Friday, February 27, 2009


While in Jerusalem, where there was more than ample opportunity for UJC's leaders to role out their newest "plan" for JAFI (Note, not "with JAFI"), they chose instead to skulk about the hallways professing their "partnership" (you know, the Kanfer/Rieger kind of "partnership" -- you, our partner, do it our way or the highway) while plotting their own next step in the deconstruction of North American Jewry's historic place at the real "planning table" -- that of the true partnership of the Jewish People. Pushed aside at the Federation Leadership Institute from their goal, now denied, to supplant JAFI and JDC as exclusive partners as to federation core funding, Joe and the Joettes intend to do indirectly that which Chicago and Cleveland, New York and other federations denied them the ability to do directly -- tie JAFI's hands and then proclaim: "See, we told you that JAFI's days are over." Just how do they now plan to do so? Listen here:

Over the last two years, Kanfer, Rieger and Gelman, incredibly, have insisted dismissively (and, of course, in the shadows) that the federation leaders from around the United States who serve on the Boards of UIA and JAFI "don't represent the federations," and, therefore, must be by-passed in "directing" JAFI how to proceed, specifically how to budget. I exchanged correspondence on this very subject with Chairman Kanfer over one year ago when he raised questions about the UIA slate for JAFI as he deprecated the "qualifications" of some wonderful federation leaders. Here are Kanfer, from Akron, with his officers coming from from Greensboro, N.C., Chattanooga, North Shore Massachusetts, Delaware and, of course, D.C. claiming a greater relationship to and knowledge of the Federations of North America, than do the federation leaders from Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, Atlanta, Miami, St. Louis, Baltimore, Cleveland, New York City, Memphis, Detroit, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Houston, Nashville, Palm Beach and beyond, who serve on the Boards of UIA and JAFI. Yes, those UIA and JAFI Board members who have speaking privileges within and lead their federations know nothing about what their federations want -- only Kanfer and Rieger do.

And how did Joe and his tiny claque/clique learn what the JAFI and UIA leaders know or don't know? They just know, that's all. It's as simple as that. And, what do they plan to do with this "knowledge?" They want to vet the JAFI proposed Budget with 155 federations so they can direct UIA and JAFI Board members from the federations to vote against that Budget. (Arguably, when those federation leaders refuse, UJC will use their votes as a litmus test for continuing service on the JAFI Board.) What you can't accomplish directly, UJC will attempt to accomplish indirectly. Apparently, Kanfer and Rieger, as a closing "gift" to the Federations will attempt to mandate to UIA and JAFI American leaders that we vote against a budget the reductions leading to which can be laid directly at the feet of the failures of current UJC leadership. Instead of going to the federations with UJC's own Budget, which is driving one federation after another away from UJC membership, to debate that, Kanfer will use the magic of misdirection to distract federations from UJC's miserable failings. And, just who asked UJC to do so? N..O..B..O..D..Y. That's right, no one. And, fortunately only months remain.

Now, let them deny this is one of their firkachteh  "plans."(Just one, mind you.)


Thursday, February 26, 2009


Jerusalem. February 24. Friends and I were speculating as to why coffee in Jerusalem is so terrible. Given that Israelis appear to love their "coffee time" as much as we Americans, it is vexing that you can't seem to get a decent cup of just plain "regular"....anywhere. The coffee at the finest hotels is at best awful, and most times, undrinkable. The coffee at the ubiquitous coffee houses only slightly better. In a city and country where everyone seems to be operating on a caffeine high at all times (other than the preternaturally calm Shimon Peres), you would think that there would be a greater demand for great coffee.

And, another thing. Tissue paper. Israel is certainly not a third world country; but its tissue paper certainly is. You might ass well blow your nose into copy paper. I have had a higher quality "Kleenex" product in Russia than one can find in Israel. Why? Is the tissue paper in Hotels in Jerusalem manufactured by the same folks who make the coffee?

Then, there's the toilet paper. OK, I'll stop there.


Monday, February 23, 2009


~ So I'm just minding my own business in Jerusalem, attending very painful JAFI meetings and writing a Blog Post from time-to-time, when several friends approach me to tell me that Michael Gelman has been ranting that UJThee and Me is "destroying," "undermining" (you pick it) UJC. The inference being that but for this Blog all would be well with UJC...I repeat, all would be well with UJC. (My friends, this is not the first time that Michael has made this allegation -- at other points in his UJC leadership career, he has transmitted fabrications about my work within UJC and UIA [and I presume UJA, the NCSJ, my federation, etc.]. When I had corrected Michael, he ignored the corrections, never responded and went about his "Wexler is destroying UJC" message.)

Now, I admit that I have tried to shine a light into the dark corners where UJC makes its decisions, or ignores the decisions that have been made but with which they disagree but, really, chevra, the folks "undermining" and deconstructing UJC are those who are leading it into one dark corner after another, not I. As each of you who reads this Blog knows, I have offered these pages to Kanfer, Manning, Rieger and Gelman time and again, to correct any misstatements I have made (or which they believe I have made) in this Blog. By their silence they have essentially ratified the truth of what I've written even as they complain about it. I will just have to live with Michael's allegations, hard as that may be. But, with all due respect, it would be in UJC's leaders interests if they devoted the time they spend obsessing over this Blog (or on getting into the Prime Minister's Office on JAFI's coattails) on getting "in sync with community realities," as a great federation leader put it so much better than I.

~ So let's see what Michael thinks about this. Last night there was a beautiful Reception honoring Zeev Bielski on his 3.5 years of service as Chair of the JAFI Executive. Gracious speeches characterized the event -- from Tzipi Livni and Richie Pearlstone and Mark Leibler, the World Chairman of Keren Ha'Yesod, among others. Each of these leaders had moments of conflict with Zeevik over the years, most l'shem ha'shamayim, but last evening was a time to celebrate friendship and dedication. But not Joe Kanfer.

In a speech as ungracious and insulting as I (or anyone else) had heard before, the UJC Board Chair demeaned and insulted Bielski. The insults were totally opposite to Bielski's graceful thanks to Kanfer earlier in the day before the JAFI Board Plenary. Whereas Zeevik recalled with humor his first meeting with Kanfer on a basketball court at the Israel Forum two decades and longer ago, Kanfer (who recalled the event under the misnomer "Leadership Forum") remembered the moment as a place where he learned that Israelis "play dirty." He went on, like Don Rickles on a bad night, to disparage Richie Pearlstone -- "he writes letters, I prefer to speak." (Joe must have forgotten his vilifying letter to David Fisher but three weeks ago [And many more that he has written to, among others, me].) Joe went on to state that while he and Zeevik both carry forward the "hopes of the Jewish People, we have a differing means of achieving them." And so it went.

Not a person who was present (other than, perhaps, Gelman) felt anything but pity for Joe. "Pitiful" was the word I heard most often." "Wholly inappropriate" seemed wholly appropriate. We were there to honor Zeevik, and Joe chose that moment, that event, to bring dishonor to himself and, thereby, to UJC and, thereby, to every North American in the room. And, through us to each of you. Seemed consistent and disgraceful.

Michael, you're right. As with all else not going well at UJC, Joe's speech was my fault.



I arrived in Jerusalem to the drumbeat of heavy, flooding rains, a new Government in formation and The Jewish Agency for Israel in the midst of financial crisis and governance transititon. As Chairman Mao would observe, we continue to live in "interesting times."

~ Never has a single Post generated the enthusiastic and supportive response as last Thursday's "Breaking News." Therein, I fantasized a disastrous UJC attempt at rescue of "...the entire Jewish population of Iran" and the consequences. Friends and readers alike commented ranging from " will probably happen," to "I pished in my pants," to "it was a joke, right? wasn't it?" to "I was laughing so loudly I had to shut the door to my office" and more. I was inspired of course by the very thought that UJC would now be convening "planning tables." No doubt, more to follow.

~ Friends gave me a copy of a major Jerusalem Post (Thursday, February 19) profile on a great friend of World Jewry, Bobby Brown. I have been ennobled by our personal friendship over the past 12 years. After almost two decades of service to the Government of Israel, the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency, with great regret all around, Bobby has retired from that service to the relative quietude of professionally leading one of Israel's great emerging private foundations. As he goes from strength to strength, he left with many quotes in the Post article that are relevant to us -- one in particular:

"I believe that the people who were heading (a major Jewish organization) considered
their own positions more important than the positions that needed to be taken for the
Jewish people

Well said.

~ Immediately prior to the Federation Leadership Institute, the leadership of the American Zionist Movement transmitted a beautiful, powerful letter to Mssrs. Kanfer and Rieger. I, as a UJC Board member, asked UJC's leaders to distribute the letter to the UJC Board thereby probably dooming that letter signed by leaders Marlene Post and Bill Hess to total suppression although the real reason was that their telling narrative was at odds with the Kanfer message. I apologize to them. Joe and Howard, if you aren't able to send the AZM letter on by week's end, I'll publish it right here.

~ The JAFI Board meetings began with pain and inspiration, Bielski's transition, the impacts of the War on the people of Southern Israel (as rockets still fall), the growing Government-supported anti-Zionism and anti-semitism in Venezuela and an immense budgetary shortfall that will impact even more JAFI's ability to do its work on our behalf.

As a young man, an Aliya shaliach, an Israeli representative to the Israel Forum, to Mayor of Ranaana, to Chair of the JAFI Executive, a leader in Kadima and now a member of the Knesset, Zeev Bielski celebrated his retirement as JAFI's Executive Chair at the Opening Agency Board Plenary. Zeevik accoumplished great things during such difficult times. Over two wars, he was everywhere and, thereby, JAFI was everywhere and, thereby, American Jewry were everywhere. During his 3-1/2 years of JAFI leadership bonds with the burgeoning Israeli philanthropic community were built and tightened. His pride as an Israeli inspired us and as our leader, manifest. We wish him only great success.



Sunday, February 22, 2009


In the last edition of The Jewish Week, Walter Ruby had an interesting article on the evolution of HIAS from an organization whose primary focus was immigrant aid to Jews to the expenditure of over 80% of its funds on immigant aid, often in situ, for non-Jews, the latter an expression of our Jewish values. I was fascinated by Howard Rieger's statement of unconditional, unequivocal support for HIAS' work, the kind of endorsement never heard by, for example, JAFI or JDC. HIAS receives $700,000 in federation financial support through UJC processes.

As JAFI struggles under the burden of mounting deficits and reduced federation support, UJC, among other things, has engaged lawyers in Israel and the United States to confirm the quality of UIA's monitoring of JAFI's application of federation allocations (that quality was confirmed and extolled not that you have ever heard that from UJC), suggested that core allocations to JAFI and JDC were "relics" of another age and questioned whether the federation-nominated representatives to the UIA Board and to Committees and the Board of JAFI truly represent the federations who recommended them. In so doing, UJC's leaders have undermined the federations' allocations processes as if that was their intent.

So, HIAS has UJC's leaders' support, JAFI and JDC not so much. Why, you might ask? (In fact, the question "why UJC" might be equally appropriate.) Well, for starters, this UJC leadership is bound and determined to establish an alternative charitable "product" in Israel -- in fact, it is desperate to do so. Relationships with Sheatufim and Zionism 2000 without an infusion of UJC cash have been relatively meaningless -- UJC is looking for a start-up that it can control. Can't control JAFI; can't control JDC -- and to these "leaders" there is a constant need to deprecate that which they can't control. As UJC continues to lose touch with the Vision and Mission of the merger, and further disengages from its federation owners, it has also lost all sense of reality.

I have always been proud of the work of HIAS, an organization on whose Board I was privileged to serve when its work was focused primarily on assistance to Jews. My pride today is mitigated by the reality of where HIAS has been forced to almost exclusively focus by the world Jewish circumstance today. While The Jewish Week's reporter, Walter Ruby, raised the right questions, it astounds that Rieger raised none when asked for comment. Or, then again, maybe not.



If UJC has any moral authority left after its corrupt practices, its rigged Federation Leadership Institute, its inhuman personnel practices and its disengagement from the very federations which own it, its demands for loyalty while giving none, and its march toward the abandonment of its historic partnership with and commitments to the Jewish Agency and JDC, its waste of hundreds of millions of federations' dollars, then the thinnest of threads connecting that moral authority to the core values and timeless principles on which UJC was constructed are about to be strained to the breaking point -- perhaps beyond. Let me explain..

So many federations have now threatened to withhold or reduce dues that UJC's bloated budget is more than at risk. While using the FLI to promote its sole punitive power -- the termination of membership upon a failure by a federation to pay Fair Share Dues -- it is clear that so many federations don't care (after all more than half didn't show for the Institute; only one from America's West Coast) that there are a literal flood of federations unable or unwilling to pay dues on which they receive no return will effectively bring down the House of Kanfer/Rieger. A UJC of 40% of its members cannot stand. The determination by UJC that it cannot or will not cut its budget for 2009-2010 by more than 10% announced (and that's what it was, an "announcement') last Thursday (including the implication that its current fiscal year budget can't be cut at all) assures even more federations will voluntarily leave the system or begin the process of creating one anew.

In desperation, UJC's leaders have decided to pursue "the easy way out" on Dues -- eliminate them. In what appeared to be a scripted "suggestion" during the Board meeting that followed the FLI -- from a script read by Robert Goldberg, past Board Chair -- emerged once again the concept that "inasmuch as the UJC Budget is 'transparent' and approved by the federations, it should come off the top of the core allocation to JAFI and JDC." Sure, that would "solve" everything -- federations not wishing or able to pay Fair Share Dues, wouldn't have to, UJC's costs of operation would just "come off the top." To those who support the concept -- and one federation CEO for whom I have great respect and affection, wanted the "concept" enacted "right now" -- including the Treasurer, the argument was that "this is how UJA did it only without federation involvement" thereby missing the point entirely.

Following the Board discussion -- which lasted all of maybe 10 minutes -- and which most thought was a rejection of the "concept" at the UJC Executive Committee meeting this past Tuesday, it was agreed over objections, to appoint a Committee ("we're just appointing a Committee, not dictating outcomes"), to study and report on the subject. Certainly that Committee should review the deliberations of the Ratner Committee which looked at the alternative, or Rieger might provide the Minutes of the Merger Committee which deliberated on the specific issue long and hard before rejecting it. And, certainly, the Committee to be established will want to consider the context -- that UJC is in desperate trouble, its Budget supported by fewer and fewer federations, its Budget and Finance Committee no more than a rubber stamp for management, given four hours on a single afternoon to approve or modify a Budget they had only seen for the first time days earlier (as opposed to the give and take of two full days of Budget meetings at UJA [whose Budget and Finance Committee was made up wholly by Federation lay leaders from across the country]), and, often, desperation breeds desperate actions.

So, here we are once again. I can conceive of no objection to a well thought through process in which UJC's Budget is properly vetted, where "transparency" is real, not imagined, and...and this is the critical point...the core allocation is fully protected. This would assure that the JDC/JAFI core allocation not be used as a bank from which federations (and UJC itself) could make further withdrawals -- this time to pay their Fair Share. But, wouldn't we all be well-served if UJC's "leaders" took the message of federation objection to its Budget and, thereby, dues to ask the question it has avoided for the past three years: "Why?" And wouldn't UJC's interests be served by actually engaging with the federations on the purposes served by the UJC Budget and why those purposes fail to align with federations' needs and wants at this critical time and how to change that reality? Instead of misrepresenting to the federations, as Kanfer did last week, in his implication that "unlike you, we have been forced to cut our Budget every year for the past ten years" (actually the UJC Budget increased by $1.5 million in 2007-2008), couldn't UJC finally take a look at itself and consider why it has failed to achieve the goals set out for it by the owners a decade ago? But this leadership appears incapable of any introspection, any ability to say, "we have been wrong." So, I'll say it for them.

Watch out.


Friday, February 20, 2009


Each day UJC offers a new and fresh opportunity for either hysterical laughter or hysterical screams. Here is yesterday's as it was sent:


To: Federation Presidents
Federation Executive Directors

From: Michael Gelman, Treasurer

Date: February 19, 2009

RE: UJC Budget


At the Federation Leadership Institute, UJC's Leadership committed that by the end of February, federations would be informed of the expected budget for UJC so that they could plan their allocations accordingly. UJC's Leadership, the Coordinating Council and the Budget & Finance Committee which included representatives from all the city sizes, approved a target budget that would be reduced by approximately 10% for the fiscal year July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010.

Please use this as a guide for planning in your upcoming allocations processes. This amount is an approximation, which could change slightly as the budget is further developed.

If you have any questions please contact us."


Are you laughing? Consider yourselves "informed" and "make your plans accordingly." While your federation cuts its budget by 25% and more, remember that your national institution, which does so much for you, "approximates" that it will cut by 10%. Why not "act accordingly?"

Shabbat shalom.


Thursday, February 19, 2009


This morning, February 19, 2009, we awoke to the dramatic report that our Jewish Agency had once again succeeded in rescuing Jews in dire circumstances and brought them home. In a "Breaking News" e-mail, JAFI announced: "The most dramatic moments in Jewish history have once again taken place in Ben Gurion airport minutes ago: 10 Jews from Yemen landed in Israel as part of a Jewish Agency special rescue and aliyah operation. It's a moment that captures who we are as a people, who we are as the Jewish State, and who we are as the Jewish Agency." The story of this rescue reminded all of us, if we needed reminding, of what our partner, our agent, is capable of on our behalf. It got me to thinking of what might be the headlines next year................................

An Incredible Rescue from Iran, UJC Apologizes for Confusion, Loss of Life

February 19, 2010. From Ben Gurion Airport. Adam Smolyar reporting for UJC.United Jewish Communities just completed the rescue of three Iranians from Tehran, in a rescue operation " dramatic as any undertaken by JAFI in the past," reported former UJC Board Chair Joe Kanfer, who led the clandestine operation. Here's the incredible story as told to us by Jim Lodge, UJC's Senior Vice-President, Planning Tables and Clandestine Operations, and Kanfer himself.

"We were sitting at the Planning Tables trying to figure out something to do last March and someone from Boston suggested we rescue the Iranian Jewish community. Everybody thought this would (a) be a great thing for UJC and (b) would give our huge UJC Israel staff something
to do." "Wow," I said, "and what happened next?" "Well we asked Joe Kanfer to lead the rescue -- actually, Joe appointed himself to lead it -- and then we sat back until Joe gave us the plan thirty days later." "Wow, and what happened next?" "Well, this is the most exciting part -- we mobilized the Boston and San Francisco amutot in Israel as our emissaries. With Joe and our UJC Israel staff, they entered Iran disguised as Purell sales representatives in April 2009. And they had been working on the ground in Iran to recruit Jews to make aliyah." "Wow, and what happened next?" "Well, there were a few problems: none of these UJC emissaries spoke Farci; they couldn't find anyone to talk to -- although quite a few Iranians were interested in Purell; and the Jews they were able to find were more afraid of the UJC representatives than they were of Ahmadinejad." "Wow, what happened next," I asked?

At this point, Joe Kanfer, still in disguise, picked up the scenario: "We had been on the ground for six months without any progress -- other than that we sold three years' worth of orders for Purell. I told our 'emissaries' it was now or never -- after all, I was now Past Chair of UJC. So we went into a synagogue, saw a minyan, kidnapped the ten Jews from their prayers and headed to the Airport like Chuck Norris in Delta Force. Unfortunately, all ten Jews resisted and in the ensuing gun battle we lost seven of them. They're gone...but it was for a great cause."

"Well, what a story. It's still great that you were able to rescue three Iranian Jews through UJC's efforts." "Wellll, not quite," responded Joe. "The other three from the minyan escaped at Imam Khomeini International. We had to act quickly, so we kidnapped these three guys. Turns out they're Shiites but we still proved the power of a great plan. Next time we'll execute our plan better." I bravely asked: "Couldn't the Jewish Agency have done this better?" Kanfer responded: "First, you're fired. Second, JAFI is so yesterday, so 1975 -- could JAFI have mobilized Boston and San Francisco and mounted this effort on behalf of the federation system? Of course not. And we do apologize for the loss of lives and promise to ask JAFI to return these Shiites we brought here in this daring rescue as soon as possible -- after all, it's JAFI's fault that we took the wrong guys."


Perhaps anticipating this Post, UJC issued its own statement on the Yemeni rescue that fills me with pride -- turns out this rescue was UJCs achievement:

UJC/Jewish Federations of North America Help JAFI's Rescue of Yemenite Jews

Another dramatic moment in Jewish history took place at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion airport part of a secret operation by the Jewish Agency for Israel, which is supported the UJC/Jewish Federations of North America.

....JAFI launched a special operation to bring Yemenite Jewish community members to Israel. UJC's Becky Caspi was there to welcome the new immigrants."

1. Nice picture of Becki Caspi with the Yemenite Jews if you go to the link
2. Note the new name of our national entity "UJC/Jewish Federations of North America -- "a rose is a rose is a rose"


Wednesday, February 18, 2009


In an excellent article in today's JTA (although the by-line is dated February 16), Jacob Berkman gets to the basic facts underlying UJC's leaders apparent turn-about at the FLI on the issue of JAFI/JDC exclusivity as to core allocations. And, unbelievably, it turns out that's what Kanfer, Manning and Rieger intended all along. Berkman confirmed that federation leaders including Steven Nasatir, Chicago's top professional, met with UJC's leaders and seemed to persuade them after "vigorous debate" that it would be in the federations' interests and UJC's to retain exclusivity as to core funding.

Joe was quoted as saying it was all a misunderstanding on the part of JAFI leaders: "Some people saw the straw models, seeing the food before it was put on the plate, and jumped to conclusions that were off by 99 to 100 percent." I admit that I was one of those who didn't realize the proposals were straw men (I assume that's what Kanfer meant) and saw the food before it was put on the plate. I also admit I haven't got a clue what the hell that phrase means -- but if Joe says it, it must mean something. But a "straw man" is something intended to be knocked down by something more substantial. Apparently that's how Kanfer envisioned the Strategic Planning Work Group Recommendations were to be considered? All of them? Or just the ones that caused controversy? Do you believe it? Does Kanfer even believe himself?

Anyway, just to remind the Board Chair -- after the controversy over the "straw men" erupted, he gave an interview to Maariv. In the interview, exactly on point, Kanfer said: "For decades the contributors were prepared to raise money and transfer it to the Jewish Agency and the Joint and allow them to do with the money whatever they wished. (ed, this statement in itself is patently ridiculous)...We are no longer prepared to transfer the money and let them decide what to do with it..." Joe clearly forgot, in his interview with JTA's Berkman his own earlier statements now wholly inconsistent with the results and his current statements. Reminds me of A-Rod.

Do you think it will ever be possible for UJC's leaders to acknowledge that they may have been wrong, they may have over-reached, they may have been persuaded by the federations that their proposed actions would divide rather than unite us? Ever?

It's a rhetorical question.


Monday, February 16, 2009


Dear Federation lay and professional leaders:

Unlike the leaders of UJC I can't hit a button on my computer and send an e-mail to each of you, so, as always, this terrible means of communication must do. All of you except the most prodigious Kool-Aid drinkers must feel in your heart of hearts that UJC has become a disaster -- bloated and leaderless.

First reflect...reflect..on the implications of the FLI. Howard Rieger has, as only he can in his View last Thursday. As Frank Rich observed about others: UJC's leaders "...are isolated in that parallel universe and believe all the noise in its echo chamber...out of touch with reality." Unfortunately, rather than "seizing the day," as Gary Rosenblatt charged the federations in a brilliant pre-FLI editorial, when opportunity presented itself it was the old: "never lose an opportunity to lose an opportunity." I had predicted long before the FLI itself that it would be "rigged" unless federation leaders stepped forward. It pains me to have been so right.

Let's begin with the reality that after all the pre-Institute hype, the constant hold the dates, pleas to attend, e-mails and phone calls -- 70...70 of 155...federations were in attendance. Yet, UJC's leaders would claim a sufficient, pardon me, "overwhelming" consensus in support of every proposal on the table. It strikes me, as it must you, that if well more than half of your owners are not in attendance, what you ought to be focusing on is "why?" But, no, these leaders once again congratulate each other profusely.

And after you set aside the tchotchkes -- the fortune cookie sayings, the sugar cubes, the cute stuffed elephants, etc. -- what you have is an example of an extremely well-managed show, the appearance of engagement and wholly predictable results. Let's start, therefore, with the Board Chair's opening. Consistent with past practice, Kanfer presented a present value analysis using it to deprecate the Annual Campaign once again, as he has so often in the past. Even his CEO was forced, in his own excellent summary of the proceedings, to point out the miraculous achievement the AC is when one considers the $700 million raised by the federations in two emergency campaigns, $30 million in Hurricane Relief and $1.5 billion per year in endowment growth. But, Joe is motivated -- his thesis that the Annual Campaign growth is stymied by a lack of "big idea driven" product and that that is the fault of...JDC and JAFI, described throughout the FLI as our "beloved partners" right before the knives are driven into their backs.

The Institute was the first place where at least some (those we are allowed to see) of the research findings of the Branding & Marketing Initiative were released -- via Power Point. (If you link through Rieger's View to his speech, you can further link to the Power Point. First, there has to be more to this for $2 million!! Second, on general Jewish attitudes toward charity, the findings are similar to those of the 2000 National Jewish Population Study. And, third, I think it fair to conclude that throwing out the UJA brand at the birth of the new organization is proved to be among the most reckless, wasteful acts of our generations of Jews. For today, ten years later, UJA remains four times more "branded" in the minds of affiliated and non-affiliate Jews, than does UJC. (But, fear not, UJC will continue to deconstruct its own brand.) Critically, Federations are found to be trustworthy, responsible, efficient and results-oriented. s only 10%-14% of the respondents had ever heard of UJC, no questions needed be asked -- except of and by the federations themselves. "Why," you might ask, after the expenditure of over $400,000,000 of our dollars, is UJC so irrelevant, so unengaged?

As to the actual research, Rieger, in typical Rieger fashion misrepresents (or, quite possible misunderstands) any opposition to the engagement of two firms at a cost of ultimately $2,000,000 for this work, He accuses the naysayers of being opposed to the research and how "they" would have denied the system this incredible work-product had we listened to them . Howard, let me make this clear: my opposition was to the cost and to the manner in which the $2 million cost was merely applied to the project without any process -- something that wouldn't have happened in Pittsburgh, Cleveland or any of the other place you learned your craft. It would have been grounds for dismissal and/or removal from office. Got it?

So, among other things at the Institute, 18 tables discussed major issues. Their conclusions dutifully recorded and then...ignored. For example, from the 30 people, more or less, there was seeming unity that global responsibility was the federations' highest priority; yet. Kanfer would report that " global responsibility is among the highest priorities, supported as such by 35% of the people," we ought to take another look at it?? This was characterized by some as gracious."

But Rieger's Summation illuminates all:

~ On efficiency. "...working together to develop (a) state-of-the-art information systems for running our campaigns, so one framework could meet all of our needs. By creating one dynamic Web site template so we don't have to waste money on ultiple solutions. By investing together in top flight marketing tools that would obviate the need for one-off solutions. By down-sizing or eliminating the multiple federation offices in favor of creating one trusted federation presence." All excellent ides, all tried...and all...all...rejected by the federations at whom and for whom they were intended.

~ On increasing the donor base: "As we sit and ponder our narrow interests, we've gone from 900,000 to now under 500,000 contributors. We must invest in opportunities to bring new people on board, but a timid response is more likely to be our answer if business as usual prevails." Howard, Howard, Howard -- your own FRD Plan released simultaneous with the FLI wholly fails to make donor development a priority -- "business as usual" indeed, words without action. Nice sounds, terrible music.

And, then, on Planning Tables. Attempts by Rieger to justify what is contemplated by the Strategic Planning Work Group Recommendations seem designed to frighten JAFI and JDC more than comfort them. Recasting the IEC Work Group that, prioritized JAFI/JDC expenditures during the Hizbollah War and ignored its mandate in reallocating precious funds from JAFI and JDC to others in response to the Hamas War as the model for the bigger "planning table" now contemplated; accusing that "JAFI and JDC have not even been able to agree between themselves as how to divide the core funds we provide to them" with no recognition of the disruptive role played by UC in the process in which Howard's own actions disqualified UJC from its role as the honest broker mediating the issues is typical -- create a villain, blame them, it or he or she.

And, finally, the FLI bottom line -- "agreement on a dues formula that will be adhered to and a governance system that we trust to represent us well." And, Howard and Joe want us to remember: "...the Federations of North America aren't being ruled by the dead hand of the past but rather by an enlightened view of the future." Oh, my.

Rigged? QED.


Friday, February 13, 2009


Late on 5 February all sorts of Federation professionals (and the rest of us through a Briefing) received a Status Report on Development at UJC. It was accompanied by a link to Development's "Plan." (You would have had to look pretty hard to find it.) I read it and, in a conversation with Eric Levine, UJC's Sr. Vice-President. Development and the Center for Jewish Philanthropy, on an entirely different matter, he invited my comments -- probably to his regret. Here are a synopsis of my Comments on UJC's most critical area of focus:

~ Should have been called what it clearly is -- a Draft. I sensed that Eric intended the Plan as an internal UJC document but that his superiors demanded it go out in advance of the FLI so that federations would be impressed by, if nothing more, the volume of paper being thrown at them. I wrote Eric that knowing him he would have preferred a better-edited work product and one that he had shared in advance with the Campaign Executive Committee.

~ I congratulated Levine on his statistical presentation and analysis -- both excellent and daunting. Should be read by everyone -- especially the UJC Treasurer and Chair,

~ The Plan focuses on 3 "objectives" but with a subset of "objectives" for each one that destroys focus.

~ Every pious pronouncement from UJC leaders states one basic objective for UJC -- new donors. Repeated over and over again. Never followed by actions. The Plan does not mention this goal. You would think, in the tradition of UJC's leaders, the Plan would at least pay lip service to build the donor base..

~ Then there are the areas where UJC has already failed: with the NextGen -- when real leaders of the NextGen have emerged and then dissed with dismissed by UJC's leaders (e.g., David Fisher, Rob Mann [who chaired UJC Training for three years, traveled nationwide -- dismissed], Scott Seligman (mega-donor, caring leader, font of communal creativity) or who, themselves, have found UJC of no value (NextGen federation Chairs around the country) and other organizations have already captured important leaders of the Next Generation (such as members of the Board Chair's own family), it's doubtful that UJC can recreate itself with the very lay and professional leadership in place who created this void.

~ And, reconstituting the Million Dollar Donor Group (an attempt to recreate the so-called "Mega-Group" birthed by United Jewish Appeal) a donor level group that has been too long ignored. At Chicago's Steve Nasatir's and NYC's John Ruskay's initiative, Co-Chairs Lester Crown and Jim Tisch agreed to serve and then...nothing. Could have something to do with Rieger being "assigned" to staff this initiative, but I'm just guessing.

~ Enhance the UJC Missions and other programs? Well, it's not a new idea, but a good one. In fact, this leadership (a) attempted to destroy the Campaign Chairs and Directors Mission -- just characterized by Lori Klinghoffer, Chair of National Women's Philanthropy, at the FLI, as "...our most important national fund raising event -- and would have but for David Fisher's and Morris Offit's combined efforts; (b) notwithstanding the national success of the 2007 Prime Minister's Mission, it continues for no other reason than Chicago's continued insistence that it do so; the ILR, abandoned to KH.

~ There is also the characterization of some programs as "new" that go back years. The Jewish Leadership Forum, begun by UJA, continues to be a nice Summer Aspen outing with no follow-up. It would be good to reinstitute a Young Leadership Cabinet alumni effort -- but you ought to ask Chicago's Skip Schrayer about the effort he his late father put into it with little if any support.

~ And, then there is what is left out -- building the donor base (see above), nationalizing the Lion of Judah minimum gift, examining incredibly successful NextGen programs like Chicago's Nachshon and Sherman Missions and either using them as "best practices" or rolling them out nationally; recreating the "Voyage of Discovery" Missions for federation leaders; and others.

And, then, I encouraged Eric to sort it out, put "meat on the Plan's bones" and go for it.

If, of course, they'll let him.

Shabbat shalom.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009


I was going to title this Post FLI Rigged? Almost. But, then again. One of our system's great leaders, a dear friend who shall remain anonymous, wrote, before the FLI: "I salve and comfort myself knowing that this era will pass. We will get UJC back. Or a replacement will be born. We will return it to a proper role in our community. I believe in my heart -- it will happen." Then again, maybe not. One thing is certainly clear: the Federations wants and needs and the Kanfer/Rieger agenda have never been more out of alignment. The lack of synchronicity is now total. These leaders' day is done and their days are numbered.

Seemingly oblivious to the fact that only a single Federation West of Kansas was present, those gathered were pressed hard to support these leaders' obsession with change for changes sake. To UJC it seemed unimportant even irrelevant that less than 1/2 the number of federations were represented at the Institute. This should have been extremely telling to this leadership given the sense of drama and urgency they had tried to convey in multiple e-mails and many, many phone calls pleading for attendance. Well more than one-half the federations rejected the Institute as an Event they "must attend;" thereby, they rejected this Agenda, rejected this leadership...and, they will reject the results. For all of us...all of us...who had great hopes for UJC to be the central address of national Jewish life, certainly by this tenth year of existence, this was the worst message of all transmitted by this Institute. Nonetheless, UJC's wordsmiths characterized the FLI as having reached "broad consensus" -- as predicted in these Posts.

Before the Institute, Kathy Manning, who chaired the Institute with her usual skill, told at least one major federation that the Recommendations on Israel Overseas, having been, her words, "blown out of all proportion," were "off the table," while Toni Young, the co-conspirator in framing those self-same Recommendations, insisted publicly that they would be debated at the Monday session. Someone was clearly out of that loop. Turns was Kathy, the Chair of the Institute. The ultimate problem with the current UJC leadership, aside from their pettiness, is this: they have never learned to listen, let alone to obey the maxim that probably...probably...drives GoJo Industries' success: "always listen to the customer." In UJC's case this maxim should be all the more compelling inasmuch as the customer is the owner. But, UJC's "leaders" pushed back until they were told unequivocally by those Large City Executives and Chairs who believe in and act on the collective responsibility that these leaders give lip service to -- there will be no change in exclusivity as to core allocations. Other things may change...but not exclusivity as to core. And, then, as reported below, stuff happens.

On another matter, Kanfer and Rieger, by the end of last week, had pressured one of their faithful to accept the National Campaign Chair position, promising the chosen one all of the perquisites -- UJC Management Committee membership denied to Fisher, no need to travel, no need to raise money -- that would induce this leader to say "yes" by the FLI so that Kanfer could announce David Fisher's successor to the multitudes. (Kanfer and Rieger were truly desperate to put the Fisher resignation behind them. Federations were complaining that, once again, they had to "read about it in the Jewish press" [and, by the time of the Institute still had heard nothing from UJC directly]. Kanfer no doubt was even more concerned that the press would get their hands on the vicious, demeaning letter that he had sent Fisher upon his resignation, realizing after the fact that that letter was more demeaning and humiliating to him, to Kanfer, than to the recipient.) So, Michael Lebovitz, a leader of the Chattanooga community, agreed to accept the position. After all, he had already been admitted to the Kanfer "Circle of Trust" -- he had co-chaired the FRD Study Committee, chaired the Nominating Committee that named Kanfer, chaired the Real Estate Committee that authorized UJC's relocation within Manhattan. Although he had already turned down this "opportunity" before -- during the "search" after Fisher had originally decided not to take a second year, as did many others, the blandishments and representations (which Michael no doubt believes were sincere, as did David before him, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding) proved to be a good recruiting tool, even if that's all they were. But he apparently agreed to take the position effective for the 2010 Campaign year leaving UJC Development without a lay Chair in this, certainly the most difficult campaign year ever faced by the federation owners.

To close the Circle, Kanfer also announced yesterday that the always available Toni Young, whose experience in Campaign/FRD leadership appears to be limited to her family's and her generosity, would now succeed, eight months after her predecessor resigned in disgust and disappointment, Morris Offit as Chair of the still-born Center for Jewish Philanthropy -- a title without a purpose. Good job.

With Young and Lebovitz in place, the federations represented in UJC leadership are: Akron, Greensboro, Chattanooga, North Shore Massachusetts, Delaware and D.C. Somehow I'm missing any geographic and City-size diversity here. Great leaders can and do come from the Small Cities -- but all (almost) of them?? Breaking into the Kanfer/Rieger "circle of trust" (and then staying in it) is very, very hard to do; remaining in the Circle, easy if you are constantly willing to sacrifice principle for access to power. To paraphrase Frank Rich, what Kanfer, Manning and Rieger might wish to present to the federations as a meritocracy is "...merely a stacked deck."

On to the FLI itself.

In apparent disregard of the Board Chair's pleas, the federations expressed their opinion of the "importance" of the Institute by staying away in significant numbers. More absent than present. No matter what the "mad counters of UJC" (yes, the same ones who counted 4,000 at the GA in November '08) projected for the FLI attendance, no more than 70 federations were represented. The message of disengagement was no doubt lost on UJC's leaders -- just as it was at Newport Beach one year ago.

While some federation leaders unequivocally, uncritically and fulsomely supported the Strategic Planning Work Group Recommendations -- Kanfer would assert that they were of and by the federations, at least the 22 members of the Work Group outside his Circle of Trust, thus, not his recommendations-- many more Federation leaders were focused on matters outside the scope of the Recommendations: UJC's lack of communication with the federations, the closed "circle" of UJC leadership, the lack of process, the lack of a plan by UJC to cut its Budget, among others. We already speculated on how Kanfer would respond at the FLI to any matter not on his Agenda: "we'll study this/assign a Committee to look into it. Now, let's move on." We were right. How did this all play out? Let's count the ways.

As you would have assumed, Kanfer was forced to negotiate some back room deals ahead of the Institute in an effort to deflect the criticism that had already built over the FLI Agenda, the SPWG Recommendations, his own leadership "style" (the last of which had already poisoned the atmosphere of the Institute but would prove impossible to change). Even as UJC staff were assigned Federation professionals to call and plead that they support the Recommendations, the days of unquestioning support had come to an end.

First up, the Marketing and Branding Initiative. $2 million in the making (of which $865,000 had been budgeted and approved through UJC Governance, the rest...just spent. $1,135,000...just spent.) And what have are the findings? Well, you would first have had to be at the FLI to know. For $2 million one might have expected at the least an Executive Summary distributed in advance. A suggestion of Jewish Federations of North America as a brand would be a step forward -- it was suggested 10 years ago. And the tag line: One People One Destiny. Where have I heard that before? But, this is UJC's way under this leadership. No memory. The less material in your hands ahead of time, the less opportunity for real analysis, hard questions, and the less opportunity for any debate, let alone meaningful debate. Then, all that was produced for the FLI -- a Power Point. The Study will arrive soon. "Let's move on." As one terrific CEO stated: "All the branding initiatives in the world won't matter if you don't have the product." To UJC such comments -- treason. UJC's focus on brand and marketing and failing to focus on the product was and is failure.

A reduced Budget. In preparation, not ready to be discussed. Will be ready by month's end. How can we debate something that's "in preparation?" We just didn't have time to get the reduced Budget to you by the FLI!! And we can't tell you how much of a cut it will be -- when asked and the Treasurer responded "not more than 15%" there was no outcry. And the Board Chair then stated by implication that UJC has reduced its budget every year for the last 10 years. How wrong that is but in the statement how telling!! But, be assured, as UJC's Treasurer reported: "We're on budget this year."An elephant remains in the room. But...just as I had predicted prior to the FLI itself..."Let's move on" was the message.

The Exploration In Depth. On Day 2, the attendees were divied up at tables with facilitators at each. It appeared that if you were identified as one who might push back, or as a "troublemaker" (one who might push back plus) or appeared somewhere on the UJC "Enemies List," you were assigned a "minder" at your table to watch, correct, attempt to intimidate. The sessions were well thought out, well organized toward leadership's goals for the FLI. The table participants rotated three times as three subject areas were discussed -- UJC's mission and roles, the Marketing and Branding Initiative and the Israel and Overseas Global Agenda, dues and membership obligations. A Branding Initiative at this time is but an Nero fiddling a very expensive violin.

The Board Chair described the FLI outcome as UJC "reinventing itself." Not quite. That will take new, invigorated lay and professional leadership. For UJC to be "...the place where big ideas go to happen," it will have to be more than this. For today UJC is a place of no big ideas other than how to expend its Budget.

Let's examine the outcome of the discussions on the Israel and Overseas Global Agenda. The outcome was intended to be all things to all people; and it was...and it wasn't. Global responsibilities only at the time of emergencies as a premise? Heretical. While JAFI and JDC might have been pleased with an announced result that federation core allocations will remain the exclusive sharing of resources with JAFI and JDC, it was also clear that UJC's leaders determined to delimit "core" from its historic and heroic sharing to far less so. Because, apparently, "times have changed," if that is a reason rather than a rationale, each federation would be left to determine for itself what "core" would mean going forward. And should "core" be defined by, e.g., New York UJA to be, let us say, 40% of its allocation of "free money" to UJC for JAFI and JDC, UJC will gladly receive 60% for "reallocation" as some undefined "planning table" might determine. What is the value of consensus that "there is no change in the historic relationship with JAFI and JDC" if the very definition of "core" is rendered null and void? UJC agrees to encourage "every federation for itself." What a "big idea." It is the basic formula, followed by some federations already.

For JAFI/JDC this promise of "exclusivity" is illusory forcing these two "beloved partners" to further communal advocacy and direct fund-raising. . For UJC, however, meaningless as well as each federations will determine where "core" distributions will flow. Then, without any...any...thought about the implications, there was the suggestion that UJC's budget be supported from the allocations off the top. These are sorry outcomes. Those responsible for then should reflect on what their leadership in this area has meant. To UJC's leaders, they will realize, soon enough, that "the operation was a success, but the patient died."

No votes were taken in any area of FLI focus. UJC leaders claiming "broad consensus" (usually to test consensus a vote is necessary) assured, really, in advance of the FLI, will now attempt to implement the Strategic Plan Recommendations which will founder on lack of engagement, lack of substance and a lack of commitment by the federations to them. They exist in a vacuum created by the current leadership. On February 4, Maureen Dowd in her New York Times column denounced (and I obviously paraphrase): "...that elitist mentality of 'we know best,' we know we're doing the thing (for the federations), so we can twist the rules..." as we see fit.

UJC can be what we dreamed it to be, what we as federations and donors conceived it to be, but not when our core values are not matched by our goals. What we proved at the FLI is that we, today, are a "system" only as to a very, very narrow set of objectives. The consensus reached, if any, contributed not to our unity but to our divisions, not to our collective responsibilities but to our individual wants. We are once again less a system than we were coming into these meetings even if some venerated leaders, sadly, have been seduced. And that's the shame.


Monday, February 9, 2009


This FLI Update comes from one not at the FLI. All of my conclusions therefore, as with most things, must be viewed with suspicion like the fact that the Event (as it is now being characterized) has been totally scripted and tightly controlled.

The FLI began not with a bang but a whimper. With 180 leaders present mainly from east of the Kansas border, representing about 60 federations, the event began in a room at PGA National with tables adorned with white tablecloths and candles. ("Votive?" I asked, but then realizing the group, I surmised otherwise -- "Yahrtzeit?") On each table were also sets of little treacly aphorisms culled, apparently, from corporate meetings or Chinese fortune cookies, to bind the gathered together more closely. Clothespins ("we don't air our dirty laundry in public"), sugar cubes, similar stuff.

Kanfer gave the desultory Opening, defensive, somber and accusatory. In a statement reminiscent of another Joe -- "I have in my hand a list of 250 members of the Communist Party..." -- this Joe, our Chair, immediately went on the defensive -- "5 persons are causing havoc to the system...leaking damaging information to the JTA..." I'm thinking I know who those five people are "wreaking havoc" -- Joe, Howard, Kathy, et al....and it's mighty hard for others to leak when the Board and federations have no information. After his speech there was a genuine concern with Joe's well-being. I surmised that Joe had just been advised in private by federation leaders that his FLI Recommendations would not f.l.y. and that that advice may have made him physically ill. Doesn't handle script changes well. I could be wrong.

On to the expected highlight of the Institute -- a presentation of the Branding and Marketing Initiative Report. Oooops, after a $2 million investment, no Report, a power point, not from the Consultant or the Task Force Chair, from the UJC Marketing Director. Conclusions, no back up. No materials. No Study. Just not ready I guess. An Initiative begun in 2007, with a budget approved at only $865,000, increased without any governance approval to $2 million. Still not ready in February 2009.

Introducing the "Event" and the Strategic Planning Work Group Recommendations, Kathy Manning first reminded the gathered that everything is open to discussion. She focused on the "elephants in the room" emphasizing her point by the distribution of stuffed elephants throughout the room. (I am recommending this approach to my Federation and the ABA for future meetings.) Now, I know that "the elephant in the room" references obvious topics which all are aware of, but which aren't discussed as such discussion is considered to be uncomfortable. As you will read, the elephant is still in the room.

Example: UJC's Budget. As I predicted in my pre-FLI Post, leadership's response to the demand that the UJC Budget be discussed and significantly reduced was met with the response that "a reduced budget will be ready by the end of February. That's right, "no need to discuss, so let's move on, we couldn't have it ready for the FLI because...uh, because...why exactly? Let's move on."

Kathy also returned to the night's apparent theme -- "leaks to the Jewish press and an evil Blog." As I understand it, all would be just peachy for UJC if there were no "leaks' (of what, exactly?) and no Blog. I decided, upon hearing this, to visit with my leadership to see if we should modify our Posts. I met with myself. (Now, I know that seems like too few people to meet with but this is a one person production and, what the heck, it's only 3 or 4 people less than UJC's leadership group which makes or dictates all outcomes.) I decided I would continue until this "leadership" is succeeded by others committed to the goals, Vision and Mission of UJC framed 10 years ago and unanimously approved by the federations, UIA and JDC.

Then the evening closed with table discussions the consensus from each to be compiled into some form of environmental scan of federation concerns. The facilitation topics were set in advance, lay and professional leaders were seated according to UJC's pre-set determination. The facilitators and UJC professionals tried in many instances to influence table outcomes. I was told by one involved in the facilitation process that at least some summary statements have already been prepared for the Chair of the Executive. So much for listening.

Now, we will await the aftermath. See you then.


Friday, February 6, 2009


David Fisher's resignation as National Campaign Chair set off so many fireworks within what passes for lay and professional leadership at UJC today that it is worthy of a bit more detail. It is a story of this leadership at its worst --and that's saying a lot!!

A bit of history to start. David had decided not to accept a second year as National Campaign Chair. The press of business and a young family, and watching senior Development professionals treated in humiliating ways, forced out of a place to which they were dedicated, were among the factors that I think influenced David's decision. While UJC failed in its efforts to recruit experienced leaders to succeed David, UJC's Development professionals were unremitting in their pleas to Fisher to take the additional year. UJC's Eric Levine and David Saginaw flew to Cincinnati in an effort that ultimately bore fruit. David would continue to lead, calling upon his predecessor Chairs, Joel Alperson and Steve Selig, to assist him, and would reenergize the Campaign Executive Committee. Almost simultaneously, the Large City Executives produced their Report -- Refining UJC's Vision -- which included among its Recommendations the immediate strengthening and elevating the role of the National Campaign Chair. The CEC recommended that the National Campaign Chair become the overall FRD Chair essentially combining the roles of Campaign Chair and Chair of the Center for Jewish Philanthropy. When David took that recommendation to the UJC Chair and CEO, they rejected it outright.

David resigned. He explained his reasons in a letter to Kanfer copying those with whom he had worked closely. This proved to be a wise decision. In an interview with the JTA on the subject, Kanfer left the implication that Fisher -- mega donor, federation leader, YLC graduate -- had been "fired" because he failed to share Kanfer's (and trust me, Kanfer's and Rieger's only) unarticulated "vision" for UJC, wasn't supportive of "change," etc. -- the usual UJC mantra to camouflage their own failings. But it didn't end there.

Someone at UJC, speaking to the press and others, apparently insinuated that Fisher's resignation was triggered by an antipathy toward Kanfer arising out of David's father-in-law, Steve Selig, being denied the UJC Chairmanship by Kanfer's nomination. Consider it -- David, with Steve's encouragement, accepted the Campaign Chairmanship and, these people suggest, suddenly 1-1/2 years later decided to resign because of something that occured 2-and-1/2 years earlier. Do these "leaders" ever think before they start this venal stuff? Before they do anything, for that matter? The only campaigns they appear capable of running are those of personal vilification.

UJC was now embarked on a campaign to make David a "non-person." Kanfer, not happy with his own misrepresentation of David's resignation in the press, sent Fisher, in Kanfer's capacity as UJC Chair, a letter that I have been told was inflammatory, accusatory, humiliating in its ugliness -- and totally unjustified under any circumstance, let alone these. (As an aside, as Kanfer apparently chose to send this letter as UJC Chair, it should be available to any federation leader, UJC Board member, etc., requesting a copy.) Simultaneously, Eric Levine (you will remember that Levine pled with Fisher to stay in the position for another year almost non-stop until David accepted) sent the following Memo, in pertinent part, to the UJC professional staff:

"Colleagues: As you may be aware by now, David Fisher sent a letter to Joe Kanfer
indicating that he would be resigning as national chair of campaign. This all took place
yesterday. Actually, David concluded his term a year ago but continued on in an interim
role as we were in transition within the lay leadership structure..." (Emphasis added)

"Actually," Eric's revisionist history was nothing more than a crock. I told him so in an e-mail: "Eric, I expected more from you. You pleaded with David to serve another year. You and David Saginaw traveled to Cinci to plead with him. How could you write this kind of e-mail to a staff that knows better?" I believed Eric when he later said he should have chosen his words more carefully as he respects David and treasured their relationship.

Then, it gets bizarre. I received an e-mail directly from Rieger: "He got Eric's simple e-mail to FRD staff on David's resignation almost immediately! He could be JTA source." (I cleaned it up a bit, Howard's not too good with caps.) So I responded: "I think I received this in error interested though I am in its content and finger-pointing." ([1] I should have just forwarded this paranoia on to Kanfer directly as this was clearly intended for him; and [2] I was not JTA's source.) Surprisingly, I received no answer from Howard. UJC then began a frantic search for a successor to David so as to enable Kanfer to announce his replacement on Sunday to the gathered Federation leaders who still have not been advised by anyone at UJC of David's resignation. Maybe Kanfer/Rieger believe that announcing a successor simultaneous with announcing David's resignation will erase the stain of their actions. Not a chance.

Just another week in the life/death of UJC.

Shabbat shalom.


Thursday, February 5, 2009


This Memo came over the threshold last Friday:

"From: Joseph Kanfer [] Sent: Friday, January 30, 2009 2:23 PMTo: Galperin, Misha (X-EMAIL); Gelman, Michael; Ruskay, John (X-EMAIL); Hoffman, Stephen H. (x200); Young, Toni; Larry Fine; Kanfer, JoeCc:; Hyman, Rob; Cohill, Melissa; Jatlow, Lynn;; Garvey, Gail; Knable, Linda (x224); Bennett, Dorine



TO: Strategic Planning Subgroup Chairs

Attached please find a draft Discussion Guide for facilitating the upcoming FLI discussions. I have developed this document in consultation with our UJC staff team and Mark Shapiro.
The draft Discussion Guide serves as a compendium of SPWG recommendations, comments from the Work Group and field and outlines a series of discussion questions.
Based on the feedback to date, we can collapse the 7 SPWG Recommendations into the following three (3) overall SPWG Discussion Topics:
Discussion Topic 1. Roles (incorporate Mission/Vision and address Major Initiatives Recommendation as a sub-item);
Discussion Topic 2. The Governance Discussion topic can incorporate (i) Governance Operating Principles; (ii) compliance principle and possible approach re: Dues; and (iii) review and assessment of UJC's Governance structure and function by the By-Laws and Governance Committee including ways to improve decision making protocols and communication practices;

Discussion Topic 3. Relationship with Overseas Partners.

As we are in the final preparation phase of producing materials for the FLI, we would appreciate your prompt review and any comments no later than noon on Monday. Please send any comments directly to my attention [KanferJ@GOJO.COM].

Thank you.

Shabbat Shalom.



As Joe dictates the totality of the FLI Agenda with lip service to "... the UJC staff team and Mark Shapiro" but not with you, you may readily conclude as with all things UJC, the deck has been stacked. There is a "Discussion Guide" but you can't see it. That's ok though because we all know what's in the script. And, if you the federations, the owners, want to vary the script? Forget it.

Here's Scenario 1: A group of federations raised the issue of UJC's bloated Budget and the need for significant cuts during this time. Kanfer or his consort, Gelman, will reply that they will "examine the issue," engage in "zero-base budgeting," whine that UJC can suffer no more cuts" complain that UJC is cost-effective compared to the predecessor organizations, and whine "let's move on." It will be like the Bush Administration's attempts to stay "on message."

Scenario 2 -- a subset of Scenario 1: Many federations have already advised UJC that they will not/can no longer tolerate UJC Dues. UJC leaders have threatened them, cajoled them, made deals with some. Now, in the Discussion Draft for the FLI the emphasis in "governance" will be on the consequences of the failure to meet dues obligations. Rieger and Kanfer just want to get through their respective terms -- the real "consequences," like the consequences of the recession we're in fell on the Obama Administration, will fall on the successors to Rieger and Kanfer. So, they will demand, "let's move on."

Scenario 3 -- in speaking to the Recommendations that would rend the fabric of the federations' historic partnership with JAFI and JDC while UJC positions itself for a more significant role in Israel, federation leaders will rise to decry the fundamental change in the historic partnership at a time we need unity here and in Israel. Kanfer and his acolyte, Toni Young, will rise up acapella to whine that they are just trying to "focus people" and have " honest discussion." The obvious and over-arching strategy that Kanfer and his tight Circle of Trust have determined will work is to posit that JAFI and JDC have failed to respond to the "market" and need to be replaced. They will submit that only by offering a "third way" will allocations for Israel and Overseas increase. They will ignore the fact that UJC's failure to advocate for the great unmet needs in Israel and Overseas have failed not only JAFI and JDC but those of our People most in need. That "their way" is the only way to help Jewish People in need. "JAFI and JDC are so 1975. Things have changed over 40 years." "So, let's move on." Kanfer and his ilk, so spoiled, cannot bring themselves to countenance even the possibility they are wrong hellbent as they are to divide our system under the guise of "big, new ideas."

I just saw the FLI Preliminary Agenda. For those of you who feared that the Institute might be the captive of the same talking heads we have been forced to listen to over and over and over again, here's who's heads will be talking now: Joe Kanfer -- Setting the Stage for the FLI; Howard Rieger -- Setting the Stage for the Strategic Discussion; Consultant Mark Shapiro -- The Strategic Planning Process; and Kathy Manning -- Summary. Yes, all kinds of new faces/heads. "So, let's move on." Oh, and there is a Dress Code: Business Casual. (I am not making this up.)

Friends, this is a time for the federations to discuss how best to act collectively, a time for sacrificing in the interests of unity while these leaders continue to preach a message of division and disunity. Vary from the Discussion Guide at your peril. The fix is in.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009


The dictionary defines a kleptocracy as a "dictatorship or some other form of autocratic government." While some have argued with me, urging that UJC be defined today as a shleptocracy, I find I must disagree. The UJC lay and professional leaders in place today are the kleptocrats, pure and simple.

Examples, unfortunately, abound. Here are a couple for your consideration:

~ In calls with federation lay and professional leaders of the federation owners last week, UJC's leaders were advised that UJC and the federations would be best-served at the Federation Leadership Institute by a focus on federations' greatest needs from their national organization. These UJC "leaders" were asked, politely I'm certain, to shelve the divisive Strategic Planning Work Group Recommendations for further study. Kanfer, Rieger and Manning outright refused. As to the Recommendations on Israel and Overseas, so divisive and without foundation in fact, how did Kanfer and/or Toni Young come to their public and private conclusion that JAFI and JDC fail to serve the interests of the federations in Israel and Overseas? Have they pondered for a moment the possibility that it is UJC's marginalizing its Development efforts and its truly negative advocacy that have been catalysts, at least in part, for reduced resources? Of course they haven't -- so assured they are of the rectitude of their plan, so used they are to listening to only themselves applauding each other, they are incapable of the introspection we demand of real leaders.

~ On some of those same calls, UJC's owners asked, politely I'm certain, that as the federations in the midst of the economic crisis in which we all find ourselves, UJC to cut its budget by 20% or more. The UJC kleptocrats outright rejected the very idea. "We won't cut any more," the owners were told. "We can't keep cutting." (Now, the reality that the kleptocrats ignore is that the modest UJC Budget cut in 2009 (demanded by the federations, resisted by Kanfer/Rieger)was the first in UJC's history. In 2007-2008, the UJC Budget, you will recall as they do not, the Budget increased by $1.5 million.)

So, here's what happened, bottom-line: the owners told the kleptocrats what the owners wanted and needed and the kleptocrats/shleptocrats said "no, we won't do it." What would happen in your businesses if you as the owners directed the officers to do something and the officers refused? We all know the answer: the officers would be gone, not tomorrow, today. We own UJC as fiduciaries -- fiduciaries for our federations and for our donors. If anything we have a greater obligation in this our Federation roles, our roles as Owners of UJC, to demand that the kleptocrats (pardon me, the Officers) respond to ownership than even in our for-profit businesses or resign if they won't do so.

~ When Jimmy Berg, Baltimore's Federation Chair, wrote Kanfer/Rieger on Monday, he articulately, for his federation and others, asked that the FLI be refocused. "Writing...with great concern" Berg summarized a variety of concerns and areas on which he and other federation Chairs and CEO's would be a more productive use of leadership's time as the current FLI agenda, drafted by Kanfer/Rieger, "...does not address the gravity of the situation." When I applauded Jimmy's and his community's forthrightness, one of my good friends said; "Kanfer will write back, thank him and state that Jimmy's focus will be the FLI focus." Well, Kanfer wrote back yesterday: "I am glad to be able to say that the agenda as planned is designed to explore every question that you asked in depth..." Sure. So, "let's move on."

This is not the kleptocrats', not the shleptocrats', organization, it is the federations'. Start acting like it, recapture it, rebuild it. Let's start from scratch if we must. Remember, even as they have forgotten, it's our organization, our money and, in large measure, our future.

Off the kleptocrats. Off the shleptocrats. They couldn't find the federations' agenda with MapQuest. As one federation professional expressed his incredulity with UJC's leadership or lack thereof: "Nothing like being Samson and bring down the house you (were supposed to protect and) built down around you." Nice job.



David Fisher, UJC's National Campaign Chair, resigned this week. He did not go quietly into that good night; nor should he have. Let me explain.

David is one of our system's best and brightest. Past Chair of the Young Leadership Cabinet, from a mega-donor family in Cincinnati, Chair of the ILR, a paradigm for the Next Generation of UJC leaders. The current leaders pleaded with David to take a second Term as National Chair (even as they floundered asked others to take the role). Kanfer and Rieger made a series of promises to David to induce him to carry on -- as will not surprise you, they reneged on every one of them. When New York's Morris Offit resigned as Chair of the so-called "Center for Jewish Philanthropy" (I say "so-called" because under Rieger [who was staffing it], it turned out to be the "Center for Nothing."), David asked to succeed Morris, he was denied by silence and a "we're going in a different direction." (That direction, like all things UJC, turned out to be nowhere, the role is still unfilled.)

David is a leader of great integrity and commitment, poised, articulate, extremely impressive. He leads quietly and by example. He is, as well, a team player. Kanfer/Rieger/Gelman just wouldn't let him play on their team. In his compelling resignation letter directed to Kanfer, David Fisher tells you all you need to know:

"I have found trying to lead during your term, frustrating, ineffective and unfulfilling and candidly, something that I believe you were not interested in allowing. There was the periodic lip-service to my role and contribution, but your resistance to my leadership and true involvement was palpable.

Following your lead has been a bigger challenge than I could have imagined. I have observed for far too long , the diminishment and destruction of countless professionals careers, the tacit dismissal of some of our system's greatest lay leaders and the squandering of UJC's capital in the Jewish world. Sadly, I have determined it is time to get out of the way.

During the past few years, there have been numerous acknowledgements by you and Howard that things could have been handled in a better way or communicated differently. They sure could have, however, the same pattern of handling things or communicating (or not) has been evident time and time again. A lack of process, or consideration of varying view points, and respect have all been hallmarks of your tenure and my (and many others) frustration..."

Kanfer's woeful response to David's resignation appeared moments ago in the JTA. "David did not share the agenda for change...did not share the same perspective for the future or change." While Joe Kanfer made this up out of whole cloth, consider this: If you dissent from Joe Kanfer's "vision" (and just who does support it?), you're out. Is this leadership? It is a remarkable and sad admission.

When all is said and done, the sad chapters of the Kanfer/Rieger years will be behind us and their successors in UJC or in a successor entity will clean up the mess with which they have been left. How is it possible that we could have permitted and continue to permit these so-called "leaders" (who actually believe that they speak for and represent the federation owners) to be dismissive of the leaders of the Next Generation while claiming to be dedicated to them; ignore the pleas of the federations they "represent" for, e.g., a reduced Budget, focus and the reconsideration of the Strategic Planning Work Group before its public airing next week; dismiss the historic partnership between our donors and federations while claiming that JAFI and JDC are our partners; engage consultants to advise our system on gender equality while pushing away senior women professionals with no consequences, etc., etc., etc.? How?

David Fisher will ultimately lead our federation system to greater glory. He will help us reconstruct UJC after these "leaders" are gone.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009


After Chairman Kanfer's quote in yesterday's Maariv began to be circulated -- including in yesterday's Blog Post Tone Deaf, UJC professionals went into high panic mode. Separately, the CEO and the UJC Israel Director sent out emergency Memos to JAFI and JDC leadership decrying the article as, among other things, "stupid, sloppy." Also "[T]he article is a total misrepresentation." Sure. So what exactly brought them to this state of froth? Maybe this quote from Kanfer:

"For decades the contributors were prepared to raise money and transfer it to the Jewish Agency and the Joint and allow them to do with the money whatever they wished. Today the atmosphere has changed and the donors want to be genuine partners and enjoy greater involvement. We have a responsibility towards the donors, and that is to ascertain that the work is being done in the best possible fashion in return for their money. "We are no longer prepared to transfer the money and let them decide what to do with it", declared the Chairman of the United Jewish communities the billionaire Joe Kanfer.

Funny, when the Maariv article appeared, UJC issued no denials -- perhaps, because it appeared in the Hebrew editions. Only when the article was translated into English and into distribution within JDC/JAFI were the Keystone Kops Korps driven to their shouted denials of the quote's, the article's, authenticity. Rieger closed his panic-driven "not us" stating in an e-mail: "I wanted you to know about the reality of a stupid, sloppy article. And we have the evidence to prove it." Sure, "the evidence." Howard, send the "evidence" and we'll print it right here, verbatim.

Becky Caspi, barely more rational: "The reporter misrepresented Joe and this piece is way off base...Our communications team is working with Maariv to get a correction printed." How was Joe "misrepresented" -- maybe in referring to him as "billionaire Joe Kanfer?" How else? Becky, send the "correction" and we'll print it right here, verbatim.

In the meantime, reread the quote "attributed" to Kanfer. Reads like Kanfer, sounds like Kanfer. Many of us have heard him say almost if not exactly the same things repeated in Maariv. It's a T. So, send us the "evidence" that it was not. We'll hold our collective breath.


AN ADDENDUM: This just in...Becky Caspi, UJC-Israel, has denied the quotes attributed to her in the Israeli press as well. Claims there were no press "in the room" when she spoke and that she never said what she was quoted as saying. (See, Post, Tone Deaf) If we understand this correctly, the Israeli press, according to Rieger, Kanfer and Caspi, just makes things up. Right.

A FURTHER ADDENDUM: To be certain I get this right, New York UJA-Federation's Steve Donshik, who attended the Pradler Conference, corrected the quote attributed to Becky Caspi. What she said was: "Even people who understand the importance of Israel and who have family here find it easy to forget Israel, a situation which we must ensure does not continue." Maybe Becky thinks this is somehow "better." And, then, Steve points out the further context that this quote arose during a discussion of the drop in federation allocations. Unmentiuoned is UJC's failure to advocate for those allocations under the current leadership.

Monday, February 2, 2009


24/6 UJC demonstrates, time and time again, that it just doesn't get it. Examples abound, too numerous to list. The errors in judgment, the refusals to listen to any other than their own voices and those of their sycophants, the insular nature of its leadership, compound error. It is an organization whose leaders are blind to their misjudgments and tone deaf. Just recently:

~ While soliciting (by e-mail -- the "UJC-preferred" method of raising dollars) for funds for the Israeli vicitms of Operation Case Lead, UJC's wonderful Development professional was unaware that as soon as the bombing halt began, Becki Caspi, UJC-Israel's Director ordered JAFI and JDC, our partners (to UJC, in name only), to cease all respite care to the victims of the War. Knowing their responsibilities as the federations' partners, JAFI and JDC continued their holy work. UJC...out of touch.

~ Speaking of Ms. Caspi. The Jerusalem Post reported on a speech UJC's Israel professional leader delivered stating unequivocally that Israelis need less social welfare assistance from the Diaspora as the Government of Israel is providing more and..."due to the economic crisis Israel (is) no longer at the forefront of American Jews' attention." Forget the chutzpah of drawing these conclusions from 7,000 miles distance; forget the inanity of a North American Jewish leader stating that " is easy to forget Israel." It is unacceptable in light of our history, and the height of institutional irresponsibility for any spokesperson of our national organization to cite the reduction in cash from American federations as evidence of a lack of support for Israel when the organization itself bears responsibility, at least in part. UJC just can never connect the dots...all of which lead back to itself.

Ms. Caspi, unbelievably: "Even people who understand the importance of Israel and have family here find it easy to forget Israel." As Chicago' Mayor Daley succinctly described Illinois' now former Governor: "cuckoo." How do these bizarre statements align with UJC's claims of commitment to "more dollars and more donors?" As a national Jewish leader wrote me: "We seem to have (an institutional) death wish and a corner on the ignorance market." Indeed. And these are the inmates running our institution.

~ You will recall the Post on the Strategic Planning Group Draft Recommendations. JDC and JAFI, after being called "partners," were told they were not to attend. Nonetheless, until warned off at the firestorm it would have caused, the UJC leaders had determined to invite Israeli philanthropist, Ronnie Dueck, to attend. Dueck, an Israeli leader of Sheatufim, the founder of Zionism 2000, and an UJC "favorite" -- invited; JAFI and JDC -- disinvited. UJC, out of touch.

~ When federation lay and professional leaders address the issues of the Strategic Planning Work Group Recommendations and UJC's bloated Budget directly to UJC's leaders and are told "we will not reduce out Budget" and "we won't take the SPWG Recommendations off the table" to be reworked in the interests of unity, the federation owners are being told by those whose organization the federations, not they, own that "what we decide is none of your business." No business can be permitted to run this way; yet, there you have it. As federation after federation announces that it either will not nor cannot support UJC's dues during these economic times, and UJC's leaders ignore them, the organization they ostensibly lead is placed more and more at risk. When Rieger, in his latest View, announces that 200 (from 155 federations) will attend this "critical FLI," presumably including UJC's professional staff, that meager number says more about UJC's growing lack of relevance than anything else. They do not hear; they do not listen.

~ Perhaps the most telling example of UJC's leaders' predisposition going into the FLI is the following from an article in today's Maariv. Quoting Mr. Kanfer:

"For decades the contributors were prepared to raise money and transfer it to the Jewish Agency and the Joint and allow them to do with the money whatever they wished. Today the atmosphere has changed and the donors want to be genuine partners and enjoy greater involvement. We have a responsibility towards the donors, and that is to ascertain that the work is being done in the best possible fashion in return for their money. "We are no longer prepared to transfer the money and let them decide what to do with it", declared the Chairman of the United Jewish communities the billionaire Joe Kanfer.

Aside from being wrong and wrong-headed, Kanfer's "let them eat cake" message to you is: "There's nothing to debate at the FLI. We've decided for you." What you may not know is that without authority Kanfer engaged two law firms to examine the Federations' and UJC/UIA's monitoring of the expenditure of donor's funds/federations' allocations to JAFI. Both firms found the monitoring processes and accountability to be at the highest standards of transparency and performance. What Joe doesn't want you to think about is that the American members of the Boards of JAFI and JDC are all leaders of their federations. Those are the leaders "deciding what to do with..." our allocations; those are the dedicated leaders -- lay and professional alike -- Joe just insulted and dismissed without cause. What a leader!!

It is this kind of behavior that is destroying UJC. Without any sense of reality, the current transient leadership of the Federations of North America are deconstructing, not building, Jewish unity. They ought to be ashamed of themselves, but they are not. Any value-added that UJC could provide is being destroyed along with the unity which these people should be building. It is an organization relevant only to its own leadership...all four or five of them.