Tuesday, December 22, 2009


If the federation system is in need of overhaul, as many have suggested, the evidence may be found in the following:

There is a federated community out there where things have gone horribly wrong -- no doubt more than one but I have a specific community in mind. The Annual Campaign there has cratered, big time; the Jewish communal infrastructure is in disarray. Historic leaders of the community and donors both historic and of demonstrated potential have been ushered off the Federation Board often in ways too demeaning to be believed -- and, with them, their family members, next generation leaders, etc. And, with all of this, the lay leadership has not only perpetuated an unconscionably low overseas allocation, it has encouraged a fractious, divisive competition within the community about the small share of those dollars going to JAFI and JDC. And, the CEO has managed a compensation package for himself and his right arm at levels that bring judgment into question. All the while, the Annual Campaign continues to fall beyond the national average.
In a federation environment where FRD is increasing dramatically, the scenario painted above would never be tolerated in almost any other place. Where FRD is sinking, where this no safety net, how could this happen? Simple -- lay leadership have abdicated their fiduciary responsibilities; they have turned the federation over, lock, stock and barrel, to a small group of lay leaders in the sway of the professionals. In so doing, they not only put the enterprise at risk -- we have already seen, too often, the impact of absolute power corrupting absolutely -- the entire Board have exposed themselves, as Board members, as the stewards of the communal dollars, the communal enterprise, to liability -- to personal liability -- for their decisions; if not in the legal sense, the moral sense.

I was reminded of all of this by an article recently in The New York Times headed: Executives kept wealth while firms failed. If you wonder why there are those out there who make the increasingly rational rational argument that the federation system needs to be rebuilt, here is but one reason why. Of course, I may have made this all up.

And The Jewish Federations of North America stands by in neutral. We...we...allow these circumstances to happen. And we...we...are obligated to act.


P.S. Do not write to ask which Federation is this...and no speculation allowed!!


Anonymous said...

One does not have to address the issue in convoluted ways as suggested. A very simple table will tell the same story even more profoundly. Why should the figure even be a net figure either for JFNA dues or for internal operations. Many, if not most federations, have funds over and above the annual campaign that can be used for allocations and operations. Who is to say that only the annual campaign funds local operations?

The table should have four columns. Year, the amount raised nationally by all federations, the total net funds that went to JAFI, JDC, and ORT from collective and discretionary and then a percentage showing the percent of the national campaign that went overseas.

All of this information is easily available at JFNA.

Lisa B said...

Tease :-).

I would argue that mismanagement should be exposed, if we want this enterprise to remain communal and not the provence of the well connected.