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 JFNA...now, 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.