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.


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