When I chaired the United Israel Appeal, the then UJC Board Chair (with the connivance of the current Chair of the Executive) threatened the organization's very existence -- forget UIA's critical role in the United States Refugee Resettlement Grant, forget UIA's exclusive role, pursuant to IRS Rulings, in monitoring our allocated funds to the Jewish Agency. These guys wanted all power vested in them and certainly did not want a voice of dissent as UIA's Chair even when that voice was expressed in private (long before this Blog came into being). But...but...at no point did those "leaders" usurp the institutional functions of the United Israel Appeal -- even though they thought about doing so and drafted Resolutions which had they passed might have done so.
As Silverman is clearly driving the organization's focus and programming, apparently these Chairs have little else to do. Surely, Manning and Gelman knew full well that they had and have no power...none...to appoint members of the JAFI Executive -- the JFNA leaders serve and have served for years on the UIA Nominating Committee that goes through an elaborate federation leadership-driven process to nominate members to the JAFI Board elected by UJC and to the Jewish Agency Executive. The By-Laws of the Jewish Agency and UIA, but not those of JFNA, provide the legal methodology for the nomination of members of the JAFI Executive -- there is no JFNA process for the selection of members of the JAFI Executive.
So, why would they seek to usurp the functions of UIA? The UIA is doing its job of monitoring in an exemplary manner. Well, they don't like those aspects of the merger that created JFNA that "get in their way," so they just choose to ignore those they can't and won't abide. Instead of focusing strictly on FRD and increasing allocations to JAFI or JDC, they have apparently concluded they can strengthen JFNA at JAFI's and JDC's expense. They fail to comprehend (or, if they comprehend, fail to understand) that as JAFI, JDC and ORT are strengthened, JFNA is strengthened as a by-product, not the reverse.
This has everything...everything...to do with leaders who seem not to understand what leadership demands of them...who, even after "auditioning" for years, don't understand their roles. Like their predecessors, who come to think of it, included them, decisions are made in the dark shadows without regard for process or deliberation. It's pitiful. As one correspondent wrote: "JFNA practices 'raccoon management' -- small animals chasing shining objects." These are not the actions of serious leaders. In an article in Sports Illustrated last month on the vicious and public divorce of the owners that threatens the very existence of the Los Angeles Dodgers, there was a telling remark made by one of them on the date they bought the team: "The Dodgers are the business. We are the brand." Or to put it in JFNA terms: "The Jewish Federations of North America is the brand. We are the business." And, they are so wrong.
Examples abound: They speak of their "partners" -- the Joint and Jewish Agency -- yet, at the "Allocations Summit" last month (at which JAFI and JDC were not invited), without pushback, the Chair of the Executive, pushing for a "return to ONAD" with 10% of the disastrously low federation allocation, kept arguing and asserting that that 10% should just be transferred over to Birthright -- it being "JFNA's money" presumably to do with as the Chairs see fit (is their any conflict with the Chair of the Executive's spouse's position as Chair Emeritus of Birthright? -- nah, never mind); they push out those with institutional memory parachuting in those who nod their heads in agreement with anything they wish to do; they seek positions on the JAFI Executive creating a fiduciary duty to that organization and then undermine that organization at their whim; and on and on.
And just ask yourselves one question -- what five accomplishments can JFNA point to with pride over the past five years -- just one institutional accomplishment a year? Not much to ask. Just, to use the latest jargon, give us a "bucket of accomplishments."
Maybe the question shouldn't be "can lay leaders change" but, rather, will they? Or will we? Will it never change? What do these "leaders" need to wake them to their responsibilities?