Friday, May 30, 2008


In past Posts I have lamented the fact that the "Circle of Trust" at UJC is drawn so tightly that only a privileged few are permitted inside -- and those are fewer and fewer today than ever before. Before I posted on this issue that I believe weakens UJC dramatically, I communicated my concerns privately to Mssrs. Kanfer and Rieger over the last two years plus -- with no response other than their evident anger toward me for raising the issue at all, let alone privately. As each of you who reads this Blog knows from your personal experiences, the more that our national organization or our federations act exclusively rather than inclusively, the trust necessary to build the institution erodes and the institution ultimately dies.

This issue was brought home to me in vivid ways this week. A communal leader active in UJC wrote me with a list of institutional concerns -- important ones. That leader went on to express real fears about bringing these issues directly to Kanfer or Rieger "...for fear that my questioning might be ruled as disloyalty will surely end my...UJC volunteer role." Can you imagine a lay leader in your federation having to live in fear, my friends, of raising questions about the organization? Welcome to UJC. But, of course, that's not all....

Over the past weeks, three critical Development and Center for Jewish Philanthropy lay Chairs -- the Chairs of Campaign, the Center itself and Planned Giving & Endowment -- have resigned. While each has left for a different reason, the result as they say speaks for itself. David Fisher, this terrific NextGen dynamic leader, a mega-donor, declined the traditional second year of the National Campaign Chairmanship; Morris Offit, one of NewYork's great leaders, a mega-donor, the founding Chair of the Center for Jewish Philanthropy, and who should be immediately considered for Chairman of the UJC Board, has resigned (The Center's focus and mission have been like UJC's themselves, never defined in consultation with lay leadership and now UJC's leaders, with no consultation, have decided to "restructure" the Center Chair's role); and Toronto's dynamic lay leader, Paul Morton, who has served as UJC's Planned Giving & Endowment Chair for just months, resigned in frustration with UJC's lack of process this week. (Maybe Paul was frustrated in being told that PG&E would henceforth report to Development all under the CJP umbrella without any prior discussion...just a guess).

This is our UJC -- decisions are announced without discussion; lay leaders fear even raising questions; lay leaders resign and are told to "keep it quiet;" new lay leaders are recruited, promised support and cooperation and are then ignored. Now, lay leaders, who come from deep federation involvement in their lives are refusing to tolerate this dictatorship any longer...and our system is the ultimate loser. And this lay and professional leadership just goes on without reflection or introspection...or, G-d forbid, change.

For shame.

Shabbat shalom.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Yesterday the UJC Board and Delegate Assembly engaged in very upbeat meetings which resulted in, among other things, the unanimous approval of the UJC $37 million Budget and the emergence of a new, very new UJC in the form of a reborn CJF at six times the cost. Support for the Annual Campaign appears buried, if it continues to exist at all, within the "Center for Jewish Philanthropy" and the "collaborative model;" the huge budget of UJC Israel remains without an articulated plan for its expenditure; Missions have disappeared as a national activity; etc., etc., etc. The Budget (and though I remain a member of the UJC Board, I did not receive a copy of the Budget Book [such is my lot in life] -- I had to rely on friends in Chicago to spare me a copy) demonstrates that UJC will now "outsource" most of its most critical functions (the ones federations want) -- Annual Campaign, Missions, community consulting, ePhilanthropy -- with the federations paying the freight over and above dues.

And, what you may ask will UJC be doing in 2008-2009? Best I can tell, mainly vetting consultants. Oh, but there will be an Owners' Retreat -- eight months from now, at the end of January 2009. Inspired by the Large City Executives' Vision for UJC (presented brilliantly by Misha Galperin, Washington's President and CEO), UJC will now apparently retain the LCE's consultant (yes, the LCE have their own consultant) to frame this Retreat. The recognition that a meaningful Retreat engaging UJC with its Owners is almost an epiphany for this UJC leadership; they are to be congratulated for recognizing the need. Yet, clearly, it is being pushed off into the distant future in the hope that its branding/strategic marketing consultant will have completed its work by the Retreat date.

The 56 Intermediate Cities Chairs and Executives, objecting to the Budget process in a respectful letter to UJC leadership before yesterday's meeting observing that in reality there was an "absence of deliberative review of service implications attendant to the proposed dues reduction" and no opportunity for these 56 federations "to express their priorities for UJC programs and services." Having asserted themselves, they voted for the reduced Budget subject to an expressed "...overriding principle: we are unified in our desire for an effective and efficient national system that embraces deliberative, rational and collaborative processes to determine who and what it is, and what it will become." They, and we, will now await that "deliberative process" until next January. Let us pray. Or as the sorry fans of the Chicago Cubs have been saying for what is now the 100th year in a row -- "Wait 'til next year."



Thursday, May 22, 2008


We interrupt this Blog for a Post about an UJC "priority" that exemplifies the issues your Blogger has been hoping against hope would inspire the federation owners to (a) ask the important question "what the hell is going on here" and (b) its subset "isn't it time we took back the UJC from those who seem not to factor the federation owners into the policy-making/budgeting equation?" For this Post is all about the Israel Advocacy Initiative (the "IAI"); it is about UJC, its "priorities" and the shell game it has played with its Budget.

A little background. Forget for a moment whether the IAI has been or will be effective, and forget for a moment the question of whether it is appropriate that UJC delegated its advocacy for Israel to the JCPA through the IAI. Just as there is a critical need for a vital planful
UJC, there is a parallel critical need for a vital, planful IAI. In one of those hyperbolic Howard's Views on February 1, 2008, Rieger wrote:
"IAI was created during the second intifada in 2004 when Israel was under siege physically and her public image was under attack in the media.

UJC and the JCPA established the IAI as an interim effort. The Second Lebanon War showed us that, in the world of Jewish vulnerability, nothing is ever episodic. So our Board took stock of what we we have achieved through IAI, assessed the threats and reviewed a variety of initiatives bolstering Israel's public image with opinion-makers, various religious groups and by strategically supporting communal advocacy.

Shortly, we will be presenting recommendations to the field for funding IAI on a more permanent basis. The cost will not be extensive, but the impact will be dramatic." (emphasis added)

Accept all of the above as true -- even though with long speeches on the subject at the Newport Beach Board conclave there was no time for real discussion or debate -- this presentation was followed by no process...none. There was no vote by the UJC Board to support a request for additional funding over and above dues; there was no process within the UJC Work Group, Task Force infrastructure. UJC "leaders" used a presentation to a small group of Board members at a California Retreat with no vote, followed by a presentation with no line-by-line itemization to its Executive Committee, as a mandate to assess/"ask" federations for hundreds of thousands of dollars per year over and above dues. Friends, is this how your UJC should work?

But the attempts to structure how to fund the IAI went forward only within a small group of UJC's leaders with no apparent input from UJC's owners whatsoever. Then, out of the blue, from the mountaintop on high came down a letter from Howard Rieger on May 6, 2008, three months after the Board Retreat to Federation Executives -- no discussion with the City-size groupings of Presidents and Executives (even though Budget discussions were taking place within these groupings at the same time) external discussion with anyone beyond the Executive -- asking for, in my federation's case, $300,000 ... $300,000...over three years over and above dues to support the IAI. (How much are they asking from yours?) Chicago has the resources to pay and the enthusiasm for the IAI to do so...but what of the 158 other federations?

Initially, the IAI was funded from the Israel Emergency Campaign. When looking for this additional and significant funding my understanding from friends in the national agencies, is that UJC tried to squeeze funds from the National Alliance pool (which was created by the federations to fund the national agencies) -- and drained $80,000 from the only source of additional dollars for the funded national agencies (with no apparent consultation with them) for the IAI. UJC even went so far as to try to get money from the underfunded JCPA Budget. Turning back to the IEC for funding was to no avail as that Campaign had ended and UJC had yet to figure out how to fund the commitments to the victims of the Sderot terror when the IEC well was dry as a bone. The one place UJC did not look to...refused to look to...was its own 2009 budget. In point of fact, the Budget & Finance Committee, meeting two weeks ago in New York to consider the 2008-2009 Budget was not asked to examine funding for this "high priority" of UJC within the Budget.

So, the UJC Board will consider a reduced 2008-2009 Budget of $37,000,000 when it meets on May 27. Dues will be reduced by 8%. At one and the same time, UJC has an "ask" out to the Federations for IAI that would, if met, over and above dues eat up, as I compute it, a real portion of the federations' Dues savings going into the new UJC Budget year. Refining UJC's Mission indeed.

Way back in my "youth," I chaired our Chicago Federation's Jewish Education Committee. The JFMC then had a process in place for funding Jewish educational institutions called "program priority packages." We would fund core priority needs of the institutions and then fund schools' priorities to the extent of available funds according to the funding priorities of the institutions. One school, operating out of a derelict facility cited by the Chicago Building Department for Code violations, thinking itself smart and clever, listed as its lowest priorities -- fire extinguishers and sprinklers. We at federation had a very long talk with them; it didn't happen again. Now, we see this manipulation raised to the level of the national organization that we, the federations own, and to which we owe the obligation of demanding that it meet our highest hopes and expectations. Yet, we find in the IAI circumstance -- a critical priority of the federations essentially delegated away by UJC to the JCPA for which funds are now sought with no process, no coordination, and no consideration by the federations themselves.

It is almost impossible to conceive that the leadership of our national Jewish organization would behave in this brazen, imperious manner. Unless, of course, you know them


Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Curiously, while most of those who have written me privately have expressed support, if not for this Blog itself, for the right to criticize and observe, some at UJC have accused me of being engaged in what they term to be a "vendetta." I find the definition to be dispositive: "vendetta -- a feud between two families or clans that arises out of a slaying and is perpetuated by retaliatory acts of revenge." (Emphasis added.) I have no power to engage in "retaliatory acts" -- in fact, the actions or inactions of UJC's "leaders," who have most often uttered the "vendetta" accusations have been the only evidence of a vendetta -- personal attacks, false accusations, threatening UIA with By-Law modifications, dismissing me from the Budget & Finance Committee, removing UIA's Chair as an ex officio member of the UJC Executive Committee.

Clearly, the reaction to my opinions and criticism first expressed to these "leaders" privately and then, after no response, in this Blog have been in the nature of a vendetta within the definition. Much as these leaders and others "can't handle" criticism in any form, the pathetic attempts to silence me will not succeed. They should know me better than that. If one reads my Posts, the criticism in them, admittedly often harsh, has been driven by what I believe to be a fair reading of the disarray they have created and the precipice toward which the Chair and CEO have been driving UJC without regard for the intent of the merger or the wants and needs of the federations and the donors the federations represent.

Rather than seeking to implement real change within UJC, rather than engaging in any institutional introspection, those in "leadership" have chosen instead to attack the messenger.


Friday, May 16, 2008


This fiscal year, most federations voted to support a Budget for UJC of $40.2 million. I assume that those federations expected to get something...anything...from UJC during this fiscal year. Well, we haven't -- unless you can think of something that I've missed. We now see UJC in total chaos -- and, trust me, we could have paid a lot less and obtained the same results. Yesterday, UJC, over the signatures of two of its most senior professional leaders, tried -- tried very, very hard, in fact --to explain how the elimination of Missions planning and direction in New York and shifting almost the totality of that inspired and well-managed program up to 10,000 miles more distant from the federations will make it better and how Consulting Services will be enhanced. They wrote, among other things:

"The Budget aligns UJC operations with its strategic goals (adopted one year ago with the promise of results by this time this year): resource development of federations, convening mega-donors and growing our donor base, developing federation human resources..., building federation strategic branding, e-philanthropy, marketing and communications technologies, advocacy for the federation system...all within a framework of greater fiscal prudence."

All words..."too many words" to paraphrase Salieri. And, only words. Let's explore the "results." Let's look at where UJC is today and project its future under the current leadership:

  • Enhance financial resource development of federations. I guess that has been accomplished by: forcing out the top two FRD professionals, transferring almost all Israel mission programming from New York some 10,000 miles from the federations, effectively ending the "emerging communities" experiment, bifurcating Campaign and Supplemental Giving at a time UJC is preaching integration and collaborative fund raising models, hiring new senior professionals without regard for the reality that some have never made a federation annual campaign gift in their former communities. On studying the desperate needs of the people of Sderot, a UJC Work Group recommended the restart of IEC (the only contribution to IEC made by UJC to date had been its decision to recommend to federations that that Campaign be closed -- over Chicago's, among others, objections) -- the Work Group found at least $13 million in critical needs but also found that there was no money to allocate. UJC's action response -- an e-mail from Development to federation campaign professionals telling them how to start a campaign!!

  • The most exciting and vital annual UJC/federation Campaign event for the past decade has been the Campaign Chairs/Campaign Directors Mission bringing together 100's of Campaign Chairs -- women and general -- and federation campaign pros together on a pre-Mission showing the programs of JDC and JAFI on the ground in Europe, South America or elsewhere, culminating in Israel. I was so proud of my role at the creation of this incredible experience. For the 2009 Campaign, UJC leaders attempted to by-pass the Campaign Executive Committee, replan a Mission that has been totally effective by eliminating the pre-Mission (planned for Berlin) even going so far as to hear the Chair of the Executive question the purpose and the subsidy. Luckily, the eloquence of David Fisher, the National Campaign Chair, and the understanding of Morris Offit, Chair of the Center for Jewish Philanthropy, saved the day. These experiences, the marginalization of the Development effort, the maltreatment of Campaign professionals -- with family and business obligations, all of this and more certainly contributed to David Fisher's decision not to seek a second year Chairing the Campaign. At the Budget & Finance Committee meeting ten days ago, UJC leadership told the Committee it was terminating the Blue Knot High Tech leadership initiative -- literally "out of the Blue."

  • Let's be clear, this highest strategic priority is nowhere reflected in UJC's activities except in the rhetoric of UJC's leaders. Rhetoric costs nothing and achieves nothing.

  • Convening mega-donors. Well, the Center for Jewish Philanthropy is up and running. Great!! At one and the same time, mega-foundations have begun to raise questions about UJC's execution of its responsibilities. And, the Large City Executives, independent of UJC convened a meeting with the executives of the mega-foundations, "inviting" the UJC CEO to participate (he sent one of his Senior Professionals who had no FRD experience). In the 2008 Budget $400,000 was allocated to jumpstart an effort to revive the concept underscoring the Trust for Jewish Philanthropy. That money was spent -- on what exactly?

  • Growing our donor base. Donor numbers continue to fall. The evidence of any program to acquire new and more donors is not visible to the naked eye although a Development professional has been assigned the responsibility.

  • Developing federation human resources. There is the Mandel Program in which UJC is a partner. Pioneered by a great professional, Steve Hoffman, during his time as UJC's CEO, the effort continues. Its UJC professional leadership was driven first by Ron Meier -- he's gone -- and then by Debbi Roshfeld -- she announced last week that she is leaving.

  • Building federation strategic branding. Last year the Budget included an $845,000 consulting contract on the subject (with a firm with no relationship to the federation experience) that had been negotiated for weeks before the Executive Committee considered the program. The research study has been on hold for weeks awaiting the arrival of a new Senior Vice-President Marketing and Communications. Yes, that's $845,000 of your and my money.

  • e-philanthropy, marketing and communications technologies. A NextGen mega-donor approached UJC in 2006 and, having seen the incredible potential for e-philanthropy, went to UJC where he outlined his thoughts and expressed his willingness to fund this effort out of his own pocket on top of his and his family's $1 million gift to Vicki Agron, Sam Astrof (who was heard to comment later "we really connected") and, then, one-on-one, with Howard Rieger. After a long meeting, Rieger told this mega-donor "we'll get back to you." Rieger then not only rejected the plan, he told many others that the mega-donor "...was going to take the cost off his gift" -- totally destructive and untrue. So, UJC, other than in its leaders' rhetoric, is another two years behind the curve on e-philanthropy and all this mega-donor can think is (1) this is not a place that welcomes me or any new ideas and (2) UJC only want programs it can totally control. Nice.

  • Advocacy for the federation system. Really? Have you seen any? For Israel@60, a great opportunity for UJC to represent the system, UJC couldn't even find the funds to partner in any of the federation celebrations around the country let alone on the National Mall next week; it couldn't find the spot on the GA Program to honor the 20th Anniversary of the federations' leadership of the Rally for Soviet Jewry that so distinguished and energized our communities; it terminated the work of its Task Force on Volunteerism. Its leaders used the UJC Bond Program to threaten a Federation which itself had threatened not to pay its dues. UJC's lay engagement with federations large and small has only been about its dues, its Budget, its plans. I would only observe that UJC today is more distant from any advocacy (except for itself and its budget) that at any time in its history.

One of my friends and partners in Jewish life, observing the purge that took place at UJC this week and over the past two years, asked me a simple rhetorical question: "Who is accountable for this mess? Where is the accountability?" Certainly those who have left, been forced out or fired at UJC are not responsible. And, while you and I bear no small amount of responsibility for allowing this chaos to exist, perpetuate and grow, ultimately, those who are responsible are those taking no responsibility for where UJC is today -- the Chair and CEO.

On the Cover of the Program for the recently concluded Peres Conference -- Facing Tomorrow is a quote from Albert Einstein:

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning."

When will you start? Now, UJC's leaders, as they did one year ago, will once again ask, after overseeing the disarray they have themselves created with our federations' $40.2 million: "Trust us. Give us just one more year...just one more." Yet, these "leaders" have isolated themselves in the "echo chamber" they have created, an echo chamber that shuts out all voices but their own, or when they believe it convenient, one ot two or three Large City Executives willing to run to their rescue. The "echo chamber" effect is self-evident -- and these "leaders" seem incapable of its deconstruction. When will the owners take charge? When will there be accountability?

"The important thing is not to stop questioning."

Shabbat shalom.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008


In the typical Presidential campaign the challenger to the party in power asks "...are you better off today than you were four (or eight) years ago?" The answer often determines the outcome. In national Jewish communal life, we rarely ask that seminal question, we just go (or in the case of UJC, limp) along, unquestioning, even cheer leading; perhaps, with the belief that if we just leave leadership alone, things will get better. Well, this leadership has destroyed that hope, among others.

One year ago, in response to a number of federations objecting to the UJC Budget and the consequent dues, UJC's Chairs and CEO put the "full court press" on these recalcitrant federations, visiting them with the articulated promise that went something like this: "trust us. Give us a year and you are going to see the impacts of our reorganization. Then, and only then, make a decision on paying your dues." (Of course, knowing these leaders, it took them at least 1/2 to one hour to state their premise.) Well, hello, a year has now passed. UJC has sent out a lot of Views, reorganized once again, agreed to the imposition of a cap on its Budget for purposes of dues, but what do the federation owners have to show for another year of a $40.2 million investment? With firings this week, with committed professionals forced out over the past two years, with a total lack of focus, with Blue Knot and Limudim programs, once so cutting edge, summarily eliminated, with the Missions Department almost totally destroyed by thoughtless, unplanned terminations...where is UJC today? As my philosopher in residence, Yogi Berra, observed, "if you don't know where you are going, you might end up someplace else."

Look around you, Federation leaders, are you better off today than you were one year ago thanks to the efforts of UJC? Where has been the positive impacts of the national system on our federations and our donors? Katrina? Sure. The Washington Office? Agreed? Federation Peer Yardstick? Good. The Bond Program? Thanks, Chicago. All else are programs and services cut back or eliminated to enable funding the redundant UJC Israel, UJC's Headquarters and a Marketing/Branding Study that has been put on hold awaiting the arrival of a new Sr. VP Marketing and Communications and a highly paid cadre of senior professionals. Where oh where has $40.2 million gone? Gone.

When UJC was a newborn entity struggling to establish itself, its start-up failures were shrugged off with the mantra : "It's 'cultural issues,' this is marathon, not a sprint." Over the last three years, these same leaders have been heard to observe: "Holy s---. This is a disaster." But, as the Chair of the Board was quoted to have said about the UJC Budget, UJC was hearing only from a minority of federations. Some applauded the Emperor's New Clothes. The rest, it appears, stood silent and UJC's leaders took that silence as total approbation. Sad, but true.

Are we better off today than we were three, two or even one year ago? That's for you to answer.


Friday, May 9, 2008


Last night 12,000 Jewish Chicagoans gathered for an incredible celebration at Northwestern's Welsh-Ryan (think of those two Northwestern University benefactors' reactions) Arena for an Israel@60 Gala. Chaired by Lester Crown (whose Opening Remarks should be distributed worldwide), with Comedian Jeff Garlin, Elie Wiesel and musician David Broza, it was a night to remember. Celebrations continue, hosted by federations and supporting organizations across the United States -- with one notable organization missing in action.

On the date of the 60th Anniversary itself, UJC did rouse itself from its slumber and send out a self-congratulatory Announcement....on the Budget Committee results. While we waited for further inspiration from our national organization, some...some...acknowledgment of this special day from UJC...we heard only the "sounds of silence." This was a shanda. I don't know about you, but I expect the national organization of the Federation system to speak for speak to us...on days like this. UJC is pouring money into UJC Israel like never before (some day we might even see some results beyond the incisive reports of Nachman Shai); the GA will be held there in November. But, when it comes to Israel, Israel itself is too often an afterthought (or, on its 60th, a non-spoken thought.) An example beyond yesterday: in the meaningless Reorganization over one year ago, the Israel-Overseas Pillar was dismantled (with tens of involved lay leaders given their walking papers). In its stead UJC's chachams created the "Global Operations Work Group" -- Global Operations!!!! Even though UJC has no global operations (it strikes me that those are the purview of JDC, certainly, and JAFI)perhaps the name was aspirational -- today 111 Eight Avenue, tomorrow the world!! Some lay leaders objected in private correspondence with no apparent effect, arguing that to deemphasize Israel, even only in title, was the wrong statement for UJC to make. It was only when Large City Executives complained that compromise occurred -- Global Operations: Israel and Overseas.

So, was UJC's failure to acknowledge Israel@60 just pettiness or some form of institutional forgetfulness or, as is more likely the case, is its Budget its overriding concern? (As an aside, as the Budget Committee ended on May 7, and UJC leaders had advised the Committee that 37 staff members would lose their jobs as a result of a Budget cut to "only" $37 million, Joe Kanfer, in a totally unnecessary obiter dictum, advised the Committee [and I paraphrase]: "even if the Budget had remained at $40.2 million, we would have fired 37 staffers.")


This afternoon, May 9, after my original Post on this matter was published, I received (forwarded because,as I have noted, I have been deleted as a direct recipient) Howard Rieger's weekly View, containing, albeit a dollar late and certainly a day short, sort of a tribute to Israel on its 60th. Appropriately, Howard notes the celebrations across the country and a great Federation leader's, D.C."s Norm Goldstein's, leadership efforts in that regard. What Howard doesn't mention is that but for the assignment of a fine UJC professional to work with Norman, neither a dollar of UJC's Budget was offered to support this effort, nor was UJC a co-sponsor of any of the great events that have taken place from Chicago to Seattle or that will take place in, e.g., Radio City in NYC or the Kodak in LA or on the National Mall in Washington. Never was there the intent for a national celebration (where was that decision made and by whom), never was there a discussion of why the GA would beheld in Jerusalem in November rather than in Israel on Yom Ha'Atzmaut itself (and where and by whom was that decision made). Norm Goldstein demonstrated what a committed lay leader can achieve, it's too bad that UJC leadership failed to lend a hand.

Now, these same UJC leaders will be on their flights to Israel for President Peres's Conference where they will hobnob with academics, political leaders and great Jewish thought leaders and talk and talk, as they are wont to do, of their commitment to Israel. Shame on UJC...and shame on us.


Thursday, May 8, 2008


Israel at 60!!

Who among us does not remember our first visit to our beloved Israel -- whether that visit was last week or 25 years ago or more? Who among us has not thrilled seeing Israel through the eyes of our children or grandchildren or through the eyes of a Mission participant seeing Israel for the first time? Who among us does not experience Israel every day in our hearts and our souls?

Yesterday the Israeli author and historian, Michael Oren wrote of the challenges Israel has faced and faces, and then wrote of what the United States and Israel share: "...values -- the respect for civic rights and the rule of law that (are) shared by the world's most powerful republic and the Middle East's only stable democracy." There is also Israel's determination to fight terror, and its willingness to share its anti-terror expertise. Most fundamentally, though, is the amity between the two countries' peoples. The admiration which the U.S. inspires among Israelis is overwhelmingly reciprocated by Americans, more than 70% of whom, according to recent polls, favor robust ties with the Jewish state." We, as Jewish-Americans, can take justifiable pride in our contributions to the growth of the State over these 60 years and to the reaffirmation we make year in and year out to the People of Israel, to our history, to our present and to our future -- united and together.

Israel continues to inspire us. Together, the Jewish People are writing new chapters in modern Jewish history every day. We shall commit ourselves to the creative survival of Jewish Peoplehood now and forever.

Israel at 60!! Am Yisrael Chai!!


Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Wednesday will be a day filled with joy. I hope to write on Yom Ha'Atzmaut of my, and, no doubt, your special feelings about the Israel we love.

Today is merely to observe that just when I think that UJC's leaders' pettiness can get no lower, they exceed even themselves. Last week a federation leader from another community sent me a Notice from UJC that included an advisory that an Executive Committee Conference Call scheduled for this afternoon had been postponed for two weeks. (A professional at UJC sent me the notice as well "in confidence.") As I had not received it from UJC directly, I inquired. Yesterday I received a curt e-mail from Howard Rieger advising me that in my capacity as UIA Chair I had been serving on the Executive Committee "as an invited guest" and, in his bloviating way, Howard withdrew my "guest status." Unfortunately for the CEO, as I reminded him, he had written me only a few months earlier confirming my continuing ex officio status on the Executive Committee in my role as UIA Chair. And I pointed out that the Executive Committee Roster listed me, as it had my predecessor, as an ex officio member as did the Minutes of the Executive Committee meetings themselves. Guess Howard just forgot. And, in addition to forgetting, Howard failed to comprehend that I serve as the representative of United Israel Appeal; I don't serve in an individual capacity but in a representative one. (In telling one of my federation friends this episode, that person responded: "Who made these people, and especially this guy, kings?")

Then, Howard continued, as apparently he and the Chair of the Board always feel it necessary, to repeat one of their oft-told lies about my actions under the apparent theory that if one tells a lie often enough, it becomes, in a perverted way, truth. The truth, as it were, is that this leadership chose not to even tell me of their unilateral decision apparently hoping I wouldn't notice. They act out in this vicious way that is so unworthy and so contemptuous of the positions of honor they hold.


Friday, May 2, 2008


Dear Michael and Committee Members,

You will be meeting in New York City on May 7. While, in the midst of the Budget process, I have been disinvited from not just next Tuesday's meeting but from the Committee itself, I am certain that you would not mind my suggesting some questions that need to be answered by UJC's leaders as you engage in the serious deliberations over a five hour meeting schedule (including lunch, of course) and debate and deal with a $40.5 or $37 million budget:

  • Last year UJC approved a $400,000 allocation to enable the development of programs that would for lack of a better term "restart" the Trust for Jewish Philanthropy effort. How were those funds spent, if at all? If not spent for the budgeted purpose, please explain.

  • The UJC Board approved a $1.5 million increase in the 2007-2008 Budget subject to specific programmatic approval by, among others, the Budget & Finance Committee. $845,000 was approved for a consultant contract on branding and repositioning federations. Is that research study "on hold" pending UJC's new Sr. Vice-President joining the staff? How much has been spent to date? Have their been any interim reports from the consultant? May the Committee see those reports, if any?

  • And, on the same issue, as nothing has been brought before the Budget & Finance Committee, may we assume that the $655,000 balance has not been expended?

  • In the current fiscal year, numerous Senior professionals have left the organization. What were the savings to Budget as a result of unfilled positions?

  • If it is true that under the circumstances described above, UJC has underspent its current fiscal year Budget, how does the UJC Administration propose to "distribute" the resultant Budgetary surplus? Reduced Federation dues? Increasing the allocation to JDC and JAFI to partially satisfy year-end 2007 cash shortfalls? Other?

  • The current budget reflected a significant investment in UJC Israel, transferring dollars from other UJC programs and activities. How have those dollars been invested? What have been the measurable impacts/outcomes of the activities of UJC Israel in 2007-2008?

  • At calendar year-end UJC cash projections to JAFI/JDC fell $3.5-$4 million short. Have the federations that underfunded these cash responsibilities made up the shortfall to JAFI/JDC? Is there a lay Cash Collections Committee in place? If so, who are its members?

  • In fiscal year 2006-2007, UJC Consulting (now UJC "Capacity Building") earned "fee for service" income of $200,000. In the current Budget year, that same UJC effort projected no income to offset expense. Was that a conscious policy change at a time that Large City Federations examining UJC's Budget and dues have urged a greater commitment to "fee for service?" If so, where was that policy change discussed.? Is there to be a greater commitment to "fee for service" in 2008-2009?

I am certain that members of the Budget & Finance Committee members will offer even more relevant questions than these during their brief meeting next week. I hope they get answers.


Well, I just read the JTA piece today on the budget. It is clear that the Budget and Finance Committee will be presented with a fait accompli. The 2008-2009 Budget will be $37 million, no more (unless sources other than dues can be found) and, unless the Budget & Finance Committee intervenes, no less. The Board Chair has even gone so far in the article as to suggest that UJC leadership had planned these cuts all along. So the Committee members can more productively spend their time on May 7 asking the questions that need to be asked. (Beyond the obvious: "if the Budget is already set, why are we here?") Every member of the Budget & Finance Committee will participate on behalf of their federations and UJC; they will ask the right questions.