Tuesday, July 22, 2008

BEYOND COMPREHENSION

It is clear that the current leadership of UJC believe that when they were hired or elected, as the case may be, they were thereby immunized from criticism and, at one and the same time, fully empowered to criticize others while they act unilaterally. Now, really, this is neither a healthy circumstance nor appropriate to their leadership roles. But, this attitude results in matters beyond comprehension like the double-barreled assault on Federation core values in last Friday's Howard's View coupled to an almost simultaneous UJC "ask" of the federations for millions of dollars in additional funding for the Ethiopian National Project.

UJC's "leaders," apparently believing that in doing so I was somehow being "punished," months ago removed my name from the Board mailing list for Howard's View. Nonetheless, I frequently receive it, recycled by federation leaders who typically forward it on to me, as with last Friday's, with the observation: "You won't believe this one." Let's examine last Friday's View and compare it in a new feature of this Blog -- Howard's View vs. UJC's Actions.

As United Jewish Appeal's National Campaign Chair, I was privileged to be part of a leadership group that, with our professional partners, conceived of and implemented the Campaign Chairs and Campaign Directors Mission. As was so often the case, the national campaign learned from the experiences of the UJA National Women's Campaign the value of bringing these lay and professional leaders first to see the work of the JDC and JAFI on the ground in the Former Soviet Union, or in Eastern Europe and then in Israel, and to use the opportunity of being together to engage with federation campaign leadership. From the first co-Chairs that I asked to lead the CC/CD Mission, Neil Moss of Columbus, and Chicago's Lois Zoller, we saw this Mission as the Campaign's kick-off event -- not only building the Campaigns momentum but building the engagement of the then national system with the federations as well.

Wherevere I travel in our great federation system, federation lay and professional leaders constantly remind me of the joy, learning and passion they experienced on the Campaign Chairs and Director Missions -- I am absolutely certain that my successors as National Campaign Chair hear the same thing. When I participated on these great Missions, I was always energized and the Campaigns which followed, led by the Mission participants, were energized as well. Last year, then National Campaign Chair, David Fisher, had to withstand UJC's leadership efforts to reorient this Mission, which had been carefully planned, away from a visit to Poland as a first stop. UJC Leadership did so by trying to move this Mission itinerary decision away from the Campaign Executive Committee to the embryonic Center for Jewish Philanthropy. David won the day -- Eric Levine's evocation of the Mission experience in Poland in Howard's View proved the meaning of the experience. Clearly, the CEO has forgotten his attempt to deep-six the Poland pre-Mission. And let us not forget that David Fisher declined a second year as National Campaign Chair, and UJC leaders have been unable to persuade a succession of lay leaders to accept this incredibly important position for our system.

Or perhaps the position is no longer important in an organization where all decisions are being dictated by the very few without regard for the criticality of Campaign/Development to federations' -- the owners, after all -- work. Remember, at the time of the merger, the expectation was that the National Campaign Chair would be the "first among equals." If any of you asked a succession of UJC National Campaign Chairs whether the position retained its status, you would not be surprised by the answer of those who served in the current administration . In the typical logic of the weekly View. the Annual Campaign is , in the same paragraph, first exalted as "...our primary philanthropic force," and then relegated to but one of "...a menu of choices..." for "our donors." As with most things UJC, when and where was that decision made and by whom? By the federations? No. By the federation Campaign leadership? No. By UJC Development lay leadership? No. This decision, if that's what it was, was made by the same leaders who have deprecated the Annual Campaign from their first public pronouncements right up to and through last week's View.

Then that View wandered off to bemoan the impact of declining core allocations -- an important acknowledgment by UJC leadership which has shied away from any...any...core allocations advocacy since they took office. Yet, even in this View UJC's confusion is self-evident. First, the CEO unilaterally elevates the Ethiopian National Project to co-equal partnership status with JDC and JAFI, then he goes off on the financial needs of the Israel Advocacy Initiative and the ENP, never returning to the massive deficits faced by our system's historic partners -- JAFI and JDC. We will never know whether the core allocations could increase with UJC advocacy because there has been none.

I have served on the Ethiopian National Project Board (as a Jewish Agency representative) from its outset. I have seen the pride of the Israeli Ethiopian community leaders who sit at the ENP leadership table, and I have shared their frustration with the lack of available funding to continue let alone grow these remarkable efforts at integration and communal growth. At one and the same time, it our funds -- federations' and Keren HaYesod's and donors' -- through JAFI and JDC and UJC that have enabled the efforts to date. As core funding to JAFI and JDC drop, they will be forced to fund less. With UJC's massive "ask" for ENP, there seems to be no recognition that those dollars will come from JAFI/JDC core -- a vicious cycle now blindly encouraged by UJC. In the second year of the ONAD process, of not so blessed memory, federations were asked to increase their core allocations by, as I recall, 5% solely for the ENP. It is also my recollection that two federations did so -- Houston and Chicago. Later the same day as the View under discussion, Federation leaders received not one but two e-mails requesting $5 million in total for ENP -- one from UJC's leaders and the second from the UJC Senior Professional who led the ONAD effort even dating back to the second year 5% increase over core that was not forthcoming. Sad...but consistent... is the comment that "[W]e will shortly also detail a plan for the ENP." Sure...and in the meantime send us $5 million.

I have written about UJC's incessant and growing number of "asks" of the federations both before the Budget reduction and since. There is no worse example of UJC's lack of focus or priority. The "need" for $1 million in funding for each of the next three years for the Israel Advocacy Initiative outside of and over and above UJC's budget of course found its way into this View. The CEO therein totally confused advocacy for Israel (through, e.g., the IAI, a program of JCPA, funded by UJC -- which, rather than any reorientation of its budget, merely drops unvetted numbers on the federations and claims "it's your obligation") with advocacy for the core budgets of our partners -- JAFI and JDC -- for their work in Israel.

And, finally, this View concluded on a totally different note, summarizing some Washington Office successes.

It truly boggles the mind that in one Howard's View the total confusion of UJC's aimless wanderings, lack of strategic direction (when its last two Budgets were accompanied by a narrative stating unequivocally that they were designed to fund UJC's strategic directions), and lack of priorities can be viewed in just three pages. Read it and all you can do is weep.

Rwexler

2 comments:

Yetta said...

Howard has just announced he is stepping down when his contract expires.......

Dan said...

The complete UJC press release:

http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/howards-stepping-down/