Wednesday, January 16, 2019

COLLAPSE

I think back to the end of the Operation Exodus Campaign led by United Jewish Appeal in partnership with the community of mega-donors 
and the federations to incredible success — a $1 billion campaign. But, at its end, beyond the sense of accomplishment the Jewish communities began sending UJA a message — our donors are tired, and our local agencies need our attention. “Don’t bother us.”

I was reminded of that moment and the message (which, by the way, was not based on fact everywhere — in my own federation and others, we went about our business converting the increased gifts into the  annual campaign with great success in many instances — as I tried to identify what the hell happened and continues at JFNA.

If you are a regular reader of this Blog, you know my sense that the perfect storm of terrible circumstances arose in the election of Kathy Manning as Board Chair and her decision (and, face it chèvre, it was her determination, her decision) to: (a) embark on the Rube Goldbergian Global Planning Table  and (b) hire Jerry Silverman. Both of these decisions resulted in the catastrophe JFNA and the federations face today.

First the disastrous GPT.  Disaster was written over this “thing” from conception to execution (some would say it’s a perfect metaphor for JFNA itself).  And the disaster it was was predicted by many federation leaders at so-called regional meetings. where there was almost unanimous objection: to the creation of a faux governance, to the override of collective response with a set of undefined “coalitions pf the  willing” around project areas never approved by the federations, to the distraction of 100s of federation lay and professional leaders from their historic tasks, to a real abandonment of the system’s historic partners.  And, through it all, Silverman sat in bewildered agreement with Manning and with everyone else. 

There can be no doubt that the ultimate decision to hire Jerry for a position to this day he does not comprehend was Manning’s simple insight that he would not “get in the way” of her GPT — as he did not. When a brilliant young professional was hired to run the Global Planning Table  and the GA, she resigned within weeks seeing that she would be “running nothing;” that Manning would be running everything. To this day, no JFNA Board member knows how many millions were wasted  on the GPT. (In typical JFNA style, “it’s confidential.” What we do know is that Jerry embarked on a "War Against Memory" -- it is the only JFNA battle that he clearly won. And it was/is a battle that served JFNA so poorly.

As Manning’s terms as JFNA Board Chair were running out, she appointed herself — yes, you read that correctly — the Chair of the Global Planning Table. More millions were invested in staff and consultant time until Michael Siegal, Kathy’s successor as JFNA Board Chair, found the support necessary to put an end to this terrible chapter (while, at one and the same time, even though after 5 years there was not a single positive outcome under Silverman’s leadership, Jerry was given a 5 year contract extension).

Circle back with me to the beginning of this Post and the sense of exhaustion that accompanied the triumphal end of the Exodus Campaign for here is the parallel — at the ultimate end of the GPT (with its surviving remnant, a barely breathing I-Rep working to achieve a barely breathing Israeli Civil Society effort, for which adequate funding has never been realized) the federations were again exhausted. Federation lay leaders had no interest in and, in fact, had been weaned away from collective responsibility by JFNA itself. The one organization charged with advocacy for collective responsibility just plain walked away from it. Collective responsibility, one of the critical pillars of our Jewish polity, literally left in the dustbin of history.

Attempts by the United Israel Appeal to revive continental advocacy were first adopted and then stripped form that organizations raison d’être by JFNA leaders who themselves could not interest the federations in giving an audience to the needs. And, now, through the work of a Task Force on Global Responsibility, UIA itself is threatened with defenestration to preserve the illusion that JFNA-Israel is capable of…anything.

And, while I worry about UIA and the overseas partners, I see no visible efforts and no visible ability at JFNA to provide any guidance to the field, to an incoming professional class, 60% of whom are new CEOs. These professionals, dedicated to community as their predecessors may no longer view the role of CEO as a cause, or the federation profession as a Movement, but may only see it as a job — often a great job, well-paying, with great perquisites — just a job. JFNA should...must...engage JPro in an organized effort to educate and train new CEOs. LeadingEdge does a fine job with a purposefully limited cadre of organizational leaders but it is JPro leaders who would bring the experience and the passion of the Movement to the newly hired.

Friends, the system is in a state of shock…a literal state of collapse. When a new Federation CEO joins the system and realizes, as one will, that his/her community, with an annual campaign being rebuilt after years of stasis, is paying $2,600,000 (+) in JFNA Dues, while that community’s local agencies are competing with the central Federation annual campaign for funds, something has to give. The argument to that community and others — “if you reduce your JFNA Dues, the system will collapse like a House of Cards” —  is no longer compelling when the community is getting close to nothing back for its Dues “investment.” (In addition, many of those CEOs who make that specious argument, have retired, are themselves retiring or will soon do so.)

I think all you know that were I advising Mark Wilf (and, no, Mark hasn’t responded to my “Letter” Post to date), I wouldn’t be waiting for "The Breakstone Group Consultant Study,” I would be convening the lay a professional leaders of each JFNA City-size group to develop programs and plans that would both interest and benefit…them. Of course, that would require a new CEO (or, that for which I have pled time and again, an Interim CEO) and a staff capable of looking toward the future with a sense of purpose and integrity.

If there is to be a future.

Rwexler

Saturday, January 12, 2019

ANYONE ASKING "WHY?"

Depending on your federation, JFNA Dues should be a matter of concern for everyone, but let's take Federation X as an example. 

You are the CEO of this community. Your Annual campaign could most charitably be described as "struggling," it's what you inherited, but you're working so hard to turn it around. Your JFNA Dues: $2,641,000 (at least that is what it was on your last available 990). If your staff were asked "what do we receive for $2,641,000?" -- they would be stumped. You, yourself, have no idea how to respond if your lay leadership were to ask the same question.

When you raise the possibility of non-payment or partial-payment with your fellow federation CEOs, some support the idea, but others, all of whom you respect, admonish you for even bringing up the possibility. "If your federation were to do that," they suggest, "the whole system would come crashing down." It's the same argument, you think to yourself, that was used to justify the Vietnam War -- the dominoes would fall -- and how did that turn out? "Do you want to be the one who leads to the collapse of JFNA," they ask? This sounds to you like the threat that it really is.

What these other professional leaders don't tell you is that they have been asking themselves the same question -- "why? why?" (One of them suggested to me at the outset of the pre-ordained failure of the Global Planning Table: "I can't believe that I'm watching the destruction of the very system that has been my life's work." "Watching" being the operative word.)

Then, you begin to think: "what if our Dues were reduced to $1,000,000? Still outrageous, but just barely defensible." The community could use the $1,641,000 "savings" to hire two more in Campaign; we could increase our allocations locally and overseas with the balance.; we have so many unmet needs...everywhere. I have lay leaders who lobby for me for more money for our JCC or the JDC, for our Family Agency or the Jewish Agency, and on and on, and I have to plead with some of them to not publicly raise issues of the JFNA Dues amount (and immediately after doing so, I ask myself "why?").

Hell, you begin to ponder, where do my loyalties lie -- with a Continental organization that evidences no responsibility to my community, tosses me a bone once in a while (they ask me to speak at the GA, give some of my lay leaders some minor kavod, etc.) -- but shouldn't my allegiance only be to the community that hired me, that pays my salary and my perks, my retirement some day?

And, you conclude: it's time to acknowledge that JFNA has demonstrated no excellence in anything that it attempts. In reality it has become nothing more than a $53,000,000 a year trade organization -- a bloated bureaucracy -- a collection and distribution agency (and not a very good one at that). I'm going to find CEOs of other federations who have come to the conclusion that we can demand that our Dues be reduced to the maximum amount necessary to support a trade organization. Someone has to lead this effort, why not me?

If only...

Rwexler

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

THE BLIND LEADING...

In a move both curious and bizarre, someone(s) at JFNA resolved, after the decision to non-renew Jerry Silverman's contract had been made and before Mark Wilf was installed as Board Chair,  to hire The Bridgestone Group on a major consultancy. To my knowledge, The Bridgestone Group (hereafter "TBG") has no experience with the federation system in all of its complexity -- hiring TBG was the consultant equivalent of JFNA hiring Jerry Silverman.

So it cam to pass, that TBG made its first presentation to the JFNA Board summarized as follows:
"“TBG then facilitated discussions focused on how Federations might work together to solve the major challenges facing the Jewish world and Federations. Board members reported back thoughts and suggestions as to which challenges JFNA might be able to address for the system: (1) engagement with interfaith couples and how to successfully integrate them into the federation community, (2) young adult engagement and giving including a national conference, (3) professional talent recruitment and development, (3) legacy giving, endowment and the transfer of wealth, (4) Jewish affordability, particularly for day schools, (5) sustaining global partnerships inside and outside Israel, (6) creating and sharing strategic fundraising and marketing plans including compelling fundraising stories, (7) building a value proposition for giving to Federations, (8) creation of a national curriculum for community and Sunday schools, (9) connecting the disparate Israel education programs so that donors can move through a continuum of Israel education and engagement programs."
This entire thing reminded me of the moment in the aftermath of the UJA-CJF-UIA merger when one of the newly-elected Chairs foisted on the organization Louise Stoll as COO --someone with no knowledge of what federations were all about, whose presentations were a series of "revelations" -- to her -- of everything federation. "Wow." She was soon gone.

Then, the TBG report continued:
"TBG also presented alternative revenue models from different networks with which they have worked such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the United Way. Ms. Shapira noted that JFNA will create a task force to guide the strategic review with the assistance of TBG and present recommendations to the Federations and the Board in about 6 months.”
Friends, only those who know nothing of our system would suggest any possible relevance of the "Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the United Way" as possible comparative and compatible revenue models for JFNA. 

This whole fiasco is consistent with JFNA appointing not one but two -- yes, 2 -- Global Operations Committee Task Forces both of which overlap and duplicate the work for which TBG is being paid a princely sum.

You've got it, I'm sure: but just in case you cannot follow this Three Card Monte, let's review:


  1. JFNA hires TBG at great expense, to consult on all organizational matters
  2. The JFNA Board convened to learn that in its work to date TBG had discovered that there is a federation system doing things (things woven into the fabric of federation activities and of which they were fully aware;
  3. JFNA simultaneously appointed two Global Operations Task Forces whose work conflicted with and duplicated the work for which TBG was/is being paid.
  4. Then there will be a new CEO and if past practice holds true (as happened when Steve Hoffman succeeded Steve Solender and, then, when Howard Rieger succeeded Hoffman) whatever "plan" emerges from the work of TBG, it will be rejected. (This is known as the "wash, rinse, repeat cycle" in Jewish organizations.)
And, soon, this will start all over again.

Rwexler


Friday, January 4, 2019

A LETTER TO MARK WILF

Dear Mark,

First, my apologies for the beat-down my Bears inflicted on your Vikings last Sunday. I think that victory was a reflection of changing times.

And I wanted to wish you and your family a healthy, prosperous and peaceful 2019.

Mark, you have been formally "on the job" for 1-1/2 months now, after deep engagement with JFNA for years. I'm certain that you know that in your businesses, after terminating a CEO or a Head Coach, you don't have that person literally "hanging around" awaiting their replacement. As I have suggested, on these pages, in phone calls, it's past time for the organization to move forward, effecting change in the CEO position -- either on an interim or permanent basis -- NOW. 

You have been empowered to lead change, please Mark, get on with it. JFNA cannot wait any longer. This past decade has been execrable; the JFNA administration pestilential. Your predecessors have allowed JFNA to become a secret society, 25 Broadway is like a Faraday Cage from which no unwanted sounds escape. You have to assure that JFNA, the place where the Jewish public's business is conducted, is a true open book; a place where claims of "confidentiality" are barred.

Continuing to await the moshiach described in the job description published by JFNA's Search Consultant, DRG, is to put the organization further at risk. We have lost the institutional value systems that were in place at CJF and UJA -- so lost that most do not remember what they were. But you remember them, Mark: you helped to build them. It was Bob Iger at Disney who said: 
"The most important thing a CEO does is create a value system...Then it's incredibly important to live by those values."
Sadly, we have had a Chief Executive who not only didn't construct a value system, he deconstructed the institutional values that were created and implemented by the great work of those who preceded him. And, he did so while eliminating institutional memory so vital to moving an organization forward.

I have been terribly saddened that a succession of JFNA lay leaders sequentially blew multiple chances that they were offered at course correction for the organization. You now have your chance to implement necessary change. As the brilliant business journalist for the New York Times wrote about the Tesla Board in a quote worthy of JFNA:
"What it tells us is this Board, as a strategic plan, must be using the Jim Jones-Jonestown suicide pact."
But it no longer needs to be that way. JFNA no longer needs to be at the cutting edge of meh. You have been blessed with the mantle of Board Chair at the most critical point in JFNA's history. You have the opportunity to rally your Board to great achievements and to transformational change...but you must begin -- NOW.

Please, Mark, don't blow it.

Warm regards,

Richard

rwexler

Sunday, December 30, 2018

THOUGHTS....MOSTLY BAD

Here are a few things on my mind:


~ Maybe someone will explain why JFNA leaders couldn't even express their condolences upon Danny Allen's, z'l, death. There is no excuse for this sad neglect of common decency with respect for a professional who worked so hard and so long for the Jewish People. There is no excuse for the neglect of Jewish humanity let alone responsibility. Shame of them.
~ I have unrequited respect for Eric Goldstein, the former lay leader who accepted the challenge of succeeding John Ruskay as President and CEO of New York UJA-Federation, certainly one of, if not the most complex of federations. While I don't profess to understand why Eric has led his community to turn inward, a sharp U-turn away from historic collective responsibility. I'm sure there is reason behind a series of decisions. At one and the same time there can be no explaining why, as reported in the Times of Israel and elsewhere, Eric would announce that "American Jews want 'to throw up' due to Netanyahu's policies." https://jewishstandard.timesofisrael.com/us-jews-leaders-want-to-throw-up-due-to-netanayahu-policies/ 
All of you have been readers of this Blog over the years know that I am one who believes our organizations must speak out on all issues impacting on us -- on the North American Jewish polity. But...in this way? Never. Goldstein's diatribe must have been born of the frustration of losing donors who believe that "Israel has rejected" our religious practices, our concerns...but that doesn't excuse the language used in any way. I hope that by the time this Post is published, Goldstein has apologized in every possible way.
~ Many of you have written me to question why Sandler (the past JFNA Board Chair) and Silverman (the soon to be past JFNA CEO) were JFNA's "representatives" at the Trump White House Chanukah celebration. I sense that in Jerry's case he has believed for years that these invitations are in personam, that he's invited because he is Jerry Silverman. HE IS WRONG. Why Sandler would be there is also a mystery -- isn't he from LA; isn't he out of office? 
As we've pointed out on more than one occasion on these pages, the best practice, one always practiced at UJA, z'l, was to use these invitations to cultivate our donors and our future leaders. I can't remember a single occasion where we extended those invitations to the past leaders of the organization, unless to Max Fisher, z'l. Trust me, I knew and loved Max; Richard Sandler, a fine man and a wonderful Jew, is no Max Fisher.
When will it end; when will it ever end?
~ Y'all recall that after a specious set of recommendations on collapsing JFNA subsidiary UIA while expanding the work of the exercise in futility JFNA-israel, 4 federation leaders serving on the Committee which raised the Recommendations filed a forceful, thoughtful set of objections in a Dissent. Well, on Monday, December 17, the JFNA Executive Committee received the apparently Final Report and, its been reported privately (!!) included changes that, it was asserted, accommodated the Dissenters; heard the objections from UIA itself and, then...did nothing!! No vote...nothing
So JFNA...so...nothing. 
But let us close out 2018 on a more positive note. Bob Hyfler, consummate communal professional, whom I first met in his senior professional role at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, and, then, at JFNA in its formative years, wrote us with his own perfect tribute to Danny Allen's, z'l, memory:
"While attending (Danny's) funeral I considered the clearest lesson I learned from Danny. Danny always understood the nature of history, structure and change in the Jewish world. He was never enamoured with any single structure for its own sake and certainly not the permanency of any one structure. What motivated him always was a fearless commitment to protect the eternal purposes embedded in those structures he served with an uncompromising honesty: the survival of our people and our values; our responsibilities, big and small, one to another; and the hope and promise that Israel and the Zionist ideal represented. Danny leaves this world with his legacy and integrity intact. Shalom Chaver."
A happy and healthy 2019 to each and every one of you and your families.

Rwexler

Thursday, December 27, 2018

CHOICES

Bougie Herzog, JAFI Chair of the Executive, announced that the Jewish Agency had hired Gail Reiss as the new CEO of the Jewish Agency International Development, succeeding Josh Fogelson who resigned that position precipitously earlier this fall. This is great for JAFI; but is it for Gail?

I had the pleasure of working with Gail over the course of her years as one or the great senior professionals at the United Jewish Appeal, z'l, and then during her leadership time at JFNA where she was one of the superb professionals effectively forced out as then CEO Howard Rieger defenestrated FRD there with the connivance of his Board Chair. Gail moved on to drive Major Gifts at UJA-Federation of New York and then to professionally lead American Friends of Tel Aviv University.

While all of this was on-going, on the JAFI side a series of superb professionals, from Atlanta's David Sarnat, to D.C.'s Misha Galperin to Minneapolis' Josh Fogelson (with a soupçon of the terrific fundraiser Jeff Kaye in the mix) tried to professionally lead JAFI's fund raising arm -- first JAFI North America, now JAID -- only to hit the brick wall of frustration in the form of Director General Alan Hoffmann, who undermined any potential success time and again. I've written about this human obstacle on more than one occasion, most recently in JAID...WHY which I commend to your (and Gail Reiss') attention. https://ujtheeandme.blogspot.com/2018/10/jaid-why.html

Please know that Gail Reiss is one of the hardest working professionals with whom I ever partnered. She understands the lay-professional partnership (though I am not sure whom her lay partners will be in this new area of leadership to tell you the truth). Had Gail asked my counsel before accepting this new leadership role, I would have suggested she speak at length with her predecessors and that she get every promise made to her by Bougie, Michael Siegal and Richie Pearlstone, JAID's Chair, in writing and, as was the case in Misha Galperin's contract, a provision for significant severance in the event of termination.

The good news for Gail is that Hoffmann has allegedly retired even as he attempts to insert his own choice as his successor. The bad news is that his successor is not yet known, It is, therefore, on JAFI's elected leaders to assure Reiss' and JAID's success as it has always been, to assure that all of JAFI understand that Gail's and her staff's success will be JAFI's success and that she be given adequate time and the resources necessary to build that success. Bougie's reported impatience with the "results" of Josh Fogelson's efforts within weeks of his election as JAFI Executive Chair does not predict well on the patience front.

It will take a lot of time for Reiss to gain the trust of her future partners in this effort. If she is not given the time necessary, JAFI and Gail will both be the losers.

For JAFI...again.

Rwexler

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

GET ON WITH THE TASK!!

The time is long past to get on with the task of cleaning up the mess that is JFNA. Long, long past. This is not the time for further introspection; not the time for further delay occasioned by a misbegotten consultant study (whose idea was that?); not the time to await the arrival of another CEO. This is the time for action.

As one of you wrote in response to the Post on Duty:
"You have hit the nail on the head!
Is it our duty to say "Aye" because that is what is expected of us or is it our duty to express our real opinion and say "Nay" if we think that the proposals on the table are not good for the organization?
The answer is obvious and the time has come for lay leadership to begin to lead rather than be led like a herd of sheep.
It is our DUTY to lead and not to go along with every proposal staff puts in front of us, even if they have managed to get other lay people to sign off on them.
In short, the time has come to change the organizational culture and the rules of engagement."
It would be nice to see some leadership, wouldn't it? I have absolute faith that the JFNA Board will follow Mark Wilf's lead; in fact, they are waiting for it. "Enough," as my friend, Charles  Bronfman, used to say, "Enough." Enough already.

On December 16 four courageous federation, JFNA and overseas leaders, on the cusp of a JFNA Executive Committee meeting forcefully said "enough" noting precisely and specifically that the JFNA Overseas Task Force Recommendations failed to meet any standard of reason, fact or opinion. ( There are rumors that, unlike "standard practice," where the JFNA Executive Committee would vote to approve anything put before them without regard for debate or dissents, at its December 10 meeting, the Executive did not vote at all. Awaiting clarification.)

It is up to JFNA Board members themselves, led by Wilf, to declare that the four dissenting leaders do not stand alone; that their dissent will not just be a one-off but will be the start of JFNA leaders standing up, pulling the organization along with them. 

After almost two decades of mediocrity, of failure, of backing away from their responsibilities it is past time for more of the same, it is time, long overdue, for action, for pulling the organization from the torpor of twenty years.

The odds of positive revolution are slim, but they exist.

On with the task.

Rwexler




Friday, December 21, 2018

LONNIE

Within a day of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago announcement that the Federation Board had voted to accept the recommendation of its Search Committee and elected Lonnie Nasatir to succeed Steve Nasatir as CEO, several of you wrote to the Blog or offline. One of you asked:

"Richard:

On a different topic, but since you have not posted a word since Steve Nasatir some time ago announced his imminent retirement:

Lonnie?

Time for you to post. Defend the choice all you want, but at minimum the optics look awful. Perhaps that's why they announced it right before the holiday break?" 
In fact I had earlier responded to a Comment on these pages.
Thanks for your question. I was honored to serve on the Search Committee which unanimously recommended that Lonnie Nasatir succeed Steve Nasatir as the Chicago Federation CEO. Lester Crown spoke for all of us when he told JTA:

“We interviewed dozens of exceptional candidates, and were thrilled with the caliber of leadership represented,” said Lester Crown, a leading local philanthropist and member of the search committee.
I think that all of us were aware (how could we not be) that there would be those who would suggest that the "optics" are bad or good depending on one's view. We who served on the Search Committee were determined to pick the best person for this awesome task.

We believed, unanimously, that we did so.

Rwexler 

P.S. The announcement was timed to the long-scheduled Federation Board meeting at which Lonnie's election took place. 

AS A MATTER OF RIGHT

A brand new member of Congress demanded, as a price for her vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, an end to “the old culture of waiting your turn.”  The need for instant gratification has become almost an obsession among some who clearly have never had to earn their place at the table themselves.

And, in Jewish communal life today that same attitude has gained momentum with the push to seat young leaders in the "room where it happens," on community Boards with nothing more to recommend them than their youth and enthusiasm. The question is: are those enough? Does service matter anymore in a culture of entitlement?

As one of you wrote:
"As a long time federation leader and a person who has attended numerous GA's where I have had a chance to interact with other lay leaders, a common thread that runs thru discussions I have had is that many individual federations can also be viewed as sending in the clowns.
 In efforts to bring in new young leadership too rapidly with little or no historical perspective (and often accompanied by new professional leadership with little or no historical perspective) these federations are facing a serious decline in campaign in real dollars as well as when comparing the value of the dollar today to the value 10-15 years ago as more established donors don't want to have anything to do with the new direction, or to surrender their support for traditional agencies in the local community and the overseas partners.
 While this is happening the new young leadership do not have the financial resources to replace the lost revenue. I believe this is a strong contributing factor to the explosion in donor advised funds, endowments, supporting foundations and other ways that have the effect of taking the decision making out of the hands of the clowns. The end result, I believe, is a contributing factor in the rapid decline in campaign dollars and donors to federations. Perhaps the next song ought to be a parody of the Peter Paul and Mary Song - 'Where Have All the Donors Gone?'"
This "phenomenon" is truly nothing new. Our friend, Jeff Solomon, and I collaborated on a white paper two decades ago that reflected on this push for instant gratification even then. We wrote Setting Standards for Volunteer Leadership and the Profession -- A Dialogue in the Journal of Jewish Communal Service in 2000. I believe it to be as relevant today as it was 18 years ago. But, that's just me.

And, back in the day...as a graduate of the Young Leadership Cabinet myself, I understood that "community service" in Chicago meant actually serving: thus I began to work in Campaign in our Lawyers Division and in the Year End (clean-up); and on the Federation Jewish Education and Missions Committees. Only after five years of these involvements was I elected to the Federation Board. By then I had been inculcated in the communal ethos.

I know of no community that is not interested in assuring interested furture leaders a communal leadership experience that they earn. Earn through service and commitment. Do you?````

Today, sadly, in too many places there is no ethos at all. So, perhaps it makes no difference if one learns anything about one's own community at all. And the results show it.

Rwexler




Tuesday, December 18, 2018

RABBI DANNY ALLEN, z'l

When we learned that Danny Allen, z'l, had entered hospice care after his courageous battle with ALS, our first thoughts were of Danny's wife, Mary Lou, his children and grandchildren, of course, and then our thoughts turned to Danny: his love of family, his love of Israel and his passion for his profession. And, a day later, we learned that Danny had died. North American and Israeli Jewry lost a passionate Zionist, an indefatiguable fighter for justice, a great friend.

Memories of Danny Allen overwhelm, like a flood. The countless meetings where we sat together in the back of the room, observing sardonically the goings-on, or the not goings-on. Our exchanges of emails as recently as weeks ago after my article on UIA and JFNA appeared in ejewishphilanthropy to which Danny himself was a frequent contributor -- it was the article that Danny wanted to write. His passion for justice was there to the very end.

And, of course, I remember our pitched battle at the time of the merger creating JFNA Danny's passionate (sometimes infuriating) defense of United Israel Appeal's independence side-by-side with his incredible lay partner, Shoshana Cardin, z'l. Danny, the Executive Vice Chair of UIA at the time, a role he would leave post-merger and return to with great passion and leadership years later, never let up -- he and Shoshana, publicly and privately, saw the future with a clarity that I and UJA/CJF leadership did not: that the merger as structured would lead to what we are seeing today, the erosion of support for our system's overseas partners, and an inexorable turning inward. We were so focused on the merger we had structured, we were blind from what Danny saw with such focus.

As we went forward, Danny knew of my love and respect for him. We spoke often in the dark days of his brief professional leadership of the Hartford Jewish Federation and, then, during his service as CEO of American Friends of Magen David Olam, where Allen confronted corruption and lost his job because he would not tolerate it.

And, then, Danny returned to his professional passion: as Executive Vice Chair of the UIA. In expressing that embrace of Israel, and his constant advocacy for Israel and UIA's role, there was a baked-in inevitability to conflict with the passive leadership at 25 Broadway. Danny and I often conferred over those years, of his concern with UIA's role and the lack of support from JFNA both internally and externally. Conflict appeared inevitable and Danny's fierce and constant defense of UIA and his personal and professional advocacy for the Jewish Agency and Danny's expression of principles -- his integrity -- ripened into conflict that isolated him from JFNA's senior management. And, ultimately, JFNA's CEO began reading Danny's emails, found one that severely criticized JFNA. Danny left JFNA shortly thereafter. As one of his great friends observed to me in the past few days: "Danny just cared too much." This was the ultimate compliment.

Danny fought for his profession. A leader among Jewish organization professionals, Danny was a partner in the formation of JPRO; he had served the predecessor organization, AJCOP, as President. He decried what he saw as the abandonment of the profession by the continental Jewish organization. He had received the profession's highest honor from his peers, the Mandelkorn...he earned it....he treasured it. 

And, Danny was an ardent Zionist; so much of him sprang from his love of Zion -- his and his family's dream of aliyah, his professional leadership of ARZA which he served as President, that joy he received from every visit -- his inspiration, the driving force of his leadership and his life.

Our condolences to all of Danny's family and his friends worldwide. As one of those friends wrote:
"May Danny’s life, deeds and memory serve as an eternal source of brachot and mitzvot for his family and all of us. 
Baruch Dayan Emet." 

Rwexler