Wednesday, July 7, 2010


There is a movement afoot, led by some federation CEOs who should know better and JFNA leaders to, as they now call it, "finish the merger" of 11 years ago. I would join this movement and carry its flag were it dedicated to increasing federation resources, increasing the share of those resources with our partners in Israel and overseas, engage in vigorous advocacy for meaningful collective responsibility, focus JFNA on increasing dollars and donors, reaching the new generations of leaders and donors, cementing the bridge between Israel and North America and strengthening federations and federation leadership, among other important, even critical, matters. But none of these...none of these...are the focus of this "movement." Of course not; as you will read below, this is just another JFNA sideshow.

As a curious by-product of the JAFI BOG meetings last month, where a number of federation CEOs were in attendance, this distraction, led by one of them in concert with JFNA leaders (hiding in the shadows as always), has begun to "complete the merger" by "doing away with the United Israel Appeal." Let's be clear at the outset that that aspect of the merger was completed 11 years ago when the UIA Board, reluctantly and with great prescience about the potential outcome of the merger, gave up its independence and became a wholly-owned subsidiary of what is now JFNA. That part of the merger was done, so why the sudden clamor for "completing the already complete?" Let me explain from the perspective of one who led the negotiations with UIA's leaders into the merger and later chaired UIA (all of which has been explained to JFNA leaders over the past decade more than once, more that 10 times)...

At the time of the merger the UIA Board was a hodgepodge of fine men and women dedicated to Israel and the success of the Jewish Agency but who were not all representative necessarily of their federations; it independently nominated American members to the Board and Executive of JAFI; it was responsible for the US Refugee Resettlement Grant (which has meant over $1 billion to the Agency for its purposes); it vetted and directed our American communities' allocations to JAFI and authorized them; it owned significant properties in Israel including Amigour housing for the elderly which became the security for loans to JAFI arising out of underfunding by our system of the Exodus; and it was an advocate for the Agency's work.

That was then; now, 11 years post-merger, UIA is performing the same functions (sans advocacy) with two critical exceptions: (1) its Board is comprised today of current Federation leaders who are committed to Israel. to JAFI and to the goals of JFNA; and (2) its nominees to the JAFI Board and Executive are determined by Committees on which JFNA plays a critical role. And, therein lies the rub. JFNA leaders -- those who utter "they're not JFNA" as often as they do the acronym JFNA -- though these JFNA "leaders" serve and have served on the UIA Board and JAFI Nominating Committees and, to my knowledge have offered one...that's one...nominee for the JAFI Board over a decade other than those recommended by the federations themselves -- these are the "leaders" who want absolute control of that process and (I am speculating here) they also want absolute control of the properties owned by UIA in Israel.

Let's get this absolutely straight -- UIA isn't "broken" in any sense, so JFNA's leaders who have "broken" everything they have touched over the past decade (other than the Washington Office and in the area of disaster relief) want to "control" UIA completely -- apparently so that they can "break" it as well. UIA performs its work pursuant to the express terms and conditions of critical IRS Revenue Rulings -- that federation CEO and JFNA's leaders who would "sponsor" what they mischaracterize as "finishing the merger" would be willing to put the deductibility of our contributions, the vetting of which by UIA is done pursuant to IRS Revenue Rulings specific to the United Israel Appeal, at risk solely in the interests of their selfish and unreasoned demands to control everything.

Please remember that these very leaders have evidenced the reverse Midas touch -- everything (ok, almost everything) they have touched turns to dross. But, they are an irresistible force -- when they "want" something, reason does not get in the way. JDC and JAFI have leveraged with Israeli philanthropists, JFNA "wants in," wreaking havoc as they do so; Chicago decides to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of Operation Exodus, JFNA "wants in" through a few missions and a lot of rhetoric; the Agency and Joint perform their respective vital roles in Yemen, JFNA "wants in" in the worst way and raises funds independent of any process to bring Yemeni Jews to Monsey, New York; JFNA "partners" in the Israel Advocacy Initiative but fails in its one responsibility -- to act as the funding partner; and on and on.

I have a suggestion for this federation CEO and JFNA's "leaders" who are embarked on a "cause" without purpose or thought, paraphrasing an AmericaN politician of equal competence: "come on, don't you have anything better to do than this?" Then again, perhaps not. More to follow...


1 comment:

paul jeser said...

Can't finish what was never really begun.

There never was a real merger - except in name.

Couldn't be one since the responsibilities of UJA and CHF were so different. It just didn't make sense, was doomed to fail, and has lived up to that sad prediction.