Time and time again, this UJC Administration takes an excellent idea and twists it in application to a point of negativity. This time it is the highly touted Federation Peer Yardstick (and, as noted below, not Peer Yardstick alone). In these pages I have reflected the common sense that Federation Peer Yardstick has made a positive contribution -- leave it to UJC to convert the positive to a negative. I have also consistently highlighted the UJC lowlight failure to meets its overseas advocacy obligations. Somehow, through incompetency or worse, UJC has enabled Peer Yardstick data to be applied as a means of negative advocacy -- almost as if: as we're not doing one thing (positive advocacy), let's do the other (negative advocacy). Here's how it works (or doesn't).
As part and parcel of the measurement of relative federation achievement, those federations participating in Peer Yardstick review are advised as to how their overseas allocations percentage of annual campaign compares with other federations within their "City-size grouping." While the comparison may be apples to oranges -- one community's report may be for 2007 while another's 2008 (or even 2006) -- the end result is that a community -- hypothetically, Detroit -- allocating 40% of annual campaign -- learns that its "peers" among the Large Cities allocate an average of 30%. Would these findings encourage increased allocations? Are there any standards, any discussion of standards? Are the data on the subject of allocations ever discussed with community leadership? Does anyone have a clue?
This is not to suggest that this is at all intentional on UJC's part any more than the realization of Murphy's Law reflects intent. It's just that with all things UJC consequences flow. Yardstick data are sent out, the consequences never considered. Solicitations for the IAI, the ENP, the LOL, are sent out, the consequences with regard to each and each to the other never considered. Peer Yardstick exists in a vacuum as does everything UJC.
On a similar note, there is the planning, such a it is, for the November 2008 Jerusalem GA. Panels and topics for the GA Program each have the name or names of the UJC professional responsible. Nowhere is it indicated that lay leadership has had any input whatsoever. The end result? Well, in a September 8 letter to UJC's very few lay leaders and the CEO, JDC's Chair and Treasure observed "...that the UJC GA in Israel will focus on three topics only: the Negev, Children at Risk and Ethiopians." These terrific JDC lay leaders plead "...that you reconsider this decision in view of the significant and substantial needs facing world Jewry in other areas that should also be brought to the attention of the Federations of North America."
Ellen Heller and Irv Smokler note that "[B]ecause of the declining overseas allocations in core funding, the flat level of community elective funding the past five years, and the weak dollar, JDC has been forced to curtail many essential services and cut from its caseload over 25,000 elderly, poor Jews who are eligible for assistance. These are not just numbers. These are real people..." These JDC leaders continue: "Last year, at the 2007 GA, a total of ten minutes was given to Richard Pearlstone and Ellen Heller to discuss the challenges facing JAFI and JDC, No other mention was made of the enormous needs of the approximately 1.3 million Jews remaining in the FSU or the programs that attempt to alleviate those needs. If UJC does not educate the donor base how can one expect it will increase?" Ellen, Irv and JDC lay and professional leadership have surely learned that this UJC leadership is interested in strictly its own plans (whatever those may be). its own Vision (whatever that Vision may be) -- and nothing...nothing...else. Where there is no Vision, no leadership, dreams die.
You may recall that the current Board Chair and Chair of the Executive took on an earlier assignment, the reconstruction of the GA. They eliminated the lay-professional partnership's GA Planning Committee and made planning for the GA the captive of UJC's professionals and them. Never was that in worse evidence than in Nashville, where this Leadership made the GA about them as they pranced about stage after stage-- and the Nashville GA became no more than a third page story in The Forward. As JDC noted, the results speak for themselves -- and those results are pathetic.
As Ellen and Irv concluded: "The GA -- the annual meeting of the leadership of the Federation system -- is the only time that professional and lay leaders of North America can learn about all the programs being operated to assist Jewish communities throughout the world...It is essential that the UJC GA provide a forum to inform the leadership of North American Jews of the challenges and achievements of its overseas partners -- JDC and JAFI." "No, it's not," these transient leaders would probably respond -- "the GA is ours and we will do with it what we want." Even if they haven't a clue.
Maybe the consequences aren't unintended after all?
More on the upcoming GA next week.