Sunday, August 8, 2010


Dear Kathy,

Because I believe that you have unilaterally taken JFNA down a disastrous path of conflict with the Joint and Jewish Agency, I thought I would write to remind you of how this catastrophic set of circumstances came to be and how our system might be saved from the consequences of your incomprehensible actions.

Let's review: Sonny Plant, z'l, after meetings with the federations, the Agency and Joint, issued a Report, approved by the Board of the then UJC, mandating, as did all prior reports of UJC, and as JAFI and JDC had come to agreement so often, that the partners meet and negotiate a new contract between them. UJC/JFNA's role would be to act as a "mediator" IN THE EVENT THE PARTIES COULD NOT COME TO AGREEMENT. In the event the parties came to an Agreement, UJC/JFNA's Board could approve or reject the Agreement -- but not modify it. Those were to be UJC/JFNA's roles.

And JAFI and the Joint negotiated. At certain points in those negotiations, when "mediation" appeared to be needed, the Joint opted to request that JFNA seek out the redoubtable Ken Feinberg as a mediator; the Agency requested that Federation CEOs conduct the mediation. You and the then Board Chair ignored both partners and you, Kathy, had yourself appointed as the sole mediator. I assumed that in arrogating the role of mediator to yourself, you understood that a mediator is a person of consummate fairness who engages in dispute resolution. Or, perhaps, you did not understand the role of a mediator.

JDC and JAFI came to agreement in 2008. They submitted the agreement, which would have potentially negatively impacted on ORT funding, to then UJC for approval or rejection, as the case might be. The agreement was never taken to the Board as UJC's resolutions provided; instead you, Kathy, rejected the agreement. You weren't acting as a mediator but, apparently, as an advocate for ORT. Nonetheless, the Agency and Joint negotiated further. They came to agreement once again, this time in 2009. Once again, you, without ever taking the agreement to the JFNA Board, and without being asked to play any other role as "mediation" was not needed, chose instead to rewrite substantive portions of the agreement with no notice to JAFI or JDC that you had done so. You sent it back to the "partners" without the mark-up showing the changes you made (which, as you know, is common practice by attorneys). From the perspective of history, this was the final straw for the Joint and Agency. You had not been asked to mediate because JAFI/JDC reached agreement without intervention; instead, you inserted yourself "on behalf of JFNA" in violation of JFNA Resolutions and the agreement reached by Sonny and UJC with the partners.

Now, JFNA (thanks to the efforts some of our major federations) has convened a two-day meeting -- August 23 and 24 -- without JAFI or JDC invited or welcome, at which those present will somehow make a "needs assessment" -- let's say that it will take but a few hours for those assembled to validate the needs our partners serve -- and, at your direction, come up with a fait accompli in an attempt to make all of the issues you created go away. If only that could be the case. Instead of such a meeting, I would sincerely suggest that the federation leadership (under the Chair of the Executive) go forward and first meet with JAFI/Joint leadership. But, that would mean you wouldn't be "in charge," wouldn't it? Could you tolerate not being "in charge" if your "abdication" meant that the overseas funding issues confronting our system could be solved?

Kathy, your actions have precipitated a crisis that the Joint and Agency had avoided in the two agreements they reached and you, with no authority to do so, negated. Now the federations and Jerry Silverman will, once again, have to pull JFNA's chestnuts out of the fire you created. That light you think you see at the end of the tunnel you have dug is the train hurtling toward you and JFNA. Maybe you believe that "It ain't over until the fat lady sings and you don't hear any music." Well, let me tell you, what you have sewn, you now reap and the federation system including JFNA will pay the price. Perhaps you don't hear "the fat lady singing," but I'd say the fat lady is definitely backstage spritzing her throat.





paul jeser said...

The problem is that the Fat Lady Sang around the time of the merger :-(

RWEX said...

Nah -- it turns out that was just her tuning up.

Usedtobeimportant said...

No, the problem is that there is no Vision. Just lots of badly facilitated UJC and then JFNA "strategic planning" junk full of meaningless Vision statements. All done for and by an organization without a mandate to lead and devoid of the kind of true national leadership it would need to survive, let alone flourish. There was a vision in the days when UJA and CJF were strong. It endured and endured only to be broken apart by the "Study" demanded at the time (mid-nineties) by a bunch of tired and bored Large City Execs who thought they needed to "own" the system ... whatever that meant. The old Vision of UJA and CJF of collective responsibility was founded on the ridiculously simple concept of Kol Israel Zeh la Zeh and that united North American, South African, Autralian and European Jewry in a grand and common focus. That focus fell to the "importance of local needs"; to "Israel doesn't need us any more" and to all the other oversimplifications of the Study and its authors. The great national leaders of UJA and CJF were divided. A couple abandoned the Mission and looked out for number one, desparate to attain high office in whatever new entity would emerge. Instead of broad, global thinking and action, the new "leaders" engaged consultants; changed a name that had a huge franchise and created no foundational strengths for the emerging UJC. Its stature is diminished; its leaders are weak. The Federations campaigns are suffering in many cases and, it seems, the two greatest purveyors of good for Jews in Israel and overseas are treated as insignificant. It worked. The inmates have taken over the running of the asylum

paul jeser said...

Dear 'usetobeimportenat',

And an answer is:

RWEX said...

Now Paul, only your Blogger is entitled to cite himself.