JFNA needs a brain.
~ The Tribefest? Many of you participated in the series of biennial Young Leadership Cabinet Washington Conferences. Each Conference was an incredibly exciting a place for emerging leaders to come together, learn in a passionate environment and engage with our nation's leaders. I know how energized I was at each one I attended. These were important, content-rich Conferences. Then, based on the false premise that these Conferences were so 90's (I guess), JFNA embarked on the Cabinet's Tel Aviv I, transferring that energy to Israel. Attendance was much smaller but the excitement was there. And, then...there was neither Washington nor Tel Aviv. These exciting and content-rich moments for the Cabinet ended with a Habitat for Humanity Day in post-Katrina New Orleans (which will be replicated in some way at the GA next month).
And then I read Jerry Silverman's Looking Ahead New Year's greeting. No Washington Conference...no Tel Aviv. No, not those, for this coming March there will be (trumpets please) a "mega-conference." Tribefest, slated for Las Vegas in March. Yes, that's right...Las Vegas...Tribefest. One big party. Why? You might ask? But, ask Jerry. Las Vegas...Tribefest.
Curious guy that I am, I Googled Tribefest. Thought I might find something more. I didn't but I will caution the party planners at JFNA -- some of your prospects for the Fest might confuse Tribefest with Tribal Fest 11 & Black Sheep Belly Dance (I don't even want to think what that might be) Kajira Djoumahi. If I get more info on this one now in its 11th year, I will pass it on.
JFNA has become a numbers game (not donors, not dollars, just how many names) and a party planner. Young and emerging leaders are pandered to and patronized but given little credit for smarts. This is the ultimate -- a feckless Fest.
~ The Israel Action Network or If You Don't Learn From the Mistakes of the Past, You're Bound to Repeat Them. Back in July I wrote Hot Air Redux belittling the JCPA Chair for telling a reporter that JFNA leaders could expect millions in the coming years from JFNA. My apologies. For between Rosh Ha'Shana and Yom Kippur, in a series of conference calls with City-size federation professional leadership, JFNA sought funding at specific levels of support for something called The Israel Action Network (which, they assert is something very different from The Israel Advocacy Initiative -- the IAI -- the underfunded JCPA-JFNA "Partnership" for which JFNA sought funding two years ago [and failed]).
Here's the ridiculous and the sublime: The IAI (not to be confused with the new IAN, of course) and the IAN (not to be confused with the IAI -- got it?) won't merge, both will continue. The IAI will have one strong Co-Chair, Chicago's Midge Perlman Shafton; the IAN will have a single strong Chair, Chicago's David Sherman. Both are eloquent, passionate leaders. Midge however has a Co-Chair, appointed by JFNA. Yes, of course, who else but the ubiquitous Toni Young. Why Ms Young -- she has already chaired (and, in some instances, still does) Israel and Overseas, the Israel and Overseas Coordinating Council (anyone know what that does other than Sheatufim?), the moribund Center for Jewish Philanthropy and some other stuff -- is there no one else whom Manning could appoint to lead this stuff?
The threat/actuality of boycotts, divestment and sanctions are extremely serious matters. No doubt. They deserve to be addressed in a serious manner. I have listened carefully to the presentations and read the materials. The budget and timing are being driven, as often are so many things at JFNA, by dates. In this instance the need to roll out the staff, et al., of the IAN at the November GA is the tail wagging this dog. What do they say: act in haste repent at leisure. We should all be pleased that JFNA will have real skin in this game -- funding, we are told, 1/2 the annual budget (although I would say trust but verify). The framework for the IAN as I read it was basically borrowed from that of the older UJC national plan for Jewish institutional security -- an early warning system, a national notification process, a hotline, etc. But in this case to confront the issues of BDS.
So, in response, JFNA creates a new subsidiary -- a Network of importance which will also provide JCPA budget relief -- I guess JCPA would help fund but it has no resources with which to do so. Other than the ever-present Martin Raffel (a portion of whose salary will be paid by you through this Network), it appears that there will be major staffing and a three year cost of $5.2 million -- $1.7 million in this year alone. Somehow, William Daroff will lead the JFNA professional side of this effort along with his other extremely productive professional roles. A "project manager" will be hired. What we know for certain is this: JFNA has a core budget that far exceeds its core competency but is far less than its ever-expanding "need" for control.
So, at a time that JFNA is really doing nothing to advocate for increased resources -- whether that advocacy be for the federations, or for JDC, JAFI and ORT (each of which in their own way are articulate advocates for Israel and against its delegitimization), with its own Israel Office staffed at levels that defy logic, at a time that all federations are stretched as never before, when JFNA is attempting to convince JAFI and the Joint that an "aspirational federation allocations minimum" is achievable, your federation is being asked for,a at least, a multi-thousand (for some well over 1/2 million) dollar commitment over and above Dues.
A few questions: My federation will offer its total support; it is one of those driving this effort. If federations respond, where, for most communities, do you think that most if not all of those dollars are going to come? And, was any thought given to merging the IAI effort with this new Network -- one that will be another JFNA "subsidiary?" Does JFNA truly believe that it can effectively lead this effort when it has heretofore led nothing to success? And just where does the IAN fit within the list of JFNA priorities? And does such a list exist?
A friend of the Blog just sent me a fascinating albeit scatter shot Post that appeared in FailedMessiah.com -- From Riches to Rags -- A Story of Jewish Joblessness by Shmarya Rosenberg. Rosenberg's message: "It is not business as usual in America, Individual Jews seem to know this, but the Jewish community does not." While I don't agree with all of the author's conclusions, what I see from our national leadership is but another example of Nero fiddling away, with JFNA being driven by the largest "haves" with little regard for the smaller have nots.
And how much will that Tribefest cost?