Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Over this Summer UJC's leaders might have dedicated themselves to an acknowledgment that all is not well in the two relationships upon which systemic unity is based: (1) the relationship with the federations which own UJC and (2) the relationship with the federations' historic partners, the Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency for Israel. Sadly, as UJC moves toward the installation of a new CEO and the elevation of the Chair of the Executive to Board Chair, its small group of leaders chose to ignore (1) and exacerbate (2). They live in their own world, one of denial and disregard.

As to the federations, perhaps UJC's leaders' attitudes have been framed by a sense that there is nothing UJC can do to ease the pain that a super-majority, if not all, federations are experiencing. As we have noted in earlier Posts, UJC's Financial staff had teed up another $2 million in Budget cuts in preparation of the 2010 Budget. The Treasurer was well aware of these proposed reductions. When the CEO violently objected, heads down the staff and Treasurer restored them notwithstanding the reality that those cuts would have been consistent with federations' needs. Over the past months, UJC's Officers have consistently downplayed the number of federations who will reduce their dues payments. Friends have been told that "Wexler is, as usual, way off base (only cruder)." I wish I were wrong; yet, I know of at least eight Large Cities which will be unable or unwilling to pay full dues; a significant number of Large Intermediate Federations will reduce their Dues payments pro rata to the reduction in agency allocations; and others across the spectrum of City sizes will seek "deferrals" of significant portions of their 2010 Dues, creating, essentially, a large Accounts Receivable portfolio at UJC. Other federations will withdraw funds from their allocations to JAFI and JDC to meet their Dues obligations. This is the mess that UJC denies exists. There appears to be no one pondering the question: what if Federation dues payments fall well below budgeted expenses?

Then, there is the constancy of UJC's disunity breeding ground. In February 2009 I questioned whether the FLI was "rigged" with predetermined outcomes, in particular the obsession certain members of Kanfer's "clique" had with rending the fabric that bound JAFI and JDC to the federations and vice versa. I have been assured that what I wrote then was wrong. Here is what I said in that February Post on the subject before the FLI took place: " speaking to the Recommendations that would rend the fabric of the federations historic partnership with JAFI and JDC while UJC positions itself for a more significant role in Israel, federation leaders will rise to decry the fundamental change in the historic partnership at a time we need unity here and in Israel. Kanfer and his acolyte, Toni Young, will rise up a capella to whine that they are just trying to 'focus people' and have ' honest discussion.' The obvious and over-arching strategy that Kanfer and his tight Circle of Trust have determined will work is to posit that JAFI and JDC have failed to respond to the 'market' and need to be replaced. They will submit that only by offering a 'third way' will allocations for Israel and Overseas increase. They will ignore the fact that UJC's failure to advocate for the great unmet needs in Israel and Overseas has failed not only JAFI and JDC but those of our People most in need. 'JAFI and JDC are so 1975. Things have changed over 40 years. So. let's move on.' Kanfer and his ilk, so spoiled, cannot bring themselves to countenance even the possibility they are wrong hellbent as they are to divide our system under the guise of 'big, new ideas.'"

The federations resisted, speaking loud and clear that UJC must maintain the exclusive relationship with our Israel and Overseas partners -- JAFI, JDC and ORT. But, this has not stopped the clique. Even now, in the bowels of something called the Center for Jewish Philanthropy Executive Council, the ubiquitous Toni Young (!) has resurrected the divisive concept rejected at the FLI. At a time of tremendous and growing deficits for our historic partners, Ms. Young (and, apparently, Global Operations: Israel and Overseas Chair, Shep Remus) advocates draining even more dollars away from them. She just doesn't, she just can't, get the message. UJC leaders attend JAFI and JDC Board meetings, they insist on the perquisites, as they see them, of their status -- seats on the dais, participation in JAFI meetings with the Government of Israel -- yet, they are willing to ignore the humanitarian crises that JDC and JAFI face as their programs are cut, cut and cut again. These are programs providing basic human needs -- and UJC would ignore them in pursuit of their small group of "leaders" goals.

In an article in the JTA on August 25, Officials at aid groups mull more cuts in the FSU, Jacob Berkman focused on the Joint being forced to cut food and vital drug supplies to the elderly in the FSU and the Jewish Agency being forced to consider cutting its critical programs there. The situation is dire. With no CEO in place, one can only speculate as to who it was at the organization who offered this quote: "For a long time we have been advocates (ed., UJC has not been an "advocate" for at least five years; what fantasy world do they live in?) with all of our overseas partners for overseas needs...We share their concern over these pressing needs and we think it is their obligation to bring these to the attention of the federations." Is there a federation leader around who believes that UJC has no obligation to advocate, no "obligation to bring these (needs) to the attention of the federations?" Shame on UJC and shame on us for allowing this to happen.

As always, unfortunately, the CJP, desperately searching for its raison d'etre, would trample on the unity that UJC's new leaders must try to immediately achieve. JAFI and JDC have reached agreement as between the two parties. UJC appears to be rejecting their agreement in pursuit of "goals" unrelated to desires of UJC's owners. THIS MUST STOP. NOW.

What's to be done? UJC's new leaders must immediately create a new culture to total transparency. We cannot endure weeks and months of decisions made by some form of "Management Council" rather than, e.g., the UJC Executive Committee. We cannot further endure weeks and months of financial decisions made by Committees with no governance approval. Open up UJC to the Federation owners. Shedding the light of day on the decision-making process will move UJC forward. Try it.


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