Saturday, September 11, 2010


While the Jewish Federations of North America dithers and withers in the face of actually being challenged to develop a consensus on how to deal with federations which fail to allocate a significant, minimal percentage of their annual campaigns for overseas needs, the organization's leaders -- lay and professional alike -- refuse to acknowledge that the allocations process on their watch has become a zero sum game. JAFI, JDC (and, now, ORT) see their federation allocations drop precipitously while the dollars which once funded them are reallocated to other "needs."

How do I know this to be the fact? Well, I reviewed the data shared with the small group gathered by JFNA for its so-called "Summit." And the data reveal that which we knew intuitively: while JFNA's leaders these past five years have sat idly by or worse, the allocations to Joint and JAFI core needs dropped like the proverbial stone. JFNA assured, to some extent, that its Dues were paid, ignoring the reality that those Dues were being paid out of reduced Israel and Overseas allocations. When pressed, JFNA's loudest cry was a "tsk, tsk," a criticism of the partners for the temerity of preparing out of necessity and a soupcon of desperation for independent fund raising while JFNA's leadership looked around uttering "Who, me?"

A few weeks ago, Rabbi Robert Eisen of Tucson, began a Mekor Chaim from the JFNA Rabbinic Cabinet with this: How do you know where it is you want to go if you do not know where you are already? Really the seminal question for the ill-fated "Summit." Our JFNA leaders continually, habitually, ignore "where they are" as they go off in multiple directions like a pin ball machine with a short circuit.

After committing to those federations which represent the model for overseas allocations to support and advocacy for a "minimum acceptable level" of core allocation, these self-same leaders framed "discussion questions" for the Summit that suggested that "an 'aspirational level'" of allocations commitment (something that failed at least three times before) was worthy of discussion. To the JFNA "leaders" this represented fair discussion, to me it meant a "sell out" of those federations counting on some, any, leadership, pure and simple. And, this was not all that evidenced that this leadership is prepared to once again ignore or twist history to its own ends.

For example, the small group assembled for the Summit was told that federations, under the discredited ONAD process, had the ability to divert 10% of their annual allocations to JAFI and the Joint to electives. Not so. The ability to direct 10% of the annual allocation was offered only to those federations increasing or maintaining the previous year's core allocation. The fact that more and more dollars have been reallocated to designated projects ever since, by federations decreasing their core allocation, is both a reflection of federation reality and JFNA's refusal to get its hands "dirty" in allocations advocacy. The written false conclusion evidences how dismissive JFNA's current leaders are of the organization's own history when that historical record conflicts with their intent and current narrative. The result is reflected in part in the dramatic devastation of the core allocation with which JFNA's leaders still refuse to come to grips.

Carpe diem? Not these guys.


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