Almost one month ago, on June 8, I posted The Enablers. In that Post I cited just two examples of how the Federations are treated by UJC as ATM's -- constantly asking for ever more dollars for ever more programs, the CEO being driven to spasms of anger when turned down. I expressed my opinion that the federation owners have failed to impose any discipline on UJC's leaders thereby feeding their sense that they can continue to ask for more and more and more...and not caring a whit that the source for those funds will be, for most federations, a draw-down on the "line of credit" that is the annual core allocation to JDC and JAFI.
I congratulate Joe Kanfer, Kathy Manning and Howard Rieger on their letter last week to the federation owners emphasizing the need for greater allocations to JAFI/JDC in light of reduced dues occasioned by a reduced UJC Budget; if an e-mail is UJC's answer to the cry for advocacy, we would all agree that's pretty....pardon me, really...weak. Let's review the bidding:
~ UJC Dues...mandatory for continued membership
~ Rieger asks his pals for three years of additional funding for a tax attorney in D.C. over and above dues
~ Rieger asks his pals for multi-year funding for a non-Jewish school in Ethiopia over and above dues
~ UJC bills federations for funding for the Israel Advocacy Initiative (IAI) over and above dues
~ UJC asks federations for additional funding for the Ethiopian National Project (ENP) over and above dues
~ Chicago's Steven Nasatir asks the federations to fund a pro rata share of the American Coalition Against a Nuclear Iran (ACANI) -- UJC prepares the formula supporting the "ask" but otherwise is disengaged from this critical effort over and above dues
~ Kanfer, Rieger and Manning in an e-mail request increased allocations to JAFI and JDC while all of the above has or is happening.
Does UJC prioritize any of the above other than its dues? Does it provide any leadership? Does it lead or drive any debate on priorities...on anything? At a time like no other, when our donors and our federations have never needed to join in the setting of priorities more, our UJC -- it is ours after all -- merely sends on the bills...for everything and, it often appears, for anything. If one assumes that UJC's Budget, as the Budget narrative states, supports UJC's self-defined priorities, can you, my dear readers, state just what those priorities are, for that matter could UJC's Chairs or CEO? And, if they could, would anyone state that UJC's self-defined priorities are of greater importance than the ENP, the IAI, the ACANI, the core allocations of JAFI and JDC? That debate over priorities never takes place. We should have learned by now, from our collective experiences, that where everything is a priority, nothing is.
What does it say about UJC when a vital cause such as a national bipartisan support effort for sanctions against a nuclear Iran is driven by Chicago? What will happen when, e.g., New York believes the system must raise major dollars to bring more Falash Mura to Israel, or Miami believes it vital to bring the remnant of Cuban Jewry there? And on and on it will go spinning out of control. At least before the failed Operation Promise Special Campaign was begun, UJC and federation leadership gathered in New York to debate and vote; now, we get letters and e-mails and references to discussions at a poorly attended Board Retreat last January as the basis for serial requests for funding of one important need after another. Never...never...is there a discussion of reorienting the UJC's still bloated Budget to prioritize these critical programmatic activities. G-d forbid!!
UJC conducts a valuable program for federation professionals-- the UJC Planners Learning Series conference calls. This month's topic is "Determining Strategic Priorities." Perhaps, it would be valuable if UJC's own leaders listened in...in fact, perhaps, all of us should be invited. Clearly neither they -- UJC's lay and professional leaders -- nor we -- the owners of the enterprise -- have a real clue.
I fear for our system as never before. The failure of UJC's lay and/or professional leadership to grasp the deconstruction that its errors of omission and commission are bringing about may be its most critical failing of all.
Happy Independence Day and a meaningful Shabbat.