Sunday, March 15, 2009


Mort "Sonny" Plant, z'l, was an extraordinary man and leader. Snatched from his family and us by a tragic accident, Sonny embodied all of the qualities of leadership that so many others haven't and don't. As UJC's Chair of the Executive, Sonny demonstrated not only the ability to listen but to get to the core of the issues confronting UJC and dealing with them.

Before his untimely passing, Sonny dealt with the issues arising out of the divisive ONAD process. He met with JDC and JAFI leaders in an atmosphere that encouraged candor and give and take. There was trust in Sonny's fairness and judgement -- a trust so lacking today. An incisive Report was issued over Sonny's name as Chair; UJC has now taken to referencing that Report as the "Plant Agreement." (See my Post Finding Ways to Work Together -- UJC Style.) You would think, from UJC's leaders' citation to the Plant document that they were adopting its findings -- as you read on, you will conclude, as I have -- "highly unlikely."

The "Plant Agreement" was, pure and simple, the "ONAD Review Report." It reached certain basic conclusions and mandated certain actions of UJC. Please read what follows and reflect how Sonny's successors have totally ignored these recommendations they now cite as compelling. The contrast between these recommendations and UJC's actions since the Report's issuance tell us all we need to know about their cynicism and desperation. From the Plant Report:

"A primary goal of the federations’ and UJC’s overseas work is to maximize our collective effectiveness in caring for the vulnerable, deepening Jewish identity, and building our relationship with the people of Israel. To advance these goals, UJC and the federations have longstanding partnerships with JAFI, JDC, and, to a more limited extent, ORT. These partnerships are of cornerstone importance. UJC and the federations deeply value this partnership and should promote our mutual interests.

The collective core allocations to JAFI and JDC have been steadily decreasing for more than a decade. The ONAD Committee was accordingly unwilling to change the allocation of the collective core between JAFI and JDC. Until the collective core allocation increases, it is unrealistic for the federation movement to determine the uses of the current level of the collective core. On the other hand, it is critical that representative federations have a meaningful dialogue, including a full exchange of views, with JAFI and JDC regarding the uses of the collective core. Moreover, it is appropriate for the federation movement and individual federations to determine the uses of other funds (including community electives and fundraising initiatives).

UJC's roles should be to (a) advocate and educate federations regarding overseas needs and services, (b) raise or help federations, in collaboration with JAFI, and JDC, to raise more funds for high-priority uses, one of the most compelling and urgent of which is overseas needs, (c) provide to federations information, consultation and a forum for coalescing their input and deepening their understanding and commitment, (d) in collaboration with the overseas providers, develop an understanding of the needs and strategic directions, (e) advocate for sustained annual campaign allocations and help shape and promote initiatives to attract additional funding for high impact efforts in the overseas arena, (f) identify high-priority uses for directed funds, develop strategies and specific products for federations and (g) through the above, create a new reality within the overseas agenda. JAFI and JDC should take appropriate roles in the relevant UJC structures and activities." (emphasis added throughout)

Since the publication of the Plant Report, with Sonny no longer on the scene, his successors and the CEO effectively conspired to first ignore and then to deconstruct all seven of the pillars upon which the Report was built -- subparagraphs (a) through (g) above. Disregarded and deconstructed. Why? Ask Kanfer and Rieger. One thing is certain: if the Plant Report represented an "agreement" among UJC, JAFI and JDC, it has been breached by but one of the parties: UJC, itself, timte-and-time again.

The Plant Agreement and the actions taken by UJC's leaders in its aftermath are demonstrable evidence of why UJC is in a terrible crisis today.


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