are on their own; instead of supporting its own FedWeb initiative, federations are on their own; instead of the continental Speakers Bureau, federations, for the first time, are on their own...and so it goes, Dues remain the same, federations return on what was once an "investment" -- on their own.

And, mentoring new CEOs across City-sizes, I am reminded...

  • A few years ago, one then new CEO told me of the time shortly after he joined the system that he spoke up at a Large City Executives meeting of his need for help, to which one of the renowned long-time LCE responded: "We have to get ____ a mentor." The CEO looking for guidance responded: "You were assigned to help me."
  • Another new CEO, well-trained in our federation system, told me that instead of a mentor, he received a sheet of "Q and A's for the New CEO" or some such, nothing more.
The void that has been created by JFNA walking away from its obligations to the profession and the federation system, can be found in a single "edition" on FedCentral, the web-based device JFNA has substituted for its own lack of capacity to respond even to the most basic questions from the communities. For example, in the FedCentral edition, August 6-12, the questions:
  • Who should we get as a Major Gifts "inspirational speaker;"
  • What platform should we use for on-line donations;
  • Does your community include a "honey stick" with Rosh Ha'shana cards;
  • Should we have a communal Social Media policy;
  • Does your federation use Instagram;
  • Super Sunday text to pledge;
  • How to increase teen travel to Israel;
  • And...more
This is in no way a criticism of the questions: it is an observation on the extent to which JFNA has left the field to its own devices. And, then, charges the user for the privilege.

And, while the abandonment is on-going, JFNA leaders are pleading that Dues are inadequate, that they need more and more and more.

This isn't going well so there is no reason to believe that this will end well.


Sunday, September 9, 2018


Dear Readers, Dear Friends,

Wishing all of you the happiest and healthiest of New Year's.

A shana tova u'metuka.


Thanks to an insightful reader for this Comment to our Post, COMPARE AND CONTRAST...AGAIN:
"Once upon a time there was an organization called the United Jewish Appeal. It was then "merged" into what is today called JFNA. Actually, rather than being "merged" into JFNA, it was taken apart and thrown away.

Today, JFNA has no collective campaign - only FRD consultants and advisors.
Sometimes we decide to open a mailbox - usually not. Passively opening a mailbox is not the same as running a campaign but that seems to be all that is left of what once was.

Is there anybody out there that doesn't think that we have failed miserably aa an umbrella organization?
We have become an umbrella that is incapable of opening up to stop a drizzle, never mind a heavy rainfall.

We have become a useless but expensive umbrella. We have lost our way, lost our vision, lost our mission, lost our value to our federations, our partners and our people."
Our correspondent offered some telling points. To me the most telling is that what we have "...seems to be all that is left of what once was." The years of this Blog have been my attempt, feeble though it has been and is, at atonement for my role in the creation of what is JFNA.

There have been points along the way in this tragedy where strong intervention by those of us who knew better might have made a difference but we were restrained -- restrained by our natural inclination to offer constant, even unquestioning, support for our leaders. I will offer one example: we structured the merged entity to strike a balance between our national responsibility for financial resource development and other services to federations. After the first five years of operations, the professional head of FRD felt threatened by a new CEO. Seeking to gain the CEO's favor, the FRD pro and the Campaign Chair agreed to reframe JFNA (then UJC) as a support function to the rest of JFNA, rather  than retain FRD's status as one of the "pillars"of JFNA. I/we wanted to support the Campaign Chair and the FRD senior professional -- that was a terrible mistake, both short-term and long-term.

BTW, whatever "favor" this act of altruism and self-sacrifice gained the FRD senior pro was short-term -- very short-term. She was soon forced out after months of agony. 

A "useless but expensive umbrella"...indeed.


Thursday, September 6, 2018


I don't know the exact date that the 2017 JFNA IRS 990 went "public" -- you know the annual filing that JFNA wouldn't make if the IRS didn't require it. In all events, the most recent 990 reveals almost nothing about what JFNA is doing and little about what JFNA did during the Fiscal Year 2016-2017.

What it did disclose was just more of the same:

  • Consultants -- it should be hard for me to criticize JFNA for being the full employment organization for Consultants inasmuch as I am one myself (though not for JFNA, sad to say). But...JFNA makes it so necessary...
    • The organization reports that it retains 29 Consultants who were paid more than $100,000 in FY 2016-2017;
    • Among the itemized Consultants are 2 which appear to have been retained for "producing" the GA to the tune of $1.2 million -- money well spent??
    • How many Consultants paid less than $100,000 served the organization in 2016-2017? 
    • And what were al of these Consultants doing for the federations? That's "CONFIDENTIAL"
  • Professionals -- see if you believe that there is accountability at JFNA when...
    • 11 professionals earned were paid in excess of $200,000 in FY 2016-2017
    • Of those 11, 5 were paid in excess of $300,000 in the fiscal Year
    • And, the highest 3:
      • Silverman -- $692,000
      • Gurvus -- $400,000
      • Caspi -- $353,000
For any of you who believe that federations are receiving a return on these "investments," I have a bridge to sell you.

Are there examples of JFNA's "excellence?" Of course -- JFNA is great when acting as a conduit. For examples...

  • Millions in Holocaust Grants (although there was no disclosure of the criteria used in awarding the Grants to 10s of local agencies); or
  • Emergency Grants for, e.g., Hurricane relief
I hate to be picky but: 
  • Why doesn't JFNA publish its 990s by sending the link to them directly to its Board members? 
  • What standard has been codified to determine that a list of consultants and the purposes of their engagement ARE "Confidential?"
The 990, for any charitable organization is an opaque document; perfect for an opaque organization.


Monday, September 3, 2018


1. In Westchester County, JTA reports, a 71 year-old "caller" is alleged to have "fixed" synagogue-sponsored bingo games.. Maropost&utm_campaign=JTA&utm_medium=email&mpweb=1161-5625-27384

2. Did Jeremy Corbyn, the head of Britain's Labor Party, really lay a wreath in memory of the Palestinian terrorists who slaughtered Israelis at the Munich Olympics? Is he the highest-ranking current political leader in Western Europe to evidence anti-semitism beyond anti-Israeli sentiments? Or is he the symptom of a spreading disease?

3. With all of the issues swirling around Israel, The Times of Israel recently reported that the country is now confronting...a crocoidile crisis  700 of them isolated at a defunct "tourist attraction." As one observor pointed out: "a loose croc in the Jordan River could spark an international incident." OY!!

4. JTA reported that a moronic (my description) GOP candidate for Governor of California publcly compared waiting in line at the DMV to the Holocaust. Enough said about that guy.


Thursday, August 30, 2018


Perhaps, some of you will remember. In the earliest years of Monday Night Football, as each gamecast on ABC would draw toward its end, color commentator Dandy Don Meredith would sing:"Turn out the lights, the party's over." Now, JFNA over the past decade has been no party, but it sure is time, past time, to "turn out the lights" and begin .again

Every reader understands my view that the hiring of Jerry Silverman and his subsequent extended tenure have been disastrous. Even now, when Silverman might be accomplishing something for the federations, I read that he was the new JAFI Chair of the Executive, Isaac Herzog's, travel guide to some federations in the East. Jerry is the lamest of ducks; he should, instead, just be gone; pay him off for the final year of his contract and bid Jerry farewell. It is already too late. 9+ years too late, but who's counting?

Yet, I have hope because, in its wisdom, the JFNA Nominating Committee, seeking a successor to Richard Sandler, nominated Mark Wilf as JFNA Board Chair. And, hope is in the air...hope that Mark will assert himself in the Search process (Richard Sandler appointed himself its Chair) and assure that the disastrous mistake of a decade ago, perpetuated by a Board Chair and a supine Committee then, will not be replicated now. 

Mark Wilf has succeeded not alone in business -- with his family in New Jersey development and in the ownership of the Minnesota Vikings -- but in every one of his leadership roles in organized Jewish life. He and family's commitment to the sacred work of caring for Survivors is known to one and all. Mark does not need me to vouch for  his leadership skills; he has proved himself time and again, most recently in leading JFNA's successful efforts on behalf of programs that will fund, in part, programs in support of Holocaust Survivors in our American communities.

Mark will need the strongest professional partner just as he has had in his prior Jewish organizational leadership roles. Mark is not a professional volunteer (Helloooo, Ms. Manning); he will be a great partner in the lay-professional partnership. The evidence is that  while, back in the halcyon days of yore, there was a depth of the best and brightest who would have delivered what is now JFNA to heights never achieved -- I'm talking about Steve Nasatir and Bob Aronson and Steve Hoffman, among others -- today the field is very thin. Recruitment of the best will need to start now; it will require all hands on deck.

I have no doubt that Mark Wilf understands the challenges; and, knowing them, it is great that he is willing to take on this leadership mantle. In order to allow him to hit the ground running, as the JFNA Board Chair role demands, Sandler should take one more critical step -- give Silveman a "soft landing" outside the organization, and  appoint an Interim CEO fpr whatever the length of the Search for a permanent CEO shall be. Preferably, that Interim CEO will be a professional or lay leader from the system but not one on the JFNA Staff -- a John Ruskay, or a Darrell Freedman or a Lee Wunsch.

We all want Mark Wilf to be the person to turn on the lights at 25 Broadway; to divert the organization toward the light and avoid the current projecion that the next lay and professional leaders will be turning off the lights and locking the doors behind them.