Monday, August 18, 2008


Woody Allen has written that in his view "cynicism is just an alternate spelling of reality." So, call me a cynic. With each weekly Howard's View, my cynicism (or reality) is rewarded beyond measure -- and, trust me, that doesn't please me a bit. This week's bloviation, dedicated as it was, to the Annual Campaign, evidenced such a disconnect from UJC's reality as to imitate Orwell's 1984 more than anything else. Because, let's face it, other than a few wonderful annual campaign events inherited from UJA -- the Campaign Chairs/Campaign Directors Mission, the Young Leadership Cabinet Retreats, the constituencies -- UJC has marginalized Campaign through a series of actions reflecting the Chairs' and CEO's attitude that the Annual Campaign is not UJC's business in pursuit of other "priorities." But, you have to give this UJC leadership credit for one thing -- chutzpah. They possess it in such abundance that they can interpret failure as success and dross as gold.

Just a few facts: since the birth of UJC, the aggregate of federation campaigns has increased to almost an annual $900,000,000, an increase of almost $300,000,000. During that same time, federation aggregate allocations to the Jewish Agency and JDC have decreased by close to $75,000,000. Let me repeat, annual campaigns have increased by almost $300 million, allocations have decreased by $75 million. Through an incredible misuse of statistics, UJC has announced that federations allocate $400 million annually -- but, when you look at the data honestly, it is clear that UJC has lumped together the IEC special campaign funding which represented a federation triumph and for JAFI/JDC a pass through of some $230 million -- none of the IEC dollars went to fund core or elective programs of either organization. This reality hasn't stopped UJC from pandering to its federation owners with a terribly false conclusion, known to UJC's (and some federations who have similarly trumpeted this line) to be false. As federation allocations from the Annual Campaign are American Jewry's sole support for the core -- the infrastructure -- of the Jewish Agency's and the Joint's work, that support had, by the time of the Georgian-Russian War been reduced to the point that both partners were anticipating the largest annual deficits in their respective glorious histories.

With the data of declining core/infrastructure allocations in front of them, UJC's lay and professional leaders turned their backs. They apparently believed that a single letter from them urging additional allocations support, a GA speech in Los Angeles and an isolated mention now and then in the Views was more than sufficient. They were/are wrong.

And, in their comprehensive analysis of UJC's failings, the Large City Executives March Report Refining UJC's Vision (as opposed to, as reported earlier in this Blog, redacted and rewritten by UJC resulting in its watered down version titled....Refining UJC's Vision. One for Ripley.), suppressed by UJC's leaders with the apparent acquiescence of the LCE themselves, the Execs admonished UJC for its marginalization of the Annual Campaign and demanded that the National Campaign Chair's leadership role be restored to its former stature and with the role, the status of Campaign/Development be restored within UJC's structure. This was not to be. UJC's leaders unilaterally had determined -- why, we will never know -- that the annual campaign would be diminished, period. When the sitting National Campaign Chair, David Fisher, a Next Generation mega-donor, refused a traditional second year, UJC's leaders asked him to (a) keep it to himself, (b) not reveal the underlying reasons for his decision beyond family and business and (c) continuously returned to David to plead with him to take the second year. Ultimately realizing that returning time and again to David was not going to be productive, these same UJC leaders returned time and again to others, who will go nameless here to protect the innocent, and were rejected time and again. I am certain these federation leaders said no because they realized that UJC's Board Chair's and CEO's representations to the contrary, their actions -- deprecating the Annual Campaign publicly and privately, cutting the Development budget drastically, unilaterally shifting Development functions to the totally unplanned "Center for Jewish Philanthropy," attempting to coopt the Campaign Chairs/Campaign Directors 2008 Mission, forcing out the two top Development professionals in 2007, and more -- suggested no support, none. The sad result, for the first time in my years of engagement, The Campaign Chairs/Campaign Directors Mission went with no National Campaign Chair, the Young Leadership Cabinet Retreat, no National Campaign Chair, the Jewish Leadership Forum, no National Campaign Chair. Pitiful.

With the above factual context -- increasing federation annual campaigns, drastic decreases in federation allocations to JAFI/JDC core/infrastructure, no national advocacy for core, diminished UJC Budget support for Annual Campaign development -- we turn to measure the incredible conclusions in Friday's Howard's View.

This week's exercise in ingenious disingenuousness began in Howard's View as follows: "...our federation system has a proud record of leveraging our Annual Campaign-funded programs worldwide when crises hit. (If anyone reading this knows what UJC meant by this, please help me to understand in the context of the Russian-Georgian crisis.) Our UJC/federation-funded partners. JAFI and (JDC) ... relied on their existing infrastructure to move into action." Apparently, Howard was asserting that but for federation allocations, neither JAFI nor JDC would have an infrastructure. Then Howard goes on about JDC using a van to deliver emergency provisions and JAFI bringing 30 refugees to Israel, remarkably reducing both organizations' emergency efforts on the ground to trivia. This led that author to emphasize the need for core -- as if UJC was advocating for the core or fighting to grow it rather than letting core allocations diminish without even a reference or a whimper. (Curiously, from the start of the crisis, where 7,000 to 12,000 Jewish lives are literally in the balance, UJC's Chair of Israel/Overseas, on more than one occasion, referenced this crisis as "good for the Annual Campaign" and urged that the crisis be made a feature of the 2009 Campaign seemingly failing to even comprehend that Annual Campaign dollars will be allocated by 155 federations [presumably including her own] sometime in Spring 2009 when emergency funds are desperately needed now.) Let's be clear: neither JAFI nor JDC have the requisite core dollars in an era where the core has been reduced by $75 million to deal with this crisis any more than UJC, whose bloated budget has been reduced by $3.2 million, has budget dollars for, apparently, any matter of urgency -- be it the Georgia-Russia crisis, the ENP, the IAI, and on and on.

Without ever connecting the dots between the Annual Campaign and allocations, the Friday View jumped to the continued vitality of the Annual Campaign as evidenced in the twin successes of the Campaign Chairs/Campaign Directors Mission and the Cabinet Retreat fund raising and the continued gathering of high net worth potential philanthropists at the Jewish Leadership Forum -- all holdover annual FRD events from the UJA calendar --and the remarkable growth of federation endowment assets in 2007. And, then off on a tangent with support for the UJC-driven Social Venture Fund for the Environment and another for Jewish-Arab Equality and Shared Society. (Both focuses of, inter alia, the Jewish Funders Network or the New Israel Fund.) And, then to the announcement of successes of the Washington Office -- with no mention...none...of UIA's success in achieving a $39 million Grant for Refugee Resettlement in Israel, some of the beneficiaries of which will be those rescued and resettled in Israel from the Georgian-Russian Conflict.

So, after reading the weekly disjointed View, is it fair to ask if anyone at the top of UJC lay and professional leadership understands the nexus between the Annual Campaign and the core activities of the Joint and the Jewish Agency...of the UJC's moral obligation to be the advocate for those allocations...and how UJC's failure to be the advocate has contributed to the $75 million reduction in core allocations that creates the need for emergency funding by us?

Probably not.


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