Wednesday, July 30, 2014

ABANDON PRINCIPLE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE

I have been giving this a lot of thought -- in fact, one might conclude that many/most of the Posts on the pages of this Blog have been devoted to this subject. I have been a student of this thesis: over the years of JFNA, both in our Continental form and in our communities, what was once a dedication to certain core values and timeless principles has become the worship of individuals and the consequent abandonment of those very principles and values on which our system was constructed.

Several years ago I was confronted by a local and continental leader from Chicago, one I considered a friend, who had found a sinecure at JFNA -- he was angry, literally shouting at me: "If you can't agree 100% with the Board Chair, then you should resign from the Board." I was shocked, but I am not any longer. In this leader's view, shared by so many,  there was no longer a place for those who had served a system built on principle and value if we failed to toe the line of a transient lay or professional leader who was leading the system away from those values and principles. We have been replaced by a new generation of the Jews of Silence.

The principle of collective responsibility is no longer even understood at the highest levels of our Continental organization let alone in so many, most federations. At JFNA there is the unshakable belief that the self-selecting method of choosing, then funding "Strategic Initiatives" reflects absolute dedication to collective responsibility as the vast number of federations will not participate in the funding or the work of these ill-chosen woebegone Initiatives. The concept has been so devalued that a federation which had just slashed its overseas core allocation by 50% can send out a message, at the onset of the terrorists' latest war on Israel, titled: "Milwaukee Jewish Federation Stands in Solidarity with Israel." The very organizations which have embodied those values which we built and nurtured and criticized and changed over history have been and are being abandoned by a steady sometimes abrupt and catastrophic underfunding as our leaders pursue the latest "shiny object." But, really, how can they possibly understand that which their actions evidence they reject because they don't wish to know? "Knowing," of course would interfere with the paths they have so mistakenly chosen to follow.

And those who we came to rely upon to stand at the gauntlet and shout to the rafters "enough;" where are they, where have they gone? Why are the Large City Executives and so many CEOs silent? Well, some would argue that they have grown old and tired, too fat and happy in their collective dotage, in the darkness of the approaching winters of their lives. I remember so well how they fought the first Co-Chairs of JFNA to assure that the first CEO/President would be "one of them" (and in the words of that professional's successor, at the time. "so it will always be"). Yet, when a JFNA lay Chair demanded a CEO from "outside the box" (that meant someone who knew nothing as it turned out), these same federation pros couldn't identify or push one of their own. So they determined to control the new hire from without thereby assuring, as it turned out, a disaster within. 

Trust that there is no past leader of CJF, UIA or UJA who does not (or at least did not) want JFNA to succeed. But there cannot be any still alive and breathing who don't also agree that this organization is today nothing more than a shadow of what once was. It is without vision, purpose, mission or leadership. It is adrift. It is nothing.

Rwexler

Sunday, July 27, 2014

FORGETTING THE JEWISH COMMUNITIES OF THE UKRAINE

We all multi-task in our lives, our work. We try to handle as well as we can the many challenges of a life well spent: family, work, Jewish life and so much more. We see the best of our federations confronting the multiple challenges of a declining donor base, weakened annual campaigns, and, too often, the root issue of the abandonment of principle. Then there is JFNA...yes, then, there is JFNA.

Remember the Ukraine crisis? It's in the papers every day, side-by-side with the stories of Israel's battles against the Hamas terrorists. Remember when JFNA sent a letter to the federations requesting funding to assist our partners serving the Jewish communities of the Ukraine? Remember when JFNA created an Ukraine Emergency Allocations Committee with two outstanding and serious Co-Chairs? Well, JFNA has moved on. Ukraine has been forgotten by JFNA. Understandably, our focus has turned to Israel and our extended family there; but, need the Ukraine have been as forgotten as it has been? Fortunately, the Jewish Agency and JDC are on the ground doing their life-saving work. They will no doubt be forced to engage in their own FRD.

A responsible Continental organization would be reminding us of the totality of our responsibilities; it wouldn't abandon one for another. But JFNA has. Certainly the war being fought by Israel is the most vital crisis of our generations of Jews -- but with our capacity for love and assistance, we are not forced to choose between the Jewish population in Israel and the 360,000 to 400,000 Jews living in the Ukraine, are we? Yet, evidently JFNA has made that choice -- it has abandoned messaging the daily threats to the Jews of the Ukraine by "counting the days" of strife in Israel.

So, once again, JFNA fails to complete its task; once again, it has failed to reach the FRD "goal" it set for itself and for (and, it would claim, with) the federations. It just pivoted, turned its back on one threatened Jewish community just as it has with every FRD "goal" it has ever set for the past 8 years. And, yet...and, yet...at every turn we reward our professionals as if failure were success for at JFNA failure is success. If you disagree, then please point me to one FRD "success story" that JFNA has completed/delivered over the past 8 years...please, please do so. Now, with a goal for assisting our partners in the emergency work we have asked them to perform for the Jewish communities of the Ukraine abandoned...abandoned...the caravan moved on.

I could repeat my "shame on them, shame on us" mantra but there is no need. This organization is awash in shame, drowning in shame, and the lay leaders whom we elected take responsibility for this shameless operation appear to not care a whit...not one whit. Silverman, who knows no better, accompanied the Campaign Chairs and Directors Mission to Greece for whatever reason he had other than waving the bedraggled JFNA flag, when he might have accompanied JDC leadership on their critical mission to Kiev -- but no, I guess he needed to "Harlem Shake" his way through Athens. Then he did some good work in Israel, of course, while starting the blasphemous "Circle of the Fifteen Second Club." (Note to Siegal, if you can't bring yourself to do the right thing and refuse to renew his contract, could you at least get a muzzle, restricting his public utterances and writing to "yes" or "no?")

A meaningful and relevant organization would challenge us to meet our responsibilities wherever Jews are in need, wherever Jews are threatened -- but no one left at JFNA in New York or in Israel appears to know how to do so -- and after challenging us would offer case studies in how to do so. But not this crowd.  Instead, they attempt to remake the wheel every time and it's not a pretty sight to behold -- they flounder so badly every time and consequently too many federations which need Continental guidance flounder themselves without it. 

It's all such a mess and no one charged with the responsibility to do so is doing anything about it.

Rwexler

Friday, July 25, 2014

A ONE PERSON SHOW

You were first elected President of the entity in 1993 and have served ever since -- 21 years (and, most likely, more to come)  You take personal credit for rescuing it from bankruptcy. Your organization loses, maybe only temporarily, maybe forever, its 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. Though it has a Board, the organization appears to be a one man show. Periodically its CEO erupts in anger at some American policy to which he objects -- or maybe there is some governance mechanism that permits or even authorizes his outbursts --  periodically, this CEO is sued by fired employees.  And his annual pay represents 10% of the organization's budget (if there is a budget); we don't know what his expenses are. He claims to have raised $4 million for ZOA activities in 2013.

It is the Zionist Organization of America; its CEO, apparently for life, is Morton Klein. He was challenged for the Presidency -- there was a candidate but there does not appear to be a Nominating or Search Committee. Or if there is a one or the other, no one at the ZOA knows who is on it or when it met. Klein won the election hands down just a few weeks ago. Perhaps the organization is the model for what JFNA has become. For more on the tragicomedy that is the ZOA, see: :http://www.jewishjournal.com/nation/item/zoas_klein_faces_challenger_for_first_time_in_decades  

Friends of mine are strong Mort Klein supporters -- perhaps because Klein appears to be the one person in organized Jewish life willing to speak truth to power. He is fearless even if he is, I guess as am I, mainly playing one note. One dear friend, a great philanthropist and leader has urged Mort Klein's reelection with these words: "Mort will lead ZOA into an even stronger future." Where else is there to go?


This is an organization that has both a President and a Chair. The President's powers and position suggest that the Chair may be superfluous:
 "National President:  The National President (1) is responsible for the general supervision and direction of the other officers, agents and employees of the ZOA, including the hiring and termination of employees; (2) shall keep the Board fully informed and consult with the Board concerning the activities of the ZOA; (3) shall preside over the Convention, including any and all meetings held in connection with the Convention; (4) issue the call for any Convention, Convention meeting, or special meeting of the delegates or membership; and (4) ensure that regular elections  are called, noticed and held."


Read more: http://zoa.org/2014/01/10228510-draft-revised-zoa-constitution-121813/#ixzz2sh0IeEqP
Adults should know better, don't you think? 

I appreciated the subtle commentary in the Jewish Journal story linked above; I think you will as well. But for real humor, go to the ZOA website and read the range of Mort Klein's comments -- see if you can find anyone else's.

Rwexler

Thursday, July 24, 2014

RESPONDING...OR NOT

Many if not most of us have lived and led through multiple crises, challenges and opportunities over our years of Jewish communal engagement. We are now in the midst of another Terrorists' War on Israel. And, even though that War is on-going and our every thought and prayer is with out Israeli mishpacha, I sense it is an appropriate time to examine how we have responded as a Continental entity...and it hasn't been pretty. Not pretty at all.

  • Solidarity Missions. As we have written, Solidarity Missions have been part of the Continental communal response at times like these wherever Jewish lives have been at risk. At the beginning of the Terrorists' War CEO Silverman was with the Campaign Chairs/Directors Mission in Greece (??!!) and when he arrived in Israel he quickly began to report on his experiences and joined the first JFNA Solidarity Mission in the South where he embarrassed us all with his creation of the "circle of the15 second club." That Solidarity Mission was so small that it was joined by select members of the Campaign Chairs. Steven Donshik is a long-time very respected senior communal professional holding a number of positions with New York UJA-Federation before his retirement. His insights are always well thought-through as was his recent commentary in e-jewishphilanthropy on the Diaspora response to this crisis: 
Sending “solidarity missions” – groups of community leaders who want to demonstrate their support – to Israel is almost a knee-jerk response. Yes, this is an important sign of identification with Israel; however, such missions must be organized and implemented in a respectful and appropriate way. In the week following the incursion into Gaza, a group of American Jewish leaders arrived in Israel and toured the areas that were under missile attack. One key leader was described as wearing a tee-shirt and shorts much like a tourist on vacation would wear. What message did this give both to the Israeli public and to the Israeli politicians, military leaders, and opinion makers that the leadership group met during their few days in the country?
I would speculate that this person would not have worn the same attire when making a site visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina or to New York after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. There is a strong lack of respect evident in the way that some North American Jews rally to support Israel. Coming to the country is not in and of itself sufficient: there has to be a modicum of respect when coming to show solidarity and meet with influential Israelis.
In addition, there is always an expectation among the participants in these solidarity delegations that they will have access to the higher echelon of political and military leaders. Interesting, no? The country is in the middle of a war, and yet people who come from abroad in a desire to support the country still expect to meet with its leaders – those deeply involved in a crisis situation and making life-and-death decisions.
- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israel-war-and-the-diaspora/?utm_source=Thurs+July+24&utm_campaign=Thurs+July+24&utm_medium=email#sthash.6AJPijqn.dpuf

  • "Sending “solidarity missions” – groups of community leaders who want to demonstrate their support – to Israel is almost a knee-jerk response. Yes, this is an important sign of identification with Israel; however, such missions must be organized and implemented in a respectful and appropriate way. In the week following the incursion into Gaza, a group of American Jewish leaders arrived in Israel and toured the areas that were under missile attack. One key leader was described as wearing a tee-shirt and shorts much like a tourist on vacation would wear. What message did this give both to the Israeli public and to the Israeli politicians, military leaders, and opinion makers that the leadership group met during their few days in the country?
  • Steve continued: "I would speculate that this person would not have worn the same attire when making a site visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina or to New York after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. There is a strong lack of respect evident in the way that some North American Jews rally to support Israel. Coming to the country is not in and of itself sufficient: there has to be a modicum of respect when coming to show solidarity and meet with influential Israelis."                              ...What Steve Donshik was referencing was the reality that with institutional memory obliterated, this is one result. It's a sad reality that there is no one on the FRD professional staff or in the office of the CEO at JFNA who knows what the hell he or she is doing under these critical circumstances (or very many others either).
  • And then there is the FRD attendant to the crisis. One would think from the chaotic manner in which JFNA is parsing out information on fund-raising "goals" (while not calling them that) piecemeal -- first $10 million (without explanation as to how this figure was arrived at) then an additional $20 million (with no explanation as to how that figure was arrived at other than to advise the federations that the first $10 million was only a two-week goal, explained after two weeks had passed) and just what ultimately? And, as one observer wrote me in disgust, the purposes for which the funds are being allocated "are contrived" -- i.e., with JNF already committing $3.5 million to the construction of shelters, just where will JFNA allocations deploy our dollars for the same purposes? Or were the 25 staff members of JFNA-Israel out looking for sites? Does War mean, for the first time, that our partners are not being asked for budgets that a real Federation Committee could quickly vet and establish a "campaign goal?" Here are some of the shameful results of the lack of direction coming from our Continental organization:
  • Communities were given a fund raising number based on a $10 million "goal" but without any JFNA instructions that might have aided them in reaching out to donors -- one community with a $315,000 goal quickly raised $356,000; now it will have to go back to its donors; another, as we have written, with a totally inexperienced CEO (but with plenty of national leadership who should have known better) convened its major donors to raise $250,000 against the $10,000,000...now what? 
  • Other federations have not only allocated (with some advancing large dollars against a campaign to come) toward the $10,000,000 but have also allocated and transmitted additional large amounts directly to beneficiaries in Israel. Again, our continental chachams have offered no guidance or discipline. 
  • Here is what has been offered -- as you will read, Silverman/JFNA offers no specificity (other than the two hospitals in the South) whatsoever:  "Following are suggested areas of focus where the Federation system can bring relevant expertise and resources, working with established and new partners on the ground. More detailed information will be forthcoming very shortly on these categoriesor possibly others, based on the research.
    1.       Ongoing trauma counseling - the trauma experienced by very large segments of the Israeli population touches the entire State but is most intensively felt by those in the south. There are tens of thousands living in daily terror, and many will need extensive assistance in returning to their lives when a cease fire occurs.
    2.       Strengthening local communities - Israel has made enormous strides in reinforcing the home front as evidenced in the extraordinary resiliency of the southern cities. The breadth of communities now in range of more frequent rocket attacks and the intensity of attacks have grown.  More communities now need such strengthening, which could include upgrading of shelters, portable shelters, situation rooms, communications equipment, etc.
    3.       Investing in volunteer frameworks that strengthen the resiliency of communities - throughout the South thousands of volunteers - youth, university students, and other young adults are bolstering the work of local communities and NGOs. This has become a widely recognized and critically important facet of Israel's civic response to the war.
    4.       Respite for frontline professionals and volunteers - there are thousands of people - municipal workers, health care and social service workers, and volunteers, many of them traumatized themselves, who are working round the clock for weeks. After the war concludes these individuals will need assistance.
    5.       Emergency preparedness - planning and training for front-line responders.
    6.       Emergency health care - two hospitals in the south - Barzilai in Ashkelon, and Soroka in Beersheva - have borne the brunt of responding to those injured or severely traumatized by the war.  These hospitals also care for the most seriously wounded soldiers.

What we are seeing, at a time that cries out for leadership, is anti-leadership. What is needed, what will be needed, will be far, far more than $30,000,000. There is no national initiative -- just reporting, and, to these old eyes, it appears that our partners have been muzzled -- that JFNA has demanded that neither JAFI, nor the JDC nor World ORT is any longer able to communicate directly to us about its work on the ground. All information must be funneled through the prism of JFNA for distribution -- for otherwise JFNA would be doing nothing.. I hope that I am wrong; but I think I am not.

Friends, it's a mess. At the worst possible time. But, then again, it's JFNA after all...and it's chaos and it's shameful.

Rwexler



- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israel-war-and-the-diaspora/?utm_source=Thurs+July+24&utm_campaign=Thurs+July+24&utm_medium=email#sthash.FkPgJ6Se.dpufSending “solidarity missions” – groups of community leaders who want to demonstrate their support – to Israel is almost a knee-jerk response. Yes, this is an important sign of identification with Israel; however, such missions must be organized and implemented in a respectful and appropriate way. In the week following the incursion into Gaza, a group of American Jewish leaders arrived in Israel and toured the areas that were under missile attack. One key leader was described as wearing a tee-shirt and shorts much like a tourist on vacation would wear. What message did this give both to the Israeli public and to the Israeli politicians, military leaders, and opinion makers that the leadership group met during their few days in the country?
I would speculate that this person would not have worn the same attire when making a site visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina or to New York after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. There is a strong lack of respect evident in the way that some North American Jews rally to support Israel. Coming to the country is not in and of itself sufficient: there has to be a modicum of respect when coming to show solidarity and meet with influential Israelis.
- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israel-war-and-the-diaspora/#sthash.tW8oOs6L.dpuf
Sending “solidarity missions” – groups of community leaders who want to demonstrate their support – to Israel is almost a knee-jerk response. Yes, this is an important sign of identification with Israel; however, such missions must be organized and implemented in a respectful and appropriate way. In the week following the incursion into Gaza, a group of American Jewish leaders arrived in Israel and toured the areas that were under missile attack. One key leader was described as wearing a tee-shirt and shorts much like a tourist on vacation would wear. What message did this give both to the Israeli public and to the Israeli politicians, military leaders, and opinion makers that the leadership group met during their few days in the country?
I would speculate that this person would not have worn the same attire when making a site visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina or to New York after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. There is a strong lack of respect evident in the way that some North American Jews rally to support Israel. Coming to the country is not in and of itself sufficient: there has to be a modicum of respect when coming to show solidarity and meet with influential Israelis.
In addition, there is always an expectation among the participants in these solidarity delegations that they will have access to the higher echelon of political and military leaders. Interesting, no? The country is in the middle of a war, and yet people who come from abroad in a desire to support the country still expect to meet with its leaders – those deeply involved in a crisis situation and making life-and-death decisions.
- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israel-war-and-the-diaspora/?utm_source=Thurs+July+24&utm_campaign=Thurs+July+24&utm_medium=email#sthash.zu88rStw.dpuf
Sending “solidarity missions” – groups of community leaders who want to demonstrate their support – to Israel is almost a knee-jerk response. Yes, this is an important sign of identification with Israel; however, such missions must be organized and implemented in a respectful and appropriate way. In the week following the incursion into Gaza, a group of American Jewish leaders arrived in Israel and toured the areas that were under missile attack. One key leader was described as wearing a tee-shirt and shorts much like a tourist on vacation would wear. What message did this give both to the Israeli public and to the Israeli politicians, military leaders, and opinion makers that the leadership group met during their few days in the country?
I would speculate that this person would not have worn the same attire when making a site visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina or to New York after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. There is a strong lack of respect evident in the way that some North American Jews rally to support Israel. Coming to the country is not in and of itself sufficient: there has to be a modicum of respect when coming to show solidarity and meet with influential Israelis.
In addition, there is always an expectation among the participants in these solidarity delegations that they will have access to the higher echelon of political and military leaders. Interesting, no? The country is in the middle of a war, and yet people who come from abroad in a desire to support the country still expect to meet with its leaders – those deeply involved in a crisis situation and making life-and-death decisions.
- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israel-war-and-the-diaspora/?utm_source=Thurs+July+24&utm_campaign=Thurs+July+24&utm_medium=email#sthash.6AJPijqn.dpuf
Sending “solidarity missions” – groups of community leaders who want to demonstrate their support – to Israel is almost a knee-jerk response. Yes, this is an important sign of identification with Israel; however, such missions must be organized and implemented in a respectful and appropriate way. In the week following the incursion into Gaza, a group of American Jewish leaders arrived in Israel and toured the areas that were under missile attack. One key leader was described as wearing a tee-shirt and shorts much like a tourist on vacation would wear. What message did this give both to the Israeli public and to the Israeli politicians, military leaders, and opinion makers that the leadership group met during their few days in the country?
I would speculate that this person would not have worn the same attire when making a site visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina or to New York after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. There is a strong lack of respect evident in the way that some North American Jews rally to support Israel. Coming to the country is not in and of itself sufficient: there has to be a modicum of respect when coming to show solidarity and meet with influential Israelis.
In addition, there is always an expectation among the participants in these solidarity delegations that they will have access to the higher echelon of political and military leaders. Interesting, no? The country is in the middle of a war, and yet people who come from abroad in a desire to support the country still expect to meet with its leaders – those deeply involved in a crisis situation and making life-and-death decisions.
- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israel-war-and-the-diaspora/?utm_source=Thurs+July+24&utm_campaign=Thurs+July+24&utm_medium=email#sthash.EalkhdmV.dpuf
Sending “solidarity missions” – groups of community leaders who want to demonstrate their support – to Israel is almost a knee-jerk response. Yes, this is an important sign of identification with Israel; however, such missions must be organized and implemented in a respectful and appropriate way. In the week following the incursion into Gaza, a group of American Jewish leaders arrived in Israel and toured the areas that were under missile attack. One key leader was described as wearing a tee-shirt and shorts much like a tourist on vacation would wear. What message did this give both to the Israeli public and to the Israeli politicians, military leaders, and opinion makers that the leadership group met during their few days in the country?
I would speculate that this person would not have worn the same attire when making a site visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina or to New York after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. There is a strong lack of respect evident in the way that some North American Jews rally to support Israel. Coming to the country is not in and of itself sufficient: there has to be a modicum of respect when coming to show solidarity and meet with influential Israelis.
In addition, there is always an expectation among the participants in these solidarity delegations that they will have access to the higher echelon of political and military leaders. Interesting, no? The country is in the middle of a war, and yet people who come from abroad in a desire to support the country still expect to meet with its leaders – those deeply involved in a crisis situation and making life-and-death decisions.
- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israel-war-and-the-diaspora/?utm_source=Thurs+July+24&utm_campaign=Thurs+July+24&utm_medium=email#sthash.EalkhdmV.dpuf

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

ALLOCATIONS...WITHOUT MONEY

We raised the question on these pages as to how much the JFNA Ukraine Emergency Allocations Committee had available to it and how much had been allotted and to whom. Of course, we never were advised of those amounts from JFNA. But here's what we have learned: 

Allocations:

     o $500,000 was directed to JDC for expanded social services to Ukraine’s most vulnerable
   o $225,000 to JAFI for enhanced security needs on the ground including security for JAFI sites, JDC sites, Jewish schools, synagogues, community centers, etc.
   o $25,000 to World ORT for security enhancements at their schools in Ukraine

So the questions are: from where, and how much has JFNA collected and distributed? There have yet to be any answers. Do the Co-Chairs of the "effort" (that's a terrible word for what JFNA has done here inasmuch as there has been no "effort" at all) even know?

And, the answer is: who knows? Though some argued that there should be a continental goal, and there had been talk of raising $1 million, and communities were asked to "raise" their Fair Share of $1 million (in a letter, of course) in a non-bonding sort of way, never was there a debate, a vote or anything close. Why? Because that might look like a "campaign" -- and, well, JFNA just doesn't do "campaigns." Not under this leadership, anyway. 

Thus, some communities just opened mailboxes. Whatever they collected, they sent on to JFNA. Others pre-committed and then engaged in a quiet fund-raising effort with no specificity as to how funds would be allocated other than "Ukraine." Other federations received the original letter from JFNA, awaited "further instructions," and receiving none did their own allocations in frustration. (It should be noted that JFNA did convene at least ttwo conference calls but it is unclear whether those were updates on the crisis or further information on funding.

Then there is today the even more ambitious and critical "Israel Emergency Fund" in which the federations were asked to participate in a $10 million initial "funding" to meet our partners emergency needs during the Terrorists' War on Israel. One may fairly ask: where did the $10 million amount come from -- out of the blue? Out of a desperate desire to be "in the game," JFNA and the federation leaders who dictated this amount just "low-balled" the needs without regard for the fund raising consequences. Just two weeks later, it has become even more clear that the Terrorists' War on Israel has created needs even greater than those of the Israel Emergency Campaign -- one that raised over $350 million just six years ago. JFNA has "allocated" $5 million of its $10 million "non-campaign." How much has actually been raised and collected by JFNA; we are not to know.

And today, JFNA is just a collection and allocations agent neither raising any of the critical funds nor executing any on the ground work with our Israeli extended family (pardon me, other than the Jerry and Becky daily story hours). Every one of us knows that when a body that raises no dollars engages only in allocating them, it is allocations in a vacuum -- it just doesn't work...and JFNA has proved it. It appointed an Allocations Committee, as it always does, but it has no clue how much has been raised other than as dollars literally dribble in from the communities. There is no FRD effort, no collections effort...no effort at all. And a goal so temporary, so ethereal as to be meaningless.

Friends, there can be no one...that's no one...except maybe those in the Clown Car, who believed that $10,000,000 would satisfy the emergency needs -- all one needed to look at was the extent of the effort during the Israel Emergency Campaign. Yet, JFNA failed completely to (a) explain to the federations that $10,000,000 was not a "goal," it was an interim need; and (b) the time frame in which JFNA would return to the federations with a real estimate of the needs on the ground. Thus, federations that knew no better and some that did went out to their donors as if their allotted share of $10,000,000 was the extent of it -- while JFNA twiddled its thumbs. Can we give this organization some adult supervision and new leadership? 

And, now, JFNA  has embarked on its efforts to raise the required $30,000,000 to fund two Global "Signature Initiatives." Are you kidding me?

Rwexler

Monday, July 21, 2014

WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

You have lived in your federated community for years, You have served as Board Chair, or Campaign Chair or as a major donor but no longer. Yours is not a federation like Chicago or even Boston or Miami where, no matter the results of campaigns or allocations, you and your fellow "retirees" have neither influence or power. No, you are in a community where the men and women who are the "elders" (even as some are relatively young) ar respected for having built the community and the federation serves as the central Jewish address because of what you, collectively and historically, constructed over the decades. 

Now, quite suddenly, you and the others see that all that you have built is being destroyed by a small leadership cadre that neither understands nor appreciates federation, neither understands nor appreciates the sacred trust embodied in collective responsibility. The same thing that had taken 20 years to destroy the federation's value in Boston and San Francisco has happened in your hometown in but a single allocations cycle. Your community is unique -- the power rests with you, the Past Chairs, the major donors, not with the current so-called "leadership" that has brought your community to this day.

If you join as one, you can bring the community together; you can restore the pride, the values, the principles that once were but are today nothing more than lip service, a value system torn to shreds. There is unnanimity amog you, the builders, that what has happened over the past weeks will, immediately or over time, rend the very fabric of community. Build on that unity of feeling, and take back the community from those who neither understand the concept of Jewish community nor its meaning. But do it now; then lead us Continentally by dint of your example.

Please.

Rwexler






Saturday, July 19, 2014

ISRAEL'S CIVIL SOCIETY AND JFNA

The Global Planning Table has established two "Signature Initiatives" -- JQuest and the Israel Children's Zone -- neither of which has been funded anywhere approaching the minimum condition precedent of 10 federations $1.5 million each ($500,000 per year for 3 years). Add to those two a so-called "Voluntary Project" (aren't the other two as well) among a "coalition of the willing" with the GPT acronym iRep -- the Israel Religious Expressions Platform -- I am not making this up. The focus of this Initiative will be on civil marriage in Israel.

This is a noble theme, one that resonates with many Jews worldwide, but one may question why it would rise to the level of JFNA involvement when JFNA has already walked away from its interest in advocacy for equitable treatment of non-Orthodox (with a focus on women) wishing to pray at the Kotel and its periodic pique with conversion legislation as that subject periodically appears on the Knesset agenda (even as this is written). 

I am just guessing here, but my intuition informs me that iRep is nothing more than a Global Planning Table response to one or more donors to whom it couldn't just say "no" or "now is not the time." (Or, maybe someone thought, "Wow, is this going to be great!!") After all, each time JFNA has dipped its toes into the waters of Israel's civil society, it has come away declaring victory much like former President W declared "victory" in Iraq. You remember that CEO What-The-Hell-Is-This? found himself in Jerusalem when two and 1/2 or 3 years ago, the "Who Is A Jew" issue arose in the Knesset, as it has again this month, and Jerry being totally unaware of the existence of a "playbook" somewhere in the files on how to deal with this issue, spun like a top in the halls of the Knesset and with the few federation leaders also there, declared, what else, "victory." It wasn't.

Then there were the issues that arose in Beit Shemesh where women were assigned to segregated seating on public buses and subjected to abuse for their dress, etc. JFNA? Roused to a strong letter to the Prime Minister. Then...nothing.

And, last November, during the Jerusalem GA, when 1200 people, mostly strays, marched to the Kotel to join Women of the Wall in protest at the gender inequality at the Wall. This was "celebrated" by CEO "We-Had-1200-Marchers" as, what else, "a great success." Then...nothing.

Now, the Global Planning Table will focus an effort, no doubt underfunded, to support civil marriage in Israel. I have no doubt that this effort, along with the other two "Signature Initiatives" about which we have reported, are designed to, as GPT Chair Butler described it "...identify and excite the donor base, expand the campaign, increase dollars to support JFNA activities, and work with federations who share similar interests." So far, all I see is the running of ideas up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes in the hope that something will actually come of them,,,AND that JFNA will gain budget relief from this programmatic funding. Never mind that JFNA lacks any expertise in any of the areas of "Signature Initiatives" or this iRep -- not even the capacity to monitor and evaluate others' work.

We all remember that in advance of last year's desultory GA Chair Siegal and CEO Jerry gave interviews to the Jewish media announcing the further brilliant concept of a $1 billion Special Campaign to provide a free Jewish pre- and day school education to all. They did so without any discussion with (a) the federations or (b) Jewish educators -- not that they couldn't, they just didn't. And, so it is with iRep -- already Mizrachi has gone public with its criticism -- no prior discussion except among the brilliant minds around the Global Planning Table...not with the religious movements, not with the Government of Israel, the Jewish Agency...

Is there not enough to do in North America? Isn't it time to call a halt to the inanity that the Global Planning Table has always been after a waste of unaccounted millions and before the waste of millions more?

Rwexler


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

UPDATES

Things continue down the merry path to disaster from the do-nothing but write a whole lot JFNA. Examples?

1. Last month the JFNA Board Chair, speaking for all, sent a letter  (oh, wait, it was a Statement)  of congratulations to Shimon Peres on receiving the Congressional Gold Medal and the Lantos Human Rights Prize. It was nice.

2. That letter Statement was preceded by an angry letter from JFNA to the Prime Minister decrying the transfer of aliyah exclusivity from the Jewish Agency to a new company controlled by the Government Minister of Immigration which was followed by a back-pedaling from CEO Never-Mind, in which he effectively apologized for criticizing the Government takeover even though nothing had changed from Government plan. It appears that CEO Maybe-I'm-George-Romney was somehow "brain-washed" in Israel.

3. And, you remember the JFNA letter to the Prime Minister demanding access to the Kotel by Women of the Wall? JFNA has moved on -- now, thanks to the brilliant "non-planning" by the Global Non-Planning Table JFNA has turned its lack of attention (it has an institutional attention deficit disorder, you know) to, marriage in Israel. Shiny objects, you know? 

4. On June 19, Board Chair Siegal sent us a letter warning us that despite the great work of the Israel Action Network, the Presbyterian Church USA would "likely" vote to divest its investments in specific companies doing business in Israel. When Geri Palast, the "Managing Director" (oh, the titles, the titles) of the IAN (are we the best creators of acronyms in history), wrote a letter seemingly only moments later to advise us of our "sadness" that PCUSA had voted to divest one could only ask "why the Siegal 'preview'"?)

Yes, at JFNA letters and statements are the Emperor's New Clothes, to make us think something is actually being done.

Yet, every once in a while, there is also a moment of clarity, even excellence -- even in a letter:
"
The Jewish Federations of North America - The Strength of a People. The Power of Community.
A Message from Jerry Silverman: Bring Back Our Boys

"Dear Friends,

This week, a delegation of JFNA leaders had the unique opportunity to represent Jewish Federations in Israel. While our agenda was full, the most memorable part of our trip was the time we spent with the families of the three kidnapped boys, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. We talked, hugged and shared thoughts with the boys' mothers and fathers, assuring them that throughout this ordeal, they are not alone.

This horrible event hangs like a cloud over all of Israel – and the entire Jewish world – as we worry about these three teens. During our visit, our delegation listened while, one by one, members of the Knesset expressed their deep resolve to support the IDF’s effort to find our sons. We also joined the Israel European Congress’ session as they spoke with the boys’ mothers and offered the love and support of Jews around the world.

We then had the opportunity to spend time with the families in a more intimate setting. They shared their deep appreciation of our support and were very much aware of all the vigils and activities taking place throughout North America. The families were humbled by the response of our communities, regardless of affiliation or religious stream, and inspired by our efforts.

They asked us, as representatives of the Jewish Federations, for two things:

1. That we continue to come together and pray for their boys to come home safely. We must let it be known in our communities that this crime will not be tolerated; and,
2. That we reach out to the influencers in our communities and in Washington, D.C. to continue to put pressure on those responsible. 

As Dede Feinberg, Executive Committee chair, said to the families, “I am a mother, and I cannot fathom the pain you are feeling. However, know you are not alone, and won’t be alone, until they are home.”

Upon our return from Israel, we learned that President Obama began his conversation with Israeli President Shimon Peres by offering his prayers and support for these boys and pledging to do whatever possible to help bring them home. I speak for everyone at Jewish Federations when I offer a heartfelt thank you to President Obama for prioritizing this issue and continuing to put forth pressure to bring these teens home.

As Federations, we have a responsibility to continue to advocate for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali at every gathering, and to encourage our respective agencies, congregations, JCCs, camps and all Jewish organizations to do the same. This is our family and they are our boys. We pray that they come home safe and very soon, b'ezrat Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom,
Jerry Silverman
President and Chief Executive Officer, JFNA"
Beautiful.

Rwexler

Sunday, July 13, 2014

JUST A CONTINUING EMBARRASSMENT --THE "CIRCLE OF THE 15 SECOND CLUB"

Perhaps I am just tired -- like all of us, I wish there were more that I could do for our extended mishpacha in Israel at this trying time. We are on the phone constantly, we worry and we pray. Can't sleep. I, like you, want our leaders to represent us in large numbers expressing our solidarity.

Then, this comes from very hand that is supposed to guide and lead us, Jerry's:
Day 6: Update on Operation Protective Edge and Federation Response
July 13, 2014
Dear Friends,

This morning I traveled to Sderot with a small delegation of leaders from our Campaign Chairs and Directors Mission to meet with and hear from local residents and leadership. The city is tense and few people are out and about. Everyone is keeping close to their bomb shelters ever mindful of the 15 second rule – that’s how much time you have to get to safety. We’ve already had to make that unnerving dash to the shelters. 
                     
In our meeting with Alon Davidi, the Mayor of Sderot, we expressed the absolute solidarity and support of the Federations and the entire North American Jewish community support with him and his city.

And, it is good that those who will lead our Campaigns are there. But, from the hand that shimmied with the Harlem Shake came this gem of gems in the same Update:

Later today, a solidarity mission of senior federation leadership will arrive in Israel. They too will come in to the circle of the 15 second club when we head south. (emphasis added)

Readers, my friends and those who hate this Blog, haven't we all had enough of this insipidity? As if those who will head South for a briefing, for Solidarity, for comforting our People, are joining "...the circle of the 15 second club?" So stupid; so trivializing; so demeaning of what our brothers and sisters, our parents and grandparents, our children and grandchildren, our friends are going through 24/7 and have gone through year-after-year.

Will there be Tee Shirts? Will there be big buttons -- "I am in the circle of the 15 second club?" How long do we put up with this...crap? Shame, shame, shame, shame...on all of us.

Rwexler



THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY -- LOOKING GOOD!!

In an unfortunate example of blatant opportunism, immediately after receiving a copy of the JFNA Executive Committee call for a "voluntary campaign" to raise $10,000,000 to assist our Israeli family during the terrorists' barrage, we received the "roll-out" of the preliminary GA Program. And the Program looks excellent -- for the first time in years. Terrific speakers, including Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Elana Kagan and with Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell, a liberal's "dream team" at a time of a rejection of liberalism by so many in the communities, thoughtful and relevant break-outs; a relatively good bang for the buck of the early Registration Fee of $499.

There is still the issue of location -- a $64 taxi ride (roundtrip) to D.C./Georgetown (or a $14 Water taxi one-way + a taxi to where you might really want to be). I am going to stop kvetching about the choice of a headquarters Convention Hotel -- just go to Trip Advisor, read the reviews at  http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60925-d678239-Reviews-Gaylord_National_Resort_Convention_Center-Oxon_Hill_Maryland.html
and decide for yourselves. Suffice it to say, this may be the first instance where a neighboring Residence Inn gets higher marks. Just settle in at National Harbor, somewhere south of Alexandria and enjoy the General Assembly; you will get to the District by bus for some "special evening" (or maybe not at all).

Here is the problem. All the fine pre-planning may be in vain if the crises Israel faces and those our Israeli partners face compounded by the costs, physical and emotional, to our Israeli mishpacha, require, as was done at the Los Angeles GA just a few years ago, a total refocus of the GA. Inasmuch as someone at JFNA believed it appropriate to hype GA attendance on the very backs of our Israeli family at a time of incredible pain and crisis, maybe they know that a refocus will/may be necessary. Let's hope that these JFNA leaders are up to it and that the GA Co-Chairs, Gail Norry and Howard Friedman, demand it.

So far, so good.

Rwexler