Monday, June 28, 2010


Not well as it turns out...

Another interested party visited the #ish site just a few days ago and here is what he found:

"Have you checked the website lately? If so you are among the few and far between. Launched on May 9 with a goal of 200,000 tags (votes) to generate $50,000 for some worthy charity by all those Jews starving for social networking -- what exactly are the results?

To date 1935 people have submitted their ish and exactly 175 have cast their vote for their favorite...The charity so far will benefit by the whopping amount of $483.75. So in 50 days they have reached less than 1% of their goal. At this rate (38.7 per day) it should take exactly 5,167.06 days or slightly over 14 years to reach the total."
How much was the marketing cost for this initiative? How much is that per vote..? I bet its even more than the per capita cost of a typical Chicago election."

If you visit the website, you will also find that more than one "vote" has been cast for some obscure comic ("Kindler") and similar.

This is the result of a breakdown in the lay/professional partnership, of a lack of adult supervision. It is what happens when "leadership" is off on vendettas and other distractions.

What a waste...of time and money that might have been invested in something other than this. That's my ish.



Back just a few years I had an argument with the then UJC Board Chair over his suggestion that the UIA Board members "were not JFNA." I pointed out to him that every UIA Board member had been recommended by her or his federation CEO and that most were present or past Federation Chairs and that his "suggestion" was offensive. He dropped this specious argument -- at least for the moment.

But, maybe this "closed shop" mentality is in the genes of JFNA leaders. I found it hard to believe that at a meeting among the JFNA CEO, federation CEOs and the lay and professional leaders of JAFI's FRD Planning Task Force during the JAFI Board of Governors sessions last week, it was Jerry Silverman who after arguing that the FRD planning was fatally flawed because "JFNA wasn't represented," played the "they're not JFNA" card. When it was pointed out to Silverman that the FRD Planning Task Force was led by a past Chair of a Large City Federation he responded "he's not JFNA." This was followed by pointing out that another member of the Task Force is the current Chair of another Large City Federation -- never mind, Jerry argued "he's not JFNA." I assume Jerry would have said the same thing about the JAFI Board Chair, a past Chair of his federation -- "not JFNA" or the mega-donor Canadian leader who sat on the Task Force-- "she's not JFNA" -- or the new President and CEO of JAFI NA, the immediate past CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, -- "was, not." These are shameful and shameless dismissals of Federation leaders reflecting the sorry attitude of JFNA's lay and professional leaders as to those they cannot fully control.

So, this raises the obvious question -- "who is JFNA?" Based on Silverman's
retorts at the JAFI meetings, JFNA is..." whomever JFNA decides 'is JFNA.'" And, inasmuch as JFNA's "trusted leadership" is the smallest of the smallest of circles, only two of whom are active at JAFI (Manning and Gelman) that number ain't too large. I guess the number would include the "JFNA insiders" who can influence budgetary expenditures -- for example, this year "only $75,000 for Sheatufim." It also means "those we can control." Those who dissent -- "they're not JFNA." Oh, Jerry, ye who claims to want "robust" discussion and "robust" debate -- what you appear to really want are those who only shake their heads in the direction you point -- ah, yes, "they're JFNA."

By this characterization alone one can fully understand why JFNA is what it is, is where it is...but, then again, I'm "not JFNA" by JFNA's leaders' definition.


Friday, June 25, 2010


There is nothing wrong with criticizing the President of the United States -- be it Barack Obama, or George W. Bush, or any other. We know there are the whack jobs out there -- I just didn't think that so many of them would be Jewish...even friends of mine. One example: At the UN "Human Rights Council" (a totally inapt name) a Syrian representative uttered a blood libel against Jews and the U.S. representative failed to respond. One of my friends sent the "story" out to his mailing list with the header: "Obama silent as Syrian rep spouts 'blood libel'..." Come on!!

And one of my buddies sends around the anti-American and, curiously, frequently anti-Israeli Government, anti-Israei Defense Forces leaders, of Caroline Glick's screed. Glick is great at anticipating the horrors that will be inflicted by the Obama Administration...and then aren't. I know my friend knows that Glick lacks any credibility but she is an Obama hater, lived in Hyde Park, hated it,, it's OK.

The shame of it all is that so much of this stuff emanates from "writers" in Israel. There is no need for embellishment, yet one guy wrote Obama's Plan to Destroy Israel. The "author," Daniel Greenfield, has discovered, among other things equally astonishing, and without citation that "Obama has chosen to cut backdoor deals with the Mullahs in Iran, offering them power over Iraq and Afghanistan." This stuff is then distributed by American Jews who themselves are condemned by this Greenfield to purgatory.

Or, how about this, one of my dear friends, an Israeli with American roots, never misses a chance to attack Obama for perfidy real and imagined. Most recently -- Obama Backstabs Israel -- what Else Is New? A link to a column written by a source who is always finding evil where no one else can.

Then there is the latest -- a photo of the President alighting from a plane holding a book in his hand the title of which is clearly visible -- The Post-American World. The book is identified by those sending this one around as "written by a fellow Muslim." We are admonished by the anonymous writer -- "We must expose Obama's radical ideas and his intent to bring down our beloved America." The author of this best-seller -- Newsweek's Fareed Zakaria, who, among his other speaking engagements, was featured at a Plenary at the Philadelphia GA in 2002. Worse, this piece of dreck has been circulated on a federation's letterhead.

The President deserves the straightforward criticism he has received for turning his back on agreements reached by Israel with his predecessors, for apparently accepting the counsel of the Arabist John Brennan (promoting access to the "moderates" within Hezbollah) and for apparently charting a course that would, if carried out, further isolate Israel from the family of nations and overturn 62+ years of partnership between the Jewish State and the United States. His actions have encouraged and fed the mistrust of his words. He must be called out and we must work assiduously to turn that policy around. But what so many fail to understand is that we damage our cause when we resort to the utter nonsense and hatred of no credibility cited above. Do I expect it to stop -- hardly.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010


CEO and President Jerry has been making the argument that JDC and JAFI must abandon their FRD plans. On this one Jerry appears to be tone deaf -- impose national discipline on the Joint and Agency while ignoring the reality that JFNA offers them nothing...nada...squat in terms of Development or advocacy in return. No national campaign (JFNA has neither the professional or lay leadership to mount what it has over 11 years abandoned); no advocacy (JFNA hasn't the will or the person power, lay or professional to do so); no national cash collection process...just "no, no, no..."

JFNA (which, given the absolute paucity of lay leadership, means "Jerry") took on the responsibility in May 2010 to lead the federations to consensus on a meaningful, binding allocations effort. So far, what has it done...or, should I write, what hasn't it done? Jerry has spoken at least once to each City-size executive group since the May JFNA Governance meetings. If he used those conference calls to bring the allocations issue up, it was done with such subtlety as to not register. JFNA's lay leadership, after a righteous discussion at the May Governance meetings on collective responsibility have, once again, totally abandoned the effort. "Leave it to Jerry," is their byword while they piddle and diddle with narishkeit.

So, Jerry makes the argument that JDC and JAFI will destroy local campaigns through their FRD within the federated communities -- I guess that's something Jerry thought about when he led the Camp FRD effort in the same jurisdictions. In fact, we have all heard the argument -- "we reached out to those who had either capped out their annual campaign gifts or wouldn't give to federation anyway." This rationalization has been articulated since time immemorial -- and it is farcical and fails to meet the smell test. What both JAFI and JDC assert is that they will fund raise in those communities which fail to support their core budgets. How does JFNA respond -- does it go into those communities on JAFI's and JDC's behalf? Does it advocate and make the argument for collective responsibility in those communities? No, instead, Jerry is sent out to threaten JAFI and the Joint if they pursue their plans.

In an insightful piece in his eJewish philanthropy preceding the WZO and JAFI meetings (June 14, 2010), The World Zionist Organization and Jewish Agency Struggle to Find Meaning, Dan Brown sums up the quandary of so much happening and needing to happen while the federation system appears to be but a by-stander: "Where are our Diaspora leaders while all of this is taking place? When might they wake up?" This seminal question applies with equal weight to the growing sense that these organizations and ORT have -- that they are no longer "partners" except when being patronized. Brown continued: "First and foremost, is the decision to establish a global center in New York (for the Fund for the Jewish Agency), and all the ramifications involved. Coupled with the beefing up of the FRD staffs of both the Joint...and World ORT, it heralds the decreasing influence of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), through the United Israel Appeal, as a facilitator of global allocations...What does all this competition mean to JFNA"s constituent organizations and grantees?" (emphasis added) What, indeed.

Long before this Blog started (and certainly since), I have pleaded with a succession of JFNA lay and professional leaders to act in the best interests not only of Newco, then UJC then JFNA, and meet their responsibilities assumed in the merger of education and advocacy for collective responsibility. Now, JFNA having sown the wind is about to reap the whirlwind. More's the pity.


Monday, June 21, 2010


My Post on the failure of the EDP has generated some very thoughtful Anonymous responses (you can read all of them at the EDP Post) and a raft of private e-mails to your author. Here is a sampling:

~ Questioning whether Jerry Silverman and Jay Sanderson, LA's new CEO, were truly "outsiders" (given that both had "...been in and around the Jewish world -- Jerry at the Camp "thing" ["a prominent Jewish organization"] and Jay with the JTN. one Anonymous corespondent argues: "The insider/outsider label is silly. It's sadly typical of lay leadership to latch on to what what seems to them a miracle cure (and of course a cure that leaves their stewardship unscrutinized, as if but for the exec their ship would be at full sail instead of taking on water). As if only the insider exec is what's keeping the federation from success. So the outsider is the flavor of the month. Guess what -- our issues do not lend themselves to flavor of the month solutions."

~ The first Anonymous Commentator to the Post offered real insights about the EDP: "The issue of Federation 'outsider' vs. 'insider' continues to ring true in CEO searches. My impression is that most communities are seeking people from 'outside the system' (new ideas, new views, not stuck in the same old ways, etc.) yet name three federations where those individuals have had long-term success? A 'federation lifer' should be an asset to the system, not a negative. And JFNA...should push those individuals."

He/she offered a superb idea. Recognizing that growth communities will soon join the Top 44 federations if not the Large Cities, "[W]hy shouldn't emphasis be placed on getting top talent (perhaps these EDP graduates) to lead those emerging communities?" Going further, the Commentator observed of the LCE -- "...if they are so good at what they do, leave their long-time homes and challenge themselves to build up these emerging communities. There is a real challenge for you!"

~ Another Anonymous author offered insights as an EDP graduate: "Until the Federation system establishes an agreed upon mission and focuses on what it can do best (with the support of its constituency), it will be a waste of time to try to train people for positions which are undefined and in constant flux. Communal dollars will be best spent on developing mid-level professionals and on efforts that address recruitment and retention."

This professional stated further: "I continue to serve the Jewish community professionally. With more support (not dollars) from the system, I would still be a Federation Executive and mentor to others as I am nationally."

~ One piece of private correspondence sums up the writer's feelings and those of others: "I sit in amazement, just like you, that this is the sad state of my field. Trust me, I could tell you even more from my own personal/professional viewpoint about all of this..."

Sadly, friends, there is so much more to tell...but at JFNA there appears to be no one listening. Our money is wasted by an organization without focus or understanding.


Saturday, June 19, 2010


Friends, the Mandel Executive Development Program (the "EDP"), begun with trumpets blaring and drums pounding, has proved to be less than the triumph it might have been...far less...far, far less. With a major investment by the federations through JFNA and the commitment of resources by the Foundation, it could have been a great example of a major foundation working together with our federation instrumentality in pursuit of great systemic goals. Instead, since 2005, it has become an example of what can happen when great plans are implemented by bureaucrats. And, it is a shame.

We have already written about the sad results of the first "class" of the EDP -- more than half of that class have left the federation system and JFNA's two professional leaders of the EDP left JFNA long ago. As to the the second "class," sources tell me that half of that class dropped out before graduation. And, then, after none...that's zero, zed, none...of the remaining members of the two classes have become Large City Federation CEOs, the EDP was disbanded -- or, shall I say "reoriented" (more about that below).

Now, the bizarre. If you go to the Mandel Foundation website, you will find a link to the EDP on the JFNA website. (Follow me here.) There the EDP is identified as an UJC program. (Are you following this?) As I noted above, the Program itself has quietly been deep-sixed -- a former "priority program" now unfunded (but still on both the Mandel and JFNA websites). Now, read the Program's noble purposes:

"The Executive Development Program's (EDP) goal is to develop a pool of outstanding candidates who will be trained and prepared to ascend into the the chief professional officer position in the top 40 federations."

And what happened? First, politics. A number of Federations demanded representation based on Dues payments, without regard to qualifications. Then unlike Chicago which offered opportunity to three brilliant young professionals, a number of communities sent "representatives" much like a reward (although the program had inherent value for sure) even as these professionals in many instances had no greater aspiration within the federation system. And then so many just dropped out of the system altogether.

Curiouser and curiouser. The federations' national search "arm" within JFNA is managed with Mandel. Yet, to my knowledge, not a single "Mandel EDP Fellow" has yet to be placed in a CEO position within the largest 40 federations. While Mandel search pros might argue that you do what the customers demand, my response might be that you are obligated to help influence the customers' choice consistent with the purposes and objectives of the EDP. Obviously, by result, I would be wrong.

This was an extremely expensive Program begun with such promise. I remember the enthusiasm at then UJC Executive Committee when Steve Hoffman and federation CEOs proposed the EDP Partnership. To watch the EDP deteriorate into a memory has been almost inconceivable. And no one seems to care that over $1 million was invested with no apparent sense of "ownership" at JFNA of this Program after its JFNA professional leaders resigned. Today, JFNA continues to invest in/with Mandel -- $500,000 in this year's Budget (if I read that Budget correctly -- and, trust me, that's hard to do) -- but for very changed purposes:

"Mandel/Federation Consultations -- Including Mentoring, Executive Coaching, S Planning (for Strength, Success and Succession [ed, oy vey, S planning!!] and work with new CEO's. The purpose is to raise the level of performance of Federation CEOs and key staff..."


So, what "inspired" this Post beyond sadness and lost opportunity. The "graduates" of the first two (actually the only two) Mandel EDP "classes" are having a reunion in Chicago this month -- the 27th to 29th. They invited Silverman to speak. I saw a certain irony -- these professionals, drawn to the EDP because of the "goal" recited above, to give them the tool kit they would use to "ascend" to federation CEO leadership, would hear from JFNA's new CEO who rose to our national organization's chief professional officer position from Dockers through Camps, hired for the very reason that, among other reasons, he had no prior federation experience. And, Jerry is coming. Should be a great presentation!!

We live and work in complicated times.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Hiring Jerry Silverman was a bold and desperate stroke, a Hail Mary (excuse me!!) pass if you will. From all I have observed, and from all that I have heard from Jerry directly and indirectly, this was a great hire. There is an ingenuousness about Jerry that is beyond endearing -- coupled with a deer in the headlights quality that can only be reduced if Jerry is receiving mentoring from Federation CEOs and others who understand what Federation with a capital "F" really means. There is only so much that Jerry can learn from his commendable visits with so many federations -- and he has learned much.

For those of us reduced to tears having watched our hopes for JFNA dashed on the shoals of years of incompetency and a void in lay and professional leadership, Jerry's words sound like celestial harps. But even Jerry would admit that to date, his words have been just that and no more. Some of us urged that Jerry build on "small victories" into larger ones. But, no. Oh, sure, there have been serious distractions -- Heroes, #ish are but examples -- that have acted as the juggling clown off to the side to distract from the obvious. Now the hard work begins. And Jerry continues to be without lay partners who have the ability to communicate the federation experience so vital to his and JFNA's success.

Jerry has now projected an Annual Campaign this year...2010...or maybe by 2011, that will reach $1 billion at a time when JFNA's own numbers conclude that in 2009 our aggregate campaigns fell by $110,000,000 to closer to $800,000,000. He projects increases in donors to 1 million when we are closer to one-third of that today. Now, I am from Chicago, often citing the brilliant Daniel Burnham who said "make no little plans." I congratulate Jerry Silverman for his optimism, for dreaming the greatest of dreams. But dreams without a scintilla of reality can quickly turn to nightmares.

And why do these dreams lack reality? Because to date...and I emphasize to date...JFNA has acquired no capacity to assist Federations in increasing their Annual Campaigns -- on either the senior professional (where JFNA may have taken action --if the New York annual campaign experience is a meaningful and transferable one) or lay sides. (On the lay side, lay leaders experienced in campaign have been "laid off" --or, in JFNA parlance, "rotated.") On the donor side, there is no basis in fact today for the hoped for "projection." (Oh that there were.)

But, given the lack of progress at JFNA in its first decade from the activities of the predecessor organizations, we need great dreams -- for a great dream can offer powerful motivation. Up to now we have had the "JFNA doll" -- you wound it up and nothing happened. Silverman offers, he embodies, hope. Now he needs greater mentoring, he needs to match hope with the skill set and the leadership support necessary to implement that hope in a focused way. Stephen Covey mandated that you must "begin with the end in mind." And, that just hasn't happened.


Sunday, June 13, 2010


Some of you, maybe a few, will know that Milton Bradley (the baseball player not the game maker) is a well-traveled major league baseball player who played for the Chicago Cubs last year. He was such a disastrous teammate that, in every instance of his own making -- tearing up a dugout, thinking there were two outs tossing a ball into the stands, being thrown out of game after game by the umpires and more -- he would blame everyone but himself. With weeks to go in the 2009 Season Cubs management told him not to show up at the ball park; he was traded to the Seattle Mariners where this Spring he has continued his behavior and blamed the Chicago media for "running me out of town" and then sought refuge and aid in anger management. Apparently his former teammates celebrated when Bradley was told by Cubs management not to return.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with the Jewish Federations of North America? When Milton Bradley was suspended last fall, the Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster was quoted as saying: "It probably became one of those things where -- you're putting the blame on everybody else. Sometimes you've got to look in the mirror and realize that maybe the biggest part of the problem is yourself."

Dempster's admonition applies equally not just to Milton Bradley but to all of us -- and within the "all" those who don't even believe there is a problem at Jewish Federations of North America. And the "those" I am writing about are some of our lay leaders. These are the few who govern the many in the same way that Hugo Chavez rules Venezuela except they can't lock up those who dissent, instead they lock out.


Thursday, June 10, 2010


Last night, with all Chicagoans, I kvelled as the Chicago Blackhawks won Lord Stanley's Cup, the National Hockey League Championship from a never say quit Philadelphia Flyers team. We celebrate championships in my City so rarely that this was very special. For me -- filled with memories.

In March 1961, my now wife had attended my fraternity Spring Prom. As all of you who went to Michigan remember, the weather was never too good for too long. So, after a beautiful weekend, I drove Bobbi from Ann Arbor to Detroit Metro, the then "international airport" in Ypsilanti a few miles away. We set out in a Spring blizzard of growing intensity -- by the time we reached the airport it was blinding. We went in and it was the two of us...and the Blackhawks, who had won the Stanley Cup that night. We were all young; they were at the bar but gentlemen. Bobbi's flight was canceled and I took her back to Ann Arbor where she left the next day -- by train. From that night forward, the Hawks had not, until last night, won the Cup for 49 years; Bobbi and I were married in 1962 and have lived happily ever after. I became a Blackhawks fan that night.

Over the next few years, I an a client attended game after game, even as the Blackhawks traded away or discarded the men who had won the Cup just years before. I lost interest -- older eyes find it hard to follow the puck you know. A few years ago I was invited to a game with my cousin, Richard Levy, z'l, a dear friend. I resisted -- the games were endless, the Hawks terrible. We went with Richard's business partners -- two brothers, the youngest of whom was an incredible fan and often outrageous. At dinner, at an Italian restaurant at Ashland and Ogden just blocks from the stadium, the younger brother excused himself after we ate, returning to the table with his own Blackhawks jersey -- with his name on the back. At the Chicago Stadium (this was before the construction of The Cell which would replace it) I was seated with the jerseyed brother, Richard and the older brother a few seats away. The game had hardly started when my seatmate started to verbally abuse a large guy for smoking. Things began to escalate -- as I shrunk away, a fist fight ensued. I grabbed Richard; "let's get out of here." And, we did. My last hockey game in person.

But this year's team rekindled interest for me, for all Chicagoans. And then there was last night. May this happen in your City and for your team...soon.



Two things that the leaders of JFNA are particularly concerned with are the twin concepts of "off the record" and "confidentiality." Unfortunately, they don't have a clue what the terms mean. (This while they point fingers and accuse "you breached the confidentiality of _________.") So, as always, let's help them out.

"Off the record" -- "unofficially, in confidence, not for publication." Hello!! When JFNA and JCPA introduced a June 1 conference call (Jerry Silverman framed the call perfectly) on which Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon tried to explain the flotilla fiasco, the listeners/"participants" were told explicitly -- "this call is 'off the record.'" And Ambassador Ayalon reiterated the confidential nature of the call during his remarks.

So...guess what? By the end of the day, JFNA published a Leadership Briefing -- Israel's Deputy FM Ayalon Briefs Jewish Leaders on the Flotilla Incident. And, that would have been fine BUT the Briefing quoted Ambassador Ayalon at length and often. JFNA ignored its own admonition. In the interest solely of self-promotion, "off the record" became "on the record." Here is how I believe JFNA self- defines "off the record" and "confidentiality" -- "we can ignore 'off the record' any time we want -- you can't." Or, perhaps it is "only we know what can be quoted on the record even when the speaker believes the session is 'off the record.'"

Now if you or I (and it is far more likely it would be "I" than "you") were merely accused of having breached confidentiality, you or I (see above) would be immediately excommunicated by JFNA's "leaders." (Can one be excommunicated more than once?) It's do as we say, not as we do-- the "rules" apply to you, not to us. Got it?

So, my friends, consider this Post "off the record," would you please?


Monday, June 7, 2010


Ever notice how some things just seem to disappear off the JFNA radar? Things that were "critically important" at the time?

1. There were some critical presentations on collective responsibility at the JFNA Board meeting last month. Misha Galperin and Steve Schwager for JAFI/JDC respectively, Steve Nasatir and Jacob Solomon for the federations and Kathy Manning in her introduction of the session. I have to believe that these leaders remarks are in writing (in the instance of Misha and Steve Nasatir, I know this to be the case) but has JFNA distributed these presentations or put them on the JFNA website? No...too busy counting the hits (or making them) on ish? Visiting the White House? If there is a ball to be dropped, no institution seems more capable.

Further, it is my understanding that it is JFNA's responsibility to build consensus in support of its role and federations' collective responsibility to the Israel and overseas partners. This JFNA obligation is not subject to deferral or delegation to some federation CEOs. Yet, JFNA's leaders remain mute. Apparently, they fail to comprehend the implications for JFNA and our system should consensus not be a more or less immediate result.

2. You remember of course the "criticality" of bringing Yemenite Jews to Monsey, N.Y in a JFNA/Satmar partnership...or something like that. JFNA engaged in out of bounds "emergency" fund raising with federations (something it never has done with the federations for JAFI or Joint) but never disclosed (a) how much was raised or (b) how the funds were spent. JFNA assured the federations that it...that's JFNA...would monitor the "situation" of the Yemenite Jews brought to America. Has it? Will it? Can it?

3. On the Budget and Dues. Some federations are urging that Dues be "indexed" to annual increases and decreases in Annual Campaign; others are asking (watch, those "asks" will soon become "demands") that Dues reflect the totality of federation assets -- endowment but not designated dollars raised. These arguments are made by federations whose campaigns are down -- but all federation campaigns were reduced last year, some severely. Where is the equity? And, just how does JFNA respond, if at all?

4. "Consensus??" creep. You remember the FLI? That infamous meeting of fewer than 50% of the federations present in Ft. Lauderdale where numerous matters were discussed and leadership claimed "clear consensus" on any number of matters even though the entire meeting bogged down in discussions of Dues. The current leaders of JFNA have interpreted that FLI to have "resolved" that there be "planning tables." Absent definition or real resolution the best I can understand is that the "global planning table" is just another brand name for ONAD. (A rose is a rose is a rose.) So now the JFNA Budget includes a $250,000 allocation to the Global Planning Table for...? (Your guess is as good as mine...or theirs I think.) If this is how JFNA's governance works...OMG.

5. Nice article on Manning-Kaplan in JTA -- For Manning-Kaplan Duo, Jewish nonprofits are the ties that bind. Required reading? Put it on the JFNA Connect Blog?

6. Shuffling through the Jewish Federations of North America website, I came upon a JFNA reference page identifying Blogs relevant to the federations' and JFNA's work. Chevre, UJThee and Me was not listed. Mirabile dictu. Sadly, much pettiness continues at JFNA...and little else that benefits our federations beyond what the Council of Jewish Federations offered in the evermore distant past. We'll fill you in soon.

7. The GA will be held November 7-9 (I think). This year JFNA has deleted from its Budget a $500,000 GA subsidy and hired a brand new consultant to engage sponsors and, I assume, attract new and "regular" donors. So, I was surprised when an FOB (Friend of the Blog) sent me a copy of the solicitation for booths and stuff at the GA announcing that the Assembly would be November 6-8!! Good start. I see a large deficit looming. Is there a Jewish organizational corollary to Murphy's Law? I am thinking JFNA's Law.

And, can you think of any I may have missed?


Sunday, June 6, 2010


Of course, I have been reading with you the virulent anti-semitic and anti-Israel remarks from the mouth of Helen Thomas directing Jews to "get out of Palestine (Israel doesn't exist to her) and go back to Poland and Germany." I have been seeing each citation to her screed identify her as a "journalist" or "Queen of the White House press corps" or "White House correspondent." I have read responses from Ari Fleisher and Sarah Palin, properly condemning her.

Here is what I am waiting for:

~ Condemnation and, even better, termination by her employer, the Hearst Corporation;

~ A statement from Robert Gibbs, Obama's press secretary, asserting that Thomas is no longer welcome in the White House Press Room; and from the President that hate speech is impermissible in this country and will not be tolerated in the White House itself;

~ Responsible journalists issuing appropriate statements reproaching Thomas and isolating her from those who actually report the news;

~ And expressions of outrage not only from Abe Foxman and his ADL but from all of our federation institutions pointing out, at the least, the American Jewish community will not subscribe to any publication in which Thomas's drivel appears.

And, I and you will continue to wait, I'm afraid.


Friday, June 4, 2010


One of the best and brightest federation CEOs wrote me commenting on the Joint and JAFI hiring up in full preparation for financial resource development drives: "nature abhors a vacuum." Well, we sure have one. As further evidence, I submit the following drafted by/for the JCCA, the Jewish Community Centers Association of America :

Looking Forward: Reshaping "Jewish Community"

"Despite the pressure of short-term survival, our decisions must be made for the long-term, in addition to appropriately reacting to crisis. If the economic downturn has taught us anything, it is that the growth that we experienced took place under an unrealistic set of circumstances. We should not expect that things will ever return to the 'way they were.' It is time to create a new communal reality that makes sense in today's context, and looks forward to tomorrow.

It has become increasingly clear that the historic rules of engagement and communal behavior that have governed the way we function no longer serve the interests of the Jewish community. As funding patterns and philanthropic behavior change, some of the 'unwritten' rules must either be rethought or eliminated in order to meet today's reality. We have lived by rules of fundraising 'primacy' that do not mesh with the reduction in central funding and the need for agencies to be aggressive about financial resource development. The proprietary attitude of 'owning the donor' has stifled opportunities for donors to satisfy their interests by becoming engaged with agencies that have had limited access to them. Donors are well able to make their own choices and decisions. Likewise the assumed rules of community planning, based on the notion that certain institutions 'own' certain areas of Jewish life, are no longer functional, and hinder the potential for moving forward. Contemporary consumer decision-making, based on the expectations of full access to a broad variety of services and options require (sic) that we drop behaviors and practices created in a different time if we expect to reach today's Jews.

The economic situation has also forced some long needed discussions about different ways to organize Jewish community. JCC Association should take the lead in shaping the communal conversation regarding the future configuration of the Jewish institutional world. A similar conversation
must, most importantly, take place at the local level. The traditional boundaries between JCC, school, and synagogue are becoming more permeable, along with the way that consumers seek and 'buy' the educational experiences they need and desire. It is time, for example, to consider new models of affiliation and service delivery that will both ease access for individuals and create a more meaningful (and efficient) communal system."

This is chutzpah, of course. The JCCA is a recipient of federation dollars through the Alliance pool...and it wants more, lots more. Thinks it deserves more -- probably for more stuff like this. Let's add it up: JDC demeans by its new strategies the federations which JDC threatens and JFNA, which the Joint ignores. Then there is JCCA which publishes trash like the piece above biting the hand of the very federations which fund their members while seeking more dollars through the federations' national funding pool. And, the JFNA leaders...discussing of course among themselves.

But these are not the only issues involved here. Visit multiple federated communities across the continent -- federations of every City-size. Listen and learn in so many of them how their community centers, constructed with such hope and pride, are on life support, with the federations themselves, not the community centers themselves, looked at as the funders of last resort. And just where is the JCCA in what is a true communal crisis? Why, of course, the JCCA is trying to figure out ways to become the "new model of affiliation" as part of a "more meaningful communal system." Perhaps the community centers need to take a careful look at their national organization -- it seems to have lost its way.

Next, Jerry will be invited to speak at the JCCA Convention (maybe he already did) and...all will be well. Sure.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Most of us recognize that Israel's boarding of the Hamas flotilla, accompanied as it was by loss of life was a wholly avoidable public relations disaster for the State of Israel. To characterize it as nothing more than an "incident" (JFNA's spin) in a sea of incidents rather than the fiasco that it was insults the intelligence. Like many of you, the parallels to the British attack on the Jews of the Exodus in 1947 are both obvious and painful and suggest that our brothers and sisters in Israel, so sensitive as they are to world opinion (while being dismissive of it) have learned far too little from our People's history when writing their own.

Sure, we'll argue for all the right reasons that Israel was in the right in boarding these ships when their leaders refused to turn into Ashdod to have the contents examined. We'll offer the rationale of a nation under constant threat. We'll be ignored and overwhelmed drowned out by a sea of negative publicity.

As Max Boot wrote in The Wall Street Journal: "Israel's actions in boarding the flotilla of ships bound for Gaza were entirely justified and perhaps even unavoidable. Unfortunately they turned into a tactical and strategic fiasco that does further damage to the Jewish State's battered international reputation." The fact remains that Turkey, once a key Israeli ally, has become a mouthpiece for Iran and terrorists -- yet, that government was able to organize the flotilla (the intent of which was clearly designed to embarrass Israel (and, to that extent, was successful beyond Erdogan's dreams) and further isolate our beloved Israel from those who support it.

If Israel had a credible Foreign Minister and a viable foreign policy, wouldn't logic have dictated that Israel would have organized sufficient pressure from friendly nations to cause it to reconsider its support of the flotilla (and, now, more "freedom boats") before it proceeded toward Gaza? Why was Israel unable to articulate in a coherent and planful manner the reasons it would have to turn the flotilla toward Ashdod to examine its cargo (we all remember, perhaps the world would have remembered the ship stocked by Iran with bombs and rockets destined for Hamas that Israel captured just a few years ago) so as to influence public opinion before the fiasco?

The Government of Israel should not have to apologize for doing the right thing, the lawful thing. It should understand, however, that doing the right thing in the wrong way produces only disasters...or fiascos....and, once again, it has.



As an Anonymous Commentator observed, the JFNA responseto the Flotilla Fiasco was excellent and helpful. In fact, it was superb and its authors should be congratulated. It will help all of us in attempting to respond to those who will ask "why" and "how" -- and, as all of us know, this crisis is not over by a long shot.

And, one of my favorite correspondents, who shall remain nameless, wrote: "'Activists' from flotilla being detained. Hey, IDF -- if you interrogate them, be sure to ask 'what's you #ish.'" Indeed. The writer can be found at

Eventually you will find the JFNA Alert at or thereabouts.