Wednesday, March 25, 2009


There is a news to report on matters heretofore covered in this Blog and elsewhere....

On the Yemeni Front...A Report is in UJC's hands from a Study Mission to Yemen sponsored by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and which included an insightful, articulate federation leader from New York City, among others. I have seen the Report and will tell you only this -- the group had unfettered access to not only leading figures in the Yemen government and tribal hierarchy but the Yemeni Jewish community, as well. We'll see if UJC publishes the Report, redacts it to reflect its own predisposition toward panic and "attack the messengers," or just plain ignores it as it chose to ignore its responsibility to do due diligence before its CEO was writing Federation leaders claiming in hysteria that "...this is a spiritual and religious emergency" in an effort to gain support for UJC's unilateral determination to partner with the Satmar.

I reflected on Rieger's intemperate message in the context of the significant financial assistance UJC was seeking to implement its Satmar partnership. The federations he named in the e-mail cited in my Post as being "candidates" for this financial aid have each announced broad staff cuts and significant budget reductions in light of campaigns and endowments impacted by the economic realities. Apparently UJC is unaware of or chooses to ignore those realities when it comes to what UJC "wants." Speaking of acting like children....

Two leaders for whom I have the greatest respect, one a top professional with one of our most critical partners, the other, one of the most engaged lay leaders with another of our system's partners, each called me with the same message -- "This is not and never has been a matter of rescue." Instead of a reasoned approach, due diligence and a thought-through plan, UJC appeared to be looking for a "score," any "score." And, they got one...but not the one they had in mind.

"Off The Top" Even without President Obama and Tim Geithner, the "bail-out plan" for UJC is moving forward full steam ahead. A group of Large City federation leaders met with UJC leadership yesterday at Chicago's O'Hare (some present, others by phone) and apparently concluded that JAFI and JDC should be wholly supportive (under the rubric that "the only thing two Jews can agree upon is what a third Jew should give") of paying a significant portion, at the least, of UJC's dues off the top of the core allocation for our partners; just be satisfied if the core is guaranteed by federations whose allocations constitute 85% (+/-) of that core; satisfied that they will have seats at UJC's Budget table...just "satisfied," you know?

Not being there, I can only speculate that there was no discussion of: the lack of transparency of UJC's Budget process; the fact that this "bail-out" brings UJC no closer to engagement with the vast super-majority of federations; that UJC has made no commitment to advocacy (not that at this point they would know where to begin); that UJC has not agreed to a Budget reduction beyond "maybe 10% in response to federations' of all City-sizes demands; and that no commitment was received from the current claque of UJC lay and professional leaders to reform before they slink out of office in the coming months; among other things no doubt ignored. But, as you might expect, this being UJC after all, there is some disagreement among those in the room and participating by phone as to whether there was "agreement" at all, and if so, what the "terms" agreed to, were.

Branding... Has UJC's name been changed? If you read the detritus that passes for Briefings, Views, etc., from UJC over the weeks since the Florida Institute, you will find references to UJC: The Federations of North America, or The Jewish Federations of North America, and, maybe, some I have missed. Then, recently, someone told me the name is going to be UJA: The Federations of North America. (Actually, inasmuch as the UJA brand still resonates, 10 years after it was "killed," to a greater extent than the UJC "brand" that succeeded it. by a margin of 4:1, that might be a good idea.!!) In throwing these names at the wall, is UJC engaged in that concept of sending it/them up the flagpole and seeing who salutes?

And, in closing... One of the truly superb, caring professionals who called with a message of support, offered the following: "UJC is in much greater need of rescue from its current leadership than the Yemenite Jews do from Yemen."

Discuss among yourselves.



Anonymous said...

Having seen the UJC Branding report, I think the brand migration will be to the brand that resonates most: Jewish Federations. UJC is not a brand that resonates. At the time that name was selected, it was an attempt to name a 'new' organization, not an attempt to create a collaborative branding strategy. I doubt there will be a return to UJA. While it still resonates, it only resonates with some and it drops dramatically with younger Jews, while the Jewish Federation brand name polls much, much higher. It would make no sense to go backwards to UJA, neither does it make sense to retain UJC. Without commenting on the decision (compromose) made 10 years ago to drop the UJA and CJF monikers, looking forward the 'product reference' should be "Jewish Federations."

My guess is that the UJC marketing folks are beginning to plan for the migration and are incorporating the "Jewish Federations of North America" byline. I guess they still use the UJC name since that is the name of the organization.

UJC does not always make good decisions, but this one is a good one.

[I have been around so long that I still call JCCA-NA the JWB and frequently call JCPA "Nacrac" harkening back to the NJCRAC days (and used to joke that the "J" was silent!).

I am not one of the regular 'anonymous' writer(s). this is a first for me. Perhaps a last.

RWEX said...

Thank you for your insights.