Monday, February 21, 2011


~ I am pretty certain that at the recent JFNA Board Meetings in Orlando, CEO Jerry reduced from 5 to 3 JFNA's "strategic focus areas." These will now be restricted to "Global Jewish Responsibility; Thought Leadership and Idea Generation; and Strengthening Federations." Uh-huh. You are going to be getting "[N]ew efforts (which) will help JFNA provide greater value and measurable results to Federations." Uh-huh. If only it could happen.

~ A Festivus classic. Writing in the Jewish Exponent, highlighted in one of Silverman's Daily Media Guides, is an op-ed: A Modern Day Exodus: Young Flock to TribeFest. Sure. Here is the introductory paragraph: "Next month more than 1,000 Jews from across North America are expected to wander into the desert for three days and nights to discover their personal connection to Judaism. While these modern day descendants of Moses and Sarah will trek by plane, train and automobile to their destination -- the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, their journey is equally important to the future of the Jewish people." OMG!!! What more needs to be said...or written?

~ Our Continental "leaders" decided, based on what other than intuition, G-d knows, that attendance at JFNA Events -- GA, TribeFestivus -- would spike upward if all such Events were convened in the most "attractive" cities. Glitz over substance. So, what happened, New Orleans proved hospitable but attracted far below projections; same with Las Vegas for the Festivus. Maybe, just maybe, as my sorely tested intuition tells me, we need events at more inclusive price points and where substance trumps glitz. But that's not going to happen, is it? All of that could happen in Las Vegas, of course, but just link to the Fest site and see how that venue is being promoted.

~ I have it on good authority that CEO Jerry engineered a $400,000 reserve in the JFNA Budget to deal with potential Dues defaults. Of course, with lay and professionals alike wearing blinders as to those very defaults, the total reached $2,000,000 before application of the reserves (I think -- but the number might be $2.4 million before the application of the reserve resulting in the $2,000,000 figure. With JFNA one has to ask the specific question of someone who might...might...have the answer.) Whether the unpaid Dues number is $1,600,000 or $2,000,000, it is a BIG number with no source for payment.

Here's what happened -- as I have written, several times -- Federation A received its Dues notice, but could not or would not pay more than $X. It so advised JFNA, either seeking a "hardship" finding or a Dues abatement. JFNA determined through its Financial Relations Committee that given the volume of hardship requests, it would grant none...that's none...sent back a promissory note and a "payment plan" (usually with no prior discussion) to Federation A, which ignored it. At some point, a responsible JFNA professional (the Financial Relations Committee was not monitoring the communal circumstances) suddenly noticed the mountain of unpaid deferrals. The rest is history -- in November the JFNA Board (without the necessity of doing so) passed a By-Law Amendment authorizing Deferral Agreements and restating the Draconian consequences of non-payment -- to no effect. Then, after the 18 month build-up of deferrals finally brought the problem to the Budget Committee. The growing financial crisis has yet to be brought to the Board.

The success of our entire institutional structure, chevre, is based on trust -- trust of the donor in the federation; trust of the federations in our continental organization. Given the growing failure of that organization and its leaders to steward our donors dollars entrusted to them, the system becomes increasingly at risk. And still we remain silent.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves.

~ Speaking of "greater value and measurable results" -- if your federation has received from JFNA the names and e-mail addresses of real prospects out of the wondrous #ish or Heroes efforts, would you let me know off-line? And if you know how much these "programs" have cost, would you let us all know? Many thanks. There is a chasm between the promise of "measurables" and the reality.

~ The Forward just extolled JFNA on modifying its personnel policies (As JFNA advised us) so as to join the 21st century of corporate America with a "maternity/paternity family leave policy" (that I brought to the law firm I chaired back in 1988). JFNA also implemented a flex-time policy with the JFNA re-brand to "formal flexibilty." (The full article can be found at As Silverman pointed out: "When you're looking at what we stand for, who we are as a people, we really need to walk the talk." Well, Jerry sure knows how to talk the talk, anyway. Sure. Kal ha'kavod and Amen.


1 comment:

joebrown42 said...

I hate to ask a stupid question, but in all seriousness - is there an actionable plan that could be presented to Jerry to change the situation?
I mean, a serious, strategic plan?
I have an idea for one (but am paid to do something else...), and I am sure other people do.
But, to get to the point, a serious rethinking of what the federation System is, and where it should go should do something besides giving new titles to old committees. No one I know my age cares about the federations, not really.
Does JFNA not know this?