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.



long time observer said...

Richard, you’ve offered one interpretation of events at UJC over the last two and a half years. Let me offer another:

To my knowledge, Joe Kanfer did not seek the chairmanship of UJC. In fact, he was an unusual choice, given the fact that he is neither a mega-philanthropist (though he is a generous one) nor from a large community. He was selected by the Nominating Committee because he had shown himself to be a strong strategic thinker and because there was a general sense that UJC – and the federation system as a whole – had indeed been drifting and needed change and a clear direction. As far as I can see, Joe, Kathy, Michael and the other top lay leadership of UJC have tried to heed that mandate.

You’ve occasionally accused me of being a defender of UJC. Far from it. In fact, I think the organization that Joe “inherited” was dysfunctional in many respects. The two key ones in my view were that a) UJC lacked a clear, broadly supported vision of what the federation system needs to do differently in order to thrive in the 21st century, and b) the historic division between UJA and CJF had never really been overcome, either culturally or programmatically. As a result, UJC was pulling in different directions and the whole was less than the sum of its parts. I think some progress has been made in the last couple of years – painfully, at times, especially on the personnel front. But I would be the last to argue that UJC today is what it ought to be. Yes, there are still many areas where it is drifting and too many starts and stops, even as there are other areas where all acknowledge that it is doing good work.

Of course, it’s unfair to blame UJC entirely for this situation, since it reflects divisions that remain within the federation system itself. Ours is a fractious system – put ten federation executives or presidents in a room and you will likely get eleven opinions on what should be done about nearly any issue. The inherent localism of our system is a strength – I doubt that CJP in Boston could be successful if it tried to operate like the federation in Chicago and vice versa. But that localism is also debilitating when federations try to come together around anything other than an obvious crisis. Add in other fault lines that run through the system – local vs. overseas oriented donors and leaders in nearly every community, small vs. large communities, advocates for Jewish education vs. supporters of human services – and it’s clear why UJC has such a difficult job under any circumstances.

Your blog is a testimony to the fact that these divisions are deep and occasionally rancorous. You represent one perspective, the current UJC volunteer leaders a very different one, and both have support within a divided federation system. Unfortunately, the two views are largely irreconcilable on some key issues, not at the level of values or purpose, but in terms of what needs to be done to realize those values in the world today. Hence, what Joe Kanfer said about David Fisher strikes me as the simple truth: David and the other top lay leaders of the organization did not agree on how to move forward in the area of financial resource development, just as you do not agree with the steps being taken and proposed to move to a more encompassing model of FRD. Yes, it would be better if everyone were on the same page, but sometimes that is simply not possible.

The larger issue here is, of course, that you oppose the changes that the current UJC leaders were selected to make. No one has hijacked UJC. The leaders have done what they were asked to: lay out a blueprint for how UJC and the system can move forward from here. The federations will debate it and ultimately decide what to do. That’s how the system works, for better or worse.

You seem to think that the agenda of change should be put aside to deal with the immediate effects of the current economic situation. That’s a superficially attractive idea, but it’s one that President Obama has rejected on the national stage and that I hope the federations reject as well. As your fellow Chicagoan Rahm Emanual has been widely quoted as saying: we should never miss the opportunity of a good crisis. Our President has made it clear that he believes that the nation needs not just an economic stimulus, but a fundamental restructuring in many areas – infra-structure, health care, education – in order to deal with the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. I believe that he’s correct. And, I would say exactly the same thing about UJC and the federation system. If the next twelve months are spent only on trimming budgets and shoring up immediate fundraising – things that will surely happen – an historic opportunity will be lost.

Essentially, it all comes down to whether you believe that the federation system can continue to be successful operating largely along traditional lines, or whether you believe that it must make fundamental, and therefore necessarily difficult, changes in order to thrive. You are in the former camp; UJC’s current leaders are in the latter – as am I. Everything else, including all your complaints about “leadership style,” is commentary.

We’ll see where the federations come out, just as we’ll see what Congress is prepared to do. I hope it’s a vote for change.

RWEX said...


Your perspectives interest me. They could have been written within the four walls of UJC notwithstanding your professed finding that UJC has its faults.

A few corrections:

~ This Blog began in 2008, not 2 and 1/2 years ago. (It just seems that long ago.)

~ If Joe wasn't a candidate, any member of the Nominating Committee 2 and 1/2 years ago, if candid, would tell you that Rieger successfully intimidated the Committee with a diatribe against other candidates for whom he had developed an unwarranted animus -- men and women who had dedicated their lives to our system, knew how to build consensus, and understood how federations work.

~ I fact, at the time that Rieger was engaged UJC was on the cusp of real success. Campaigns were thriving, relationships between federations and UJC were building, trust between UJC and its partners was strong. That was the organization turned over to Howard and Joe, which they have deconstructed. Between them, Howard and Joe have turned UJC inward, trusted no one (perhaps, other than you and an ever-smaller circle) and wrongfully assumed that they could act unilaterally often in violation of UJC's own governance. They have been able to do so because leaders like you pander rather than ponder.

~ Ours is, as you put it so well, a "fractious system." Under this leadership it has become "fractured" as well -- broken, disengaged and deconstructed. The "current leaders" were asked, as were their predecessors and as will be their successors, to lead by bringing us together, not dictating outcomes but finding concensus, and, in the terrible economic times federations face, to find ways to unify rather than divide. They have failed on all fronts. Their failures sadden me as they should all of us, even you.

~ It is evident from your Comment that UJC's leaders have attempted to rationalize to you their "reasons" for David Fisher's resignation. They merely bring further shame upon themselves in doing so. When you argue that UJC may ostracize and vilify any who dissent from their pre-ordained positions, you associate yourself not with President Obama but with others who proved themselves unable to achieve change. Send me your address and I will send you a copy of Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "Team of Rivals," one of the President's favorites.

Let's search for change together -- change that will unite us, rather than divisive change that will tear us apart.

long time observer said...


1) The "two and a half years" was a reference to the time that the current lay leaders have been in office at UJC, not to the blog.

2) I have had no conversations with anyone from UJC about anything that I wrote. I was just offering my own observations and interpretation.

3) I have no knowledge about what happened inside the Nominating process, only what I heard at the time from various federation leaders about their understanding of why Joe, Kathy, and Michael had been selected.

4) I have my own views about specific professionals at UJC, pro and con. But, I don't think it's appropriate to start singling out individuals. As I've said before, though I have enormous respect and affection for many of the professionals at UJC, it has not worked nearly as well as an organization as I and many others would have hoped. Responsibility for this can be apportioned broadly, including, I suspect, a piece to both of us along with many others both inside and outside. (This is not a statement about intent, only effect.)

5) I'm not sure what your evidence is for the claim that UJC was on the cusp of success when Howard came in. Certainly, the decline in fundraising (in real dollars) and in the number of donors had not been reversed. There were no major federation-led initiatives underway in North America to galvanize younger Jews or serve as focal points for reinvigorated community building. Relationships with the synagogue movements, other national agencies, and emerging organizations were stagnant. There was no coherent strategy in place (beyond birthright israel, which was dividing, as much as uniting federations) for strengthening Jewish peoplehood. Again, I'm not saying that under the "Steves" (Solender and Hoffman) nothing good was done. There have been valuable steps taken throughout UJC's history in a range of areas (as well as mis-steps). But, "the cusp of real success"? I certainly didn't see it. What I saw were the things that the federation system has always been (pretty) good at: responding to crises and raising the gifts of major donors when times are good.

6) Because it is a voluntary system, the federation system at all levels has always been particularly prone to the well-attested organizational tensions between forceful and enabling leadership and consensus-building and decisive action. These tensions become particularly acute when what is at stake represents significant change (viz. what is happening in Los Angeles currently). I'm certainly not going to argue that a perfect balance has always been struck at UJC, not just during the last several years, but over its entire life and those of its predecessors. (I would argue, as have others, that at times the pendulum in federation life has swung too far in the direction of trying to accommodate every voice at the price of being unable to do much of anything of consequence.) And, to be blunt, I have been underwhelmed by UJC's track record in communications. But, the one-sided picture you draw of how UJC operates simply discounts the significant number of people who remain involved as lay leaders, the discussions that take place all the time with communities both formally and informally, and the upcoming deliberations. I would humbly suggest, Richard, that your own exclusion from the leadership circle may be coloring your perception. If "the fix is in," this is news to some of the federation leaders I've spoken to in recent weeks who will be in Florida and intend to participate actively. (Some of them even like the SPWG recommendations!)

7) Finally, I wish I could take at face value your concluding plea that we search for change together. Again, with humility, I don't believe that this has been the spirit of the vast majority of your posts. Nonetheless, it's a worthy goal and one that I hope will guide the upcoming discussions in Florida.

RWEX said...

I will try to respond by your numbered paragraphs. You may continue to write but as you again choose to end your Comment with an attack on me for dissenting from your PC (in UJC's leadership's eyes anyway) version of events, I will not respond to further Comments of this nature:

1)And, what specific successes have these leaders had during that time?


3)Perhaps you "heard" incorrectly.

4) The professionals at UJC are, as a group, committed and anxious to serve the Jewish People. The only ones holding them back from great accomplishments, as I perceive it, are their lay and professional leaders.

5) This is a typical response. I point out the areas, in this instance, of progress at UJC under Steve Hoffman and you then ask for "evidence." At worst, UJC at the end of the Hoffman years was better positioned for success vis-a-vis the federations than is UJC today.Again, point to one accomplishment these past, by your timetable, 2-1/2 years (at a cost of $77.2 million).

60 The "well-attested to" tensions you address have become both a red herring and a crutch for UJC's leaders. If "tensions" exist, address them. If you believe that there are a "significant number of people who remain involved as lay leaders" beyond the tight "circle of trust," cite them; and, if you truly believe that the leaders of federations around the country have been engaged "formally and informally," this Blog would be over if I could only get my hands on the UJC Kool-Aid you've been drinking.(If you are aware of my history as you presume to be, you would know that I have always tried to be honest with those in power -- as to my agreements and disagreements.)

7) Beyond your patronizing comments, I will just stand by my Posts for what they are -- one person's observatiions and opinions as to the disaster that UJC has become and nothing more.


Richard, please send a messege to LTO and others - remove all posts from people who, for whatever reasons, refuse to tell us who they are. They have no credibility. Thank you, paul jeser

RWEX said...


You are right, of course. Whatever insights LTO has, and there are many, are lost behind the facade.

You know how in poker, and life, people have "tells" -- things that they do that give them away? I, and many who have written me off-line, have seen the "tells."

Thanks for the good advice.