Thursday, December 8, 2016


1. Well, you can't say that this isn't cynically opportunistic. JTA reported yesterday that the Conference of Presidents planned to hold its annual (is it really "annual"?) Chanukah party at the Washington D.C. Trump International Hotel.

For some reason the festivities would be co-hosted by The Embassy of Azerbaijan and Malcolm Hoenlein stated that the room had been let by the Azerbaijanis (apparently with neither the knowledge of or protest from Hoenlein -- remember, the CPMAJO is a Co-Host). By December 7, 8 members of the Conference had announced they would not attend and protested that the venue was inappropriate. My favorite quote from the JTA article was attributed to Malcolm: “You think that Trump knows who rents a room in his hotel and that influences how we represent to him?” Well, duh...yes.

And, will JFNA representatives attend? HaHaHa.

2. Laughable attribution. In the immediate aftermath of the horrific fires that struck Israel at the end of November the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston stepped forward to provide direct aid to victims in their Partnership City of Haifa, the Chicago Federation immediately advanced $500,000 in aid through JAFI and JDC. Here's how The Jerusalem Post reported it:
 "The grants were made possible by special contributions from the Jewish Federations of North America, led by the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago and the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston, as well from Keren Hayesod-UIA and other donors. Grantees are being identified via local municipalities in coordination with the National Emergency Authority."
If one just read the story, one would conclude that JFNA actually did something...anything. And, I guess it did -- if you consider opening a Mailbox Fund and serving as a conduit of federation-raised dollars. Those are, of course, exactly what JFNA always does -- almost nothing. But it is absolutely excellent at grabbing credit for the work of others. In the words of its leaders -- "great job." 

And, I'm just speculating here, but I'll bet there's some bonus money here for JFNA-Israel for getting JFNA into the press (after deductions for not getting Silverman's name in there).

3. Grand Theft. At JFNA Budget time this year we reported of JFNA's outright thievery of $400,000 from the National Agencies Funding Pool to support JFNA creation of a Planning and Education Unit -- in other words, funds allocated by federation members of the Federation-National Agency Alliance were diverted to the JFNA Budget and away from the intended recipients, the system's National Agencies. At the end of this fiscal year, New York-UJA will finally act on its threats to withdraw from the Alliance -- pulling its 40% of the National Agencies Funding Pool for New York's redistribution. Now, watch and see if JFNA diverts another $400,000 out of the Funding Pool for its own purposes. And, please remember that Jerry Silverman is to fund-raise millions to support JFNA's budget -- he couldn't meet the Budget goal last fiscal year...and, this fiscal year? More theft?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016


Yesterday I published a Post before it was finished and edited. I published it in error at 1 p.m. and went out to a movie (Manchester By the Sea -- do not miss it -- a film of profound beauty, sadness and incredible acting). By the time I returned to my computer at 6 p.m. hundreds of you who have signed up to receive these Posts by email had read it (and, in some instances, I'm sure, shared it with others).

The Post -- The Sad, Sad State of Now -- will now be edited and expanded and published in its final form in a few weeks.

My apologies and thanks for understanding.



In a riff on their GA speeches, under the ironic title Let's Not Lose Our Focus, when the organization has absolutely no focus, Richard Sandler and Jerry Silverman issued a joint Statement from their Desk* which read, in pertinent part:
"Yes, it is possible to be at odds on some matters yet still work together on others.

That’s precisely what we do at Jewish Federations. We are the community square, where we work together to find common ground in the name of tikkun olam, making the world a better place.

Our primary mission is and will remain to care for the most vulnerable around us—senior citizens, persons with disabilities, children and at-risk youth, and immigrants and refugees—and to perpetuate a value system that has sustained us and greatly contributed to the world at large for more than 3,000 years.

At the same time, we have to fight hate at home, in Israel and worldwide. Doing so entails opening our doors to varying perspectives and having difficult discussions, not only in our Jewish community, but also in the broader community.

None of us has a monopoly on knowing the answers to complex questions. All of us have a responsibility to discuss issues civilly, intelligently and factually. The world is complicated. Those who agree with us are not always perfect, and those who disagree with us are not always wrong and certainly not evil. When we allow ourselves to talk with someone whose voice differs from our own—not superficially, but to have a true dialogue—we learn and grow and strengthen our community." 
Now, don't get me wrong, this was an excellent Statement of what Federations are already doing, issued as if the Federations needed to be reminded of what they are doing.  The question of course is what is JFNA doing in any of these any of them? And, sadly, the answer is, as Don't "lose our focus," indeed.

I think I have discovered a basic truth in this Statement -- JFNA's leaders, its two highest level lay and professional leaders, actually believe that JFNA is doing something in the areas discussed. These two can't seem to come to terms with the reality that while the Jewish Federations are acting, JFNA is just talking; it is doing nothing but talking. And it is talking about nothing...nothing at all. Our JFNA leaders have confused talk with action. Maybe they believe: "Boy, we're great, look how the federations are doing. And it's all because of our leadership." If they believe that they are impacting in any of the areas discussed, friends, we know how wrong they very, very wrong.

My expectation was that Richard Sandler, a leader possessed of true communal values and an understanding of the absolute necessity and importance of real professional leadership (after all, before he even took the JFNA Chair, he expressed his absolute willingness to delegate to his JFNA professionals, presuming their competency), would have concluded by now that all he wished JFNA to accomplish couldn't be, will not be realized under the current CEO. He has now begun the second year of his Chairmanship and there is not a single new accomplishment to point to...not one...other than that Federations still pay their Dues and Richard, himself, and his appointed lay leadership demand nothing more.

Just one example of the failure of JFNA to be our voice on anything: the Southern Poverty Law Center had counted 867 acts of hate-inspired violence and hate speech since the election. Many, many federations have condemned acts of hate and hate speech in the strongest terms. But from silence. They neither speak for us nor do they even speak for themselves. In its silence JFNA makes a mockery of the very values that Richard Sandler has set forth so well, as recently as that GA just concluded. In a very strong and well-documented plea in ejewishphilanthropy, "An Open Letter to Richard Sandler...," a Jewish educator, Russel Neiss, called upon Richard Sandler demanding JFNA to find its voice.  He asks JFNA for more than could reasonably be expected of it but his passionate open letter exposes the crisis of confidence that JFNA has created by not speaking out against not speaking out about anything at all.

I have questioned whether JFNA leadership can really articulate the purposes JFNA serves. Looking at Jerry's 7+ years and Richard's first, I still don't know and, worse, neither do they. Right now JFNA endures in spite of itself; in point of fact, JFNA is doing less today than it was 8 years ago pure and simple -- and its lay leadership just doesn't care or just can't see it. 

Which is worse?


* Yes, "Desk," not "Desks" -- like "brain" not "brains"

Sunday, December 4, 2016


1. JFNA is victimized at all times by the "Law of Unintended Consequences." The latest example arose out of the "secret" JFNA Board Meeting convened on October 26, which was to " on a proposed adjustment to JFNA's historic policy which prohibits mission travel to areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority." Well, as became clear from the JFNA Resolution presented to and approved by the "Voting Members" of the Board, sometime between the call of the meeting and the conference call meeting itself, some/many(?) leaders intervened and the watered down result was that all that was approved was that travel of Missions of the Israel Action Network, not community Missions and not JFNA Missions, would be "permitted" to visit not just "Ariel or Gush Etzion, etc." as promised in the call of the meeting by Jerry Silverman, but, specifically, to Ramallah to meet with officials of the PLO, Fatah and whomever else.

Ignoring the JFNA Resolution itself, or unaware of it, Morton Klein the Zionist Organization of America issued a Press Release -- "ZOA Praises Jewish Federations For Lifting Ban On Contacts with Jewish Communities in Judea/Samaria." So, it came to pass that Mort  Klein "praised" JFNA for that which it hadn't, in fact, done.

Maybe next time...maybe not.

2. Birthright Israel, at one time one of the most cutting-edge of organizations, first announced, kind of sub rosa, that its wonderful chief professional officer, David Fisher, was leaving the position after literally turning the organization around. Then, confounding all speculation, the Birthright leadership announced that David would be succeeded by Israel Tapoohi, at one time the CEO of the Development Corporation for Israel/Israel Bonds. Izzie has a great set of leadership experiences, an organization dedicated to bringing the Jewish youth of the World to Israel best served by a 70 year old? Far be it for me, age 75, to be an ageist, but...huh? Who engineered this thing? And, why? 

3. Is it possible that an organization can have no working relationship with the truth? Well, check out JFNA. Not too long ago, you remember, and, if not, see 1. above, it called a secret Board meeting for the express purpose of determining if a long-standing "policy" precluding Missions beyond the Green Line should be overturned; and, then. adopted a resolution permitting the Israel Action Network to visit Ramallah. (One humorous side affect, the ZOA's Mort Klein published a broadside congratulating JFNA for doing what it hadn't done!!) This followed JFNA (a) claiming a $1 million conduit contract was confidential and (b) claiming a Board member could not review that or other consultant contracts -- all "confidential" you see. As the respected commentator Bill Moyers has said: “Secrecy is the freedom zealots dream of: no watchman to check the door, no accountant to check the books, no judge to check the law. The secret government has no constitution. The rules it follows are the rules it makes up.”  Others have noted that "secrecy" and "lying" are the same side of the coin. 

4. Then, in a description of its Israeli "partners" efforts in assisting displaced and damaged Israelis in the midst and the wake of the forest fires, created partner equivalence among JAFI, JDC and the Israel Trauma Coalition. You might ask "the Israeli Trauma Coalition?"* Huh? Now, the ITC does great work but where was some action taken by the JFNA Board that cloaked the ITC with a partnership equivalency to JAFI and JDC? I recall, as some of you might,  that a few years ago the Jewish Agency entered into an agreement with the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews that would have placed the IFCJ, the largest single annual contributor to JAFI (other than the federations) "on the JAFI letterhead" creating a sense of equivalency for the Eckstein organization with the Federation system and Keren Ha'Yesod. Back then, the hue and cry from the federations (you might guess just which) put the kibosh on that deal and that blackball became the proximate cause for the IFCJ walking away from and going into competition with the Jewish Agency. Now, the federations name the ITC a "partner." Explain this to us, please; if you can.

JFNA's Three Card Monte.


* The ITC became a favored agency of JFNA because the New York UJA-Federation demanded it, pure and simple, at the time that New UJA was cutting back its funding..

Thursday, December 1, 2016


1. When in doubt...Parachute?  A parachute normally serves as an emergency de3vice as all of us know. So, too, in Jewish organizational life -- as in "Jim Tisch was parachuted in as the Jewish Agency Board Chair." Now, that happened years ago, and, perhaps, even served that organization well. No waves made and all of that. Now, and once again, JAFI appears to be headed toward another "aviation experience." As I understand it, after two very experienced and respected North American lay leaders tuned down the JAFI Board Chairmanship, leadership has turned to the affable Michael Siegal, with almost no hands-on work at JAFI beyond is Chair of JAFI's Legislative Affairs, a post to which he has recently assumed, to pull his parachute cord and jump in to the most complex organization in the Jewish World.

Michael has some great gifts -- an incredible philanthropy, a person of great good will, a friendship with Bibi and a willingness to take on/jump into  leadership roles when prevailed upon as evidenced by his past Chairmanship of Israel Bonds and, then, JFNA. It was wholly appropriate that Michael was named a "2016 Difference Maker" in Cleveland. Of course there is that one negative -- his chairmanship of JFNA -- three years of organizational drift and malaise and worse. There is no doubt that Michael will do his best and that coming from Cleveland he will have the benefit of the constant advice and direction from that Federation's CEO, Steve Hoffman, who has been more or less (and probably even more) directing/dictating the positions of American Jewry within JAFI for...well, for a long time. But is this the way our organizational leadership should be chosen -- no succession plans, no in depth involvement? 

We wish Michael well, every success, G-dspeed, just as we did on his election as JFNA Chair.

2. Ethiopian Aliyah. We all remember with pride those incredible chapters in Modern Jewish History when World Jewry took responsibility for aliyah. Nowadays...not so much. Recently, as we've written on these pages, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews began its own aliyah operation, apparently out of the personal pique of its Chair, Yechiel Eckstein, who, for reasons known only to him, has turned his great financial support for JAFI into what appears to be a scorched earth policy. Then we read of the work of the ICEJ (not to be confused with  Eckstein's IFCJ) has stepped up its own immigration work. As reported in The Jerusalem Post:
"The ICEJ, which belongs to the evangelical denomination of Christianity, said it had handed over $500,000 to Keren Hayesod to cover the cost of flights for 523 Ethiopian Jews, as well as to sponsor flights for another 104 Jewish immigrants due to make aliya soon from France and the Ukraine." 
The difference -- the ICEJ effort funds Aliyah through JAFI not in competition with it; just as Eckstein once did. But, World Jewry's role: we accept the money offered by the ICEJ and pass it on to JAFI.  The ICEJ funding has enable 120,000 Jews to make aliyah though JAFI. World Jewry's funding of JAFI's work, of JDC's work, of World ORT's work has fallen through the floor breaking all records for futility.

Yep, let's leave it to the Evangelicals. Let's leave it to others.

3. The Israel Action Network. Since its creation in 2010 as a kind of "joint venture" of JFNA and JCPA, the annually underfunded Israel Action Network has done some very good things with a small staff, a terrific lay Chair* and, apparently, no Board whatsoever. Given the Missions the IAN runs, which often require visits to areas of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinians, and visits with Palestinian leadership, and its important activities, one might question why the IAN isn't spun off to its independence with minimum long-term funding guaranteed? The IAN's actions are often political, no one would argue that, just look at its website ("IAN Presented by JFNA..." Jeeez). Having a Board might be good -- adding lay support to Chair David Sherman's efforts, and now those of his successor, Skip Schrayer; continued "ownership" by JFNA may not be good for either entity. 

But, to JFNA it's all about (1) control and (2) out of that control the ability to bask in light of the accomplishments of IAN as if those were JFNA's own. 

Because, remember JFNA has no accomplishments of its own.


* As at November 10, Chicago's Skip Schrayer succeeded Chicago's David Sherman.

Monday, November 28, 2016


You, as I, have read in the past days of the horrific outbreak of literally hundreds of forest fires in Israel, destroying not alone 1000's of acres of forest lands, but the homes and workplaces of so many of our families; 60,000 Israelis have taken flight according to the report in The Times of Israel on our Thanksgiving Day. 60,000 Israelis: the equivalent of 2,400,000 Americans fleeing the most catastrophic forest fires, many apparently are the scourge of arsonists/terrorists, ever eager to strike Israel. 

It seems fair to ask whether there are still millions left in the JFNA Victims of Terror Fund created out of the donations to federations in the last Special Campaigns. If there are millions unspent, and inasmuch as terrorists appear to have set many of these fires, then those funds should be immediately allocated to the victims of this eco-terrorism. The Times of Israel has reported that countries unfriendly to Israel -- among them Russia and Turkey,  -- and those among Israel's friends -- France, Egypt and Jordan -- have sent physical assistance -- firefighting equipment and personnel, among other things -- to Israel. A private U.S. company dispatched a 747 Supertanker to aid in fighting these fires. Even the PA assisted. The New York Times reported that while the fires burned, Israel was asking for more assistance.  But our Continental organization appeared to be...well, fiddling. 

Now it appears that the major fires may have been contained, but the devastation left behind represents a continuing tragedy for Israel's citizens; for our extended mishpacha. As the Prime Minister explained to Israel's citizens, the fires will not " out today; and not tomorrow." And, as always, JFNA under what passes for its "leadership" remains more cautious than it has been for domestic weather emergencies. We all know what UJA would have done under these dire circumstances, don't we? It would have reached for a playbook, it would have mobilized and it would have acted.  JFNA opened a Mailbox five days after the fire began.**

Was 25 Broadway waiting for an on the scene report from its bloated Israel Office? Has 25 Broadway recruited and mobilized a lay-led Solidarity Mission? Is JFNA demanding, at this time of Draconian declining core allocations -- reaching the lowest levels in history -- that JAFI and JDC reallocate resources to meet these emergency needs? Maybe someday we will  find out. Or is 25 Broadway waiting, waiting, waiting, for some form of green light from its largest Dues payers? JFNA opened a Mailbox and published a report from David Brown, Chair, Israel and Overseas, restating what others were/are doing.*

But, really, there is nothing that explains the delay in doing something beyond another Mailbox...nothing.

One day after this destruction began, the JNF announced a Special Campaign offering a dollar for dollar match. And JFNA you ask? It was able to rouse itself to do what it always does...JFNA opened a Mailbox

We hang our heads in shame.


* The Chicago Federation has already advanced $500,000 to JFNA "...for immediate distribution to JAFI and JDC." No doubt many, many federations are doing their share. NB, were Chicago's $500,000 part of a fair share effort, of which Chicago's share would be about $500,000, that would yield a national total of $5 million -- but that goal would be (a) non-binding and (b) require a real campaign leadership effort from JFNA. The evidence suggests that most communities will be seeking contributions rather than advancing funds.

** ...and a Web Page

Friday, November 25, 2016


Not to mix metaphors or anything, can an organization with its head in the sand also be afraid of its own shadow? For JFNA the answer is a clear..."sure." 

This is not a plea for JFNA to speak out about a politician or a President-elect's Senior Strategist, etc. We will leave it to others to do that. This is a plea that JFNA stand for something on issues of the greatest importance to us, our communities, our values. 

I'm proud of my own federation whose Board Chair and CEO/President issued a call against hatred just days ago:
"As Jews, we take seriously our responsibility to speak out against hatred, not only because the security of our own community is intertwined with that of other minority communities, but also because our moral values, as Jews and as Americans, demand it,”
And, one day later the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago issued A Statement: We Condemn White Nationalist Rhetoric.  And JFNA, my friends? It can't even bring itself to condemn hate speech...silence.

Another federation, which shall remain unnamed as it goes through a thoughtful and purpose-driven process, has articulated a basic principle. Its CEO wrote communal leadership and included the following:
"Here’s the most important thing I want to reiterate: we’re a divided community. If we write off significant numbers of our community and alienate them without discussion and without inclusive dialogue we don’t get to call ourselves pluralistic, diverse and tolerant. Does that mean we never make statements on things that matter? No. It means that we’re respectful, careful, and mindful of the impact of what we say.  And before we make those statements we remember their impact, and we talk with those who disagree with us."
All organizations should surely have a process with which to engage on issues impacting on Jewish, on communal values...and having followed that process, "...make statements on things that matter" as an expression of inclusion, as an expression of our values. At JFNA, we debate the words in a letter, otherwise...silence.

Many federations and federation leaders have spoken publicly and in a wholly civil manner against bigotry, bias and hatred passing for "political speech" today. But, JFNA being JFNA...silence. 

This is not to suggest that our institutions express a constant outrage but to urge that they do so at those matters that demean Jewish values and the things we value as a Jewish polity. 

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum did not remain silent.Museum statement called on all Americans “to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech,” reminding all of us of an undeniable truth — “[T]he Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words.” But, from JFNA...silence.

I don't know about you, but I expect my/our organization to not rely upon others to speak on my/our behalf. When the New York Times reports that at an “alt-right”  Washington rally held in a government building on November 18, the crowd screamed “Heil…Victory” amid Nazi salutes and cries of "Sieg Heil," don't we have an expectation that our organization will say "this is intolerable." and speak out against hate, not expect others to do so on their behalf? But, from JFNA, our JFNA...silence.

Friends, opposition to hatred and bigotry isn't a matter of controversy...except, apparently, at JFNA. I expect JFNA TO SPEAK FOR US...US...when hatred and bigotry raise their ugliness in the public space. 

There is no explaining this silence at this any time...when our values are threatened, when they are under attack. No explanation at all. How can we take pride in an organization that believes it's best to sit on the sidelines when action is needed.


P.S. This Post is neither intended to encourage JFNA to issue statements condemning individuals where inappropriate nor to refrain from doing so where appropriate. In that light, I never read the JTA piece attributed to JFNA a quote which allegedly "attacked" Bannon; I did read the "retraction" wherein JFNA threw an unnamed "consultant" under the bus for speaking where unauthorized to do so.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Friends, the system that brought so many of us into leadership roles is in, at best, disarray, and, at worst, its death throes. As Gertrude Stein would have repeated, "there is no there there" anymore; just look around. Blame can be cast in so many different directions, but I'll start where I always do.

A Commentator with real insight and experience wrote:

"I do believe in the past JFNA and it's predecessor organizations did a positive job of identifying and placing talent at all levels of federations. The old adage "you have to move to move up." People were being recruited and wooed to other communities. FEREP (graduates) were a "big deal."

All of that changed when you have people in charge (Jerry and Deborah Smith -- that is her name?) who have, as you point out, no Federation history or understanding. The most successful federations have 'insiders and lifers' (some albeit too comfortable and too long in their roles) running the operation -- while those suffering (you mentioned two above) bring people with mainly outside experience.

I believe that the Mandel Center professionals and communities got blinded by the idea that we need outsiders to 'fix' our issues. And the Mandel Center even encouraged it.

I know of 2 cases where solid pros went through search processes and lost out to 'outsiders.' In each case the Mandel Center people told these individuals (highly successful in their long-term Federation work) that maybe they should leave the field for a few years and come back with outside experience. That says it all.

Finally, people always question who the customer was for the Mandel Center -- the community Federation looking to hire a person or the individuals searching for opportunities. They wanted to do both -- but you cannot. And thus the Mandel Center was just happy to fill the position no matter what happened to that person placed (yep, check that one off the list) and at the same time always told people we are here to advance your career. Too many good pros are now gone."
A friend wrote to tell me, in pertinent part: "More to the point, even if it weren’t true originally, Mandel became a placement service for the execs. Represented their interests, not those of the federations.  Period, end of sentence."  JFNA has now dropped out of the search field entirely (didn't want to pay for Mandel's work; not because Mandel had proved to be  inadequate), much attention is being paid to the embryonic  LeadingEdge, the creative creation of major foundations, and its so-called "CEO on-boarding." But, LeadingEdge CEO, Gali Cooks, who may be (and probably is) brilliant, has vast experience but not a moment spent in a federation work environment. You can go to the LeadingEdge website -- -- and examine its professional  its leadership, almost none of whom with significant federation background or experience, and ask how can this become anything more than the blind once again leading the blind (one merely need note that Silverman serves on its "Advisory Board").*

A superb comprehensive and daunting article was shared with me by a great professional leader: "In Search of a New Generation of Jewish Leaders" in Hadassah Magazine. You should read it in full at  The author, Uriel Hellman, offered us an array of the options and opinions of that "new generation," some of which are astounding. The first, a young woman who was inspired to follow her dream when as a college student she interacted with Kathy Manning. Now, at 32, a senior professional at Hillel International, she concluded: “Most Hillel directors 10 years ago were rabbis and men and older. Now we have people leading who are women, openly gay, not Jewish, have disabilities, millennials.” And, I would agree that some those of those characteristics -- women, gay, disabled, millennials -- are great. But, in the words of our President: "C'mon man."

Hellman offers some sobering statistics and conclusions but no real explanation of why, as our Anonymous Commentator above has concluded, the federation system itself has, through its agents at JFNA and the federations themselves, discouraged so many of its best and brightest one the past decade, from their aspirations to move up the organizational charts and even aspire to communal and organizational leadership. And my finger points, as it often does, at those who have taken on the role of stewards of our communal values. And you know who you are.

You are the ones who sat idly by while a single lay leader mustered overwhelming support for Jerry Silverman's -- he so ill-equipped then and now for the position -- hiring as JFNA CEO. You are the ones who have watched in silence (except amongst yourselves) while community after community in their CEO searches have turned away from the best and brightest our system has produced to outsiders not even understanding that they themselves, all of whom came from inside the system, would not themselves have been hired today. While JFNA's selected Search firm, instead of offering the system's values -- values they never bothered to understand -- for those seeking to become CEOs of our communities turned the communities away from the system's best to outsiders, so many of whom, absent any and all support from JFNA, failed and failed quickly...and will continue to do so.

Because no one is talking about what has happened, one can only intuit the following: After the wrong-headed dictation of Silverman as CEO, the well-paid elusive Deborah K. Smith and her ilk at Mandel, none of whom had spent a day working inside a Jewish Federation, decided that the crumbling system would be best-served by ignoring (see the quote with which I opened this piece) the best and brightest of the next wave of federation professionals (or in the main, experienced federation lay leaders aspiring to "turn pro"). In addition, if a federation Search Committee actually stated they wished to "go outside the system" that's all Mandel needed to hear; if the federation didn't go in that direction, they were often steered there. I know of at least four instances where great federation pros were told "you need not apply; you won't be considered." The deconstruction of the federation professional cadre was underway.

I was reminded in all of this of a quote from the late, brilliant Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko:
Mike Royko, jokingly suggesting the city motto be changed from "Urbs in horto" -- ("city in a garden") To:`Ubi Est Mea' -- `where's mine?'
Yep, these leaders got "theirs" and almost none of them has actively intervened to assure that trained professionals now "get theirs." The system is dying and it is an entire generation of CEOs, through their ambivalence, their lack of interest, their federation brand of introversion, who are performing the last rites. If they had any shame they would be ashamed, but they have none. Meanwhile four great professionals, leaders of their national organization, JPro, have begun to rally fellow professionals to join in a community of interest building on their call, their cri de coeur for their profession in ejewishphilanthropy

There was a time, now pretty long ago, when a lay leader was in the running to be the first CEO of JFNA. A supporter, a major federation lay leader himself, asked Steve Hoffman, even back then the Cleveland Federation CEO, whether he might support this lay candidate. Hoffman's response: "I like _______ but it  will be over my dead body when anyone other than a Federation CEO gets that position." 

I guess that Steve died 7 years ago.


* It should be noted that Ted Farber, served as CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, for a long time until he was succeeded by Dr. Misha Galperin. Ted serves a consultant to Leading Edge through his firm. You may judge Ted's effectiveness as a Federation CEO on your own; someday we will be able to judge his work for LeadingEdge when we know what it is/was. I do know this: certainly Farber has  probably forgotten more about the federation system than almost every other participant knows about federation in this process.


Saturday, November 19, 2016


It is that most respected measure of non-profit performance, Charity Navigator, which analyzed Executive Compensation in depth and then warned:

"Consider the performance of the charity in relation to the CEO's pay. If you come across a charity whose CEO pay is higher than other similar charities, don't immediately dismiss that charity's request for funding. You're better off supporting a charity that is fiscally efficient, accountable and transparent, achieving its programmatic goals and paying its CEO well, than a charity that has substandard fiscal health, fails to live up to its mission, but under-pays its CEO. Charity Navigator’s ratings can be of help in your research into the charity’s Financial Health and commitment to being Accountable & Transparent. If possible, also conduct your own review of the charity’s performance to determine if it is delivering on its intended results."
Imagine, an independent source actually recommends that executive compensation be based upon the non-profit's (1) performance, (2) living up to its mission and (3) "delivering on its intended results." Friends, can any leader at JFNA, its Board Chair, any member of its Compensation Committee look you in the eye and tell you that Jerry Silverman's compensation is in any way whatsoever related to these criteria -- or any one of them? 

Please bear with me here while I rant a bit. The lay leaders of federations of every City-size do not know what the CEO of their organization, JFNA, earns until the 990 is published 2 years after the fact. That's remarkable; and wholly inconsistent with best governance practice for non-profits. The best estimate one can make of Jerry's current compensation based upon the latest filed 990 is somewhere between $700,000 and $800,000; but I would be complaining, I have to admit, if he were paid $400,000. You see, Jerry's responsibilities even before that 990, had been drastically reduced: remember, Mark Gurvis was hired to perform what were until that engagement the entity's management and operation responsibilities -- in other words, the CEO's responsibilities were cut in half and he received a raise!! (I guess it could be argued that Jerry wasn't performing those responsibilities anyway, so what the heck...or something.)

And, how's Silverman performing in the role that he was left to perform? You tell me -- be it as our representative at the State Funeral for Shimon Peres, z'l;  being named one of the Jerusalem Post's 2016 Top 50 Jewish personalities; to his many invites to the White House; to his many visits and speeches to federations and constituencies around North America. Then there was the pies de resistance -- he showed up at a ribbon cutting for a new JDC JCC in Kiyuv!! Friends, I'm not making this up.  (Nice photo-op) Are we really getting bang for the buck...any bang for the huge amount paid for these aimless travels, for these photo ops? It's a rhetorical question. 

Remember, Jerry Silverman was hired to be JFNA's CEO and President. He was hired to both manage the organization and be its public face (!!). He was hired at an annual compensation paid his predecessor (and, no matter how one felt about Howard Rieger's execution  of his CEO responsibilities, it can't be denied that he was performing both of the functions for which he was hired). And, within the first term of his contract, his responsibilities were halved (or more than halved) and he continued to be paid as if he were still engaged with both areas -- management/public face -- of the responsibilities for which he had been hired. Where in non-profit history has something like this happened? To my knowledge -- only at our JFNA.

Only at our JFNA.


Thursday, November 17, 2016


Let's reboot this Post with the positive culled from your Comments:
"I also thought that the attendance was small (and a lot of staff). But this is also a reflection of the growing professionalization of our federations. We don't have to play the AIPAC numbers game. It's fine if we don't have tens of thousands coming to the GA. AIPAC's convention is all about the numbers and trying to show off, and not about the content and the context. What I witnessed at the GA however was truly inspiring--a new generation of young Cabinet leaders, new Execs coming into their roles, new ideas about engagement and philanthropy." 

1. The Opening Plenary. With Chuck Todd moderating important Roundtables offering critical post-election analysis in a ballroom with a maximum capacity of 900, multiple rows are empty. Where are the promised 3,000 attendees? Well, really the same place they were last years and the three years before that -- not there. 

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who, as we have reported, has sowed the seeds of inter-denominational discord in Great Britain, roused the crowd with a call for Jewish unity, Kind of a "do as I say, not as I do" -- quite appropriate to JFNA.

2. Institutional Ineptitude. At the Prime Minister's Council Event, normally a major moment for the communities' largest donor group. Congressman John Lewis and Suzanne Heschel were reminiscing about that moment in the Civil Rights Movement when Jews and African Americans joined arms in Selma. JFNA at that moment flashed a photo on the large screen and Abraham Joshua Heschel's daughter said, "Uh, that's a scene of Rabbis at the Vietnam Memorial." Yep, some would call this hysterical, others, pathetic...but, it's really just JFNA. Sad and inept.

3. Speaking of Sad and Inept. You will recall that JFNA often confuses its letters with actual substance. At the JFNA Board meeting, the Board and Fed Members Corp were actually asked to vote on sending another letter to the Prime Minister (and the language thereof) with regard to, what else, the implementation or, more correctly, the PM's obvious "problem" in implementing the now 1-1/2 year-old enacted Resolution to provide egalitarian space adjacent to the Western Wall for non-Orthodox Prayer. Those Trustees participating in the Board Meeting by phone had yet to see the letter (although asked to vote on it) and the brief discussion of the letter suggested it was as weak as were its predecessors (but, according to Jerry, it just had to be that way). We heard that JFNA "has been working" with the Movements and "working with JAFI" on this but we all know what that means by now, don't we?

So, here is the letter, you be the judge of its worth and whether it's weak or compelling:

"Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

As leaders of Jewish Federations from across North America, we are writing to affirm our unwavering love for the State of Israel as well as to convey our collective appreciation for all you have done to advance the establishment of an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel and to make room for a diversity of Jewish religious practice and expression.   We recognize that no Israeli leader understands the importance of religious pluralism or has done more in this area than you have.

We are as committed to Israel’s strength and security as we are to her economic and social prosperity. We are sure you can understand the concerns we hear from many in our communities who struggle to understand why the implementation of the historic government resolution to create a space at the Kotel where all Jews are free to worship appears stalled.  

We know you recognize the growing sense of urgency to fully implement the Government Resolution, which resulted from the work of your office together with Natan Sharansky’s leading of the parties to a compromise. Your declaration at last year’s General Assembly that there is “one Wall for one People” has become a statement that our communities truly believe and expect to see come true.  

On behalf of the Federation movement we represent, we thank you for your leadership on this matter and look forward to your ongoing efforts to make clear to millions of Jews in Israel and around the world that, in spite of our differences, we are one People."*
BTW, there is a playbook on issues like this -- it's called the "Law of Return" Playbook. But, unfortunately, it's a "book." And, today, we don't read and we don't mobilize.

So, now, JFNA will apparently be processing all of its "letters" through its Board aend Federation Members Corporation -- a bizarre way of doing business.

P.S. The inane processing of this JFNA "letter" through the JFNA Board should be compared with the organization's statement on Presidential election -- a statement that seemed to be published just after the GA with no process whatsoever. Read the story here:  And, of course, later in the day, an unnamed "consultant" fell on his/her sword (for whom) I have a sense we all know) for this whole mess.

As we have noted before, almost every action this organization takes is ad hoc ...and senseless.

4. Oh, and that Board Meeting. Nothing Happened. But there was a two sentence plea for cash and a brief admission that core allocations to JAFI/JDC/WorldORT will reach new lows this calendar year. And Harold Gernsbacher delivered a passionate upbeat report on FRD while announcing a magnificent personal gift to a vital program of the Ethiopian National Project. If I get this correctly, the Board must approve letters but the National Campaign Chair can unilaterally announce a new Special Campaign. Interesting. 

There was a stirring address from JDC's Outgoing CEO, Alan Gill, and I confess I hung up before the presentation by the head of the Israel Government Tourist Office, Northeast Region, whom, I assume, is related to someone on the Board.

5. Monday Night. You ulta kachers, like me will remember that Monday nights when GAs were real went something like this: we would join our friends from our federations or our constituencies for a raucous dinner, then we would rush back to GA HQ for an always provocative and important speaker, then, or us Chicagoans, we would repair to the suite shared by our Chair and CEO and shmoooze, drink and share experiences. At this GA, there are those same dinners, then buses to an Israeli-Ethiopian film and "Hip Hop Party." Compare and Contrast.

6. The Message of The Forward 50. It appears traditional that The Forward publishes its 50 over the days of the GA. This year those fifty do not include a single Federation Movement leader -- not a single one. This is more than a little shocking but, perhaps, it is one major Jewish publication's determination on the system's growing irrelevance. I can think of several LCE who would merit inclusion; I would have cited JFNA's William Daroff within "the 50." But The Forward has made its selections and federation leaders ought to being paying attention.

7. The Closing Plenary. Maybe it was appropriate, symbolic even, that as this GA approached its end Tuesday morning, Jerry Silverman spoke to a 1/2 empty (at best) room. Even Jerry should now "get it" -- the GA needs a complete overhaul and, at the least, a serious discussion as to whether it should continue to be an annual event. I know, I know, the arguments will be made: (1) if JFNA doesn't do it, others will step into the void; (2) we contract with hotels years in advance and would be at risk for substantial damages for termination; and (3) we've already announced the time and place of the 2017 GA in LA. But, of course the responses are simple: (1) the GA itself is a "void" -- attendance has fallen much like allocations; (2) let JFNA's hotel consultants negotiate a deferral of the LA GA to a year in the future; and (3) just move all of it back. Use the year hiatus for a hands-on examination of the GA by lay leaders with experience Chairing GA's. 

And, of course, see you in LA.


* Some of you have suggested that my Post on November 10 in which I "pointed out" that JFNA had totally dropped the ball on the Wall issue was the catalyst for this "letter" suddenly being placed on he Board Agenda (It did not appear on the Agenda distributed to the Board before the meeting. You're welcome.