"We must kill the patient to save it." An interesting attitude to say the least. Estimates of the Jewish population of Orlando, Florida range from 23,000 (1993) to 35,000 today. Yet, as disclosed on the wonderful eJewish philanthropy website based on an article in the Orlando Sentinel, after 50 years of allocations, the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando eliminated all allocations to Jewish organizations (except for a contractual obligation to the Rosen JCC campus of $125,000.(A more extensive albeit confusing explanation of the federation debt that created the crisis appeared in the Heritage Florida Jewish News.) While the JFGO's message to the community was "[T]his is a new day for the federation," for all intents and purposes, the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando is but a shell, a federation in name only.
If ever there was a place for JFNA to have offered advice, counsel and person-power, would not this have been the place? I am not certain whether consultation and guidance could have helped but not to have provided consultation/guidance/intervention was impermissible. I know: tachlis is so 90's; the community should have reached out to us; yada, yada, yada.
Just four years ago, JFNA had in place an Emerging Communities initiative under the auspices of its Development Department. It was a lay/professional partnership effort with excellent professional leadership, some of whom are still on the JFNA Development staff. The entire program, which could have played an important part of a JFNA effort in, e.g., Orlando was scuttled by the then Chairs and CEO. The national effort had partnered with first Las Vegas and, then, Phoenix, and was planned to grow its engagement when it was unceremoniously axed... dropped with no consultation with the lay or professional leaders engaged in it. Those of us involved in the partnerships with the high potential high growth communities were welcomed; we viewed the partnerships we had created or were on the verge of creating as positive signs of the potential of JFNA to make a difference. Someone or ones apparently disagreed.
Could some form of intense engagement by JFNA leadership with Orlando made a difference? Obviously, I don't know...but it couldn't have hurt. The reality is that in the CJF/UJA era, the organizations would have attempted to partner with the community in creative triage...not content to merely sit by and observe as is the sad case today.
I still believe that Mike Lebovitz and his lay team twinned with Jerry, Paul Kane and others in Development could make a difference. But, they have turned the organization's focus to Regional Ignitions with no follow-up, branding, e-philanthropy, Tribefest and #ish, vendettas and, did I mention, branding? Can our national system afford the loss of a federation in a community the size of Orlando? Can we learn from this catastrophe -- for that is what it is. Or do we continue down the path of $30.3 million of programs the vast majority of which are of no apparent value-added to the federations?
Unfortunately, I think I know the answer.