Not long ago a great American observed: "Change...is just a word without the strength and experience to make it happen." (See the speaker's name below my signature.) As it turned out -- astute. What JFNA is learning is that "strength and experience" arise out of the doing, not the talking.
Jerry Silverman, even before his tenure at JFNA began, was engaged in "the doing." He has traveled to what must be by now over 50 federations, engaging community leaders on their turf and on their terms. Everywhere he has gone, he has been warmly embraced and he has responded by listening, by "getting it." Contrast his cross-country efforts with those of the Chairs of the Board and Executive. As to the latter, Michael has demonstrated that, as did his predecessors, much like the position of Lieutenant Governor in Illinois, there is no demonstrable reason to perpetuate the position of Chair of the Executive...none. Best I can tell, Michael has restricted himself to his vendettas, to "explaining" why JAFI and JDC received tens of millions less for their respective Core budgets in 2009, chairing irrelevant and hardly necessary Executive Committee meetings, interfering in the roles of UIA and kvetching to whomever might listen about, among other things, being rotated in the normal course from the JAFI Board.
Kathy has been more proactive, engaged with Silverman in focusing JFNA and staying in touch with her "leadership." But, visiting Federations to listen and learn doesn't appear to be on her agenda. Apparently Kathy either knows everything she needs to know or she is leaving the travel and the learning to Jerry -- although Manning did get to NYC for a meeting with the Samuel Bronfman Foundation to join Jerry in articulating JFNA goals (though when JAFI was erroneously and irresponsibly attacked at that meeting, neither she nor Jerry responded). There is nothing restraining Kathy from engaging with federation and JFNA leadership in their communities -- trips to communities just to discuss JFNA Dues are wasted opportunities to accomplish so much more for JFNA and the federations (and trips to, e.g., southeast Florida might have been an opportunity to dialogue with, e.g., Palm Beach or South Palm Beach or Broward Federation leaders -- or, maybe, from what I read, attend a real nice Hillel event).
It is probably unfair to compare Aipac and JFNA -- certainly given the stature of each today. 7,800 from across the country, so many of them federation leaders, just attended the Aipac Policy Conference. It was a conference where not only was activism on behalf of Israel front and center, but so was Financial Resource Development. As one friend put it, comparing Aipac to the Jewish Federations of North America: "...it's the difference between an organization that knows what business it's in and one that doesn't." Can you guess which is which? Trust me, as many of you who have written me over the past days, there is so much that we could learn from Aipac about mission and focus and passion. Our leaders (who were spotted there) might have asked themselves the question: "Why? Why does Aipac draw three times the paid registrants for its Policy Conference than we, the federation system, draw for our annual seminal event?" Then, maybe they might agree that it is long past time to wholly deconstruct the GA and rebuild it. (Then again, as the Board Chair co-chaired a GA Study Committee several years ago, the outcomes from which seem to have been...none...maybe that requisite introspection won't come out of the current leadership. Maybe they think all is well.)
Every leader must know not only what she or he knows but also what they don't know and then they must know where to look for advice and counsel. I fear an extension of the prior five catastrophic years -- lay leaders who believe there is little they don't know looking down the same dead end alleys for advice and counsel.
The speaker was Hillary Clinton