Tuesday, October 26, 2010


There is in Torah the statement of our commitment to G-d -- Na'aseh v'nishma. Variously interpreted, the common meaning has come to be -- "we will do and we will obey." While this is a statement of responsibility of the Jewish People to our G-d, perhaps not surprisingly, it has become a commandment in Jewish organizational life translated from a commitment to G-d to an understanding that it is today a commitment of amcha to a transient leadership -- "we will do and you will obey."

To place this in perspective: JFNA through the United Israel Appeal is a "part owner" of the Jewish Agency for Israel; it has no ownership rights in the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (which clearly frustrates JFNA's acquisitive leadership no end) although the Joint has granted JFNA four seats on its Board (and I can only speculate as to who those four are). JFNA's leaders want to assure that the members of the JAFI Board of Governors from the United States are loyal not to JAFI but to JFNA -- it's the now old "they aren't JFNA" mantra in practice. They either see no conflict with their fiduciary duties to JAFI as a part owner or don't understand. Thus, JFNA's leaders who demand their brand of "loyalty" -- na'aseh v'nishma -- offer none to JAFI in return -- neither in the historic partnership sense nor in the current "ownership" model. (They would make the same demands of JDC but haven't any ownership that would allow them to do so. Tsk, tsk.)

This is your JFNA. Your leaders quite properly have expressed on our behalf their opposition to significant sections of the pending Knesset Rotem Bill but I can see them lining up in support of the "Declaration of Loyalty" legislation as proposed -- after all, they have developed an implicit loyalty oath to JFNA if you want "citizenship" there. (But, and this is a rather big "but") inasmuch as JFNA's current purposes are far from clear, if "purpose" is in their lexicon at all, that JFNA "Declaration of Loyalty" is really fealty to a transient set of chairs. If you don't make the "Declaration of Loyalty," you "aren't JFNA" of course and, therefore, in the mindset of this leadership, you may not serve in any role at JFNA or on the JAFI Board, or, if they could control it, anywhere else.

In their demands to control the UIA nominating process for JAFI Board and Committee membership, even beyond their "need" to control all. they ignore their own counsel. For, in an exhaustive legal analysis undertaken at JFNA's direction in 2009, preeminent outside counsel determined, among other things, that the service of UIA Board members on JAFI's Board was part of the implementation of UIA's responsibility (pursuant to IRS Letter Rulings on the subject) to monitor, as principal, JAFI's work as our Agent. Never mind, these leaders seem to assert, "they're not JFNA."

So, let's drill down -- just who are "not JFNA?" At the United Israel Appeal they are sitting Chairs of Large City Federations, past Chairs of Federations large and small who continue to serve on their Federations' Boards and Executive Committees, chief professional officers of federations representing every City-size, major donors and present and past Campaign Chairs from across the United States. (Canadian members of the BOG serve at the nomination of Keren Ha'Yesod. They have no pledge of fealty.) These are the leaders who JFNA claim are "not JFNA?" They are, of course, you and me.

Then, just who are those who "are JFNA?" Well, I can only surmise that they are (1) those who are part of the ever tighter, ever tinier, infinitesimal clique of JFNA's version of "leadership;" (2) those whom JFNA's leaders believe they can absolutely control; and (3) anyone that the Chairs and CEO point to with their magic wands and anoint as "JFNA." . And, as to JAFI, that's it -- the rest of us (and, I guess, our federations inasmuch as we have not been placed on the Jewish Agency Board and Committees without the recommendation of our federation) are traif. Now, JFNA's Chair wants JFNA seats on the JDC Board. As Ms. Manning would sarcastically say: "Like that's going to happen."

Na'aseh v'nishma, chevre.


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