Friday, March 13, 2009


So, this letter flew over the transom on the date it bears last week.. I will try, through interlineation (in red), to explain what UJC "leadership" really means:

"March 2, 2009

Mr. Richard L. Pearlstone
Dr. Irving A. Smokler
Chair of the Board
Jewish Agency for Israel
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
POB 92
711 Third Avenue
Jerusalem 91000 Israel
New York, NY 10017

Dear Richie and Irv:

With the financial challenges facing JAFI, JDC, UJC and the Federations, it is clear that we must work together at the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness. Each of our organizations is being required to do more with less during times when the services we provide are more important than ever. While we are all reducing expenses (JAFI by more than $70 million, JDC proportionately less, UJC by [surprise] nothing reduced from in fiscal year 2009 Budget), we believe our organizations must find ways to work together more collaboratively in financial resource development, communications and marketing, planning and service delivery (this from a leadership that has consistently and without fail [or thought] deprecated these "partners'" roles in Jewish life in 2009).

We must also come together to resolve the issue of the division of the core funding that is provided by the Federations to UJC for distribution to JAFI and JDC. As you know, in accordance with the now expired “Plant Agreement,” JAFI and JDC made a proposal last year to UJC and the Federations, but that proposal was not acceptable to the federation representatives(yes, JAFI and JDC had resolved all issues but one between them in direct negotition; UJC was asked to mediate only funding for ORT and, as is their way, killed the deal without doing so when one federation objected to the five year deal to which the parties had agreed. Tomorrow I will expand on the Plant Agreement and how UJC has ignored it totally.). JAFI and JDC were unable to agree on another proposal and asked the UJC to mediate an agreement. We attempted to mediate this process ( you will recall that in the course of its "mediation," the CEO, with no authorization to do so, sought an allocation for the ENP, sending a Memorandum to all Federations making a direct request -- in so doing, UJC disqualified itself from the role of mediator) and scheduled a meeting for further discussion with JAFI, JDC, UJC, New York and Chicago on January 8, 2009. (Truth be told, UJC refused to disclose to Irv Smokler or Richie Pearlstone the purposes of the meeting -- long before the scheduled meeting, the JAFI and JDC Chairs asked in writing and by phone for an agenda. Those requests were completely ignored by KanferRieger. It was only after the January 8 date was canceled by the JDC and JAFI leaders because they could not get an Agenda in advance, that Kathy Manning wrote to tell them the meeting's purpose was to spell out the FLI Strategic Planning Work Group Recommendations, not mediation. By the date of Manning's response, UJC had already sent those Recommendations to a mass audience with no prior discussion with JAFI, JDC or UIA.) At your request, that meeting was cancelled. (see above) We then suggested using a professional outside mediator. That proposal was acceptable to JDC, but JAFI requested mediation by John Ruskay and Steve Nasatir. (In fact, months earlier, Nasatir and Ruskay had offered to mediate; they never heard back from Rieger...never.) We have communicated with Ruskay and Nasatir, who have expressed a willingness to sit at a table as participants in one fashion or another, but they have also indicated that engaging an outside mediator, along with themselves, would be the ideal situation.

UJC and the Federations have concerns that go beyond the current “split” that must be addressed. We are facing severe pressure on our budget and the way we assess “dues” as well as the way our overseas allocations are made. (Ahhhh, here's the rub. UJC's dues aren't being paid and UJC is desperately looking for an alternative. G-d forbid, the organization ever examine its growing lack of relevance to the federations' agenda or why there is a lack of engagement or why federation after federation are refusing to pay Dues, in whole or in part. Must be JAFI's and JDC's fault!!) Federations and their donors want to feel connected to the ways their funds are allocated. The federations’ overwhelming support of a proposal to create a “Global Planning Table,” discussed at our recent Federation Leadership Institute, is evidence of this strong system-wide sentiment. (Let's see -- "system-wide sentiment" and "overwhelming support" are determined by a 15 minute discussion among 70 federations of 157 who themselves committed to continued JDC-JAFI exclusivity as to core. Have I got this right?)

We therefore propose that our three organizations agree upon and engage an outside professional facilitator to help us reach agreement not only concerning the “split” but also
the broader issue of how our organizations can work together more effectively to meet the needs of UJC ( A rare moment of candor. This is really about UJC's "needs" -- its "need" primarily of how not to totally collapse under a tsunami of threatened unpaid or non-paid Dues) and the Federations ( oh, yeah, them) as well as JAFI and JDC (oh, yeah, them). We believe that this can be a break through moment for our field if we use the shared knowledge of our organizations as well as the results of UJC’s recent strategic planning process and the research we have conducted about our constituency. (There is "UJC's recent strategic planning process and the research..." that bears on the implicit issues UJC wishes to address.) We can and should be working together to reinforce and build our donor base and financial support. (Let's see: UJC cuts its Development staff, separates Supplemental Giving from Development and the Annual Campaign, continuously deprecates the latter, has no plan for building the donor base, has no National Campaign Chair in 2009, yet constantly provides that which it gives best -- lip service.)

It is critical for us to use the challenging circumstances of the moment to convene and make the tough decisions. (No, this should read: "...for JAFI/JDC to rescue UJC from the disaster UJC has created" as UJC wants to avoid the "tough decisions" that need to be made to make UJC relevant and vital to the federation owners.) We must take action that will enhance our relevance and build the confidence of the Federations of North America in our partnership. We do very important work (We know what JDC and JAFI do -- what exactly is it that UJC does today?), and we must come together now to ensure our continuing ability to provide support for those who need our services and for those who will need our services in the future.

If you are in agreement, we will provide two names of professional facilitators, as well as an estimate of the cost that our organizations will have to share. We look forward to hearing from you.

With best regards,

Joseph Kanfer Kathy E. Manning Howard M. Rieger
Chair of the Board Chair, Executive Committee President & CEO


I guess I am really "old school." I believe that if you have something to say or propose -- say it, or propose it. Don't hide behind an opaque wall built out of fabrications (the purpose of the January 8 meeting or the real purpose of the meeting UJC now wants) or cliches. Not these folks -- you have to pull the truth out of them, if you can -- that's why they have been so successful. They write of a "partnership" while continuing the deconstruction to which they have dedicated themselves -- be it the partnership with the federations or that with JDC/JAFI. These "leaders," instead of working toward a meaningful and significant UJC Budget reduction consistent with those facing not only the federations but JAFI and JDC as well, are looking for the easy way out -- toward JAFI and JDC picking up a significant portion of the UJC Budget tab and getting nothing -- or almost nothing -- in return from an organization that has willfully abandoned advocacy and FRD on their behalf -- completely.

And, while inviting JDC and JAFI to a meeting, UJC has already gone through a convoluted series of decisions: first, it was committed to a new "broad-based Committee" to tackle the Dues issue, then it was to be a subcommittee of the UJC Executive Committee, now a Dues Subcommittee of the Executive Committee. Round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows.

Without leaving office, this leadership wants a JAFI/JDC bailout, a JAFI/JDC "stimulus package" if you will. The purpose: to pump more money into a failing institution and, thereby, to rescue a UJC which has spent the last 3 and 4 years demeaning JAFI's and JDC'S work. Who are they kidding?



Dan said...

And how have JAFI and JDC responded?

Joe said...

That was a scary letter.
I can only let you know that a number of workers in projects funded by the UJC in Israel have told me personally that they have received no information from the head office regarding the future, including any reference to Nachman Shai's leaving the office.
I wonder, at times, if this will stop, in order to stop people at the ends getting hurt, let alone the organizations, their boards and the power struggles.

Dan said...

Anyone who lives in Israel and didn't know Nachman was running for Knesset must have ignored newspapers, radio and TV for months. Very un-Israeli.

Joe said...

They knew he was leaving. Everyone knew. The question was - then what?