Friday, November 15, 2019


Caroline Glick, right-wing Israeli columnist and, recently, defeated candidate for the Knesset, returned to her role as pundit after that dip in the waters of Israeli politics. Her op-eds are totally supportive of Donald Trump and constantly mine the depths of her hatred for  anything to her left and, in particular, American Jews who fail to share her views.

Most recently Glick published Trump, Israel and the Democratic Crackup in JNS:  https// I recommend reading that screed only because it exemplifies Ms. Glick's habit of building her arguments on false pretenses. 

Any analysis of this screed must start, as Ms. Glick did, with her false premise -- that way back in 2000 "...the Democrats refused to accept the election results in Florida that gave George W, Bush his victory..." Without a scintilla of evidence, without a single fact, the author concludes that that 2000 election marked the beginning of what she describes as the "radicalization" of the Democratic Party.

Building on this misstatement, Glick jumps directly to 2016 concluding that as the Democrats refused to accept the 2000 election results, so they have attempted to overturn the results of Trump's election and, as in the current GOP "talking points," the purpose of  today's impeachment inquiry " to nullify Trump's presidency by, among other things, deligitimizing and dehumanizing Trump, his family, associates and supporters." Not a fact is placed in evidence.

These misstatements continue for pages. Read them for yourself. Perhaps Ms. Glick was using this column is more than a fact-free version of purported "truth;" maybe it was intended as a job application for Fox News. Maybe an Israeli version of Jeanine Pirro or Katrina Pierson. 

Wishing her every success.


Sunday, November 10, 2019


So much that makes one scratch your head. For example...

~ A Friend of the Blog sent me this one: "Did you know that there are 8.5 million cats in Israel -- that's almost one cat for every person! If you're a fan of felines, show your love by sharing your favorite cat photo here. #National Cat Day #Meow."
And, just where did this inanity appear? You probably guessed it: It was a JFNA Facebook Post. There are no words. 
~  I am certain that some of you share what I would describe as my own anger with regard to Bernie Sanders speech to the J Street Conference. The condemnation of Israel from someone who has used the fact of his birth, that being born Jewish, to cloak himself with the right to unconditionally condemn the Jewish State without consequences and, perhaps, some sort of political advantage. Actually, Sanders' outburst at J Street fell in the category of "who can condemn Israel the most?"
While I often find myself in disagreement with Jonathan Tobin's editorial in JNS; I absolutely agree with him that Sanders' diatribe was worthy of only one thing -- scorn.
 No one should be surprised that Sanders has shown his this most anti-Israel way. Nor should anyone be surprised that Bernie's attacks on Israel as "racist," on American military and foreign aid to Israel, and on the Israeli Prime Minister drew huge ovations from the J Street crowd -- it was, after all, the J Street crowd.
Rabbi Amiel Hirsch said it best: “The Democratic Party is increasingly tolerant of voices that are opposed to Israel’s existence.”
~ As we are reminded from time-to-time, JFNA's ersatz GA, this time titled FedLab will soon convene "by Invitation only." While the Lab appears to be dedicated to in-depth exploration of Total Financial Resource Development and "Powering Your Philanthropic Networks," it is hard to see the inherent return on investment from this Lab inasmuch as the the scholars and presenters remain unknown as I write this -- it appears that this is one of those "trust us" things. So I'm guessing that the presenters and speakers -- consultants in the main -- will be the same as those who appear at all JFNA FRD things. 
BTW, JFNA continues to promote the Lab as "by invitation only," and that may be true even as the organization appears to have invited anyone and every one. 
So, won't see you in D.C. but I'm anxious to learn the outcomes from this 3-day event...if any.


Tuesday, November 5, 2019


I hope that JFNA CEO Eric Fingerhut will take a careful look at JFNA -- Israel and Overseas or JFNA -- Global Operations or whatever the hell that black hole is called at the moment. Ineptitude and hyperbole just slap you in the face like wet towels every time you look at the thing. I.m relatively confident that Eric will be able stop the bleeding from this Jerusalem hideaway if he chooses to do so.

And what has caused this outburst this time? In time for the October JFNA Board Meeting, the Desk of Rebecca Caspi produced what is now the monthly I&O Top Five (for October [on the 24th thereof]). And, there, as the number one thing (for October) something called #FedProud in the Negev. 

Here's the thing. JFNA's work in the Negev has been both minimal and fine. The problem: JFNA raised little or no money to support its work in the Negev; yet, the JFNA Negev Now Initiative had $2.5 million to spend -- how does that happen? Just as the organization funded its most recent education initiative with funds effectively stolen from the national agencies, the funding for its Negev activities were taken directly from the 2014 Operation Protective Edge campaign receipts ignoring the fact that those funds were raised to directly benefit the Victims of the Terrorists' War. 

And, now, just weeks ago, JFNA announced:

"Federation's Negev Now Initiative concludes after five years of building and supporting a more vital and attractive Negev."
Really, "concludes?" The needs have been met? Or is this just the reality that the Victims' Fund, raided for Negev Now, has been exhausted and JFNA hasn't the ability to raise any money at all? In the past months I have become engaged in the JNF-USA's vital work in the Negev, committing tens of millions of dollars in the most vital work in the Gaza Envelope, in Aleh Negev, in community building and People building. The leaders of JNF are fully aware that its work in the Negev, so vital to Israel's future and present is not over -- it's just begun. 

Only for JFNA is it "over."

I really don't get it. The JFNA Negev Now Committee is/was populated with a group of terrific lay leaders. The federation professionals are/were first rate. And JFNA-Israel provided four professionals and a consultant. Over the few years of its existence Negev Now engaged in something called "placemaking" --
"Placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces...that promote residents' health, happoiness and well-being."
Got it? "Public placemaking." One has to wonder if these programs were desigigned to satisfy local leadership or to truly aid the victims of "Stop the Sirens?"

The apparently in forever...Report on Negev Now wraps the work in a kind of verisimilitude -- and that's a good thing, like qa bandage on a gaping wound is a good thing.

JFNA has declared victory and moved on. "FedProud??"


Friday, November 1, 2019


Friends, every so often I become obsessed with how the "system" selects its lay leaders -- obsessed with the question: should national or international organizations restrict their key lay leadership to those women and men who come from communities which have demonstrated over time their significant financial support of the appointing organizations?  

This is not a new question for me; it's one I've grappled with literally for decades. I don't if it was the first time, but I do remember a call I received from a terrific leader who told me: "Richard, I think you'll be happy to learn that I was just appointed the Chair of Federation Advocacy by UIA." Now, this lay leader is and was one of the most articulate leaders that I have known; a brilliant marketer. I responded: "You know, you would be fantastic except you come from a community that has been cutting its allocation to UIA for the Jewish Agency by huge percentages -- if you came to my community, you would not be considered the best spokesperson." This wasn't the last time I was asked a similar question by brilliant and generous leaders from communities whose allocations to the organizations these leaders had been asked to lead were horrifically low.

Is it appropriate, for example, that a wonderful philanthropist be denied an important leadership role in JAFI or the JDC because the community (in which they also played key roles, often the highest lay positions) are allocating less than 10% to JAFI or JDC? Or. would these national or international organizations be ill-served when represented by folks, their personal philanthropy notwithstanding, whose communities are not true financial partners in the work of the organizations these people would lead?

My point? If Leader A cannot inspire her/his own community to allocate what all of us would call a partnership commitment to, let's say the Jewish Agency, how will Leader A inspire anyone else to do what is right? I think we could all intuit the answer to that narrow question. But, we would not all reach a similar conclusion to the the question of whether generous leaders should be disqualified from leadership positions because they come from underperforming communities?

And, how do I know we would not all agree on an answer? I look around and discover that many national and international organizations' key leadership positions are filled without regard for their communities' organizational support. Some of us are blessed to come from the Chicago's, Cleveland's, Baltimore's and MetroWest's and more; others, not so much. 

As in so much in organized Jewish life, I wish there were easy answers to even the easiest questions.

There aren't.


Monday, October 28, 2019


The JFNA annual Federation overseas cash allocations report has become an annual report of failure -- failure begetting failure. And, like clockwork, the JFNA projection for 2019 cash is the worst...ever.

For 2019, the sad, sad totals are projected as follows:

          JAFI -- $74.3
           JDC -- $30.0
           ORT -- $ 2.1
Friends, these are not misprints -- these totals are the lowest...ever. Reflect on this: if the aggregate federation annual campaigns are at $983 million (+/-) these allocations have fallen to a little over 11%. These percentages and the actual dollars are an insult to these agencies which are our agents and which we really no longer adequately sup[port.

The system, if there still is one, is guilty of criminal neglect. Over the last two years alone, the allocations to JAFI have fallen by close to $15,000,000 -- a percentage drop of 17% -- while JDC's total over the same period -- mirabile dictu -- was flat (and actually increased minimally in 2019 from 2018).

You may recall that, rather than accepting its responsibilities for advocacy on behalf of JAFI/JDC/ORT, JFNA's Board voted, as part of its "reorganization" of UIA, to abjure -- to walk away -- from its sacred obligation for advocacy for the core budgets of the overseas partners, resolving to "let JAFI and JDC advocate for themselves." "Not our problem" has morphed from "never our problem." JFNA fled from its advocacy obligations like rainwater rushung toward a sewer.

Failure is truly an orphan. This is nothing new. Recognizing that JFNA was unwilling to engage in serious advocacy dating back to 2004 (if not earlier), when I was serving as the Chair of the Jewish Agency North America, I met with JDC's lay and professional leaders to propose a serious partnership for overseas advocacy. The Joint's leaders -- terrific women and men totally committed to JDC -- and I had serious conversations that ended with JDC determining that it would continue to hold JFNA responsible for advocacy. As they said in Pretty Woman -- mistake; bad mistake, really big mistake.

I remember well the hope that leadership had at the time of the merger two decades ago -- one of the bedrock assumptions in the merger book was that the emerging organization, now JFNA, would result in more dollars for the core budgets of the overseas partners. An entire evaluation process was designed for determining the priorities...and to support them. And, then, there was nothing./////


Monday, October 21, 2019


I can't tell you how many times I have visited Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry -- for a decade we lived in Hyde Park just blocks from the Museum and were there so often with our children; then later in life, our grandchildren. I remember as a teenager being there when the U-505 German submarine was floated across Lake Michigan, then across South Shore Drive to become a permanent exhibit. And, while in law school, I worked mornings for an urban planning firm whose offices were in the bowels of the Museum. 

Bottom line, I love the Museum as does anyone who has ever visited there. I assume that includes a large number of you.

So, I was struck by a Chicago Tribune article Museum of Science and Industry to get new name...It seems that Kenneth Griffin, co-founder of the amazingly successful hedge-fund Citadel, and one of the great philanthropists, whose Charitable Fund had already distributed over $1 billion to charities, had pledged $125 million to the Museum which change its name to the Kenneth C. Griffin Museum of Science and Industry.

One correspondent to Crain's Chicago Business put it succinctly:
"Leave museum's name alone Kudos to Ken Griffin for donating so generously to such a worthy and important institution...But the name change is just wrong. Name a wing after him. Heck, put a bug statue of him out front, but the museum name should be unchanged.
If Julius Rosenwald -- whose name should be plastered all over this city for the great public work he did -- didn't need his name on it when he helped create it, Griffin doesn't need his for helping to keep it going for another 100 years." (italics added)
The original Museum structure was the Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. The Museum was initially endowed by the father of Chicago Jewish philanthropy, Julius Rosenwald who who pledged $3 million and also recruited the Commercial Club of Chicago for further financial support supplementing municipal bond funds. Rosenwald refused offers to have the Museum named for him even as the public often called it the Rosenwald Industrial Museum.

Of interest, the Apollo 8 spacecraft is housed in Henry Crown Space Center, named for the patriarch of the Crown Family, models of generosity and philanthropy worldwide. And, there is now a Rosenwald Room, which would no doubt infuriate Julius Rosenwald were he still with us.

Griffin's incredible gift may have been conditioned on the Museum's renaming. For a $135 million gift, certainly Ken Griffin purchased the naming rights -- if he didn't ask for them, the Museum was wise to offer the honor. 

Rosenwald continues to inspire Jewish and secular philanthropy in Chicago. Griffin's modern philanthropy likewise. When I next visit the Museum with my grandchildren, I will remember Julius Rosenwald no matter the naming.


Thursday, October 17, 2019


Chag Sukkot Sameach.

A curious Forward Op-Ed has been circulating recently -- -- in certain circles this thing has gained a certain enthusiastic support. It seems that the author has also written such drivel as Give Trump the Benefit of the Doubt, You Give It to Democrats All the Time and No, Orthodox Jews Are Not White Supremacists -- and Neither is Trump. I think you can pretty much deduce this guy's political leanings. In fact, uf I might speculate for a moment, I'm guessing that those who endorse the "stop preaching politics" plea would not object to preaching politics if the message was supportive of President Trump -- just a guess.

You can link to the Op-Ed if you wish but you can probably also deduce the author's slant, can't you? He wants all Rabbis who might espouse positions that he opposes should just stop it. You see, the author has identified these...these Reform Rabbis.  If you follow his "reasoning," you have to conclude, as did this guy "that anyone who doesn't share their politics has no place in their congregation." This, of course, is specious. 

I love it when my Rabbis challenge me with their opinions; I would hope that most congregational Jews do, Reformed, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstruction, it should make no difference. The topics may range from religious practice to social justice even what some might characterize as "political." 

But the opinions expressed in the Op-Ed are those of the Managing Director, the Coalition for Jewish Values, Rabbi Yaakov Menken. If you visit this Coalition's website you will find that the CJV (yes, so important that it can self-identify as an acronym):
"... begins from the premise that something can be called an authentic Jewish value only if it is rooted in Biblical and Rabbinic teachings through millennia of Jewish history. Neither spurious references to “Tikkun Olam” nor the use of Biblical verses plucked out of context transform personal views into Jewish tenets."
Wow!! If this be a statement of "Jewish values," I have wholly failed to practice them my whole life. And if you read the position statements of the CJV you will find their version of "values" to be anything done or articulated by President Trump...anything and everything.

And, you should know that Rabbi Menken, who appears to not be a pulpit, congregational Rabbi, has done some important work in Jewish outreach and Torah teaching. I will leave it to you whether to include the CJV in any list of the esteemed Rabbi's achievements.

Now I think that the "over 1,000 Rabbis" (unnamed) whom CJV claims that it represents are entitled to their opinions and they should be free to express them through the organization or from their pulpits (if they have them).

Yes, these unidentified Rabbis should express their opinions freely, just don't try to shut up Rabbis with whom they disagree.


Thursday, October 10, 2019


Just a few years ago, the Jewish Agency for Israel amended its governance documents to, among so many other things, enacted term limits for the first time in its history. A year or so later, one prominent philanthropist among many Board members received a letter from the Board Chair advising him/her that his/her service on the Board (and, as it happened, on the JAFI Executive). That leader accepted that he/she would no longer serve on the Board but demanded that his/her service on the JAFI Executive continue -- apparently forever. So it came to pass, that, a few weeks later, the Secretary General sent this leader a letter confirming that his/her service on JAFI's most important deliberative body would continue -- the letter expressly stated, without any legal basis, that service on the Executive was in personam.

I liked that rationale very much and, so, inasmuch as I, too, had been cast off because of Term limits from the JAFI  Board and Executive, I wrote the Secretary General asserting that I, too, would continue to sit on the Executive. No, the Secretary General wrote back essentially stating: that this other leader was special, you're not. I couldn't disagree with that excellent legal argument.

I merely note that Term Limits at JAFI appear to apply only to North American Board members -- my friends from Keren Ha'Yesod, among them so many exceptional leaders,  continue to serve on the JAFI Board in perpetuity it appears. (I could also note that KH is raising/allocating almost no significant funds for JAFI but given the dismal state of federation allocations to the Agency, that probably wouldn't be fair -- accurate, yes, but unfair.) 

I suppose that were Board service to include a sense of obligation to the organization rather than to personal aspiration or to fealty to those lay and professional leaders in power, I might feel differently about Term limits. But, what we have seen, in too many places, is the opposite -- those who know better doing their worst in pursuit of ingratiation with the powers that be or in pursuit of higher office or in the desire to be seen as a "team player." "Team player" in this context means responding to a leadership demand to "jump" with a "how high?" response.

For an exc ellent discussion of Term Limits, see:

And, it's not just lay leaders who ought to debate their own Term Limits; they should be debating chief professional term limits as well. From 45 years of practicing zoning law, I came to the conclusions that municipal professionals should be limited to five years of consecutive service after which they should be required to take a one year hiatus to work for those who require municipal approvals. What they would learn!! (Of course these musings were going on only in my head.) 

I, as you, recognize that non-profit professionals represent organizational continuity, as they should, But this reality should not restrict constant evaluation at the very least, and annual Board-adopted goal statements against which that continuity must be measured.

My great respect for non-profit professionals notwithstanding, I have seen what can happen when some -- a relative handful to be sure -- have been in place for what turned out to be too long. I remember way back when visiting a community with a long, long serving CEO. I met with the lay leadership and when I told them of $100s of thousands in unpaid allocations, they were shocked, knew nothing about it. Then, just last year the St. Paul federation board members were unaware of a similar unpaid debt to JAFI and JDC hidden from the laity by a CEO who had recently retired. Over the last decade, some local communal agencies in New York City -- most notoriously, FEGS -- discovered huge losses were likewise occasioned by long-time professional "leaders" and Boards failing in their agency oversight responsibilities.

in this season of introspection, Term Limits should be a discussion among all non-profits. 

It won't be.


Sunday, October 6, 2019


On September 23, Chicago's Crain's Chicago Business headlined Rabbi accused of defrauding Holocaust survivor, other investors, settles Ponzi scheme charges. This Rabbi settled claims that he and a business partner has "...operated a Ponzi scheme that triggered a $145 million default. It turns out, as Crain's reported, this Rabbi and his associates were still negotiating the amount of their restitution and civil penalties.

The fact that this Ponzi scheme blew up, that at least one Holocaust survivor was among the victims along with countless others, is reprehensible. More so was this quote attributable to the Rabbi's attorney with regard to the settlement of two civil suits:
"It was the right thing to do. In the Jewish Orthodox community, that's what we aim for...There's a higher authority that needs to be answered."
Leave one speechless, doesn't it?


Wednesday, October 2, 2019


Sometimes one has to just scratch one's head (or bang it against wall or tabletop) in wonder, amazement and shame. Our Post on New York UJA's choice of Japan as a Mission venue -- HUH? -- where participants can experience "the impact of (New York) UJA's global work" inspired a number of incisive Comments that, if you haven't, are must reading. 

One of you, under what I assumed was a nom de plume, shared a Shmuely Botech op-ed questioning why Keren Ha'Yesod was honoring Vladimir Putin. An excellent question. Boteach apparently did not realize that this Mission was, in fact, the historic ILR -- the International Leadership Reunion -- a "joint effort" of KH and the Jewish Federations of North America to bring together the mega-donors to our communal efforts world-wide. See, The ILR was originated decades ago under the sponsorship of the United Jewish Appeal and KH and held every few years. 

Honoring Putin, the Russian "President"/dictator who supports Iran and Syria among other outlaw nations and undeniably doirected interference in not just the 2016 election here and in countless other countries as well, is understandable only if the Jewish leadership of Russia let it be known that "this will help us." Better yet, the ILR needed to be in Israel where these most major donors might have had a positive and direct impact on Israel-Diaspora relations.

Honoring Putin at a major Jewish event reminded me of an almost catastrophic mistake shortly after the merger that created what is now JFNA. (I cannot remember the exact event, but it might have been planned for an ILR as well.) The first JFNA Chair of the Executive, with no other lay input, Joel Tauber decided it would put JFNA "on the map" if it presented -- wait for it...Yasser Arafat -- with some kind of international award. So it came to pass that Arafat would receive the Isaiah Award -- an award either created for this event or one given before to Ben Gurion and Rabin. There was no process, no consultation. The JFNA Executive Chair was ready to head to Europe with speech and award in hand. But, before the hand-off could occur, someone leaked the planned event to, as I recall, the Boston Free Beacon -- contemporaneous discussions suggested that the leak was from the PLO or a JFNA professional. The resulting hew and cry was too much -- the event was canceled.

This thing had two impacts: (1) JFNA developed criteria for honorees and a process for selecting them (I know because I was tasked with drafting both) and (2) Kroll & Associates was hired by JFNA to identify the whistle blower, assuming that it was someone inside JFNA.

19 years later and nothing has changed...nothing at all.