Wednesday, March 18, 2009


In a sad commentary on the state of the federation system in light of the economic impacts of the recession and Madoff, the JTA published an article on Tuesday -- Wave of Staff Cuts Hits Federations -- that initially had several apt observations from Howard Rieger, UJC's CEO. Of course, the more Howard talks or writes, the more likely it is that he will stray off into a realm only he occupies. And, sure enough...

Reflecting on the budget cuts imposed on UJC earlier this year -- from $40.2 million to $37 million and UJC's leaders' unilateral determination of the possibility of a 10% cut in 2010, Rieger concluded: "If that 10% proposal were to be sustained, that would mean that in the course of a handful of years, we have cut our staff by 45 percent." Let's get this straight, if the federations, themselves cutting their budgets by amounts in some instances of in excess of 30%, permit UJC to cut its Budget (paid for by the federations [and, in reality, by JAFI and JDC in many instances] by only 10% in 2010 after the $3.2 million reduction) from $40.2 million to $33.3 million, a reduction of $6.9 million or 17% somehow equates in the math of the CEO to a reduction of 45%.

I know there must be some Talmudic pilpul, the same confabulation that Howard used to come up with 4500 attendees at the Jerusalem GA, or, maybe, UJC has hired the folks who brought us the trickle down theory, or the same guys who count the crowds at the Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade, to do this math that converts a 17% budget reduction into a cut in personnel of 45%. If I have read the quote accurately, UJC would have cut its staff by 45% while reducing its budget by 17%. Thus, for every $1 in budget cuts, there is a $3 impact on staffing. If true, then there would seem to be a lot of room for cuts at the top of the UJC employment pyramid to save the professional ranks in the middle and lower. Howard could voluntarily reduce his compensation by $200,000 retroactive to July 1, 2008, and save two professionals' positions, all those earning $200,000 and more could incur salary reductions of 20% and save more jobs of others. A relocation of UJC-Israel (an office that has grown without regard to cost or return on investment) back to New York could save several million dollars alone, etc., etc. and positions at 25 Broadway could be saved.

Look at this another way: in the federal "bailout," the President is demanding that banks and companies receiving "bailout" funding freeze or significantly reduce the compensation of the executives who put their firms into the mess they are in. Should our major non-profit be treated any differently? (I had suggested a variation on this theme in a Post over one year ago -- to the surprise of no one, UJC did nothing but terminate loyal employees.)

Instead of cost-saving measures, Rieger, Kanfer and company will seek a JAFI/JDC bailout. Instead of figuring out what federation priorities are for their national organization, RiegerKanfer will continue down the path they have chosen. "Let the federations sacrifice, cut to and into the bone, that's not our problem."

Oh, yes it is.



Anonymous said...

Yes, Howard and his top lieutenants should take salary cuts. They live quite comfortably as it is. Countless jobs would be saved. Many private firms are already doing this--we should expect no less of our national Jewish organizations.

But Richard, you don't go far enough. Why not take Steve Hoffman, Steve Rakitt or John Ruskay to task while you're at it?

Anonymous said...

Or, closer to home, Steve Nasatir? What's his salary? $645,000? Oh, I forgot, you don't ever find fault with him...

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Has Chicago cut any jobs? If so, I have not heard.

But combined, Hoffman, Rakitt and Ruskay have recently cut over 90 jobs.

Was there truly no alternative to let go of each and every employee?

Surely Federations and UJC can do better than to emulate the obscene Wall Street corporate culture that lavishes riches on CEOs and top officials of hurting companies while laying off all too many rank and file employees.

If these communities are truly hurting, these CEOS need to personally absorb their share of the cuts.

In the current economic climate, is it really asking them too much to "only" live on a $200,000, $300,000 or $400,000 salary?