Many of you, lay and professional leaders alike, have written me offline to report on your sense of the New Orleans GA -- filled with ruach (in part generated by the subsidized Hillel students), far better "atmospherics," excellent programs on the Iran threat and the threats posed by the BDS bunch, otherwise unfocused on the issues confronting federations -- you know issues such as FRD and lay and professional leadership development. Almost everyone had a great time -- it was New Orleans after all and several commented on the fact that the field day in New Orleans merely replicated what they do in their own communities.
So why the mixed bag and why the lack of any real focus? Well, just look at the lack of any real federation focus at JFNA. Trying to be all things to all people just hasn't worked; it's time to focus. But, I am told that the "planning" for this GA was even more "centralized" in the hands of the Board Chair and the CEO. And, really, with all due respect, does the Board Chair know what is happening in the federations -- from largest to smallest? And, if you don't know, how do you plan a program that responds to the federations needs and wants? Simple -- you can't.
And, friends, if this great annual event can't become and remain relevant, how can JFNA? It's wonderful to have an annual Jewish party (or, maybe, multiple Jewish parties over the course of a year) but that's just not enough. I remember twenty years ago when one of the best of professional partners, Norbert Fruehauf, then the Director of the CJF Planning Department scolded me in one of our many conversations: "Richard, all UJA has become is a party planner." I was cut to the quick but I took Norbert's admonition to heart. When I was fortunate enough to become UJA National Campaign Chair a short time later, I insisted that the UJA return to basics -- financial resource and community development. We did a pretty good job. Today, with leaders who, in Jerry's case, are learning our system and in case of the lay leaders seem to be focused on their own agendas, where is the focus? What does JFNA stand for? It's not enough to leave New Orleans with an "at least it was fun and we had some great meals."
But, there you are.