Friday, January 22, 2010


We are all familiar with the ancient bromide: "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" Now, move some words around, substitute a few and here's what I come up with: "If The Jewish Federations of North America is never heard from, does it exist?"

While JFNA leaders remain silent, the multiple crises facing the federation owners are exploding all around them. Trust me, organizationally, this is a truly dangerous time for the national organization to be on the sidelines. We have written before of the need for JFNA to score some "victories" beyond its Washington Office -- communicated this directly to the Federations' lay and professional leaders and on these pages. They know this to be true but must be focused elsewhere. I understand that some of these leaders believe that "secrecy" (some often use the word "confidentiality" but they seem to misunderstand the two concepts) is more important than transparency. Why? Don't ask.

Thus, before the GA, before both the CEO and Board Chair being "sworn in." these leaders refused requests for interviews from the Jewish press. Since those November days, what have you really heard from JFNA? Are all of The Jewish Federations of North America's eggs being placed in the basket of Silverman's "five areas of focus;" in the internal professional "Work Groups" tasked with producing recommendations in these areas apparently to be sprung on such of the federations as may be in Dallas on the 24th to 26th? Has this "confidentiality" been ordered by lay leaders who felt "burned" by the prior release (although only by a few days) of information (or, as some of them would characterize it, "misinformation") one year ago, in advance of the so-called "Federation Leadership Institute?" Do they never learn that free and open debate requires the free flow of information? (I know, I know, that she or he who controls information controls the debate; but is that appropriate in an organization owned by and funded by the federations?)

Suffice it to say that as federations begin to once again debate the value and cost of JFNA membership, the "sounds of silence" fail to serve the interests of the organization or its leaders. My suggestion: act boldly and share a little.


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