Monday, August 31, 2009


When my federation determined it was timely to evaluate its total insurance needs, it created an open bidding process. This alienated some federation leaders who had been providing federation's insurance services for years. For a while things were ugly but federation, recognizing its fiduciary responsibilities, stayed the course. The same thing happened within UJA. UJA bid out its travel business raising the ire of a mega-donor philanthropist who, among his businesses was a large travel agency. UJA stood its ground. These are but two of many painful decisions to which our federations and national organizations were bound as the stewards of our donors' funds.

Then there is United Jewish Communities under the Kanfer regime. Let's look at some "decisions," how they were made and the cost.

1. The Marketing/Branding Study. In 2007 the UJC Executive Committee was invited to New York for a rare face-to-face meeting. No materials were sent out in advance. At the meeting, the Board Chair presented the leaders of R & R Partners, a Las Vegas-based public relations and communications consulting firm, as the "research firm" that would lead UJC's marketing/branding Study at a price of $865,000. Though that firm had no experience with our non-profit world, they presented themselves thusly: "We knew nothing about the Air Force when we started our work with them and we did a great job!!" and that one of the research team was Jewish!! When questioned, the Board Chair took umbrage at questions as it appeared that there was no competitive bidding -- Joe had sought out this Firm and this Firm it would be. (I did some due diligence with friends in the Las Vegas business community. I was told: "This is not what R & R does." It does things like: "If it happens in Las Vegas...." then it buys the mantra from the City for $1. [I believe it sold it back under pressure.]) Questions were raised, but time was short. The Executive Committee was being asked to ratify the deal. That's all, ratify the deal. That's all, ratify the contract. Now.

But, that's not all. At the time this deal began, there was no Senior V-P Marketing & Communications; in fact there was hardly a UJC Marketing & Communications Department. Joe created a Committee chaired by a fine lay leader (who had no Marketing or Communications experience; I believe he is an investment banker). Then Joe and R & R came to that Committee and asked for more money and the contract was increased to $2 million -- 5% of the then UJC Budget approved by a Committee -- no other process. Where were the checks and balances? Where was the Chair of the Budget Committee? Where was the CEO? The record doesn't show.

2. Sheatufim -- Any reader of this Blog knows full well that UJC committed the federation system to a three year $750,000 "investment" in this fine Israel-based NGO with no process. Those who served on the then Israel-Overseas Pillar knew nothing of this "investment." Apparently here were a very small group of UJC Officers deciding on a three year "investment" with no process anywhere within UJC. No Budget process, no Executive Committee process. In fact, in the 2008 Form 990 filing, the Sheatufim investment in 2007 was not disclosed as such hidden within bureaucratic language that was apparently hoped would hide the expenditure from prying eyes. Where was the Budget Chair, where was the CEO? Where was fiduciary duty? Where was anyone saying: "We can't do this in this way?"

3. Hotel and Conference Registration used to be in the hands of a small group of fine UJC professionals. They did a great job under extremely trying circumstances -- which of us, for example, ever accepted the first room we were offered at a hotel? (Only kidding!!) I would say these pros did a commendable job under difficult circumstances. Someone(s) at UJC apparently believed that in our complex age, we needed a corporate monolith to handle Conference and Hotel registrations "and reduce our costs, as well." So the entire in-house staff was terminated and a corporate Conference Coordinator hired: Wyndham Jade.

Perhaps there was a bidding process for this plum job -- all I know is that the disclosed payments to Wyndham Jade in 2007 per the 2008 990 totalled over $660,000... that's over $660,000. I don't believe that this humongous contract was ever approved by the Executive Committee or Board; I do believe that the total cost to UJC of the previous in-house staff and the GA contractor was less than 1/2 that which was paid Wyndham Jade in 2007. (There are numerous stories of Wyndham Jade's "familiarization" with the work of a Jewish organization. My favorite: preparing for a Florida conference, a Wyndham Jade staffer asked what to do "with these tablecloths" while standing next to a pile of taleisim.)


There are 6,000,000 stories in the Naked UJC. OK, not that many. But what we have learned is this: as the CEO more and more withdrew from day-to-day management, the Board Chair stepped into the "void" and began to usurp the CEO's roles, micro-managing the organization, giving orders to the staff and ignoring the basic division of responsibilities between lay and professional of our non-profit organizations. And no one stood up and said "no, Joe, you can't do that." The CEO would periodically step back in but focused on his pet "asks" delivered in a chaotic manner or on Budget matters, protecting his "sacred cows." With a disconnected ownership added to the mix, we truly had the "perfect storm."

Thus, Kathy Manning and Jerry Silverman face an organization not just in chaos but in free fall. And the out-going Board Chair believes that he and the CEO delivered "transformational change." And I agree with them: if you define "transformational change" as transforming UJC from functional to dysfunctional -- they did it!!


Friday, August 28, 2009


Our great friend and great leader, Alex Grass, succumbed after a long battle, to illness yesterday. All of us who knew Alex and, in particular, those who worked so closely with him in Jewish life, feel a great sense of loss. Baruch dayan emet.

Alex as National Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal pushed many of us then younger men and women into leadership roles. It was Alex who first asked me to serve on the UJA Executive Committee where I first observed his passion and compassion, his warmth and great sense of humor. He was a true mentor and friend to so many. After his service as UJA Chair, Alex remained a leader in UIA. During the merger process, at a critical moment in time, Alex stepped into negotiate with me UIA's entry into the merger -- it was an easy negotiation after months of strife as Alex always had a view of the big picture.

When Corky Goodman ended his terms as JAFI Board Chair, Alex had concluded his as Chair of Hebrew University. It was an easy choice for JAFI and Alex was pulled into the Chairmanship because he felt the obligation to respond to the call of the Jewish People. During Alex's term, many of us will remember our raucous small dinners in Jerusalem where great cheer and camaraderie prevailed late into the nights even as we remember the serious problems that JAFI confronted and Alex's staunch defense of the institution -- a defense that continued until his death -- ONAD, declining market share, a lack of UJC institutional support. Alex faced every issue with dignity and a quiet passion.

While Alex served as JAFI Board Chair, he began the process of governance reexamination and he was responsible for the creation of JAFI North America. I was honored when he asked me to create a lay structure for JAFI NA; and Alex was always there with his support, his concern, his counsel.

I, like so many others, was blessed to have walked in the shadow of this giant. May his memory be for a blessing.

Shabbat shalom.



Some thoughts:

~ Periodically I am accused of using these Posts to "slander" those with whom I disagree. (I think the accusers mean "libel," but as neither is correct, never mind.) Those who make these accusations usually accompany the accusation with a statement that goes something like this: "You don't have your facts straight." Then, when I ask them for examples of the factual errors I have made, they have nothing to offer and change the subject.

Example: a couple of weeks ago a leader for whom I have the greatest respect told me that I was "completely off base" when I wrote several months ago that UJC bore the blame for there being no discussion with JDC or JAFI leadership of the "off the top" concept embodied in the ill-fated Fair Share Dues Committee Report. Both organizations' lay leaders, I was told, were immediately advised of the outcome of that Committee's deliberations in Chicago "but they never scheduled a meeting with UJC to discuss the proposal, instead JDC (the leader telling me this thought it was JAFI, but, never mind) sent a very destructive letter." I thought I had reported this very accurately at the time and I responded that my impression was that UJC's leaders had told the "partners," we'll have Howard call and set up a meeting -- which never happened and hasn't occurred to this day (and now, of course, he's gone). And, this is supposedly an example of (a) how out of touch I am and (b) my "slanders."

Then, bear with me on this, I think I am at the least, as well-informed as any UJC Board Member. If I don't have my "facts straight" on any issue, what is the circumstance of the rest of the kahal? Are "the facts" to be known only to the small audience of so-called "UJC leadership?" Are the rest of us to be denied the facts and then accused of not having the facts when we "criticize?" Are the vast number of owners to be privy only to the "facts" as UJC's "leaders" parse them out? Trust me, if all of us...that's all of us...had equal access to the facts with real transparency, I would have far less to write about, if anything. (OK, OK, so I would still have plenty to write about, just not as much.)

~ I have written frequently of the gulf between transparency and UJC actions. Here's a shocking example: UJC has a Budget & Finance Chair who has been at the wheel while our funds have been expended on Sheatufim, on a Marketing & Planning Project -- both without vetting through his Committee. He sat silently while the then CEO restored $2 million in Budget cuts proposed by his Finance staff earlier this year. And, on and on. He will soon leave behind his mess for Sam Astrof and this Budget Chair's successor, Heschel Raskas, to clean up. But just so you know that he is on the job looking out for our money, the Treasurer has demanded that no staff Israel travel take place unless he, the Treasurer, the Chair of the Executive-elect, signs the check. This in an area that has never been the subject of abuse. Talk about losing the forest for the trees!!

~ Does anyone remember UJC's dedication to the Mandel Executive Development Program? Mort Mandel, whose leadership and philanthropy have written beautiful chapters of American Jewish history, created a wonderful program to "...graduate(s) a class of senior professionals for leadership positions within the system..." Well, with a little checking as to the outcomes with the first class, it appears that more have left the federation system for positions with Friends of organizations or others than have gained "...leadership positions within the system;" in fact more "graduates" have left the system outright than have gained "...leadership positions within the system." The top UJC professionals with responsibility for the Program have left UJC. Hmmm.

~ And, speaking of forgotten...last year -- that's 2008 for those of you not paying attention -- UJC dedicated itself, at the urging of the top professionals in our largest communities, to restarting a "mega-donors" group -- not "NextGen," this Gen. Two of our greatest philanthropists were recruited to Co-Chair the effort. Rieger was so committed to this that he said he would staff the effort. And, then...? And, then....? Maybe Howard will write what he did with this effort in his memoirs -- my conclusion is -- he did nothing. And, nothing came of it.

~ Has anyone out there read one of the great works of fiction of 2009 -- The Voice of One. The Power of Many -- the UJC 2008 Annual Report? You really owe it to yourself to get it online at the UJC website. From the title (has anyone figured out what it means?) to the narrative, a great end of Summer fiction read. Here's an example:"UJC HELPS FEDERATIONS GROW THEIR DONORS AND DOLLARS by providing fundraising expertise, consultation and support for the Annual Campaign...UJC's focus on demographic groups, such as women and young professionals, helps communities develop and cultivate donors for the future...yada yada yada." As I said, a great piece of fiction.

~ It will surprise no one but the federations which have rejected it that UJC continues to find unusual outlets for its appeal for ENP funding. Recently it headlined the Planned Giving & Endowment Department's periodic Newsletter. Right there in the Associate V-P's Column, right at the top, the plea. (And, as well, that Newsletter requested submittals of "Heroes" nominees.) If it didn't hurt so much, I'd be laughing through the tears.

~ And, just how is the "fund raising" going for $3.7 million for the ENP and $800,000 for Yemenites to Monsey? If any of you have heard from UJC on the subject, let me know. Or, maybe we could ask the ENP Treasurer, Rebecca Caspi. Appropriate? Or...maybe not?

~ In an Anonymous Comment to my Oh...I Forgot Post, a correspondent advised that UJC's $25,000 "Heroes" Program appears to have been captured by the Chabad. If this is what UJC intended, they have their "Heroes," indeed. Re-reading UJC's "announcement" of the "Heroes" contest, anything's possible.


Thursday, August 27, 2009


UJC was required by IRS regulation to file its 2008 Form 990 by November 15, 2008 -- five months and 15 days after the close of its fiscal year. I am going to assume that the filing was done on time, fully disclosing UJC's expenses and disbursements for the period July 1, 2007 - June 30, 2008. I have to assume it was done because UJC has never made public the 2008 Form 990.

If you penetrate the UJC Website, you can access the 2007 Form 990 (for Fiscal Year 2006). Here's how: you have to know to go to "About UJC" page, then you will find a Link to the Guidestar website. There you must register as a "User" (there is no fee). Then you have to locate "United Jewish Community" and then the Link to IRS Forms 990. Where today you will find all of the disclosures for 2006. This, to UJC's leaders represents "transparency." Suggest to them that you think it would be a lot easier and far more timely to post the current 990 on the UJC website and the answer you will get is "we think we are fully compliant with the laws under which we operate" or something similar.

Well, here is how I see it -- UJC is about as opaque as it gets. Blame Guidestar for not having the current 990 up on its website? Come on. UJC is to be the model for accountability and disclosure. Put the 2008 Form 990 on the UJC website today. Send it to every Federation CEO and lay Chair. Advise UJC Board members that the Form 990 is available on the UJC website. Come on, you can do it!! Merely stating "we're in compliance with the regulations" doesn't cut it. Unless, of course, you have something that someone wants to hide; then we will have a whole different conversation, won't we? Then there is the 990 itself -- designed, perhaps, to inform the IRS, it offers little information of value to Directors, Federations, etc.

But, I digress. I wrote CFO/COO Sam Astrof and asked for a copy of the 2008 990. No questions (like "what do you want if for?); Sam graciously and professionally, as one would expect from him, had the 2008 990 (summarizing 2007 financials) e-mailed to me. It is a remarkable and complex document. I urge you all to get it, look at it, analyze it. Here's what you'll find...or not:

~ Howard's outrageous compensation and a $161,000 "expense reimbursement" (for what exactly?)-- the expense reimbursement for all other senior professionals at UJC -- $0000. Of course. (And, this, as a reminder -- for FY 2007).

~ Remarkable increases in compensation for selected professionals between 2007 and 2006 -- the CEO's increase was contractual. (Readers of the 990 should be warned. Often the IRS rules require that vested pension benefits be "grossed up" and reported as income in the current year. This frequently distorts real "salary." That was not the case with Mr. Rieger and company.)

~ Let's say you wanted to locate the expense paid for the unauthorized "investment" in Sheatufim. You recall, $250,000 per year for each of three years. Looked for it at length. Maybe this was it per the 990: "Institutional advancement -- securing of private funding for new initiatives -- $251,920." Or, maybe not. Do you think UJC's small group of insiders wanted to disguise this investment because it had never been processed within UJC's governance? Nah.

~ You know Wyndham Jade, the agency handling hotels, conference and GA contracts and registrations and G-d knows what else for UJC? Paid $660,306 in 2007.

~ A "Communications and Maint. Consultant" (if you know what that is, let me know, would you), Rabinowitz/Dorf, was paid $403,590. For what you might ask?

~ UJC's great "benchmarking" project -- apparently couldn't be done in-house with a $40 million Budget, so a Cambridge, MA firm was paid $204,000.

And, there is more....much more. Get a copy of the 990 for yourself. Read it. Try to penetrate it. Ask some questions. Get engaged. You will be told, as always: "Trust us." Sure.



Tuesday, August 25, 2009


In my Post earlier today, I forgot to mention...I had an affair with Bernie Madoff, too. Oh, wait a second, that was the former CFO for Hadassah's admission that in light of her new book -- I Really, Really, Really Had An Affair with Bernie Madoff -- it was timely to announce that she allegedly had a 20 year (+/-) affair with allegedly penis-deprived Bernie Madoff a portion of which over-lapped Hadassah's investment in the Madoff "fund." How coincidental and stupid. Here is a person who stood up in Court prior to Madoff's sentencing to condemn his criminality -- she must have forgotten the lengthy (and, apparently unsatisfactory) "tryst." With the Madoff Trustee considering a claw-back of "profits" received by non-profits from their Madoff "investments." this publicity and the reality it portrays, if that, cannot be anything but more bad news for Hadassah.

Then I read that Ruth Madoff co-produced a book -- The Great Chefs Cook Kosher.... in 1996 (still available at Amazon for $74 [must be some great recipes]). (No, the Madoffs did not keep a Kosher home.) Get your copy while you can.

I suppose these are "good for the Jews?" Or not?



In its weekly Intelligencer columns, New York Magazine's contributor, Alana Hoffman, published a provocative opinion piece, Bad for the Jews? (with a G-d awful caricature), that deserves replicating below:


"By now it’s safe to say that this Yom Kippur, the tally of collective Jewish sins will be particularly long. Between Bernie Madoff and the bust that roped five rabbis and three New Jersey mayors (not to mention smaller misdeeds, like that prison bar mitzvah), it’s been a tough year. For a people so historically obsessed with how the outside world views them, they have of late found themselves quite frequently, uncomfortably, in a spotlight of shame, wondering what, exactly, have the chosen people been chosen for?

Let’s set aside the issue of piety, the question of how such religious men could commit such crimes. We all know that religious observance is no guarantor of ethical behavior. The question is of Jewish exceptionalism, and it is, to understate it, a thorny one. Hitler designed an entire political philosophy—and attendant death machine—based on the belief that the answer to this question was a resounding “yes.” But awkward as this may be, this is, from a different perspective, a view shared by many Jews themselves, like the man who sends me the same e-mail once a month about the number of Jews who have won Nobel Prizes. (“Remarkably, Jews constitute almost one-fifth of all Nobel laureates. This, in a world in which Jews number just a fraction of 1 percent of the population.”) And it’s not just kooks and your grandmother: Even liberal, assimilated Jews can’t help but believe that there is something special—better, smarter—about their people. Except when their people show up in handcuffs on the news—at which point the arguments turn to Jewish ordinariness: Every group has its criminals, we are no better or worse than anyone else, to think any different is to hold Jews to a higher standard than other groups are held, etc.

Well, you can’t have it both ways. The fact is that Jews are exceptional. There can be no debate that various historical factors—including a communal reverence for intellectual acuity, along with centuries of marginalization—primed Jews for, first, survival, and then uncommon achievement. The rub is that those very same factors might have predisposed them to distinction in less-savory domains. Maybe we can’t have Philip Roth and Leonard Bernstein without Bernie Madoff and the informant behind the Jersey busts, Solomon Dwek.

Or maybe not. Maybe, in fact, it isn’t Madoff and Dwek who are exceptional but rather average Jews who are. That the sight of a Jewish criminal on the front page gives heartburn to Jews comprehensively disconnected from the crimes—including even those who profess to be comprehensively disconnected from any form of Jewish identity or culture—is the truly exceptional thing. This ethnic attachment is a consequence not simply of fanatical closeness but of a long history in which Jews were judged collectively for everything they did, beginning with the crucifixion they didn’t do.

Indeed, it was precisely this quality that perhaps predisposed them to become victims. Madoff’s many Jewish clients trusted him because he was Jewish, and the Ashkenazic organ broker was willing to hear out a Syrian Sephardic Jew precisely because there was a yarmulke on his head. But this very set of qualities, this instinct to trust because of a shared tribal history, is also what has inspired, among other things, a uniquely effective network of charities that serve tens of millions of Jews and non-Jews alike. Here, too, exceptionalism works both ways. Now Jews just have to accept it." (copyright 2009, New York Magazine)


Is Hoffman correct -- do we, as Jews, "just have to accept..." that the most venal white collar criminal acts committed by Jews are no more the "exception" than are the seemingly willing participation by Jews as "crime victims?" I have long felt that the eons of "is it good for the Jews?" were behind us. Now, I am no longer sure. But I am sure that we are not permitted to apologize for the goniffs in our midst -- recently from Madoff to Rabbis to Russian emigres.

Your thoughts.


Monday, August 24, 2009


The barrage of guilt-driven Memos and Briefings and pleas to fund an unauthorized "federation share" of the costs of delivering 100 or so Yemeni Jews to Monsey or Rockland County, New York, has subsided. The last UJC alert was a "dramatic" Memo over UJC Vice-President Barry Swartz's moniker using the arrival of a Yemenite family seeking family reunification as the "opportunity" to plead for more federation funding to reach the $800,000 someone committed our system to raise.

So I was "surprised" (not really) by a JTA "Report" on 24 August disclosing More Yemeni Jews Leaving for Israel. The "surprise" wasn't that three more families were departing Yemen for Israel, but that UJC didn't bother to report this -- guess it fled in the face of the UJC narrative -- you know, "we have to get them out immediately and get them to Monsey." Here is the JTA Report in full:

"JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Three more families are set to leave Yemen to Israel, a Yemenite rabbi told Reuters.

The families are set to leave for Israel this week, Reuters reported Sunday, quoting Rabbi Yahya Yusuf Musa. The families are reported to be from the town of Raida, where a Jewish man was killed by a Muslim m an who ordered Jews to be converted or killed. The man has been sentenced to death. Some 16 other Jews from Raida made aliyah in June, including relatives of the victim.

About 200 to 300 Jews still live in Yemen. Most live in Sanaa in government housing, after being evacuated from other areas of Yemen for fear for their safety."

(I am expecting an e-mail from some "Anonymous" who will accuse me once again of endangering Jewish lives -- or perhaps he will write JTA or Reuters.)

Yes, there are some factual errors -- most Yemeni Jews live in their original homes, seeking compensation before they leave for new lives in Israel.

Here's the deal. The only agencies still pushing the Yemeni Jews to leave for Monsey, Rockland County, today appear to be HIAS and the UJC. In a story in the Yemen Times, an English language secular paper in Yemen, published a story two weeks ago that stated that Yemeni Jews were preparing to leave for Israel not the U.S. I have learned that those who were the original proponents of these Yemeni Jews coming to the United States have joined JAFI in pushing for their aliya to Israel at no cost to our federations. Who has not done so? Our UJC? Why? Because it's our UJC.


Sunday, August 23, 2009


Alta kochers at UJC (including yours truly back in the day) have come up with what is now termed a "Suite" of programs for future mega-philanthropists (or, at the least, potential major donors) lumped (and I do mean "lumped") under a new banner -- BreakThrough. These have been embraced as offering new opportunities for this critical donor group. I thought it would be great to walk us through the "programs" and determine their relative priority and see if we, together, might come up with some ideas. Ready? Then, let's start our walk through BrechThrough.

The "new" Jewish Leadership Forum. I remember so well sitting in Andy Tisch's New York office in the mid-90's and participating in the planning for the Forum which began during my National Chair days. It began with staffing by consultants Rabbi Irwin Kula and Gary Tobin, z'l, and has become an annual Summer Retreat in Aspen. It is paid for by the participants and its relationship to the federations has never been made fully clear. It brings top speakers and thought leaders together with these emerging philanthropists. It is self-perpetuating. It has now celebrated its Bar Mitzvah year still without fully connecting the participants and the annual agenda to any real plan for participant engagement with our system. It would be a real "breakthrough" to at long last make that connection.

Fisher FLIGHT Program. Open only to "...a very select group," FLIGHT, the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation's investment in the next generation of "major philanthropic leaders" is now in its "third class." Where are the reports on its successes? Having listened to some of the young men and women in the Program and knowing of the dedication and creativity of UJC's assigned professional leadership, this is a Program worth watching and growing.

Lunch With a Legend. This Program grew out of recommendations of the UJC FRD Study Committee 5-6 years ago. Exposing leaders to the great leaders of our work is a fine idea. It has been a modest effort with similar results. "Breakthrough" -- hardly.

Overseas Boutique Missions. Just words, no actions.

Community Philanthropy Circles. Termed the "latest trend in philanthropy," these are federation-generated activities in which UJC has had no involvement. Publishing the "best practices" growing out of these "Circles" might be nice.

My suggestion: allocate a specific portion of the 2010 UJC Budget to a "new" and real BreakThrough. Instead of telling this generation of leaders that "these are the programs you will use," let the "now generation" leadership itself plan the programming, returning to the Budget & Finance or Executive Committee for specific financial approval. Because, trust me, this "suite of programs" right now is neither the property of the new generation of leaders nor "sweet."


But, there is a more critical question. Why has UJC focused its "next" (or "now") generation efforts at this most narrow slice of potential mega-donors while, but for the Young Leadership Cabinet, offering almost nothing to the rest of the pie -- the vast number of young men and women who we need to find their "home" in the federated community for the federated community to have a future? Where did the debate take place that resulted in designating the so-called "BreakThrough Suite" of scintillating programs listed above as the be-all and end-all for real or potential megadonors? It didn't and it hasn't.

BreakThrough or BrechThrough. Your call.


Friday, August 21, 2009


If UJC had pursued federations' goals with the same passion with which they have pursued funding for the Ethiopian National Project, just think what the organization the federations actually own might have accomplished. Let's update you:

~ The system's strongest supporters of UJC demanded that the organization cease these efforts. Not only were these leaders ignored, the only person to respond to the "request" was the ubiquitous Toni Young. In her response she evidenced that she hasn't a clue about collective responsibility or collective action.

~ In a Memorandum to Campaign/FRD Directors, never discussed with Federation CEOs or Chairs, a wonderful Pittsburgh (fancy that!!) FRD Director asked his colleagues to press their federation leadership for ENP contributions.

~ Do you think for a moment that these "urgent appeals" were discussed by UJC with the leadership of the Jewish Agency or Joint? Of course not. Not surprising, nothing UJC does vis-a-vis Israel appears to be discussed in advance (or for that matter, in the moment) with Agency and/or Joint. UJC still gives lip service to the "partnership." No one is fooled.

~ Then, at the Young Leadership Cabinet Retreat, so inspiring to UJC leadership, the National Chairman was moved to engage in some "real fund raising" asking the Cabinet Members to step forward with individual commitments of "$1000 each" to support an Ethiopian student in school programs. A total disconnect between needs and responsibilities and planning and articulation evidenced by the response -- $77,000 (a nice number) from 200 lay participants or...$380 per person. This is no way to raise money.

Here we are then: today the ENP is UJC's highest fund raising priority; yesterday it was "Yemeni Jews to Monsey;" today the JCPA is running fund raising parlor meetings; yesterday we were drafting Resource Development Guidelines. Follow the bouncing ball. No focus, no sense. Here we are and "here" means "nowhere."

No doubt more to follow. After all this circus is a long running act.


Thursday, August 20, 2009


I began composing this Post while barricaded with my wife in our own kitchen. We were cowering in fear. No, Howard Rieger and Joe Kanfer weren't at the door. Let me explain...

Our home is in/on a beautiful ravine not far from Lake Michigan. Periodically we see herds of deer on our property. We have had multiple generations of raccoons finding every possible way to raid our garbage -- as we keep Kosher at home, they lose interest quickly. For two winters in a row, platoons of skunk (is the plural of "skunk" "skunks?") infested a crawl space beneath our den with obvious and odious consequences. We have witnessed the results of the work of "professionals in the (skunk) eradication field," who literally trapped tens of this vermin each winter, put them out of their and our misery. Ultimately they installed a fence around our den foundation, ending that problem.

Now, that didn't stop periodic visits from raccoons so clever one would raise the strap pinning the lids of our garbage cans, while the mishpacha raccoon would probe the detritus in the cans. We solved that problem with a multi-million dollar shed to hold our garbage cans in a locked vault. Even today we see stags in our ravine, families of fox, and, worse, a coyote or two. We have had to call our town's Game Warden (yes, we have one) to come over and trap what turned out to be a possum -- charming animal.

So, back to us cowering in our kitchen. Doors are closed. I had been in our den, turned on the TV, when I heard a noise behind me. I turned and there, in my own house, a large squirrel strolling across the top of our sofa, walking toward the picture windows. I yelled "SQUIRREL" (or, maybe it was "oh, shit") and ran out the den, forgetting to close the den doors as the squirrel raced around the den trying to avoid me. I raced to the kitchen and shut that door as my wife, Bobbi, announced: "Squirrels, I hate squirrels." (It was only later that she told me, for the first time in 47 years of marriage, of her childhood encounter with a squirrel.)
Bobbi called the Game Warden. While he actually works for our town, he has been to our house so often we call him "our Game Warden." On the night we moved into our home 38 years ago, sleeping in our then new bedroom, we heard a swishing noise and a periodic "tinkle." I woke up in a fog, and grabbed my tennis racket -- for it was a BAT circling our ceiling and chandelier. After 20 minutes of futility, while my kids roared in laughter, we called -- yes, the Game Warden. He was 38 years younger then but... same guy. He came to our home in the dark of night -- without a net or anything else. Said: "I never trapped a bat before." He asked me if I had a baseball glove and with glove in one hand and my tennis racket in the other, he fearlessly (I think) entered our bedroom, shut the door behind him. We heard the windows being opened and some shouting, then...silence. Vampires??? Moments later, our Game Warden opened the door to our bedroom and announced that we were saved -- the bat had left the building. (To this day I am convinced that bat is still somewhere in this house.)

So the Game Warden arrived. This time he had his own net. He gave us a warm greeting, we're old and dear friends, and entered our den, quickly finding the squirrel cowering in the corner behind a large. solid table. He ordered Bobbi and me to stations outside the den, to close a bunch of doors, but open our front door. With his net he swooped down on the squirrel which ran into our living room toward a bay window, thinking that was its escape. Giggling now, our Game Warden "got the squirrel" in his net, ran to the front door and threw it into our yard. With a wave good-bye, our hero was gone...but surely he will be back. Unless we move.

Thanks for listening. Another adventure in ravine living.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Friends, I am worried about the United States of America...very worried. My concerns began during last year's Presidential campaign when Republican rallies were characterized by packs of strident, irrational Americans attacking Obama as a Muslim, questioning whether he was an American, screaming...and never listening to the answers -- even when the answers were given by Senator McCain. (Sarah Palin never responded.) Since the election, matters have gotten worse.

So-called "Conservative" commentators, those of the ilk of Rush Limbaugh and the imbecilic Glenn Beck, have baited the President with accusations one day of being a "Socialist," the next of being a Nazi. People are bringing loaded weapons to so-called "Town Hall meetings" on Health Care where many of the attendees have been prepped to scream epithets at their elected representatives, others hold placards some of which show the President in Nazi garb. Some so-called "columnists" refer to the President as "Hussein Obama." A group now elevated to "official status" as "birthers" continue to characterize the President's election as "illegitimate," claiming he was not born in the United States. Others, like Palin and Senator Grassley just make up the accusation that the Health Care legislation authorizes "death panels" out of whole cloth. At times the cacophony drowns out rational thought leaving room only for the irrational, the haters, those who bring automatic weapons to Obama public meetings.

Perhaps it's just me but I see terrible parallels to the incitement to riot and ultimately kill Prime Minister Rabin, z'l, one of the most terrible moments in our lives. In their compelling history of this horrific act and the times leading to it, authors Michael Karpin and Ina Friedman wrote Murder In the Name of God: The Plot to Kill Yitzchak Rabin. The similarities that led an ultra-Orthodox assassin to strike down Rabin to those of today -- where demagogues and worse along with "main stream" politicians have turned attempts at civil discourse into near riots with gun-toting nut jobs "protesting" outside of events where the President is speaking -- require more than just a "response" on MSNBC.

While I take pride in Congressman Barney Franks' response at a Town Hall meeting in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, to a woman, holding an Obama as Hitler caricature while asking: "Why are you supporting this Nazi policy?' He called her "approach" "vile, contemptible nonsense," closing by stating the obvious "trying to have a conversation with you would be like arguing with a dining room table," Franks observation "blessing" "freedom of speech in our country" needs to be followed up by many, many others. The woman who assailed Franks was clearly contemptuous of his response.

No one is listening; the merchants of hate are filling a void in the name of misperceived "freedom and liberty" when tolerance and civility are so badly needed.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Perhaps you read that cash-strapped UJC has offered a $25,000 reward to the First Annual Jewish Community Hero "through an open, on-line submission process." (Per a Leadership Briefing, UJC, The Jewish Federations of North America Launches First Annual Jewish Community Heroes Event, August 4, 2009). The concept appears to have been the brainchild of an UJC e-philanthropy consultant being paid....? I don't wish to deprecate the concept, maybe it will achieve UJC's objectives as articulated by "National Young Leadership Media Co-Vice Chair, Lisa Kudish." ("Media Co-Vice Chair?" -- Where oh where do they come up with these "titles?") I do wish to show you how even a Program as small as this one can be used to perpetuate a UJC Leadership personal vendetta. And, I can report that someone(s) at United Jewish Communities has thereby proved that he/she/they have not lost sight of the organization's highest (only [?]) priority -- while accusing your Blogger as "slanderous."

First, I am no "Hero" under any definition. Second, when I went to the Link in the Briefing and looked at the "nominees," I thought these were made up names and pictures. Then I looked at their "heroic acts" (if you hit the Link in the Briefing, you can take a look and tell me what you thought) and found they are real and have done some very "cool" stuff. And I learned that "heroic" is in the eye of the beholder.

Nonetheless, I was advised a couple of weeks ago by an UJC insider (lay/professional, doesn't matter) that he/she had submitted my name. (I think he/she made the submission merely to see how UJC would react. The reaction will surprise no one who is a regular reader.) The insider told me this after finding that someone at UJC had deleted my name from the "Heroes" nominee list, someone(s) at UJC changed the "Rules" (even as the "Event" is a "lottery" requiring legal compliance) for "Hero" consideration and now allows these "Rules" to be changed any time UJC wishes to do so. So, even though the UJC Briefing of August 4 recites that "[A]ny individual, who is at least 13 years of age and a resident of the United States or Canada is eligible to be a nominee, provided their work impacts a community in North America," what is really meant is an Addendum to that noble definition " long as it's not Wexler." "A nominee could be the neighbor running charity bake sales....or a community organizer bringing people together around a cause..." to which could have been added " long as it's not Wexler." Ahhhh me.

It has been represented to UJC that this "Event" will produce a significant new e-mail list (as was done, they say, by them for the Obama Campaign) of, I don't know, tens of thousand, hundreds of thousands, millions for future use by UJC or the federations. Originally, the website was publishing vote totals per nominee. When the highest vote getter had received but 140 votes, this public tabulation was eliminated as well. (Had I remained a "Hero" nominee, I am pretty confident that I could have stuffed the ballot box, you know, the "Chicago way," and come up with 142 votes.)

So, the vendetta of some continues in its pettiness. Surprised? And good luck to the "Heroes." ("As long as it's not Wexler.")


Sunday, August 16, 2009


Some updates:

~ In a message to some list serve Kathy Manning announced that Jerry Silverman will begin his UJC career on September 8 rather than at the end of September. This news of the Jerry's arrival would bring greater cheer if Kathy could begin her new role at the same time. In the meantime Silverman continues a critical "listening tour" that includes a number of federation visits and, among other learning opportunities, a meeting in Atlanta on Tuesday with Large Intermediate Federation CEOs.

~ Three Anonymous correspondents (or, probably, the same person) have attacked UJC for agreeing to pay Silverman what they claim is $750,000 to start. As Kathy Manning has responded to this allegation with a denial and a representation that the new CEO will be paid less than the Rieger, that rumor needs to be put to bed.

~ As we pointed out last week, for reasons that are unclear, probably blocked by the opaque UJC's leaders have built over the past five year, at the very top of UJC, there appears to be a sense that basic management and corporate governance principles seem not to them. I was reminded of parallel behavior in a news article in the July 17 New York Times -- A Revolution Reinterpreted -- a news story about a long-time Iranian leader, the former President, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who, after months of silence spoke out against the actions of the current dictatorial regime. "[H]e...challenged the authority of the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Komeini to make decisions without seeking consensus." The story resonated because for several months, two of my correspondents have been referring to the Board Chair and his claque as "the Ayatollahs." Hmmm.

~ Some Good News from UJC. Credit is due UJC Development for restoring a forgotten tradition -- periodic conference calls/meetings with past National Campaign Chairs. The last one I remember was convened by the current CEO on the cusp of Operation Promise -- and there has not been one since. I view this as more than a gesture but I and the other past Chairs would welcome the opportunity to learn first hand what's planned for Development even if a gesture it is. Thanks to National Chair Michael Lebovitz and the Development staff.

~ What is a Budget at your Federation? At mine, it is a binding document from which funds can only be transferred from one line item to another by formal governance action. At UJC it is but a Bank from which leaders unilaterally transfer funds to their priorities at any point during the Year with no accountability and no Governance action. From somewhere to the Marketing and Branding Initiative (actually a Committee and staff decided more was needed, millions more and so it was), from somewhere else to Sheatufim, and on and on. Governance/process? Those are for the dinosaurs, the fools, not for us to bother with. That these may well be ultra vires acts seems not to bother these leaders at all. I know, I know, they (or at least some of them) will soon be gone.

~ Campaign Materials. UJC's Marketing and Communications Department has produced some outstanding Campaign Marketing materials. Particularly impacting is a short Campaign Video. As the Briefing on the subject (August 7) concluded "...what happens next is up to you." As in all things....

~ The GA? When I complained about a $700 GADC Registration Fee, I was reminded that that Fee is only for those registering "at the door." If you register today, $565, a Fee that increases at some point in time to $650 and, ultimately, to $700. So, register today!!

~ The Fundermentalist Weekly. JTA's Fundermentalist, a/k/a Reporter Jacob Berkman, is now disseminating an informative weekly e-mail on Jewish philanthropy. Excellent stuff. I think you can sign on by e-mailing


Friday, August 14, 2009


A Final Howard's View and I guess he's gone. And with his departure, not just hyperbolic revisionist history ("...while staying focused on our core fundraising and endowment campaigns..." "...on the verge of adopting a new approach to branding our system..." and on and on) but a failure to comprehend, after five years of service, that federation disengagement today is not the by-product of "...a perennial debate about whether Federations want UJC to be a trade association or a leader of the Federation system..." It is about a tragic failure of UJC's leaders to focus or follow federations' wants and needs not about "...a tendency to see our work at UJC through an inherited mindset of discontent (that) has dogged our efforts." Pure...poppycock.

And what would a View, even a Final one, be without meandering off into strange analogies -- this time, the creation of the United States with the merger creating United Jewish Communities and building from there. Oh, me, how I will miss these sometimes weekly messages.

I don't know, wouldn't a Final View have been the place for publicly thanking his professional staff, his few lay partners, the federation leaders who have supported him and his work? Guess not.

Howard -- bye. End of story.



Some of the articles in the press on our new (or, in some instances, sort of new) UJC Board Chair and CEO have offered new, often humorous, insights into these two leaders.

~ In Kathy Manning's local newspaper, The Greensboro News & Record, in a wonderful, laudatory article about Kathy's communal leadership, we learn that, like Golda, Kathy would convene communal cultural leaders to discuss communal events over her "special egg souffle."

~ In the same article, Kathy's husband, Randall Kaplan, a leader in his own right, offered a truly beautiful tribute to Kathy: "Kathy has never been one to set out a task, to aspire to be a leader, because it would satisfy her ego...The talent that Kathy brings to the that she is always extremely prepared. Because she is talented and works very hard and takes all these roles in such a serious way, she tends to be propelled into leadership positions."

~ And, Kathy, commenting on her Jewish leadership experiences told the reporter: "I get to be in meetings with the prime minister (of Israel), at the White House and I get to meet Jews all over the country -- and they all get to complain to me. What could be better?" Indeed.

~ In an article in the national Chronicle of Philanthropy, 'Listening' Is Key for New Jewish Federations Executive, Jerry Silverman spoke of his "grassroots" experience in the shoe business as follows: "I would spend two or three hours on the floor getting spit on, getting kicked, but really, really listening." I think Jerry will be ready for UJC.

~ My fervent hope is that UJC's Governance bodies give strong consideration to eliminating the unfortunate appendage we created at the onset, the role of Chair of the Executive. Its theoretical conception at the beginning was that the Board Chair role would be filled by a mega-donor who could focus his/her peers on financial support; the Chair of the Executive was to be the leader of an "operational Executive" who would know our federation system and provide guidance to the CEO and management. The division of responsibility has not worked. In the interim, as UJC hopefully moves to a single Chair, may the role of the Chair of the Executive be as it has evolved -- as Pooh-Bah in The Mikado. A title and nothing more. (As Richard Ravitch, NY's new Lieutenant Governor, has described his role.)

At a Chicago Jewish United Fund event at our beautiful Auditorium Theater last week, our communal and national leader, Midge Perlman Shafton, who knows me well, asked if I had formed any opinions about Jerry yet. I said I hadn't met Jerry yet but was looking forward to it. Midge, whose expression seemed to indicate that she didn't quite believe that my not having met Jerry would preclude my having formed an opinion, said, "I want to tell you a story my Dad told me. (Midge's father was a formidable and respected philanthropist who contributed so much to building our community.) He was on the Board of his Temple and participated in the Search for a new Rabbi to succeed a venerated Rabbi who had served the Temple for decades. He was seated next to another Temple stalwart at the first Service the new Rabbi conducted. Before the new Rabbi began his first Sermon, Midge's father's friend turned to her father and announced: "This guy is terrible!!" "How can you tell?" The friend responded: "I can't, but I want to be the first to complain about him."

I think Midge was sending me a message.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Yesterday, Dan Brown was extremely generous in publishing portions of this Post on I hope that it will stimulate discussion of what we want UJC and the federations to be. I have already received numerous phone calls and direct e-mails from many of you. My thanks.


"In an ad on the (Detroit) Lions' website for streaming video of old games, fans of the team, which went 0-16 last year, were exhorted to RELIVE THE 2008 SEASON." (Sports Illustrated, July 27, 2009)

UJC can't afford to "relive" this last year -- or any of the five that preceded it. It has moved over this half decade, like the NFL Detroit Lions, steadily backward and downward. Now, at a time of incredible crisis for the federations, UJC will be led going forward, by a new Board Chair, whose federation experience comes from her leadership of the Greensboro Federation and the UJC Small Cities Group, and, of course, her terms as Chair of UJC's Budget & Finance Committee and then its Executive, and a new CEO, whose federation experience is...well... almost nil. But, history teaches us that prejudgments are dangerous. After all as FDR's train traveled from Hyde Park, New York, to Washington for his first inaugural, many feared that his greatest strength would be his "charm." And I certainly find both Kathy and Jerry to be possessed of immense charm. Their opportunity was best described by Rahm Emanuel: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." The death rattle crisis into which UJC has been thrown is the new leadership's opportunity; they cannot allow it to go to waste.

The hope that you and I share the belief that, unlike the current leadership who have insisted that those with whom they surrounded themselves would be but echo chambers for their imposed policies, Kathy Manning, now in the post of Board Chair, and Jerry Silverman, who by reputation and representation, are leaders who welcome dissent and debate, will, as well, represent a new paradigm. G-d knows we need a new model -- one that is, my word, federationcentric.

Our new leaders face a time of great uncertainty, one in which the professional leaders of too many federations are asking whether the "federation model" with which we grew up is now over. (For Jerry Silverman's main informant on federation life, Barry Shrage, this has been a mantra [maybe for him a self-fulfilling prophesy] for at least a decade.) Thus, so many federations which have searched for successor professional leadership have turned away from those trained and experienced in federation life searching, instead, for something they term "outside the box" (which really means, in most of those instances, "know nothing about the box").

Some articulate the belief that we will emerge from the economic crisis that impacts us, donors across the board, our agencies, our communities into a "post-federation world." A world where the very construct of "collective responsibility" and collective action will be replaced by some form of voluntary collaboration that really means nothing more than "every man and woman for himself/herself." "Community" with a capital "C" will be reduced to a "community of one," a "community of me." "Federation" would become a small-time "manager" of multiple campaigns, if that -- a certain prescription for communal chaos leading to communal disintegration -- kind of a perverse "back to the future." And UJC for the past few years has careened off in the same direction -- as my personal philosopher prince, Yogi Berra, said: "if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there."

Gary Tobin, z'l, just months before his untimely death, observed, in his trenchant and candid fashion, in The Jewish Journal, that " all but a few cities, the old federation model is no longer effective." He concluded that most Jewish communities have outgrown the geography that their federation was founded upon. Speaking of the largest federations of the West. Tobin said that they, with miles of connecting Freeways and transient culture "...can't be served by a federation that uses, say, the same model as Baltimore, which is a centralized, dense and highly affiliated Jewish community." While Jerry Silverman is visiting federations to "listen and learn," he will surely find that there is no single answer to the questions of "what is the federation model of today and how can UJC best serve the system?" If UJC has any role, it is to learn how to maintain "federation qua federation" as the central address and central planing and fund raising entity in multiple community cultures and environments.

Thus, the questions: can leaders with no real experience in leading federations, no real experience in building community, lead us out of the economic ruins and away from the politically, morally and organizationally unsustainable present of UJC that was constructed (or deconstructed) by their predecessors? Can they lead us and the system to a brighter future for the federations and, thereby, for UJC; or will they be so beset with trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together as to be unable to look forward? Can they, first, restore trust and instill integrity in an organization that has (a) failed to build trust (while demanding it) and (b) shown no respect for the wishes let alone the needs of its owners? I know that UJC can succeed only with leaders who know both the words and the music -- one without the other won't succeed. Kathy Manning knows both; now she will have to transmit the words and music to all of us.

My suggestion: start by listening (something to which Silverman and Manning are clearly committed) and by "confessing error." The past five years of UJC were not prologue; they were nothing. We will move forward looking backward at these past few years only as a guidepost of "what not to do." UJC's focus must be on developing a vision of what the federation of tomorrow will look like; of where federation focus must be -- from that will emerge a vision of what UJC must become.

But, we can't wait for a year or two. Once again, I urge Kathy and Jerry, upon their succession, to convene a Federations of North America Retreat (ala the McDonald's Oak Brook Retreat of 1999). Let's have Papers presented in advance by, e.g., Steve Nasatir, Barry Shrage, Misha Galperin, John Ruskay, Steve Hoffman, Jeff Klein, Lee Wunsch, Doug Seserman, Mark Charendoff, Gary Rosenblatt, Yossi Abramowitz and Jeff Solomon, let's hear from Natan Sharansky and Steve Schwager and and from a panel of federation lay leaders offering different perspectives of the federation movementin 2010 -- Stanley Gold, Steve Selig, Morris Offit, Lori Klinghoffer, John Shapiro, Arlene Kaufman, Rani Garfinkle, David Sherman and others (this is not meant to be an exhaustive list).

We desperately need an accountable, transparent UJC. Let's decide what we want to be and what we believe UJC can be. And, then, let's vote to commit ourselves to financially support that emerging model at a specific budget level for the next five years without qualification or condition.

Then, let's go to work.


Monday, August 10, 2009


The dissonant music of this past five years is rapidly reaching its coda...if a dirge can have a coda. I have looked back in trying to determine when it started to go bad. I think I have located the moment -- it started to go bad before it even started. Negotiations with Howard to become UJC's CEO were conducted in secrecy, of course. One of the two negotiators called me in disbelief: "Richard, you won't believe this. Howard is asking for higher compensation than we're paying Hoffman. We asked him why we should pay him more than someone who has proved himself? He told us: 'Because I am better than any of them.'" One we thought without ego had expressed an ego greater than all outdoors. It was downhill from there.

Jerry Reinsdorf, among other things the managing general partner of Chicago's White Sox and Bulls, talking about a bad trade said recently: "when you make a mistake, you own that mistake." (A bit like Powell's advice to W about Iraq, don't you think?) Well, we all own the mistake that UJC has become as its two top leaders prepare to leave. As if to prove that they are not lame ducks, as lame ducks do, they lurch from cause to cause (irrelevant other than in their obfuscation and divorce from reality and meaning to our system) and from "ask" to "ask" as if afflicted with some form of adult onset attention deficit disorder. They are searching for a legacy while ignoring the sorry one they have already constructed.

And what does the departing CEO leave behind: a diminished professional cadre afflicted by fear, destabilization and malaise; a lack of focus; an anger at any and all of those who pushed back at any point before or during his "reign," lay persons and professionals alike; and a totally destabilized and deconstructed organization. This is a legacy no one would want and even Howard's harshest critics would not have wished upon him. It turns out he was the wrong person for the wrong job at the wrong time.

KanferRieger were then UJC's perfect storm. Neither had or has any sense of the possible; so they conjured scheme after changing scheme that may have fed their vision of what UJC should or could be -- but these were always...always...a vision of the impossible. The results, as they say, speak for themselves.

It is so easy to get mired in the past and even the present -- I have been accused of being somewhere in the mire and admit that I am from time-to-time. The question is: will Kathy Manning and Jerry Silverman be capable of moving UJC away from the lowest of valleys to higher ground. They come into their new roles, however, burdened with this past, and must figure out the means to escape it. I pray they can do so. Can Kathy and Jerry move UJC to higher ground? The jury -- the owners --- will soon answer that seminal question.

As the current Board Chair and CEO come to the end of their terms and contract, respectively, the best that can be said about them is "they did the best that they could." It is also the worst that can be said of their leadership.


Friday, August 7, 2009


What follows is the story I hope will prove to be 100% wrong. I hope someone at UJC will send me Board Minutes, Financial Statements or Audits that evidence that UJC's actions in support of Sheatufim proceeded as they are required to by UJC's governance and the non-profit laws as they apply to UJC's actions. I fear that no such evidence exists and that what follows is the inevitable result of arrogance, hubris and the sense among some that they are not bound by the very By-Laws that elected them.

I was thinking about this last week while on vacation. I thought back to the time during Rieger's regime when I presented the findings of the federation-driven Resource Development Management Guidelines at a Florida Board Meeting five years ago. Several leaders objected -- one of them, the current Budget & Finance Chair, quite vociferously, while never disclosing that he was serving as Chair of a pro-Israel advocacy organization that would have been required to comply under the Guidelines. (As you may know, the Guidelines were adopted the following June by UJC Board. They were never implemented.)

This lack of disclosure has doomed UJC to a number of adventures, the most constant of which has been Sheatufim, The Israel Center for a Civil Society -- a "partnership" of, among others, Zionism 2000, the Sachta Rashi Foundation and, with no authority from its Board authorizing entry into this "partnership," United Jewish Communities.

On further review, without authorization, we learn that UJC is a shareholder in Sheatufim. Remarkable. Not a modicum of accountability, not a moment when these leaders apparently gave a second thought to the implications of this "investment" for which they had and have no authority. These are the same leaders who kvetch and obsess about JAFI's and JDC's supposed lack of transparency or accountability. Do as we say, not as we do.

Friends, the UJC By-Laws reserve the right to enter to contracts such as the multi-year financial commitment made to Sheatufim to the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees was never apprised of this "investment," let alone asked to approve it. Further, UJC's By-Laws reserve to the Federation Members Corporation the right of "[A]pproval of systemic Federation financial commitments." Ignored...with impunity. If your federation Chair and selected Officers went off on a similar self-serving frolic of their own as in the instance of this Sheatufim "investment" -- they would be gone. Here, with UJC...the response, a collective yawn. This is the end result of federation leadership allowing KanferRieger and Gelman to run UJC as if were some mom and pop business for the years of their so-called "leadership."

UJC "committed" three years of funding at $250,000 per year, never inserting Sheatufim as a budget line item. (Your guess is as good as mine as to where the funding came from.) And, for 2010, when funding was eliminated in the Budget cuts, as I have written, the ubiquitous Toni Young, appearing before the Endowment Committee as Chair of UJC's ever-nascent Center for Jewish Philanthropy, never disclosing that she is a Sheatufim Board member, led an effort to raid the UJC Endowment to replace those funds (partnering in this effort with a UJC senior professional who likewise, undisclosed, serves on the Sheatufim Board). I serve with others on the JAFI Board, many of you serve on JDC's. Unlike Sheatufim neither the Joint nor the Jewish Agency receive funds out of the UJC Budget. The conflict of interest in the case of Sheatufim cannot be reconciled with service as an UJC Officer, lay or professional.

These are but examples of the apparent "exemption" the current bunch of UJC leaders have bestowed upon themselves -- they don't have to explain, they don't have to disclose; they can operate with impunity...and they have and do. And they won't stop until you tell them....enough. Isn't it time for an accounting? How much was raised to bring Yemeni Jews to Monsey? (And how many have been "relocated?") How much was raised to support the ENP, federation by federation? How much and for what were the hundreds of millions of IEC dollars distributed? Did the GA08 break even, make money or lose money? How much was spent on Sheatufim, on the Marketing, Branding Initiative? And on and on. Friends, if we don't demand this accounting and accountability, we have failed in our fiduciary duties. The fact that we have to demand an accounting says more about this leadership than anything else.

Shabbat shalom.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009


There is a new book out on the World economic tsunami -- A Colossal Failure of Common Sense. The title would be equally applicable to the crisis of engagement that United Jewish Communities' faces on this, the cusp of the arrival of its new CEO. We are, as one of my friends termed it, "watching the UJC flame flickering out" -- grasping for relevancy at their time of irrelevance.

Where did this process of deconstruction begin? To this observer, it began when a conscious decision was made, in the interest of supposed "change," to eliminate institutional memory. The reason was, I would suggest, that there were those in lay and professional leadership of UJC who believed sincerely that those who had institutional memory were those dedicated to preserving the "silos" UJC was determined to tear down. They were wrong, but that didn't matter -- to admit they were wrong would have destroyed their narrative. The conscious decision was made to drive away professionals and lay leaders who could and would provide it. And it worked -- there is no institutional memory. And it failed -- without institutional memory, there was no internal pushback; no "emperor wears no clothes."

Those that could have steered KanferRieger back on track held back, perhaps in the hope that they would find their -- and, thereby UJC's -- way to relevancy without constructive criticism. Time and again a small group of Executives and a an even smaller group of lay leaders would step up to "sha" any criticism emboldening KanferRieger to even more destructive behavior. And UJC melted down even further as a result. It was a catastrophic failure of common sense.

All of this led to the meltdown UJC is experiencing today and has for the past 3 to 5 years. The meltdown has now culminated in UJC's leaders' bizarre quest for funding for the Ethiopian National Project. No planning, no real budget, no FRD Plan, just an "urgent appeal" for $3.7 million in the hopes that a "coalition of the willing" will come up with the funds. Add to this to the lack of any care that JAFI and JDC are operating on fumes and no support among the largest federations for this "ask" and the quest becomes quixotic. Then add to this "ask" the fact that the UJC lay leaders making this "urgent appeal" come from communities that have sent not a shekel in supplemental or additional funds for the ENP since its creation. (When one of the most supportive of federation leaders asked for a public accounting of ENP funding federation by federation, that leader met summary rejection by UJC leadership. No surprise.) What have you got: "meltdown" -- a total disconnect from reality.

"Urgent appeal" indeed.


Monday, August 3, 2009




We are proud to announce that after a three and one-half year search, the Jewish Federation of Ujiah County has engaged Father Andy McAndy as its new President and CEO. "It was an arduous Search, but after seven professionals turned us down, we got ourselves the perfect fit," Search Committee Chair Sally McArthur said. "We have a person, a real Father figure, to lead us forward at this critical time. We looked for someone outside the box and Father Andy is definitely it!"

Father McAndy has a long-time interest in the community having led the Ujiah County Parish for twenty years before he left the Church. (The allegations have not been proved and the indictment was dismissed.) Father McAndy will bring new, "outside the box" thinking to the Federation campaign. "We told the Search Committee that we have plans for a broad-based Campaign starting with Bingo Night which was so successful at our Church of the Bleeding Heart here in the Parish." Sally McArthur noted that "Father McAndy will bring his great exposure -- uh, wrong word -- over his many trips to Israel as a means to inspire the federated community." "Yes," Father McAndy said, "I have been to the Holy Land on countless pilgrimages. I hope within the first weeks my flock -- make that my Board Members -- will join me on, what do you call it, a 'mission?' -- to the Holy Land -- what do you call it, 'Israel?' to see the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Capernaum and get a new view of the meaning of the Mount of Olives and the Stations of the Cross." Asked how all that relates to the Federation, Father Andy asserted: "Well, in this economy we need to take 2 loaves and 5 fishes and feed 5,000, don't we?"

Federation President, Sally McArthur, asserted: "The national Search team couldn't have been better. We told them what we wanted, and look what we got. We could have chosen someone who knows the federation system, someone who has led a federation to success, someone even Jewish, but that's not what we were looking for -- we wanted someone who would think 'outside the box' and we sure got one. They gave us valuable guidance all the way through the process."

As an additional service, national will provide an interim CEO during Father McAndy's civil trial slated to begin in October.

Another job well done.


Saturday, August 1, 2009


Hope for the future confronts the reality of today.

I have written elsewhere that for a Blogger, this iteration of United Jewish Communities leadership is like a gift that keeps on giving. At one and the same time, I can't wait for it to be over, to be able to reflect on the positive contributions that UJC under a new Board Chair and CEO will provide with and for our federations and donors. That day has yet to arrive. In the interim, more mischief.

So, on July 23, we received one of those UJC Leadership Briefings that arrive and announce some "new" event under this set of leaders that conflict with good sense, and undermine the "system" as we have come to know it. This one trumpeted UJC/Jewish Federations Participates in New Philanthropic Model. In fact, it was nothing new -- but it was scary. And, oh, the hyperbole.

"In a ground-breaking initiative, the Jewish Federations of North America recently helped convene a first-of-its-kind meeting of Israeli and U.S, philanthropists who will invest in innovative social programming in both countries."

The Briefing went on to describe a "gathering...held in Israel" at the end of June "...and constituted the first in-person meeting of the group, which will consist (note the future tense) of 20 people (10 Israelis and 10 "...from the United States," Canada be damned, I guess) each of whom will commit to fund $50,000 per year for two years and select something called "cross border projects" (maybe Canada is included after all).

So, if I have this straight, at a time of economic crisis, falling annual campaigns, agencies, local and overseas, operating on fumes; at a time our major donors are under pressure, 10 lucky ones will be asked for major commitments by UJC so that UJC Israel has something to do. Bringing Israeli and U.S. philanthropists together is such a great idea but to suggest it is "unique" is pure fabrication --this has been done by the Joint and the Jewish Agency with increasing success for years. But, their building successes don't count because UJC owns neither. Thus, an innovation.

As we pointed out in an earlier Post, my friends, UJC really has raised no money for this "new philanthropic model." UJC's leaders, including the oft-quoted Chair, the ubiquitous Toni Young, tried to pull funds from the UJC Endowment for this "10x10" effort (just as after Sheatufim was defunded after 3 years at $250,000 per year was spent thereon, these same leaders tried to make off with Endowment funds to replace the canceled Budget line) only to fail in that "fund raising effort" by an informed Committee vote...and revote.

So, now, in the waning days of KanferRieger, nothing is presented as something, duplication and overlap presented as innovation. And there is no relief in sight and won't be until these "leaders" are gone.

Yup, the gift that keeps on giving. Oh, were it only not the case.