Tuesday, November 16, 2010


The 2010 General Assembly was "Katrina-centric" and that was a good thing. The Federation-driven response to that Hurricane and its aftermath were beautiful examples of the reach of our philanthropy and humanity -- the contribution of $28 million and then UJC's work with and in the community were excellent. So we have that to "celebrate" and, what else? JFNA's Jerry Silverman's one man effort on our behalf to slow the apparently inexorable tide toward passage of the Conversion legislation? Rebranding? The yet to be built "Global Planning Table" or #ish or Heroes? The Israel Emergency Campaign in which JFNA's role was as a collection agent? Bringing 13 Yemeni families to America and not to Israel? Help me here.

There have been horrific natural disasters since Katrina that impacted on federated communities -- Houston and South Palm Beach for two. JFNA's response -- woeful. So we hearken back to Katrina, that singular success as an example of what our system can do and might do again; an example of collective response. Instead of Katrina being one of many examples of incredible work by so many (and recall that not one of the most senior professionals who led this effort -- Gail Hyman, Rob Hyman, Barry Swartz -- were honored in New Orleans, just as they and other engaged professionals were ignored in Nashville in 2007). Katrina stands alone.

The Katrina "success story" serves to underscore the almost total lack of other "successes" of an organization which, by year-end, we -- our federations -- will have plowed close to if not more than one-half a billion dollars...$500,000,000...into. I won't even ask what we might have achieved with $500,000,000 well spent...home many lives we could have changed for the better, how many we could have brought to Israel for Birthright and Masa, how many more kids could have attended camps here and in the FSU, how many Jews we could have fed and clothed.

JFNA has deservedly patteditself on the back for the five years since Katrina; in part, because we have so little else to show for the federations' investment. Now it's long past time to build new achievements; to state our purpose with clarity; and to look five years into the future and know with clarity what we shall be. If the current lay leadership can only look in the rear view mirror, then it is clearly time for major change.


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