So, another April 1 has arrived. It's April Fools Day; sometimes called All Fools Day. Frequently, there are pranks -- some Commentators to this Blog love the old chestnut: "you're fly is open." Har-de-har-har. I won't get into the Papal History that has led to the celebration of this Day. Instead, I have some stories; true and not very funny.
~ Where did that money go? You probably missed it, as UJC issued no Briefings and this story evaded Howard's View, but at the end of the War in Gaza earlier in 2009, the Jewish Agency returned $400,000 (or $500,000) in unspent funds allocated to it by the federations through UJC. No doubt JDC did as well, if they had an unexpended surplus. But what about the Israel Trauma Coalition and the Israel Advocacy Initiative -- did they return unspent Gaza War emergency funds or did someone at UJC say: "Keep the change?" Where is the accounting from UJC? (Later JAFI [and JDC] received significant new grants to aid the victims of terror -- for JAFI over $1.1 million.) The UJC was good enough to advise me that the Israel Trauma Coalition is paid by Invoice, without advance.
~ Speaking of Accounting. By all reports from the UJC Marketing and Communications Department and the body-counters at UJC, GA08 in Jerusalem was an astounding success. As recently as UJC's Annual Report the number of GA "participants" was quoted once again at 4,500 -- more people than attended any Florida Marlins baseball game in 2008. With sponsors as well, this must have made the Jerusalem General Assembly an incredible financial success. Maybe profits could be used to reduce UJC's Budget request of federations or, perhaps, the profits could be applied to reduce the Registration fee for the 2010 Washington DC GA now projected at $700 per Registrant -- that's right, $700 per Registrant (Or, maybe it's $695, that's the ticket!!). Where is the accounting from UJC?
~The UJC Budget & Finance Committee and Executive Committee. Hey, all of you who are planning to attend the April 6 UJC Budget & Finance and Executive Committees joint meeting in person or by phone -- it appears your attendance, surprise, may not be necessary. Seems that communities seeking Dues relief of 20% or less are being told by UJC leadership they need not be concerned as UJC will be cutting Dues by 20%. Apparently that decision has been made somewhere at UJC, just not by you. Now, maybe, there is always a chance, the Budget won't be cut by 20%, that somehow UJC's leaders have convinced themselves that they can just implement by fiat an "off the top" of the JAFI/JDC "core allocation," a 20% charge, and, abracadabra, all Budget/Dues issues are "solved." Maybe you can ask ahead of time for copies of the letters from the Large Intermediate Federations or a group of Large City Federations or individual federations demanding Budget and Dues reductions so that you can understand without the intervention of the UJC interpreters the level of Federation rejection of UJC's cost.
Or, maybe, the Members of the UJC Budget & Finance Committee will object that they have yet to receive a copy of the Draft Budget -- now a mere three business days in advance of the meeting. Are UJC's leaders holding the Draft Budget back for fear that if they had sent it out, let's say...yesterday...(1) the Budget & Finance Committee members might have a chance to analyze it and ask some of the hard questions this leadership either wants to avoid or for which they have no answers; or (2) Federation owners might have a chance to review the Draft before the meeting and instruct their members on the Committee to vote "NO?" Blogger's Alert -- I apologize to UJC's leaders. The Budget Books arrived today. (The fact that they arrived on April 1 should be no reflection on the Budget's substance.) In all events, the Budget can now be anayzed for its content -- a cursory reading does not do this work justice.
~ There are always the Yemenis. You will recall that three weeks ago, the UJC CEO, in a moment of either panic or hysteria, wrote one of the premier Large City Executives screaming that if the federation system didn't immediately "rescue" 110 Yemeni Jews and transport them to the Satmar community in New York, our system would be proved worthless and we would have made a mockery of our commitment to social service. The next week, after a Post on the matter in this Blog, Rieger and his clique, attempting to hide behind the false moniker "Anonymous." attacked me with a venom unbecoming even them. Turned out: "never mind." The Yemenite Jews, while in a precarious circumstance according to outsiders, appeared comfortable in remaining in Yemen under the government's and tribal protection, until they could maximize the value of their apartments. While Rieger was driving for funding and Visas to "rescue the Yemeni Jews" by Passover, in fact the Yemenite Jews were planning their Seders and New York UJA has allocated a few thousand dollars to help fund the Seders.
A Study Group organized by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and including an Executive Committee leader of the New York UJA-Federation visited Yemen and concluded, in part, in a written Report (the "Report") that the remnant of the Yemeni Jewish community could freely leave for Israel, America or any other country. The Report also stated, in pertinent part:
"Sheikh Mohammed (the tribal leader whose efforts truly "partner" with the Yemen Jewish community) stated that the current delay in passports may be because the government has been embarrassed by the publicity suggesting that the Jews of Yemen are not safe and need to be evacuated. He found that insulting and embarrassing for the country, particularly as he is on good terms with the community and is making considerable efforts to protect them and accommodate their needs... The Sheikh made it absolutely clear to the community that he would facilitate the acquiring of passports and that anyone is free to travel and leave the country at any time, whether to Israel, America or any country of their choosing." (emphasis added)
In the meantime, this writer had been accused of responsibility for the death of the Jewish community of Yemen, of being a Nazi, an egomaniacal psychopath and some other nice stuff. Questions were raised as to whether my wife and children might abandon me, among other intelligent comments. All because my intuition was correct and UJC was, at the least, embarrassed. When UJC's "spokesman" was questioned by a reporter for the Forward whether Rieger had a comment on the Report, the response was that Howard wasn't sure he had read it. The reporter noted that Rieger was among the few open copy recipients. Gosh, didn't read the Report, probably didn't read this Blog even as he commented anonymously to it...I'm thinking he doesn't read; certainly can't apologize.
I am reminded of Laurel and Hardy's famous line which must resonate within UJC with the regularity of a metronome: "Another fine mess you've gotten us into..."
So, April Fools' everybody.