Wednesday, April 29, 2009


While I have been preoccupied with UJC and the multitude of ways in which it is has failed the federation system over the past few years, apparently I have missed so much. In particular Israel's and federations' predicted or potential demise. In The Daily Beast, Aaron Klein, who wrote The Late, Great State of Israel, wrote Will Israel Cease to Exist, and in The Jewish Journal, Michael Berenbaum raised the question Has Federation Abandoned Its Central Role? Both articles are provocative, the answer to both is a resounding "NO" and today I would like to address Berenbaum's question even though, had we a functioning national organization, someone there would certainly be a more compelling respondent.

Michael Berenbaum, a past Executive Director of the D.C. Community Relations Council and a noted Holocaust Scholar is the Director of the Sigi Ziering Institute in Los Angeles. He questions why, if federations have abandoned their historic role of central funding "and created a void at the core of our community," why should the community continue to support them through Federation; instead making gifts directly? He asked: "...if the Federation is but another service provider, how are we to know what a good service provider it is and what its priorities are in order to assess where funds are to be directed?" And he takes a shot at the Los Angeles Community Foundation for failing to monitor its investment in a Madoff Fund while failing to note both the independence of the LA Foundation from Federation and the truly small amount of funds placed with Madoff. But it is good to be challenged by a caring gadfly because it requires one to give serious thought to the response.

First, I acknowledge that my community is a unique place, with strong, caring lay and professional leadership that has invested wisely in creating a great professional staff and has integrated the young and old in lay leadership so that traditions of commitment and involvement, and an understanding of our historic communal role in collective responsibility has passed l'dor l'dor. All of us should understand that federation is community -- as Charles Bronfman used to say "community with a capital 'C.'" Where federation is not community, both Federation and community are lost. Pirke Avot tells us, demands of us: al tifrosh min ha'tzibur, "do not separate thyself from community." And, in too many places, the demand of a few donors to see where their dollars go has gone from an individual demand to a community imperative and in that change from the Maimonidesian maxim -- "neither the donor nor the recipient shall know each the other" -- is reflected, as is Berenbaum's misplaced, I think, focus on Madoff losses, the breakdown of trust in the community and, thereby, the question of federation's purpose today. But the core purposes remain -- to build and reinforce Community and serve as a laboratory from which new ideas for caring for our People can emerge, be tested, fail and succeed as in no other place.

The federation system is, at its essence, predicated on trust -- trust by the donor in the community, trust in the application of an umbrella gift for the greatest needs, locally and overseas, trust by the donor in communal leadership, trust of the federation in the exercise of the central communal planning function. Where that trust has never existed, or where it has broken down, the community is rent asunder. Michael Berenbaum has pointed to instances in his experience. Let me point to some others in mine that need course correction if Federation is to regain "...the Central communal Role."

` Agency fund raising -- in every community, particularly the largest, federations, which had been for decades the largest funder of local agencies, have, in many if not most instances, become a much more minor provider. Local agencies have often been encouraged to hire development officers or fund raising consultants to make up the gap left behind when federations reduced support. And, without communal discipline, the local agencies have gone into, been forced into, a direct competition with the federations to survive, let alone grow. In my community there has been an historic respect by the local beneficiaries for the federation's "campaign corridor" and a commitment by federation not only of continuing budget and occupancy support, but of the creative use of federation endowment to support agency initiatives -- through loans or guarantees.

And, this brings me to...

` Separate community foundations -- For good and substantive reasons, in many communities the community (I hesitate to call if Federation) endowment foundation is separately incorporated or operated independently of Federation. The results may be a bigger pie, but they have also been, in many instances, even though lay led by past and present federation lay people, a competitor for donors and dollars and operated without real regard for the federation agenda and/or the needs determined by the central planning agency. Where the endowment is integrated within federation, the community qua community is strengthened and all financial resource development is driven by the federation-driven agenda for community. Where the foundation/endowment is "independent," even though there are examples of creative synchronicity, too often the federated community finds itself divided -- and a divided community cannot succeed.

` The "professionalized community" -- the larger federations are extremely complicated business enterprises. Instead of the "old days" -- where six or seven men (and back then they were generally all men) would sit around a table, determine communal needs and, right there, commit to fund them, today our multi-million dollar enterprises require exceptional, trained women and men to run them. Lay leadership becomes more and more "part-time" meaning that community professionals must spend more and more time on engagement, consultation and filling in the blanks to assure the community lay and professional leadership are moving in the same direction. Where the professionals and lay leadership are successful, the community moves forward; where the professionals and lay leadership are not successful, the community is divided and trust is lost. The federations (and their national organization) have been built upon a strong lay-professional partnership. Maintaining a balance in that partnership is critical to building Community and federation.

` "Bowling alone" -- The desire by the donor to "follow the money," to resist what some communities characterize as the "black hole" into which a gift or grant to a federation or grant recipient may fall, has raised the question that Michael Berenbaum's piece has put on the table. As federations adopt their donors' "designated giving" approach to allocations, the sense of collective response that ennobles and distinguishes federations from all other charities is lost and with that loss, Community is as well. Federations can no longer be the (for those that once were and for those who would be) the focal point of the Jewish community.

That goal -- being at the very center for the Jewish Community in 157 Jewish federations remains the goal as does, as New York's John Ruskay described it recently "...federations, working with others, (are) essential to the transformation of Jewish life." Today I can still say that my and my family's gift to the Chicago Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago touches 600,000 lives in Chicago, in Israel and around the Jewish world wherever a Jew is in need helping to transform their lives as Jews. How much longer I will be able to make that statement will be decided not in Chicago, where this is part of our communal n'shama, but in 156 federations -- in too many where the questions are not even being asked.



Monday, April 27, 2009


Friends, when I began this Blog at the end of January 2008, this is how I framed it:

"I am totally committed to the success of UJC, our collective enterprise. Should UJC fail, many of our dreams will be at risk as well, None of us can afford to let that happen. All of us, not alone UJC's lay and professional leaders, have a real stake in UJC's success. At heart I am a fund raiser, so I always have hope. I have always believed that Joe, Kathy and Howard have a far greater commitment to the successes and achievements of UJC than any of us. They are committed leaders capable of recreating UJC as we had envisioned it at the time of the merger...or better. That is their charge. My differences with them are, have been and will no doubt be l'shem shamayim -- perhaps, someday, they will come to understand that.

Friends, if the federation professionals -- not alone the Large City Executives but the chief professional officers of all federations of every City-size -- engage fully and constantly (and, if appropriate, critically) and the lay UJC Board members demand proactive engagement consistent with their fiduciary obligations, then UJC will succeed beyond measure. For if UJC's owners -- the lay and professional leaders who are the representatives of their federations --abdicate their ownership obligations then surely, the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, it is in ourselves."

I was so terribly wrong about where I expected UJC to be today.

Now, some 195 Posts later, my concerns and yours, in so many instances, have been highlighted, if that is the word, by the crisis of UJC today -- a UJC so disengaged from its owners that its Chair actually told the UJC Executive Committee that the Federations are not Owners "just members." Using a country club analogy the Board Chair...the Board Chair...made the argument "..if you don't pay Dues, you can't play on our golf course." Reductio ad absurdum, indeed. Never has UJC engaged in any introspection -- soon all that will be left will be retrospection.

UJC was warned, well before, months before the economic crisis was upon us, that federations were withdrawing their financial support because of a lack of return on investment from a bloated Budget which failed to address their needs and a refusal by UJC to engage on their concerns. These warnings were ignored -- he or she who delivered the warnings attacked. And, when federation after federation advised UJC that they could not or would not pay Dues, in whole or in part, UJC's response was to scream at or about them asserting what they would lose if "membership" were terminated -- never was a single federation told how much they would gain from their continued ownership. For three years some federations were "bought off" with positions on the Budget Committee and even the Executive Committee but, without a dedication to the federations' needs and wants, these patronizing actions were soon seen to be just that. Not one of the federation leaders with whom I have met whose federations were forced by the circumstances described to express a need to reduce Dues ever indicated to me a desire to reject their ownership -- they were truly pleading with UJC to be meaningful to them. And this UJC just couldn't/wouldn't hear that.

When an organization grows so out of touch with its owners, it inevitably withers away. That is exactly what is happening with UJC today. And when an organization's leaders deal with its owners and its own professional staff out of an attitude of hubris and imperiousness, those should no longer be our leaders. When I quoted a Federation CEO in The Tragedy and Travesty of UJC Today who articulated the pain he/she felt after a conference call on which the CEO literally insulted a group of federation chief professional officers, that moment in time told so much. When the attitude of UJC's Budget Chair is reflected in an answer he gave to his Committee in response to a question as to why the highest compensated professionals' compensation wasn't proposed to be cut so as to potentially save some jobs at lower compensation levels -- "we talked about it but decided it would be bad for morale" -- he spoke volumes about priorities. (He did go on to say that as the 2010 Budget would pass through increases in health insurance costs "that would in effect reduce compensation" not mentioning, of course that that pass through would impact all.) Let's get this straight -- in these folks' opinion, terminating 31 staff members is better for overall morale than cutting compensation at the highest paid levels which could save some jobs?? (And, in a pained anonymous Comment to this Blog, it was reported that the Chair sent all staff members a pocket-sized squeeze bottle of Purell.) The "let them eat cake" attitude has further poisoned UJC.

So, what could be done at this point? Some suggestions for our Federations -- the owners:

1. Immediately, form a "coalition of the willing" around the federations which have expressed a commitment to support a realistic Budget for this "new UJC" and the core allocation to JAFI/JDC. All federations would be invited to participate.

2. That "coalition" would, with a sense of urgency, convene a meeting with JDC and JAFI leadership to explore alternatives to funding the partners and ORT and support the "new UJC" as well. I know that our partners understand the value of a strong continental partner in North America.

3. The "coalition" would elect an Interim Board Chair and two Federation CEOs would be ask to serve on a rotating basis as an interim "Office of the CEO" of a "new UJC." The on-going "search" which is still, according to a report to last week's Executive Committee, interviewing (this after, what, six months since the Search started?) "candidates" would be terminated. The "coalition" sitting as a Committee of the Whole would seek out and recruit a Chief Executive Officer and conclude that process within 60 days.

4. The coalition, in full consultation with JDC/JAFI, would formulate a workplan (see, for example, the Post OK, Big Shot, What Would You Do?) and budget for its implementation. Federation lay and professional leaders joined by leaders of the "new UJC," JAFI, UIA and JDC would deploy to the federations across North America seeking their support and joinder in this effort to rebuild our national institution. (For a more detailed suggestion, see my April 2 Post -- Ends and Beginnings.)

This reconstruction won't be as easy or as quick as UJC's deconstruction has been. But, when you have a Board Chair who tells the Executive Committee that "We'll be better off with 1/3 fewer 'members,'" it's beyond time for change. It's been beyond time. Ein breira, chevre.

And ein breira brings me back to the title of this Post. I have great appreciation for the constant support I have received from so many readers of this Blog -- lay and professional leaders of every City-size. Those of you who have told me that I speak for you and your communities have given me the strength to continue to urge, to question, to reveal and to challenge. On the other hand, over the past 195 Posts, very close friends of mine -- lay and professional leaders of our system, past and present -- have advised me that "this Blog must stop." I have been hurt immeasurably that this Blog has strained friendships of a Jewish communal lifetime -- friends who have told me, more than once, that I have done damage to my reputation (such as it may have been) without any impact whatsoever. (And I am well aware of the definition of insanity as constantly banging one's head against a brick wall expecting the wall to fall.) I have been accused of "egomania, narcissism" (both no doubt true) and far, far worse. Yet, the purposes of UJThee...and Me have not changed. I would like to think that these same leaders who have urged me to cease and desist, usually in the same sentence that begins like this "I know UJC is a disaster, but..." find saying anything negative about a federation-owned institution to be threatening even if mine have been expressions of principles that they themselves otherwise hold dear, perhaps even more dear than I, as well.

Bottom line, each of us must stand up for what we deeply believe. No one should any longer be permitted to say "we need a strong national organization to accomplish federations' purposes and will" yet support what we...we...have allowed UJC to become -- an expensive, horribly expensive, mistake. We can remake UJC to reflect the vision that gave birth to UJC way back then. And, when we do, this Blog will cease and desist and I will dedicate myself not alone to the "new UJC" to the extent that I am permitted to do so but to rebuilding the friendships that I have strained along the way.


Friday, April 24, 2009


For this UJC fiscal year, 2009, most federations voted to support a Budget for UJC of $37 million. I assume that those federations expected to get something...anything...from UJC during this fiscal year. Well, beyond Washington, we haven't -- unless you can think of something that I've missed. We now see UJC in total chaos -- and, trust me, we could have paid a lot less and obtained the same results. On May 15, 2008, UJC, over the signatures of two of its most senior professional leaders, tried -- tried very, very hard, in fact --to explain UJC's Budget focus for 2008-2009. They wrote, among other things:

"The Budget aligns UJC operations with its strategic goals: resource development of federations, convening mega-donors and growing our donor base, developing federation human resources..., building federation strategic branding, e-philanthropy, marketing and communications technologies, advocacy for the federation system...all within a framework of greater fiscal prudence."

You really have to love these folks. Does any of this sound familiar? Of course, it's exactly...exactly...what KanferRieger are saying today. And what has UJC accomplished since these words were written in these areas of "alignment" of "...UJC operations with its strategic goals" one year ago? Well, let's take a little "environmental scan:"

1. "Financial resource development of federations." The National Chairman resigned, UJC was so late to acknowledge the economic disaster that was impacting federations that it proved to be truly irrelevant and, now, financial resource development of federations has become the focus of the 2010 Budget. In other words...nothing.

2. "Convening mega-donors." An extremely high priority. Two of our federations' most significant donors accepted the Co-Chair positions for this effort recruited by their CEOs in mid-2008. UJC's CEO was to staff the effort. Then...nothing happened. Well, actually, something did happen...the mega-donor who served as National Campaign Chair resigned in frustration with KanferRieger; the mega-donor who Chaired the Center for Jewish Philanthropy resigned out of frustration with Kanfer. This was the path of progress of this priority. In other words...worse than nothing.

3. "Growing our donor base." A critical priority. A constant reference point for KanferRieger. And given this priority what happened? In the senior Resource Development professional's "plan" distributed on erev-FLI, not even mentioned. In other words...nothing.

4. "Developing federation human resources." As you might have anticipated, both of UJC's Senior Professionals with responsibility in this area...gone. UJC has decided essentially to piggy-back on the work of the Mandel Foundation, even as this remains among the highest of UJC priorities. In other words, for UJC...nothing.

5. "Building federation strategic branding." Here UJC excelled -- in spending money for consultants. So far best I can tell there is a new "brand" -- it's either "UJC:the Federations of North America" or "The Federations of North America" or "Federations of North America." Or maybe it'll be something else. UJC has budgeted $1,250,000 for this effort in FY 2010 at a time of incredible Budget pressure. In other expensive nothing.

6. "e-philanthropy." You have to be joking. This is, as it should be, a major priority. As we have pointed out before, a mega-donor approached UJC with his ideas on pursuing e-philanthropy at UJC at his expense and UJC professionals walked him right out the door. Then this was a major priority for FY 2009. And, now it is again for 2010, even more so. In other words...nothing.

As I have written before, UJC today, yesterday and, unless the federations impose change, tomorrow, will be, like the Seinfeld show, about nothing. The current UJC leadership believes it can just keep trotting out the same goals, the same rhetoric with the same results -- robotic Budget approval by the federations. When federations push back, UJC has no response today other than to attack those pushing back. And, now, with no alternative even considered to the single Dues Proposal, no source of revenue for Budget support. Expect nothing; get nothing.


Shabbat shalom.


Thursday, April 23, 2009


Yesterday I published a parody. Some have written me to suggest that others might think I actually was drafting a transcript. No, not the case.

As has been reported elsewhere: the Executive Committee did approve the 2010 Budget but not without some serious questions from federation leaders for which there were no answers; the Dues Proposal was not voted on, deferred but not denied until a discussion with JDC and JAFI leaders. There was discussion, however, which suggested to some the absolute confusion the Proposal itself has wrought. While I have some of the details, and find UJC leadership's continuing verbal attacks on JDC leaders and federations which have resisted paying Dues for a variety of compelling reasons, as unreasonable as some find this Blog to be, let's defer that discussion to a later date.

Let's focus for a moment on the reasons that UJC stands (or crumbles) today at a point where 1/3 or more of its owners are so disengaged that they will not or cannot pay the full costs of their membership. A 2010 Budget with revenues from only 2/3rds of the federations -- how would that work exactly? The Chairs and CEO can express their rage or outrage, as the case may be, but the reality is and has been that these federations sense that they can no longer afford the full support of an organization that promises little and delivers even less. Yes, UJC Washington has produced more for some federations than those federations may pay in Dues but is that an answer when a given federation may argue that it will pay its pro rata cost of Washington but nothing more because it believes that it benefits from nothing more and that neither do the vast majority of federations?

It's too late now for the current leaders, but in their rage had any UJC leader sat down and tried to figure out how to make all of UJC as relevant and meaningful to the federations as UJC Washington is? Trust that this leadership has been so involved in their personal agendas, in trying to locate a "Big Idea," that they have forgotten or never knew that their jobs, their roles, were to be the link between the federations and the things that federations want and need. No one at what is now 25 Broadway bothered to listen and the self-selected leadership circle of what -- five lay leaders from Akron, Greensboro, Delaware, D.C. and North Shore, MA -- never listened to anything other than the sounds of their own voices. And, therefore, periodically, with ever-increasing frequency, a small group of federation CEOs -- well-meaning, proven leaders of community and People -- stepped in to essentially try to rescue UJCs leaders from themselves but were unwilling to acknowledge the seriousness of the totality of the circumstances that have led us to today. And, now they and we all are paying the ultimate price. And, still this UJC leadership refuses to acknowledge any role whatsoever in what is happening, has happened, to our national organization that we need so much to be successful at this most critical moment in time in North America.

We can't let UJC self-destruct. If the current leadership will not step aside, then it is incumbent upon a "coalition of the willing" to come together and engage to recreate UJC as if the current leadership were not there. Let's start with that meeting among federation lay and professional leaders, JDC and JAFI and begin the reconstruction starting there. The walls of UJC are a-tumbling down already, my friends.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I was able to connect to the UJC Executive Committee call today and this is what I heard:

KM: It's already 12:15 and I would like to call this meeting to order. Oh, Toni, I'm so sorry, I see you and Michael haven't finished your lunches yet. OK, let's begin in five minutes -- give everyone a chance to finish. (Sounds of plates being scraped, chewing, slurping, etc.)

KM: We really have to start. We have critical business today for this face-to-face meeting. I am so glad that five of you were able to get in from out-of-town plus the seven New Yorkers here. We have, let's count, Rob, 17 staffers here. It's 12:30 and some of you have told me you have to leave by 1:30 to catch your planes home. So, let's begin. The first matter on the Agenda is our 2010 Budget. I would like to call on Michael Gelman, our Budget Chair and Treasurer, who has done such a swell job. Michael.

MG: Wow, this was tough but we cut the Budget by a recommended 18%. Sam Astrof is here to read the entire Budget to you, line by line, and, if you're still awake, answer any questions you might have but, of course, we don't have time for questions...

Unidentified Voice: I believe that the Budget is the prerogative of the staff and senior lay leaders, so let's move on. Questions would be inappropriate, so let's move on.

General sound of silence.

MG: I move we approve.

Toni Young: Second!

KM: All approve. That's so great. Wonderful presentation, MG, and Sam, our thanks. Wow, I thought that was going to be tough. OK, they are just putting out dessert, so let's take a 10 minute break.

(Sounds of lip-smacking, forks scraping plates.)

KM: Well, I see that some of our friends who traveled great distances to get here have to leave for their flights home. Thanks so much for being here and for your important contribution. Now, let's move on to the Dues Committee proposal to take a really large portion of the UJC Budget off the top of the allocation to JAFI and JDC. We'll either vote on it or not depending on what Joe wants us to do. I would like to call on Co-Chairs Steve Silverman and Harvey Barnett. Fantastic work gentlemen.

HB: In the interest of time, we turn the mike over to Steve Nasatir.

SN: Thanks Harvey and Steve for your incredible leadership. This Report is a great idea. It's the only way to save UJC. JAFI and JDC will love it. (General hubbub...hard to distinguish voices.) Oh, they object to it, well wait until I explain it to them.

Joe Kanfer: Sorry to break in and I know we're short of time. Let me make one thing perfectly clear: the only people opposed to this are the federations who don't understand it, JAFI and JDC to whom we haven't explained it, the Communists, anarchists, godless geeks, the damn JTA and the Forward, some friggin' Blogger and anyone else we've shown it to. Well, the heck with them. If we're going to unify the Jewish People, this is the way to go!! I did call JAFI and JDC leaders after a Dues Committee meeting in Chicago. Here's what I told them: "We have a formula that the federations have agreed to. We'll tell you the details when we feel like it. Howard will set up a meeting or maybe he won't." And JDC leaders get mad about that? So let's approve this, otherwise UJC is dead and it's your fault and JDC's fault and JAFI's fault and JTA's ......

SN: Thanks, Joe. That's very helpful. Harvey and Steve, do you want to sum up?

Steve Silverman: This will be great -- we won't need a Financial Relations Committee any more.

HB: There's nothing more to say -- it's either this or UJC is through. I move the Formula for approval.

KM: Great work guys and our deep thanks for trying to rescue us from the disaster we've created. Is there a Second?

TY: I'll Second, I'll Second!!

KM: Thanks, Toni. All in favor?

Unidentified Voice: What the hell are we voting for? General murmers of dismay.

KM: That's great. It's unanimous. We're saved, we're saved!! We're united at last. Howard?

HR: I'll call JAFI and JDC and tell them.

SN: Please no, please,

KM: Well, it appears that we're approaching the end of our time. We do have some important matters left on the Agenda. Howard, would you report on the relocation of the Yemeni Jews?

HR: Kathy, thanks. I am pleased to report that, even though none of you knew anything about this, I embarked on a partnership with the Satmar Orthodox to rescue 110 Yemeni Jews and bring them to Monsey, New York, where the Satmars would assure they had food, housing and were taught Yiddish, given cars, etc. Working with the State Department, many have sought American passports. Unfortunately it appears they don't want to leave Yemen. We will keep you updated or maybe we won't.

KM: Thank you, Howard, and I want to remind everyone here and on the phone, this is real hush hush stuff. Because of the press of time I will report on the GA. The 2010 Budget, which we're not supposed to discuss and which we have now approved, provides for a $500,000 UJC subsidy to the UJC GA. Isn't that great?! That subsidy plus sponsor support and a $2500 per person Registration Fee should be just enough to almost break even. That will be so great. And, this will be a special GA for Joe and me and Howard.

Phone transmission breaks down. Sorry.



Yesterday's reminder to the UJC Executive of the time and place of today's meeting says it all about "travesty" -- if you come early "you can get a jump start on lunch." Travesty.

I have been blessed over the years in getting to know so many who today serve our system as CEO's of federations of every city-size, men and women dedicated to building Community with a capital "C." I have the greatest respect for them and how they are confronting the challenges of today to secure their Federations, our Federations for tomorrow. One of my friends in the field wrote me with such a sense of pain and estrangement -- here is what this terrific professional wrote, redacted to protect confidentiality:

"The irrelevancy of UJC is sad and comical. I took part on a conference call ... Howard (Rieger) was on the call trying to both explain and defend the ("off the top" Dues) proposal. Regardless of whether the proposal is right/wrong or good/bad...what I resent is his dismissive attitude, his patronizing comments and his utter disrespect for anyone's questions, opinions and comments. He is simply infuriating. Is there any wonder why UJC is irrelevant. I neither have the time, interest or inclination to take part in the UJC debate. It has no relevance to anything that I do on a daily basis when I am trying to help build a community, raise funds and meet the critical needs of our community. I am alone, as far as UJC is concerned ...(but) I will help to... build, support and sustain (my federation)...with or without any national assistance."

This is what those who have chosen to ignore the realities of what they have allowed UJC to become; what they have enabled. The shame is theirs as much as it is the "leaders" whose arrogance and hubris at $40 million now $37 million per year have cost us far more in terms of a national organization that is today without credibility or, in my friend's eloquent words, "relevance." UJC has a Compensation Committee (of course it consists totally of the "usual suspects" -- the very leaders who have tolerated the CEO's "conduct" for three years); it has an Operational Executive (whose Chair still seems not to have a clue as to her powers [or, perhaps, any interest in exercising them]) -- neither are interested. Are any of you? Tragedy.

And...last Friday one of my Federation's and one of UIA's, JAFI's and UJC's great, passionate leaders, Lester Rosenberg, was terribly injured in an horrific auto accident. He has been surrounded by his family in intensive care in critical condition ever since. The Chicago Federation asked for our prayers as did JAFI and UIA. While there are those certainly at UJC who know of Lester's condition, not one message from UJC asking our UJC Board to support Lester and the Rosenberg family with prayer at this critical time. I was not going to write about this but, after 5...five...days of UJC's silence.... Last June I wrote that all of our organizations must be led by those men and women who demonstrate that they love people. That love is what characterizes Lester's leadership; that lack of love by UJC's leaders speaks volumes under these circumstances. Such a simple thing. Given the choice between doing the right thing, the wrong or doing nothing....Travesty and tragedy.

We should all be ashamed.


Monday, April 20, 2009


As I have noted, on the 22nd the UJC Executive Committee will meet to consider a 2010 Budget Recommendation to reduce UJC's Budget by 18% and a Dues Proposal that would have the effect of further reducing the core allocation to JAFI/JDC significantly. UJC "leaders" will argue that there is (a) no ability to further cut the Budget beyond 18% and (b) that without the implementation of this Dues Proposal UJC will collapse to the ultimate disadvantage of JAFI and JDC. These are both self-serving and mythical arguments, both without substance.

~ As to the 2010 Budget. There are significant opportunities to further cut the Budget (see a number of Posts on this Blog over the last two weeks and several suggestions in Comments to those Posts). In fact, as Chair Gelman noted to the Budget Committee, UJC's own staff and Gelman had proposed a 20% Budget cut but the CEO somehow "convinced" the staff to "restore $745,000" to the Budget. And, in addition, there are potential reasonable cuts (Executive compensation, UJC Israel, Consulting Services, etc.) that would not result in further staff cuts, that UJC lay "leaders" have refused to consider.

~ As to the "off the top" Dues Proposal. In his opening report to the Budget & Finance Committee (and in Kanfer's responses to the JTA), reliance was claimed in the Budget analysis upon a non-scientific Survey of the federations -- a Survey of all federations that produced responses from 73 of 157 federations -- less than 1/2, as usual. One of the questions was as to intended "cuts" in federation allocations to JAFI/JDC core. Remember, the "off the top" proposal is premised upon federations' commitment to restore to those core allocations in like or greater amount than the Dues reduction from the core allocation. Here is what the UJC Survey disclosed as to 73 federations' intent as to allocations: 14 Large Cities -- an average allocations reduction of 14%; 17 Large Intermediate Federations -- an average allocations reduction of 17%; 31 Intermediate federations -- an average allocations reduction of 12%; and 11 Small federations -- an allocations reduction of 7%.

Thus, based on UJC's own numbers, the premise of this Dues Proposal is nothing more than fiction. Just as fictional as building a Budget based upon alleged "findings" from a Federation Leadership Institute attended by 1/3rd of the federations.

~ UJC Represents the Federations. This is the saddest myth of all. It should be fact but it isn't. JDC and JAFI, along with UIA, have been confronted by KanferRieger with this statement or its obverse "and you are out of touch with the federations" on a more or less constant basis. Fact: the Boards of the Joint, the Agency and UIA are each made up of federations leaders from around North America (in JAFI's case, Board members from the U.S. and Canada). Then, look at KanferRieger and the minuscule group of lay persons with whom they have chosen to surround themselves. Then, ask yourselves, which organization has become out of touch with the federations? It's a rhetorical question.

Yet, on paper, the UJC Executive Committee members do represent the Federations. They can stand tall or merely rubber stamp "management's recommendations." Friends, it is an absolute truth that it is the Executive Committee's role to challenge assumptions and myths. It hasn't done so; now is the time we must insist upon it.


Sunday, April 19, 2009


Oh me.

"When all is said and done, the sad chapters of the Kanfer/Rieger years will be behind us and their successors in UJC or in a successor entity will clean up the mess with which they have been left. How is it possible that we could have permitted and continue to permit these so-called "leaders" (who actually believe that they speak for and represent the federation owners) to be dismissive of the leaders of the Next Generation while claiming to be dedicated to them; ignore the pleas of the federations they "represent" for, e.g., a reduced Budget, focus and the reconsideration of the Strategic Planning Work Group before its public airing next week; dismiss the historic partnership between our donors and federations while claiming that JAFI and JDC are our partners; engage consultants to advise our system on gender equality while pushing away senior women professionals with no consequences, etc., etc., etc.? How?"

I wrote this a while ago -- it seems a long, long time ago. At a time when the current leaders could have made a start at righting the ship...unfortunately, they had no interest in doing so. They had deluded themselves into thinking all was well, or would be. But they weren't alone. There were those who believed it more critical to cheerlead than to offer even "tough love." Worse, some well-meaning lay leaders time and again bought into the b.s. they were being spoonfed by UJC and a few, very few, chief professional officers. Some day all of them -- the UJC leadership at whose feet the blame for the catastrophe they have created, and those who chose to turn a blind eye -- lay and professionals alike -- will know that they led us to the abyss into which UJC was falling.

They were wrong. Now, cleaning up the mess will fall to others. After these leaders and their cheerleaders wasted close to $200,000,000 that could have accomplished so much for our People, we must all hang our heads in shame.

And, today, we must focus on the task ahead of us. It has become monumental. But it not beyond our abilities or our dreams.


Friday, April 17, 2009


A correspondent, who deserves the anonymity she requested, has asked me: "OK, Mr. Big Shot, what would you have done differently were you to find yourself in the UJC CEO's shoes?" It's a fair question even though totally hypothetical. But, recognizing that none of this is 20/20 hindsight, let me give this my best shot after quickly taking those shoes off....

~ At the start. I would seek a meeting with the new leader of the Ford Foundation to learn how that great monolithic foundation has focused its work, as the New York Times wrote this week: "...(to) define the foundation's work and objectives more clearly, streamline its sprawling operations and place greater emphasis on demonstrating the impact of its programs" linked with "rigorous assessment and analysis of (Ford's and its beneficiaries') work and (be) outspoken about successes and failures."

I would read the research conducted under Steve Hoffman's leadership by, as I recall, the Rochester Research Group to learn and understand what the federations then wanted from UJC and how they believed UJC was doing in the areas of federation interest.

I would convene the entire staff on my arrival to reinforce what they know -- that our holy work is dedicated to serving the federations which own us; that will be our focus; and we will work together to achieve those goals; and that we are going to do so with a passion, joy and love knowing that the ultimate beneficiaries of all that we do will be those of our People most in need in North America and in Israel and through the work of our partners, JDC and JAFI. I will then meet with the Senior Professionals to assure them that we will work together to achieve our goals; that they are charged to work collaboratively and creatively and that we will meet bi-weekly to discuss and create and inspire each other in an atmosphere of good will and good humor. I will tell them and the lay leadership, incorporating the words of a great American leader: "For UJC, there must be 'the fierce urgency of now.'"

And I will meet with UJC's lay leadership to let them know that ours will be an invigorated lay-professional partnership that will be expansive and inclusive; that the staff is here to serve the federations and that I, as a past Federation and national organizations Chair, fully understand the criticality of lay engagement and leadership by the lay leaders of UJC.

Having served as the Past Chair of a national agency, I understand the insecurity all of those agencies have felt given the manner in which the Alliance was created and how it has been implemented. I will convene the chief professional officers of the national agencies who have been the system's primary beneficiaries and seek their input as to how UJC can be a better partner with them.

~ The Federations. The owners must know immediately that UJC is about them, pure and simple; that UJC can only succeed with their engagement and support. To that end, I would spend part of the first weeks in the offices of federation CEOs around North America. Should Regional Meetings make more sense, UJC would pay the airfare of attending chief professional officers. The meetings would be to listen and learn from these CEOs what they want from their national organization; not to argue or challenge or listen and bring the messages received back and to work from there. And, those meetings will take place no less than Quarterly, each followed with visits from the UJC professional staff.

I will enlist a rotating group of Federation CEOs into a formal Professional Advisory Committee that will meet regularly outside of New York City (so that more/most may attend).

~ Results. We know the remarkable return on investment the system receives from UJC Washington and we know that the Annual Campaigns and planned giving and endowments are the lifeblood of the federations. And we understand that the vitality of our system's present and future is dependent upon continuing professional education and the partnership with Mandel. We also know that as a condition of merger UJC was vested with the moral obligation to be the advocate for increased resources for JAFI and JDC with the federation owners. The centrality of Israel in our lives must be transmitted to our donors and our federations' leaders. These will be the foundation stones on which we will rebuild UJC. We will be measured by how well we do.

It's time to pursue a real partnership with the Jewish Funders Network instead of viewing the JFN as a competitor and, too often, duplicating efforts already proved successful.

Going forward, we will communicate openly, honestly and constantly with out owners and constituencies -- when we face problems, we won't hide behind empty rhetoric; when we have successes, we won't hide our failures behind them.

~ Establishing Focus. In an age of austerity, UJC cannot be everything to everyone. We will be a focused organization, an exciting place to work. We will inculcate a culture that reflects and incorporates "best practices," rather than just highlight them for others. For example, Chicago's Extreme FRD will influence everything the professional staff does. Thus, among other actions, we will ask Federation CEO's to identify lay leaders and high level prospects for participation in meetings with the Prime Minister or events at the White House or the Israeli Embassy; we will restart the Voyage of Discovery for federation leaders to expose them to the work of our partners on the ground to jump start advocacy by federation leaders themselves; we will take relevant UJC professional staff to Israel to learn of our partners' work; we will caucus our professional staff with the expectation that they will make capacity campaign gifts. In other words, we will lead by example.

With our Chairs, I will work unceasingly to reestablish the trust of JAFI and JDC in UJC and the trust of our federations in the work of our Partners. Having served on the Boards of both the Joint and the Agency, having led countless Missions to see and feel the beauty of their work across the globe and the dedication of their professionals on the ground, I am, as we all should be, excited by the prospect of a new and invigorated partnership with them. And, with restored trust, UJC and the federations will lead a legitimate, credible and fair process of needs assessment and evaluation in a process with the Joint and Jewish Agency.

We also know that as federations struggle with the impacts of the economic issues they and we face, we must establish trust and credibility in UJC, not presume that it is ours by our very existence. Thus, we are going to do more with less; we have no choice. It will be my job to inspire the staff to achievements and a focus we never thought possible. Our attitude will resonate with you: "Yes we can" because we must.

~ Grow Leadership. With the new Chairs we will build an expansive leadership model, drawing on the best and brightest lay and professional leaders across the federation spectrum. The criteria will encourage recent graduates of the Young Leadership Cabinets and our Women's Philanthropy and professionals from all City-sizes not just one; we will include those who have been critical of UJC not just the few who have nodded their heads in agreement to everything UJC has proposed like bobble-head dolls. And it is past time that we reconsider governance policy and bring the leaders of the religious movements on to our Board.

With Sam Astrof and his staff we will have a truly transparent Budget process in which a new Committee consisting of Federation Chairs and execs will engage on a Draft Budget in a two day meeting in a totally transparent process. Our goals will include building a UJC leadership support network around an expansive leadership cadre and the Chairs and, to that end, I will take our Officers and Executive Committee on a Mission to see the work on the ground of JDC and JAFI, meet with Israeli Government officials and, with the Campaign Chairs and Directors Mission, make the lead gifts that will kick-off and invigorate our Annual Campaigns across the country. I will try to enlist in our leadership relevant past Chairs of CJF, UJA and UIA, all of whom I know.

The best and brightest of our professional staff will visit federations to speak to how UJC serves their interests. Who better to speak to our work in Washington than the chief professional officer of the UJC Washington Office; who better to speak to our role in assuring financial accountability than our Chief Financial Officer; on Development, our Chief Development Officer; etc.?

~ Federationcentric tm -- Everything that we do will focus us on maximizing the achievements of our owners. Their work, their goals will be our goals. We will hit the ground running.

* * *

This brief work plan (except for the use of the now trademarked term federationcentric tm ), in whole or in part, is hereby made available to the professional, to the man or woman chosen by UJC to lead our system forward. Free of charge. And, remember the maxim: Free advice is worth exactly what you pay for it.

Now, what ideas do you have? What would you do?

Shabbat shalom.


Thursday, April 16, 2009


UJC has been consistent in several areas -- patronizing, pandering and ignoring the federations which own it -- and, in particular, in repeating the mistakes of the past with a certain...insouciance, if you will. A little over one year ago, I wrote the Post that follows -- on reviewing it, I could have written it yesterday.

UJ Thee and Me
Friday, April 4, 2008


The leadership of UJC preaches a kind of Orwellian doublespeak in trying to convince the federation owners as they have convinced themselves that great change is upon us ... if only we had the patience to wait for it. Let's examine two of many myths against the realities:

The One Year-Old Implementation of the Organizational Strategy has successfully "torn down the Silos perpetuated in the merger." This is as good a place to start as any. The perceived "silos" were of Campaign/FRD, Israel/Overseas, Renaissance and Renewal and Consulting Services. Today, we have the Jewish Peoplehood Initiative, Global Operations: Israel and Overseas, and Community Capacity Building (to which Campaign/FRD has not been integrated but absorbed). The reality, new silos at best with new names and, in two instances, new professional leadership -- old wine in new bottles with a Table of Organization in place that would rival the Tower of Babel. The Large City Executives, in a paper essentially and effectively rejecting the Organizational Strategy -- Refining UJC's Vision (a paper which UJC leaders refuse to release to UJC's own Executive or Budget Committees let alone the UJC Board[more about its findings in an upcoming Post]) -- calling for, among other things, a reduction in dues, a reduction in the investment in UJC Israel and for a reordering of UJC priorities to emphasize rather than deemphasize fund raising, will be rationalized away by UJC's leaders unless the Large City Executives demand UJC leadership's attention to its recommendations.

UJC leaders demand a "seamless alignment" of all aspects of UJC's work and programs. Let's look at how this plays out in practice in at least one area. UJC's CEO has pointed with deserved pride to UJC's Campaign leadership's work with 20 federations in developing the "collaborative fund raising model." This "model" which trains professionals to integrate the "ask" for campaign, endowment and supplemental funds was conceived by the FRD Study Committee that I co-chaired with incredible partners: Cleveland's Berinthia Levine and Chattanooga's Michael Lebovitz. It was developed and originally implemented under the guidance of Vicki Agron since shoved out of UJC by leadership's demeaning and humiliating "the ends justify the means" tactics. While singing the praises of the collaborative model, in the brilliance of its "seamless alignment" strategy, UJC's leaders disintegrate the UJC internal collaboration of campaign, endowment and supplemental giving by separating campaign and endowment from supplemental FRD by keeping the former within Development" and moving the latter to the so-called Center for Jewish Philanthropy with its own Chair, independent of the National Campaign Chair. Why the misalignment for one of UJC's "top priorities," you might ask? "Don't ask," you would be told.

Now, UJC rhetoric often combines the mantra: "seamless alignment can only be accomplished by tearing down the Silos." Sure. This syllogism can be compared to Alaska Senator Ted Stevens' historic pork (excuse me) barrel support for what became known as the Alaska "Bridge to Nowhere" -- after the investment are we any closer to the goal? "Don't ask," you would be told.
The realities at United Jewish Communities must be separated from this UJC rhetoric . Is it the hope of today's leadership that federation lay and professional leaders haven't the time or the interest to ignore the rhetoric and examine what is really happening with their $40.5 million (+) per year, let alone speak out in frustration? Those who do speak out -- be they Federations from Large City to Small, their CEO's and Chairs, or just lay persons who question -- continue to be dismissed as "out of step," "sour grapes," "treasonous"....or worse. But, the cries of pain are getting louder, the authors of Refining UJC's Vision will neither be brushed aside nor vilified so easily and hope for real change is in the air like the first breaths of our new Spring.


* * *

And, what, you may ask, has changed at UJC from the date of that Post to today? Not much. The "silos" are "down," and those within the UJC staff if permitted would attest that new ones have been built by the same bureaucrats charged with responsibility for tearing the old ones down. Now, UJC's leaders claim that the proposed 2009-2010 Budget promises "seamless alignment" with the Strategic Work Group "Plan," the Organizational Strategy that was the framing vehicle for the 2008 and 2009 Budgets -- forgotten, just terrible memories. Never existed. We've got something new and different for you. The only thing "seamless" is how "seamlessly" UJC's leaders move from one misbegotten "plan" to another.

And, today's Strategic Work Group "Plan," what about that? Well, it was discussed by 55 federations of 157 in Palm Beach; yet, with no further ado UJC's leaders claimed a "mandate" and are now offering this "Plan" as the ne plus ultra of the three plans they have thrown out there.

There has been one change -- the Large City Executives' Refining UJC's Vision has been incorporated in part as to Development without reference to that Report. (That's the way it is, the only good ideas to these UJC leaders are those they can claim as their own.) Yet, does anyone truly believe that UJC has any commitment to implement an integrated prioritized Development scheme -- that their goal is to say or write anything to get through an "off the top" Dues proposal? Sure.

UJC's current leaders -- the gift that keeps on giving.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Several members of the Budget & Finance Committee have checked in with their personal complaints about the futility of a UJC "stacked deck" that passes for "process" under this leadership. And, as sure as you are sitting reading this, coupling the UJC Budget and a single "off the top" Dues Proposal will be approved by the UJC Executive Committee on April 22 when that Committee meets. Consider:

~ The Budget & Finance Committee no longer really exists. UJC "leaders" have staked their claim to "off the top" consideration based, in large measure, on the argument that "this is what UJA did in the past without federation oversight. Now we not only have federation oversight of the process, we have total transparency." Except, that argument is not worth the paper it was written on; there is no "transparency." The Committee meets in person once a year apparently mainly for lunch. As one reader who participated in the meeting wrote me: "[T]here (was) no conversation about the budget -- it was all around the budget -- they (would) not go through it or test or (allow) questions (as to) any items." Many federation leaders traveled in harsh weather to get to a meeting to hear self-serving presentations after being admonished that there would be no inquiry allowed as to policy, as to line items of the Budget or anything else for that matter.

So, there it was and there it went. With the "new rules," it was pretty easy for a meeting scheduled from 10:30 to 4 (including a 1/2 hour lunch break) to end at 2 p.m. I don't know about your federation, but at mine the Budget process is one growing out of a continuing set of meetings. At UJA it was a two day inquiry and challenge by federation leaders (serving as and on the UJA Budget Committee) literally questioning every aspect of the Budget, arguing in good faith about priorities. But, not at UJC. The manner in which UJC went about its budget this year makes a mockery of the term "transparent process." And, knowing the pros who work with Sam Astrof and Sam himself, they would welcome the challenge, the opportunity of a real inquiry, a real debate, a real transparency. But, not RiegerKanferGelman. "No time. no time at all."

~ Rationalizing an "off the top" dues proposal. The same leadership will now try to jam their "off the top" Dues Proposal through the UJC Executive Committee along with the Budget at a meeting on April 22. Somewhere, in my dreams if nowhere else, I believe that someone will stand up and challenge the preposterous assumptions and arguments that will be put forth in support of the Dues Proposal. For if ever there were an "Emperor's New Clothes" moment (and there have been many), this is it. Let's look at some facts:

1. At the time of the merger, the UJA/UIA budgets were approximately $32 million (including Mission subsidies) paid "off the top" of the JDC/JAFI allocation and CJF's budget of approximately $8.5 million was paid as dues from the allocation pursuant to a Fair Share Formula. At the merger, federations did one of two things: either (a) they combined their Dues, put it into the allocation and reduced their allocation in that full amount; or (b) continued to pay Dues "off the top" of the JAFI/JDC allocation. Under either alternative, the UJC budget (at the least the "UJA portion") was permanently and directly paid out of the JAFI/JDC core allocation.

2. At merger, allocations to JAFI/JDC totalled approximately $310 million. Today, after UJC's abandonment of advocacy, those allocations after dues have fallen to approximately a little over 1/2 that amount. Over the same period of time, the aggregate of annual campaigns has increased by over $100 million. The impact of merger on JAFI and JDC was stark: they have been directly paying at a minimum $32 million of UJC's Budget while the allocations that support those payments have been reduced by almost $150 million. And all of this has taken place these last four years while UJC's leaders have turned their backs. (UJC's leaders have created their own fiction -- that advocacy consisted of "yelling at the federations." Then, they personalize their fiction: "Wexler yelled at the federations when he engaged in 'advocacy.'" While we/I may have been critical of a given federation whose level of support was half that of the average of their City-size grouping or worse, none of the "advocates" and certainly not I ever "yelled" at dedicated local federation leaders in public or in private. For KanferRieger it's just an attempt to divert criticism away from their silence, as always.)

3. Now comes a Draft Dues Proposal (submitted as if there are no alternatives) and a Memo from the CEO that suggest, actually state, that JDC and JAFI, should share in the costs of UJC, at least in an amount approximating the benefits the "partners" receive from UJC. One must presume that these "benefits" are merely UJC's very existence inasmuch as all that UJC has done these past four years has been "to" the Joint and Agency, certainly not "for" them.

4. Rieger/Kanfer have taken umbrage at JDC leaders expression of a legitimate, principled objection (now joined by JAFI's Chair) to a proposal that would further...further...reduce the funds available to the Joint and Agency in order to pay more of UJC's overhead. I guess the argument is that (a) inasmuch as the federations won't pay UJC's Dues when the they perceive no benefits to them (or any of them), approximating those amounts, then (b) JAFI/JDC would pay them for benefits neither JDC nor JAFI receive. Huh?

5. The alleged "commitment" by the federations to maintain the integrity of the overseas allocation has been reduced, per the Rieger Memo, to an "intended strong promise" -- whatever that means. It has already been disclosed that only four federations have made such a commitment, whatever it is, to date (although Gelman stated to some leaders that "around 35%" of the federations have indicated some vague "agreement"). Some federation leaders have asserted with all sincerity and a track record to prove it, that "I/we will never support a proposal that would hurt JAFI or JDC and the Agency and Joint should rely on that." I respectfully ask them what deity has assured them of eternal life? That's the shul we should all belong to.

~ The final UJC argument for "off the top" is that if this Proposal (and none other would be considered, apparently) is not approved, UJC will collapse under the weight of federations of every City-size refusing to pay the outrageous Dues and that, absent UJC, there would be no more core allocations at all. Kanfer/Rieger have somehow convinced themselves that this is a fact. I choose to believe that (a) there are other alternatives that need to be immediately considered; (b) that those federations who are committed to the collective action that supports JAFI/JDC core will continue to do so (with or without UJC); and (c) as all that this UJC under this leadership has been is a collection agent for core and nothing more, JAFI and JDC can do no worse and, with a reformed and reframed UJC and new leadership, can only do better.

* * *

Then I read last Friday's Howard's View, which could have been a rational argument and prescription for UJC's future had it not been filled with allusions to fantasy: that there are federations that "...maintained that the UJC (budget) should remain untouched -- these Federations are increasingly relying on UJC services amid cutbacks..." I urge the CEO to disclose the names of those Federations -- Chicago and which....? Howard went on to cite UJC's "...(provision) of important value for Federations" -- a recitation of the usual and, a short list that, strangely, omits the Washington Office successes -- and, continues with a focus on "...(nurturing)...our staff," a warped citation at a time of malaise and worse (but a noble sentiment nonetheless). Yet, this View reflected, as always, UJC's leaders' refusal to acknowledge even the possibility that they themselves must take any...any...responsibility whatsoever for federations demand that UJC's budget be deeply cut so as to reduce the Dues being demanded of federations to pay UJC's costs. There is a certain symmetry here -- federation after federation question UJC's benefits to them and to the system as a whole and the Joint and Agency do exactly the same. It's time for federation and JDC/JAFI leadership to work directly and immediately...together.

Friends, we can do better -- far, far better -- than this. The Paradigm created by this leadership can be restructured, must be reconstructed. While it is past time for this, there is still no time like the present to do so.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009


There is an in-person Executive Committee meeting on April 22. There's been " unavoidable change in time" (unexplained, of course) that will require (apparently) that the meeting convene at noon and "adjourn as scheduled at 4 p.m." (And, as always, lunch will be included.) Here is the Agenda:

  • 2009-2010 UJC Budget

  • Dues Approach Proposal

  • Development Report

  • Update on the Yemenite Relocation Effort

  • Washington GA 2009 Update

  • JAFI/JDC Agreement

Now, this is a substantive, important meeting but, apparently, UJC's leaders just don't have the time to engage in real, open discussion of any...any...of these Agenda items. If past is prologue, each Item will be presented as a fait accompli. After all, that's how the Budget was presented to the Budget Committee and the Executive Committee has yet to review or consider the Dues "Approach" (is that what it is?) that still has never been discussed with JDC/JAFI leadership. An "Update on the Yemenite Relocation (so that's what this now is/was?) Effort" represents the first (only) time that one of UJC's governance bodies will hear the special reasoning (maybe) that led UJC's leaders to commit the system to a "partnership" with the ultra-Orthodox Satmar sect to ostensibly "rescue" 110 Yemeni Jews who appear to neither want nor need "rescue." And, there's more.

Sorry, we have no time for questions, just an "aye" is all that is required of you. You flew to New York expecting to engage in discussion, debate? Sorry, that's not what "transparency" means to us. The Jerusalem Post, in an editorial -- Charity begins with priorities -- in yesterday's edition (April 13, 2009), lamented that in our community "...coherence doesn't come easy" and concluded that that the challenges facing us "...requires, foremost, a vibrant leadership capable of raising funds and establishing coherent program and budgetary priorities." Calling a meeting without the time or desire to debate priorities merely further demonstrates how out of touch with priority-setting UJC has become. Three so-called strategic plans in four years each rapidly followed by a "budget process" that claims to be implementing the latest confirm that as UJC's leaders bounce from one "Big Idea" to the next, nothing is a priority -- other than, of course, getting Dues paid in full.



Monday, April 13, 2009


In an insightful Haaretz article (April 13,2009) on the impacts of the financial tsunami on our system -- Will U.S. Organizations Survive the Economic Crisis? -- Joe Kanfer offered his own unique skewed analysis based upon...hard to tell. First, Kanfer in his own words:

"Many federations are cutting, and it hurts for people that have been laid off and it's sad, but most organizations can stand and go through a one-time cut", said Joe Kanfer, chair of the Board of Trustees of United Jewish Communities. "But they haven't been cutting historically, so for some it might be the way to stop doing activities you probably shouldn't have been doing." Kanfer believes that the first year of the crisis is the time to make those cuts, though if they persist into the second year, the groups may really start to feel the effects.

"I didn't hear about federations on the verge of bankruptcy," he said. "The federations are fundraisers and fund dispersers. Our income may be down 5 percent or 15 percent, maybe in some very bad cases 20 percent, but there still is plenty of money there, it has just to be spent wisely."

The Jewish social agencies supported by the federations are a different story, he admits. "If you run a Jewish center or a school and your constituents can't afford to pay - they are in trouble. And the smaller institutions with no endowments are in trouble. So we are going to see a number of institutions close, or combine with another institutions, or restructure. But that's the way it happens in business every day - the ones that are on the edge, when there is a downturn, have to find a new way. We have to get creative; we just can't run away from this. It's hard to prioritize - we have to support Israel, we have to support Soviet Jewry, we can't say one is not important. But each community has to make their own decisions."

Joe Kanfer believes the crisis is not as bad as many make it out to be.

"I think it's going to take us a while to realize that it's not the end of the world", he said. "People lost some money and they don't know when it will end, but most are in a place that their wealth will increase again. It's a year for us to adjust to a fewer dollars and how to spend them. In some cases it's just a psychological effect.

"When you buy a house for $100,000, and it grows to $300,000, you feel like you have a lot, and when it goes to $200,000, you feel like poor, forgetting that you initially bought it for $100,000. Our Torah teaches us to give 10 percent of the income - no less - but no more than 20 percent. Very few people are within a range of their 10 percent. Not everyone was giving at a maximum before, and some people say well, there is more need and we have the means. In general, we don't lack wealth. So there is plenty of room for giving." (emphasis added)


Now I am not sure of the empirical evidence on which Joe relies, perhaps it was based on how his community of Akron has reacted to the economic crisis, but how out of touch can one be, let alone he who Chairs our national institution. Read the article and contrast Kanfer's outrageous conclusions with the actions being taken by UJA-Federation of New York and the Chicago and Washington D.C. Federations.

The entire article can be found at and is worth reading just to note the courageous and painful responses to the crisis by three federations -- three federations of the 156 (apparently Joe's federation can be excluded) who are struggling with the crisis that "...Kanfer not as bad as many make it out to be." As my Professors used to say "Compare and contrast" the outrageous rhetoric of a Chair who should know better but doesn't, and federations leaders in the trenches confronting the challenges 24/7.


Sunday, April 12, 2009


First, my friends, my hope that you and your families celebrated beautiful and meaningful Seders and that the closing prayer l'shana ha'ba'ah b'Yerushalayim will be realized for all of you this year, next year and every year.

I thought of titling this Post, "and the truth shall set you free," but, given the way in which UJC's leaders have gone about their business this past week "truth" is the most rare commodity at 25 Broadway. We only have to look at missives from the CEO and statements by the Board Chair to the Budget & Finance Committee and to the JTA to understand just how rare. These guys, in their desperation, will say anything at this point, no matter how far from reality their allegations.

Some examples:

~ The January 8 "meeting" (referenced in Rieger's Memorandum to the federations, April 7) -- let's be clear. Contrary to UJC's fictional version of events -- a meeting was scheduled by UJC. JDC and JAFI leaders stated they would not attend a meeting unless they were advised of the agenda. UJC refused to provide an agenda despite being asked multiple times by phone and in writing. Then and only then did JAFI and JDC jointly cancel the meeting. And, it was only after the cancellation that Kathy Manning found the time to advise JAFI and JDC of its purpose -- to "preview" the proposed Work Group Recommendations that, absent Federation Executives' direct intervention, would have changed the system's relationship with its historic partners -- something this leadership is still attempting to do.

~ Twisting Facts. In a recent Post I cited an UJC-generated Survey of federation askiing for information on planned budget and allocation reductions as an exercise that UJC would use to rationalize its own Budget Recommendations. And, so they did. Friends sent me their record of the Survey "results" that Joe Kanfer cited to JTA as UJC's rationale for establishing an 18% 2010 Budget cut. What UJC didn't tell the JTA was that the Survey was responded to by less than 1/2 of the federations (77 to be exact) and a simple phone call to those federations (maybe by the Consulting Services staff) would have revealed a much larger number of federations cutting in excess of 20% and, many, more would have reported (and, given that their reports would have put in question UJC's unwarranted conclusions, ignored) that the extent of the cuts contemplated represented a "moving target."

More critically, any rational analysis would conclude that there is no correlation at all between a given federation's percentage reduction of its budget and UJC's. Federations are cutting in areas of lower priority so as to maintain or cut less from areas of higher priority. What Kanfer/Gelman ignore -- probably they just don't understand -- is that by its lack of engagement and its lack of relevance and, worse, its failure to make itself relevant, UJC has become for far too many federations a high priority only for cutting Dues. Thus, if Federation A is cutting its Budget by 20%, reducing UJC Dues by 33-1/3% may enable Federation A to maintain critical local programs and high priority Israel and overseas allocations. It is UJC's lack of comprehension of what federations are doing and asking for that it isn't even able to connect these dots.

~ JAFI/JDC leaders were advised immediately after the Dues Committee meeting of the proposal. Hogwash. They received phone calls from Kanfer/Manning. Both JDC and JAFI leaders asked for the details (which they did not receive in those hurried calls) in writing -- and neither organization received them until...until...the Draft Proposal had been distributed to the Federations by...take a guess...UJC. And why? Because this leadership loves the fait accompli; it is their operating philosophy. (Take a look at everything -- from the Organizational Strategy to the Strategic Plan Work Group Recommendations to this Dues Proposal -- each presented as a "done deal, now let's talk." And, in the case of the last of these, remember, it was the federations' intent that UJC, as their agent, convene a meeting with the Joint and Agency leadership before any consideration of the Proposal. Didn't happen and, now, Howard Rieger offers a meeting "any time, any place." Thanks a lot.)

~ We are totally focused on helping federations meet the challenges of the economic crisis. If true, quite a bit late, wouldn't you say? In the very first Posts on this Blog, in January 2008, we cautioned UJC, warning that an economic crisis predicted by others far more knowledgeable on the subject than I, needed to be addressed by UJC as the federation system's umbrella. These cautions were repeated time and again...and, time and again, UJC did nothing...nothing. Even at a GA where this might have been a focus....nothing. Now, with federations in the midst of crisis, where is UJC, really? After all, somehow UJC is able to meet its budget even if your federation, JAFI or JDC or ORT or your local agencies have to make deep cuts to reduce theirs.

~ Twisting data. Most of us have heard Joe Kanfer deprecate Annual Campaign achievement even as our federations have grown the AC by more than $100 million dollars over UJC's life. Many of us have heard him misstate the core allocations to JAFI and JDC over this same time forgetting that UJC today uses an allocation figure (individually and in total) that includes dues whereas UJA only included allocations to core. (And both UJA and UJC do not count designated dollars in their totals.) So, when you hear that allocations today are "close to or exceed" those of the pre-UJC years, that represents as gross a distortion of reality as it was to include the results of the Israel Emergency Campaigns in annual allocations totals (as both JAFI and JDC passed those hundreds of millions of dollars through to the Victims of Terror and none were used for core).

More to follow....


Wednesday, April 8, 2009


There is no one who writes revisionist history more frequently than does the President and CEO of UJC. His latest chapter in his on-going saga was sent to the federation system yesterday. It's truly sad. One can only ask: Howard, why would you do this? Does your diatribe serve the interests of UJC, of the federations? Is it appropriate for a professional, no matter his or her position, to attack lay leaders or fellow professionals, all of whom are held in the highest esteem, in this way?

Here is what Howard wrote (with the facts as I know them to be interlineated).

"From: Howard M. Rieger, UJC President & CEO

Re: UJC Dues Proposal

Two weeks ago a UJC Executive Committee subcommittee under the co-chairmanship of Harvey Barnett of Chicago and Steve Silverman of Jacksonville, Florida, met to consider modifying the process by which UJC apportions responsibility to Federations for paying their fair-share dues, which fund most of UJC's budget.

Immediately after the meeting we spoke directly with Richie Pearlstone, the volunteer head of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and Irv Smokler & Steve Schwager, the volunteer and professional heads of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, to inform them of the subcommittee's recommendation, (what Irv Smokler and Richie Pearlstone were told was pure shorthand, no details with a promise, since breached, that "we'll arrange a meeting to discuss" or "we'll get back to you") which will be presented to UJC's Executive Committee on April 22.

Subsequent to those conversations ( as, without any discussion of the Proposal with JDC or JAFI, UJC published it) , JDC wrote to UJC leadership, with an open copy to all Federation presidents and executives, attacking the part of the proposal aimed at seeking contributions (note that these are now characterized as "contributions") from JAFI and JDC to fund a portion of UJC expenses for activities that benefit both organizations and the needs they meet (there is nothing in the Proposal that suggests that "off the top" will come only from that "...portion of UJC expenses for activities that benefit (JAFI and JDC) and the needs they meet." That is because that would result today in a net reduction of ZERO.).

Prior to merger, the United Jewish Appeal was fully funded by JAFI and JDC (which, as you recall, JDC and UIA owned). Today, the two groups contribute no funding to the portion of UJC operations relevant to them. (1. Q: So in "BizarroWorld," Howard, have you chosen to forget that upon the merger, the entirety of the UJA budget went where, exactly? A: Into UJC's budget. And (2) apparently in the fictional world in which the CEO lives and works there is the belief that there is "...a portion of UJC operations relevant to..." JDC/JAFI? Could the CEO could quantify those relevant operations. A: No. Given the apparent basis of the "off the top" as Howard described it herein, it appears that UJC owes JAFI and JDC a lot...a lot... of money.) Prior to merger the budget of UJA was formulated internally and was not presented to Federations for approval. Today UJC's budget is fully transparent and is acted upon by the Federations in an open process. (See yesterday's Post and ask yourself: "Is this budget process transparent?")

Some believe that returning to a pattern of some sharing of costs with JAFI and JDC is not without merit. Even if that proposal were accepted, UJC's budget would still reflect a pattern of full disclosure ( Q: what of the $2 million in Branding contracts, what of $250,000 to Sheatufim, what of Executive compensation, etc., etc.? A: We'll get back to you on those.) to which we are totally committed.

The recommendation has yet to be considered by the governance arms of UJC. We also have made it clear that we are not proposing unilateral action. ( OMG ) To the contrary, as early as January of this year we had scheduled a meeting of JAFI/JDC leadership, aimed at surfacing and discussing a variety of issues of mutual concern. Unfortunately, JAFI/JDC leaders chose to cancel that session. (Clearly, Howard believes that if one repeats something often enough it becomes truth -- but only to him and the lay leaders who shelter him. The "January meeting" was one for which JDC and JAFI leaders requested an Agenda -- they made that request numerous times. They believed the purpose of the meeting was to mediate open issues between the two organizations. The meeting was canceled only because UJC refused to disclose its real Agenda in advance. That Agenda was disclosed to JAFI and JDC only after the leaders canceled the meeting for lack of that Agenda. So, here's how it works -- you provide no information in response to requests, then blame JAFI and JDC for cancelling because they had no information.)

Finally, a few days ago, the "dues" issue surfaced ( actually it "surfaced" in a Draft Report sent to the federations with, once again, no prior discussion with the "partners") in an article in the Jerusalem Post, with quotes from JAFI and JDC leaders. We feel that the media is not a proper forum to debate legitimate proposals.

We value the work that JAFI and JDC perform on behalf of the Jewish people. (At the Budget Committee meeting Howard suggested that JAFI and JDC "cannot be trusted," or words to that effect.)We also appreciate the moment in time in which we all find ourselves. It is at just such times that we need to come together to contemplate the mutual challenges we face. Accusing UJC leaders of actions detrimental to the best interests of Jews in need couldn't be further from the truth, nor is it constructive. (But this Memorandum, filled as it is with make believe, is just fine.)

Beyond this "controversy," we firmly believe that UJC has formulated an agenda that will serve all of us well if only we would come together to better address the challenges we face with a mobile and changing population, which we have studied and are responding to with new models of communications, fund-raising and needs identification. (I won't comment on this run-on sentence.) We are committed to that collaboration and won't give up the desire to work together toward this objective. (Let's understand -- it is UJC that has failed to communicate, failed to collaborate, and, with a Memo like this, clearly has failed its partners and its owners.)

We stand ready to meet with JAFI and JDC at any convenient time of their choosing! (What is this "High Noon?")

Chag Pesach Sameach v'kasher. "


Friends, I could have parsed almost every sentence in this Memo, so filled with hyperbole, half-truths and worse is this piece of fiction. Why did Howard find it necessary to stand truth on its head and disseminate this...thing? Clearly, he finds it impossible to "handle the truth." I think it is out of his sense of total desperation -- if a (not "this," "a") Dues Proposal does not pass, this iteration of UJC will be over given the growing number of federations who cannot or will not pay the Dues even a $30 million budget would require. Instead of spending the past months, even years, directly engaging with federations with or without his lay leadership, Howard has spent much of his time, apparently, openly disengaging from them, ignoring them and, as to our system's historic partners, with the Board Chair, insulting them.

Howard's sad diatribe is without merit. Treat it like the fiction that it is.

Have a wonderful Pesach holiday.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Let's say you serve on a Federation Committee and you're told at the meeting at which the Committee will make a recommendation based on a staff report reviewed and approved by the senior Federation lay leaders: "This is a management matter with the involvement of senior lay leadership. The Committee is proscribed from any inquiry into the matters before it. Vote it up or down." I may have over-simplified but this is essentially what the UJC Budget & Finance Committee was told by one of the most senior Large City Executives at Monday's UJC Budget & Finance Committee meeting. Incredible; truly makes service on a Committee of UJC particularly rewarding. But it did enable the Committee to conclude its work, approving a $30 million budget recommendation without change of a dollar, by 2:00 p.m. -- a four hour meeting including lunch -- a new record!!

And, I have been told by unimpeachable sources, that was not all...not by a long shot.

  • For those who thought there would at least be a discussion of the Draft Proposal on "Off the Top." Wrong. The meeting commenced with the Committee Chair announcing that the Draft Proposal was for "internal use only and not for public discussion." So, it was "off the table" for the Budget & Finance Committee. This assertion flew in the face of the reality that the document in question had been in circulation for over a week and had been the focus of discussion among federation executive groupings by conference calls convened by UJC last week. If one looks back to the firestorm that erupted over the Strategic Planning Working Group Recommendations prior to the FLI, you will remember the same bizarre assertion -- that that document was for "internal discussion only" -- sounds as if UJC has a script for each and every controversy it creates.

  • But while the Committee could not discuss the "off the top" Draft, that did not stop Howard Rieger from using the occasion to attack JDC and JAFI as, essentially, "ingrates" and worse -- I guess ungrateful for all that UJC has done for them over this leadership's time in office. Howard did so with his usual grace, apparently stirred to screed by an article in the Israeli press over recent days. In response, one of those UJC "senior lay leaders" demanded that UJC "set rules" for JDC and JAFI. Many of the participants in the meeting felt that these "leaders" once again put themselves to shame.
  • Then there was the Chair's introduction which included the bromide that "federations should understand that even if they receive minimal benefits from their dues, other federations do." Surely that has inspired most Large City Federations in the past. But what of today's circumstance when your/my federation benefits minimally from dues, and others don't either? (Answer, there are big benefits from UJC Washington --as there were when CJF ran that office.)

  • In response to a request by a Committee member that the Committee examine the Budget in detail, the Budget Chair responded that "...that would take too long..." or that such an inquiry "...would be micro-managing." Remember, my friends, that this is what UJC represents is a "transparent process." In fairness, the Committee members seemed not to care that they were denied the opportunity.

  • The Committee listened (I would like to think that they did so with incredulity) to a presentation that essentially said that under this Budget, UJC would become federationcentric tm (that's my word, I do not want UJC using it) -- a "relationship model" in which a whole bunch of UJC professionals will visit communities to see what federations need. What an epiphany after ten years??!! I applaud the new approach; don't we all.

  • There will be a "plan" to bring mega-donors together. We wrote that this "plan" has already foundered upon the CEO's inability to staff this project when two mega-donors had already agreed to Co-Chair the effort in mid-2008.

  • There will be a focus on e-philanthropy as part of a renewed commitment to the annual campaign. No mention made that over two years ago a mega-donor approached UJC's most senior professionals with a proposal to implement an e-philanthropy effort which he would pay for from his own pocket. He was ignored and insulted. So, UJC will invest federation dollars over two years later.

  • In response to a question, Michael Gelman reported that senior management and lay leadership had looked at cutting the 2010 Budget by 20% but were persuaded by the CEO to restore $745,000 in proposed cuts; that salary cuts for highly compensated professionals were rejected as "it would be bad for morale;" and, instead, "additional health care costs" would be passed through, apparently to all employees regardless of their compensation..

There was probably more (including lunch) but this is all that friends have discussed with me. Not much of a meeting, you think, for $30 million? This Committee 'recommendation" now moves to an April 22 Executive Committee meeting. My suggestion is just implement the Budget -- after all it was prepared by management and senior lay leadership and that should be more than enough. Isn't that how it works at your federation?



A dear friend, a federation and national leader, called me the other day to talk. He was very upset about another UJC unilateral action and obviously wanted me talk him back in off the ledge. Our actual coversation went something like this:

"Friend: They are charging us $50 a person to attend the UJC Board of Trustees Delegate Assembly meeting. Are they nuts?
Me: Yes.
Friend: They want us to pay them to come to Jersey City to vote the way they want us to.
Me: Well, they aren't going to pay us, that's for sure. Maybe the $50 is to off-set the cost of lunch; they're big on lunch.
Friend: You mean with a $37 million budget they can't find $20 each for a tuna sandwich and water?
Me: Best I can tell, they can't find $37 million in that Budget to do $37 million worth of work...but that's just me. Maybe Joe will throw in a travel bottle of Purell.
Friend: So in June it's $50 for a Board meeting in Jersey and in November it's $700 a person to register for the GA?
Me: Yeah, sounds like Jersey is a helluva better deal...and it's only a five (or maybe four) meeting.
Friend: Neither sounds like much of a 'deal." What do you get for $50?
Me: Well, that tuna sandwich and you get to listen to Joe, Kathy. Gelman and Howard.
Friend: I think I'll just buy a tuna sandwich and eat it at home. I can't believe they want us to each pay $50 to come to a meeting to listen to them talk.
Me: Where have you been the last four years -- it's been Joe, Kathy, Howard, all the time -- with Gelman chiming in. It's Greek chorus. Anyway, they're looking at a 18% budget cut at least, may be they think they can make it up with registration fees and not cut at all...
Friend:...and fees for no services. I'm beginning to understand.
Me: Then explain it to me, will you?
Friend: Where was this decision made to charge us $50 a person?
Me: [Sound of my hysterical laughter]"

Chag Pesach sameach.


Monday, April 6, 2009


So, you probably thought this would be more on the UJC Budget and "off the top." Wrong....for the moment.

A couple of things....

1. Bobby Goldberg, past UJC Board Chair, sends out e-mails with a volume that makes this Blogger jealous. Every once in a while, he comes up with a terrific one -- like the following:

"All aircraft in the Persian Gulf AOR are required to give the Iranian Air Defense Radar (military) a ten minute 'heads up' if they will be transiting Iranian airspace. A guy overheard this conversation on the VHF Guard (emergency) frequency 121.5 MHz while flying from Europe to Dubai . The conversation went like this...

Iranian Air Defense Radar: 'Unknown aircraft you are in Iranian airspace. Identify yourself.' Aircraft: 'This is a United States aircraft. I am in Iraqi airspace.'
Air Defense Radar: 'You are in Iranian airspace. If you do not depart our airspace we will launch interceptor aircraft!'
Aircraft: 'This is a United States Marine Corps FA-18 fighter. Send 'em up, I'll wait!'
Air Defense Radar: (no response ... total silence) "


2. Then, there's this. There is a relatively new show at Chicago's always brilliant Second City. Rod Blagojevich, Superstar. It goes without saying that this is a pretty easy target inasmuch as our State's former Governor is a daily exercise in self-parody at this point. One of many great lines is uttered by a perpetually potty-mouthed characterization of Patti Blagojevich:

"That stupid truth they keep reporting about us, it makes us look bad."

"That stupid truth..."