Sunday, July 26, 2009


Last week I printed a friend's suggestion that UJC close down until Silverman arrives to preclude the organization from doing more harm in the interim. I thought it was suggested as sort of a joke. Then, voila, UJC proved my friend prescient. Some background?

Over 18 months, we have reported on UJC's CEO's and Board Chairs "serial asks" for funding for one pet project after another. You recall -- the IAI (and when the federations failed to respond, JCPA was told to raise the funds itself); Hurricane Ike (and when the federations failed to respond, Houston was left holding the bag for the collective system); the Georgia-Russia War (and when the federations failed to respond...nothing); the Gaza War (and when most federations failed to respond...nothing); $800,000 for the "relocation" to Monsey (and, when only 59 federations responded, a "Confidential" memo cynically disclosing results to encourage more funding); a $5,000,000 ask to fund the Ethiopian National Project (and, when the federations failed to respond in significant ways...well, that's today's primer on the new, new, new UJC).

In the recommendations after ONAD's Year 2, federations were asked to maintain their core allocations and allocate an additional 5% to the ENP. Few did-- Chicago and Houston for two -- and UJC, as was its way even then, did no advocacy and no follow-up. Flash forward to 2009. Kathy Manning acting as UJC's mediator was to mediate, among other things with JAFI/JDC, the amount of core allocation to be distributed to the ENP. In the midst of that "mediation," Rieger, with no authorization to do so, sent a passionate appeal to the federations for $5 million....that's $5,000,000. Aside from thereby disqualifying UJC as the "honest broker" in the mediation, it was as if Rieger picked the number out of the air. No surprise, though there was no accounting of the amount raised, federation response was minimal -- after all KanferRieger had cried "wolf" so often about so much as to lack any credibility.

Then, as reported in an earlier Post, Manning, Kanfer, Rieger and Shep Remis sent a Memo to the federations seeking ENP funding -- for $3.7 million. (that's $3.7 million down from $5, why? Never explained.) Then, this "ask" was processed with UJC's Executive Committee -- an "Urgent Appeal for Ethiopian National Project" -- and the funds are needed within 6 weeks. In a turnabout -- for them -- UJC has convened a conference call this week to urge federation support of this "as" (as opposed to any other).

Look, no one can deprecate the ENP need. Yet, this entire "process" was undertaken without any...any...consultation with the ENP funding partners, the Jewish Agency and Joint. Part of KanferRieger's "Four Nos" -- "no" consultation, "no" discussion, "no" prioritization, "no" thought. No, no, Just throw the "asks" out there. What will be the result -- same as with all the others? Raise the ENP expectations without basis. Confuse the federations which receive this appeal with the following statement: "UJC Center for Jewish Philanthropies Chair Toni Young (who) reminded the (Executive) Committee that this is 'a voluntary effort and an opportunity to all these communities who wish to be a part of it.'"

The two partners for which there has never...never...been an "ask," JDC and JAFI, are the two partners who have suffered financially under the lack of UJC leadership the most. And I use the phrase "UJC leadership" loosely, to say the least. This latest action is beneath contempt. It is, sadly, the "new, new, new UJC" at work.



paul jeser said...

We mourn the loss of a good friend, outstanding professional, and a true mensch, Joseph I. Cohen, past assistant executive director and director of community services at the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF).

At CJF, Joe had a significant impact on Federations, Jewish communities and Jewish Federation professionals. As director of community services, Joe was singularly responsible for enhancing the engagement of volunteer leadership throughout North America in order to strengthen Jewish communities locally and around the world.

Joe spent his life working for the Jewish community. Prior to his tenure at CJF, he was a cantor and Jewish educator at several congregations. He also served as director of youth services for USY of Metropolitan New York and assistant executive director at United Synagogue Youth (USY), where he founded cutting edge programs such as USY on Wheels (a teen trip across North America) and the USY Summer Pilgrimage to Israel. Joe was also a consultant with the American Association of Jewish Education (the forerunner of JESNA.) Through his vision and leadership he influenced generations of Jewish youth.

Joe is survived by his wife Rebecca, his children Aaron, Jeremy, Gila, Donna and Anita and several grandchildren.

Funeral services were held today in Scarsdale, NY. Shiva will be observed tonight, Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 PM at the home of Gila Cohen Shaw at 4 Woodland Drive, Old Bethpage, NY. Shiva will be observed on Thursday at 7:00 PM, on Friday at 6:00 PM and on Saturday at 9:15 PM at Rebecca Cohen’s home at 3850 Sedgewick Avenue, Apt. 5G, Bronx, NY.

In keeping with Joe's lifelong devotion to the people and land of Israel, the family has requested that donations be made to The Jewish National Fund (42 East 69th Street New York, NY 10021) or to the charity of your choice.

RWEX said...


Our thanks. All who knew Joe, who worked with him at CJF or elsewhere in Jewish life knew him as the mensch you have described, as a dedicated and caring professional who brought dignity to his work and to his contributions to Jewish life.