Friday, April 3, 2009


After JDC leadership's well-reasoned letter expressing in a principled manner, institutional disappointment and disapproval of the "off the top" proposal to rescue UJC from its own institutional failures driven by UJC's leaders, a concerted effort has been made to literally discredit those who find the proposal unworthy of the federations. The argument being made is a simple one: "if we don't pass this 'off the top' proposal, UJC will disintegrate and the system we have built will collapse." And why might that be?

For two years, I and many others have been warning federation and UJC leaders, time and again, that the system is very fragile; UJC lacks any real engagement with the federations; that you, its leaders, have grown more and more isolated from ownership; and more and more federations will stop paying their dues in whole or in part. These UJC leaders refused to listen, and not only disregarded this advice, they dismissed and attempted to discredit those who offered it as guilty of treason. Today, ten years after the merger, core allocations to JDC and JAFI have dropped by 40% while this leadership stood silent (or most recently chose to blame the Agency and JDC) or, worse, constantly deprecated the annual campaign (up to and including the FLI) they now conclude demands their help and guidance.

Even today, in the midst of this remarkable four years of failure, the owners have yet to hear a word of contrition or any acceptance of responsibility from those UJC leaders who now argue that the same system they have forsaken rescue them. UJC's leaders, charged with the responsibility by the federations who worked on the methodology of "off the top," have made no effort...none... to sit with the leadership of JAFI or JDC to engage in the kind of discussion that might have resulted/might result in a plan that might be acceptable to all.

One federation chief professional wrote a lengthy, accusatory letter to JDC that included the following:

"The proposals that emerged from the discussion did not make everyone happy. In fact, everyone had an issue with some part of what was being recommended, but reaching a consensus required compromise. It was understood and agreed upon that both JDC and JAFI would be consulted on what was being proposed and that we would not go ahead without both partners' support. As I understand it, Joe Kanfer called both Irv Smokler and Richie Pearlstone from the car on the way to the airport to brief them, and Howard Rieger spoke to Steve Schwager and Moshe Vigdor the next day....

The proposal developed in Chicago attempted to isolate the fundraising component of the UJC budget, suggested using it to bring JDC's, JAFI's and federations' fundraising efforts into closer cooperation and develop a system that is both more effective and efficient in raising more overseas funds!" (Emphasis the author's)

I have great respect for the letter writer, if not for the letter in question. But, let's be clear -- there has been no consultation with the Joint or the Agency...none. The specifics of the Proposal were not discussed in any detail formally or informally, neither in person nor by phone call "on the way to the airport" or otherwise. Further, if one reads the Proposal, there is no "isolation of the fundraising component of the UJC budget" and any...any...fair analysis of UJC's Development effort these past four years would evidence no synchronicity between that woeful national effort and the work of the two overseas partners. To suggest otherwise insults the intelligence.

What UJC's leaders want to do is to confront JAFI and JDC with a fait accompli; the federation leaders who believe in the necessity of an "off the top" proposal wanted a real discussion of the concept of "off the top" to take place before the fact, not after. My recommendation to the leaders of both JDC and JAFI would be to take the same approach to "off the top" as President Kennedy took in the Bay of Pigs crisis -- ignore this Proposal and accept a meeting with the Federation CEO's who led the Dues Proposal effort -- a meeting with a clean slate. Without UJC in the room -- after all this is a "bailout," a rescue of UJC from the failed policies and specious, costly "plans" of those who created this mess --a serious discussion can take place among serious people of how any such Proposal will protect core allocations, how JDC and JAFI and the federations can effectively lead the continental Development effort, and how the federations, the Agency and Joint can assure an effective continental central agency that operates in the best interests of the federations and their work in Israel and globally. There are creative ideas already coming forward that might lead to the fair solution that this Proposal fails to offer.

To "blame" JDC for expressing the ethical dilemma embodied in the current Draft Proposal is akin to killing the messenger. Whether the Proposal is adopted or not, in its current preposterous outline or another, let's be clear, the need for this "rescue" has been created by the current lay and professional leadership of the organization that would be rescued. Just where, exactly, have we heard or read of that kind of management failure in our daily media 24/7? Should those who led us into this massive failure, to this precipice, now be the beneficiaries of any bailout?

I know how I would vote.


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