Wednesday, May 5, 2010


1. One of those Leadership Briefings that JFNA publishes so often -- this one on a national Young Leadership one day "event" in Boston a while ago, got me to thinking. Whatever happened to the YLC bi-annual Washington Conference or to the successor to Tel Aviv I (and could there have been a "Tel Aviv I" if there never was a Tel Aviv II)?

I assume that somewhere within the Development area at JFNA, perhaps even in some of those meetings Jerry Silverman convenes for input from and give and take with the Development professionals, there has been serious discussion of the heretofore aimless wanderings in Development over the past 5 years, trying to get some focus on what federations need and what JFNA can do best to help them. Maybe the staff discussed with Jerry their experiences, if any, with these now forgotten Washington Conferences -- the energy, the networking, the development and exposure of new leaders, even "emerging adults" can relate to that discussion directly -- never, except at annual Cabinet Retreats, did I ever experience the energy, the emotion, the support for Israel, the enthusiasm of these conclaves. What did we do with these leaders other than, over the past six years, abandon them?

Maybe, just maybe, it would be appropriate for a group of lay and professional leaders to study just how and why our federations' national organization abandoned Washington (and, for that matter, Tel Aviv) to others. We went from exciting conferences to...nothing. The concept of "nothingness" applies to too much today.

2. Without any expectation that it would even generate discussion, I have suggested face-to-face and in Posts that JFNA convene a 2-day Retreat for its Board, academics, stream leaders -- a well-planned Retreat at which the future of the JFNA-Federation relationship could be discussed with input from Federation CEO's and leading academics and thought leaders. I even suggested a venue. I heard nothing in response from JFNA -- as per usual. Then Steven Windmueller, the Dean of the Los Angeles Campus of the HUC, offered his published thoughts on the creation of a "national conversation" on the same subjects more or less -- no JFNA response (although several Federation executives endorsed the idea). Query: Do JFNA's leaders fear such a conclave? Or do they only want events the outcomes from which they and they alone believe that they can control?

3. There have been two meetings convened by JFNA with the leaders of JAFI and JDC. The first, last September, as I recall, brought together Kathy Manning, Michael Gelman and Jerry Silverman with Joint and Jewish Agency leaders. the meeting focused on a potential JFNA-led advocacy effort. Then, a second meeting -- in November -- where Manning and Gelman were no-shows, at which the process was apparently "delegated" to Michael Lebovitz and Jerry, who would lead a coordinated cash collection process -- advocacy was no longer a matter of discussion. The end result: no one at JAFI or JDC was asked to participate in the failed year-end cash collections.

Now, the next meeting among JFNA, Agency and Joint is scheduled for May 17. Given JDC's recent threats to the federations and, thereby, to JFNA, what possibly could the agenda be? A JFNA advocacy effort -- not given JFNA's reductio ad absurdum definition of collective responsibility and the Joint's intransigence; cash -- apparently not.

Maybe there will be a before the fact discussion of JFNA's Budget and the dictated creation of a 50 federation "team" of local advocates for overseas needs in their communities. Maybe JFNA leaders will explain why there is a $75,000 grant to Sheatufim -- a "buy us a place at the table token payment to satisfy some unnamed JFNA 'insiders'?" Maybe there will be speeches as to why some salaries are being unfrozen, increased, while federations still are furloughing, reducing staffs and compensation. Maybe...nothing.

Just musing.


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