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?



Anonymous said...

Salary cuts for senior staff would be "bad for morale"?

WHOSE morale? The senior managers'?

As opposed to cutting fewer jobs or paying more for health insurance, for those lucky enough to survive the guillotine?

When the federal government, corporations, FEDERATIONS, are awash in salary freezes and cuts...and everyone knows how sick UJC is...then why in the blazes do the UJC CEO and the senior cabal--who make a boatland of compensation--consider themselves exempt from absorbing ANY of the cuts?

The Federations MUST put an end to this. This has been going on for years...the relatively few rich at the top get richer while everyone else suffers.

Where's the outrage?

joebrown42 said...

"bad for morale" means that the people who should be the ultimate recipients of federation dues - i.e. the programs across the US to support Jewish identity, the programs to support the needy in Israel, and more - will not see any of it.
How befitting for what SHOULD be the umbrella organization - it covers naught but itself.

Anonymous said...

Here's an alternative scenario to present to UJC employees:

Health costs remain as is. And some of those 31 employees (4, 6, 8 or higher, whatever the number) will be able to keep their essential jobs.

Here's how we do it:

Salary freezes at $75,000 or more. Salary cut of 1% starting at $100,000...cut of 2% starting at $125,000...and so on, all the way to the top.

While good morale at UJC might be oxymoronic, this would certainly be a long needed step in the right direction.