The JFNA Budget and Finance Committee met on Sunday afternoon January 30 -- I'll ignore the fact that the Board Chair preempted the Committee Chair in the midst of the meeting; that can't surprise anyone anymore. I was contacted by several Committee members over the past days who expressed that they are fed up with the lack of transparency, with an attitude that "the buck stops there." All of us should be fed up. Here's what surprised..make that shocked...me as it should you.
1. Even as a majority of the Committee members were participating by phone, they were denied access to the materials being reviewed at the meeting by those present in Florida. "Confidentiality." Huh? Board members and federation leaders can't see the materials distributed at a meeting of Board members and federation members and Committee members because, apparently, "leadership" fears that other Board members and federation leaders might get their hands on them or, even worse, the press or "bloggers" might? Were the details of the information to remain a secret available only to those who shlepped to Florida? (And, given that their concerns were about "outliers" seeing the Budget materials, clearly this "leadership" would have preferred that no one see them, let alone discuss them.) What was in those materials that this "leadership" didn't want to see the light of day?
2. Well, one answer: the New Orleans General Assembly exceeded Budget by $253,000; the Lion of Judah Conference exceeded Budget by $275,000. And revenues from the GA fell $55,000 under Budget. Thus, the federations are the hook for <$583,000>... that's FIVE HUNDRED EIGHTY THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS...no wonder this "leadership" wanted to keep it a secret. Except they have to find the money. Might the shortfall be covered out of JFNA's Budget? C'mon. Get real. Anyway, it's not JFNA's fault -- apparently these deficits are being blamed on the JFNA's conference coordinator or "others"...because this "leadership" is not accountable for things that ever go wrong.
Yet, the facts remain. Perhaps, JFNA could not control registration income. Even if a GA Co-Chair foolishly predicted to me that there would be 4,000 GA registrants (and it appears there were at most 2,800), had there been the GA would still have required more in the way of sponsorships and other income. I recall in the planning days of the 2002 GA, Sonny Plant, z'l, then the JFNA Treasurer and I spoke daily to assure that income and expense would result in a break-even. In NO, where was that monitoring? But a $55,000 income shortfall is a manageable amount. The one thing that JFNA could control was cost. But, for costs to exceed budget by more than one-half million dollars...by more than $500,000... is inexcusable, pure and simple.
3. And worse. The federations Dues "deferrals" (you remember, that is JFNA jargon for "unpaid Dues") were disclosed to be in excess of $2,000,000. Initially some JFNA chacham reported that this amount is "collectible" (remember, these Dues are unpaid because federations either couldn't or wouldn't pay). And, that conclusion is ridiculous. For several years this leadership has consistently asserted to you and to me that "...there are no Dues issues." This $2,000,000 shortfall is both real and growing. Could this be blamed on the conference coordinator, as well; not the fault of JFNA "leadership." Never the fault of this "leadership." How could it possibly be? Now we learned that JFNA's leadership believes the non-payment issues can be resolved by early notice to the federations of their annual Dues obligations; not by changing the way in which JFNA does business, not by changing JFNA from irrelevant to relevant but by "rebranding." How specious.
And, none of this was disclosed to the Federation leadership at the Board meeting. While the Board Chair extolled the Treasurer's devotion to "transparency," these serious and devastating Budget issues were hidden behind the accolades. Is this any way to run a business? Particularly a Jewish business? We are talking about --- make that "we are not talking about" -- a $2,583,000 shortfall in Dues and GA expenses and JFNA income. This "leadership" is dedicated to talking about transparency while having none of it.
It is time for the Dues-paying federations to assume responsibility for the organization. JFNA must be placed in a federation trusteeship with leadership by federation lay leaders dedicated to a serious reexamination of JFNA purposes, programs, functions, income and costs. And this trusteeship must be imposed now. For, now we have learned that the GA is a disaster in the amount of $583,000? But, that's not the fault of this "leadership." Federations Dues shortfalls over $2,000,000? Not the fault of this "leadership." This "leadership" is not accountable and won't be until JFNA's major funders demand accountability; the same accountability they must deliver in their own communities. When will that happen? Probably won't -- because "they are doing the best they can." "They are doing the best that they can." Indeed.
While there are those lay leaders who serve on the Budget and Finance Committee who see significant signs of positive change and a new commitment to "transparency" and truth-telling; I just don't see it. I hope they are right and I am wrong. But, first, this has been a leadership determined to rob JFNA of its past. That was bad enough. Now, absent intervention, it is robbing JFNA of any future. This is a group pne of whose mantras is "you're not JFNA." While they are wrong, they are enabling those referenced to wear the insult as a badge of pride.