Sunday, February 22, 2009


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.


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