Monday, May 18, 2009


It boggles the mind. UJC is so out of control in so many areas. The Budget travesty, the "rescue" of those who don't want or need it in "partnership" with the Satmar, Dues,an unfathomable Nominating Committee result...and so much else. It is critical however to focus on what has happened and is happening with federation Dues payments and membership. So, let's do so.

Some background -- with the agreement of a number of the federations which pay Dues and allocations on a 1/12th basis, so that UJC need not borrow to pay itself its Budget and meet payroll, etc., and given that a super-majority of federations pay their Dues in full only in December, UJC internally "borrows" from the allocation portion of federation 1/12th payments until federation Dues payments "true up" at year-end. Forget for a moment that this "process" forces JDC and JAFI to borrow to meet their Budgeted obligations while their budget cuts are deep into bone, this Rube Goldbergian methodology only works if at year-end federations do in fact "true up." And, even if they do, as you know, UJC's partners, JDC and JAFI, are already paying the budget of UJC -- the result is clear, the Agency and Joint have seen cash at year-end drop well below UJC forecasts; a budgetary catastrophe for JAFI and JDC -- and no financial impact on UJC whatsoever. And no disclosure by UJC of Federations in default of their Dues obligations and their allocations moral obligations-- not even to the Financial Relations Committee (which seems to operate on a philosophy of "don't ask, don't tell.")

And, this week KanferRieger will visit the Los Angeles Board and no doubt advise that federation of the Draconian penalties of lost membership, among other things. Yet in the intervening months between Los Angeles's decision to reduce dues and this visit, has UJC done anything to engage further with Los Angeles or any other federation? Has it demonstrated added value beyond UJC Washington? Rhetorical questions. (And, the tunnel-vision on Dues will certainly...certainly... preclude discussion of allocations as "peripheral" or even unrelated to the KanferRieger focus on Dues and Dues alone.) Should L.A. determine, post-visit, that there will be no change in its determination to reduce its Dues, in such case, somewhere...anywhere...within UJC there must be a discussion of how UJC will adjust its Budget and its programs to reflect what will be done in light of 1/3rd of the federations withdrawing Dues support in whole or in part.

The Board Chair has told the UJC Executive Committee of his belief, as in a Country Club, of "pay to play" and a willingness to accept the "disappearance" of 1/3rd of the Owners (whom he calls and treats as "Members") with the conclusion that "we'll be a better organization." Sobeit for the "United" in United Jewish Communities. Kanfer's new name for the organization must be "Some Jewish Communities." Sad.

Friends, the chickens have come home to roost in so many...ways. What we have here is not some kerfuffle about nothing, it is a disaster. The volume of traffic on this Blog has increased by 40% in the last week alone -- the e-mails I have received from you over this same period have disclosed the building frustration and even anger with the blind eye of the current (and, now, future) UJC leadership toward federations, toward process, toward sensitivity...and with the Dues crisis, toward any sense of reality.



Anonymous said...

Perhaps you hadn't heard that the staff of the UJC Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence made two trips to visit the LA Federation President for the purpose of serving the federation in it's search for a new executive director. Perhaps you hadn't heard that while we had a seat at the table, ultimately a decision was made to sign on with a private search consultant (how else could the LA federation continue it's rant against UJC if they engaged UJC in this important process?)

It's too bad that the reputations of the UJC emissaries, Howard and Joe cause the rest of us to be painted with the same broad brush.

RWEX said...

Dear "Anonymous,"

Having recently visited LA I can tell you that the community chose DRG because of that Firm's reputation and success. It did not reject Mandel/UJC because to have done so would have mesnt it was getting more service from UJC for its Dues. Mandel/UJC would be well-served to speak with leaders of LA's search to understand those reasons.

Nonetheless, your concluding sentence is spot on.

RWEX said...

Dear "Anonymous,"

I have had to reject your Comment this a.m. only because it cast aspersions on a company doing business with federations. I have no reason to disbelieve you but the charges made about the company aren't within the scope of this Blog.

Anonymous said...

OK-I hear you - but as a donor in this community I have to ask does it really make sense to spend all that money on outside services when the economy is in shambles? I thought "A bad economy demands a good community".

The agencies in LA are overwhelmed. The unemployment rate in LA county is well about the 10% level. The needs here are tremendous.

When there is feedback that "If UJC doesn't get this job, it is because of the other factors". Then this is playing politics with our donations.

There is no other way to call it.

Anonymous said...

The above "Anonymous" comment is a fair critique of Richard's post.

In the past, Richard has often--and correctly--criticized UJC's considerable expenditures on outside consultants.

Yet the LA case is precisely why a central organization like UJC is needed...economies of scale, folks...the alternative is that everyone makes Shabbat for themselves and lots of extra/wasted dollars are spent.

Truth is, in the coming years no Federations--not even the behemoths--are going to be able to afford to hire such consultants. At least, not if they are transparent with their donors.

RWEX said...

To "Anonymous"

Re: Paid vs. unpaid Consultants

While I have been critical of UJC's bloated budgets over the years, I haven't specifically criticized UJC for its engagement of consultants.

I share your high regard for the work of Mandel. Question: as you and I hold Mandel's Search work in that high regard, why did UJC itself find it necessary to engage a for-profit Search firm to conduct its own extended Search for a new CEO? Are the arguments made with regard to Los Angeles and others who have "gone private" not equally applicable to UJC itself?

Anonymous said...

The answer is fairly straight forward and relates to issues of potential conflict of interest and maintining objectivity.

In the corporate world you often see a board going to an outside firm to hire a CEO, rather than using their own internal HR resources. UJC should be not different.

In the case of the LA fed - the Mandel folks are outside of the federation and thus pose no similar potential conflicts.