An article in the New York Times on Sunday, November 28 -- New Jersey's Tiniest Towns Fight Push to Merge -- reminded me that for the federation system, the proliferation of federations in New Jersey, has been a matter of concern to federation leaders across that State -- and JFNA can (or could) usually be found somewhere in the corner of the room when federations have met to discuss the merger issue. By my count, there are 11 federations in New Jersey of varying sizes. There has been at least one merger in the past decade -- Northern New Jersey and Bergen County -- and "discussions" between Metro West and Clifton-Passaic -- and that's it. Does JFNA lack the professional capacity and expertise to offer guidance? (What do we spend $30.3 million on again?)
The NYT article pointed out: "To avoid duplication and waste, consolidation with neighbors is encouraged." For federations this seems self-evident, particularly in a time of significant reduced resources. I recall the effort that was made in JFNA's early years by excellent professionals working side-by-side with lay leaders (I among them) in the effort to achieve a successful merger of the Broward and Hollywood Federations as both those communities saw their annual campaigns sliding away. With a great local leader, Herb Katz, z'l, JFNA helped the communities accomplish the merger -- one where the emerging Broward Federation, still struggling under massive debt and a horrific real estate economy along with some bad choices since the merger, continues to struggle for success. In Northern New Jersey, the merger is also struggling for a common culture and a strong campaign, and its founding CEO has resigned.
In the midst of a multi-federation environment in New Jersey, one finds two outstanding, strong community builders in CEOs Max Kleinman in MetroWest, and Stanley Stone in Central New Jersey. (There may be more, I just don't know them).
Then there is Connecticut with nine federations. As I understood it some if not all of the Connecticut federations engaged a consultant to review the potential of merger, the benefits and costs. I seem to recall that this was a federation initiative -- one to which JFNA was an invitee but neither a convener nor an active participant. More's the pity.
One just has to ask whether JFNA should have a role as convener, as catalyst, in situations where merger or functional consolidation could effect positive change. And if the answer was "yes," could JFNA execute the assignment? The answer so far is, as in so many things, "no."