Tuesday, February 15, 2011


There are so many cliches in the air at 25 Broadway -- a veritable motherlode in fact -- that I believe the cliche is too often a substitute for substance. I thought that I would focus on just two of them:

1. "What got us here, won't get us there." Great line, appropriated by JFNA ostensibly from one of the great Jewish mega-philanthropists of our age orany age. When that philanthropist said it, he probably knew where "here" was and the "there" he was trying to reach. (In reality, the phrase is the title of a book written by Marshall Goldsmith.) I remember well when my beloved White Sox fired a rather successful General Manager of the team because "he got us from Point A to Point B, but we didn't think he could get us to Point C." We understood -- "Point A" was the depths and "Point B" was contention and "Point C" was the World Series. For JFNA (and please forgive me for this) we don't know where "here" is and we don't have a clue where "there" is; until you know the "here," you can't know the "there," can you? At 25 Broadway it's "here, there and everywhere." Five "areas of focus" are now three (and that includes "thought leadership"), but the Budget allegedly supports over 50 separate "programs."

So, just show us where is "here" and then begin to demonstrate that you actually have a concept for "there." I challenge our leaders to name five areas of JFNA activity that they believe represent the federations' (not JFNA's) priorities and how JFNA is striving to meet them.

2. We are going to "...deliver greater value and measurable results." OK, good. What does this mean? Usually followed by...

3. "we are going to do more with less." The reality to date: "we are going to do less with less" and we can prove it..and then we will complain that we don't have more...

4. Everything we will do will be "robust" -- "robust dialogue," "robust debate" -- and then it isn't.

Let me add one of my own: Zero-based thinking starts with no preconceived notions or sacred cows.


Anonymous said...

How about that oldie, but goodie, zero based budgeting? In JFNA lingo I think this means budgeting based on nothing.

Anonymous said...

Your blog depresses me because I suspect that much of your criticism is valid. In the meantime, real problems need to be solved. How can such vast resources be squandered?

On the other hand, I have to say that the previous set-up prior to JayEffeNNaY wasn't much better.

My beef is Jewish education. For some reason that I fail to comprehend, the majority of North American Jews, who are Conservative and Reform, ended up subsidizing Orthodox Jewish day school education. In other words, the people who need it the most subsidized it for those who need it the least.

In the meantime, the Jewish communities across the country continued to push their exorbitant Jewish day-school fees ever higher, thus ensuring that while the well-to-do who could afford it and the not-well-to-do who could receive significant subsidies were able to send their children, the much larger middle and upper middle class Jews had to choose between Jewish schooling and their mortgage. This, by the way, remains true today.

The consequences? The consequences are that the Orthodox are doing fine, thank you very much, but the vast majority of Jewish North American children do not and have not received a Jewish education but live in a world where they are always a significant minority - even in major Jewish cities like NYC, LA and Toronto. They are influenced to dismiss Jewish life every single day.

Didn't and doesn't anybody realize this is the most important aspect of Jewish life in North America? Didn't anybody think about what happens when there are many fewer self-identified or affiliated Jews because they received little or no Jewish education? Didn't anybody realize that one day the future would be here? It's here.

Distraught Jewish Father

Anonymous said...

Richard, I think you have hit on something here. Here's another one submitted by the overseas partners - "The buck stops here!!"

Anonymous said...

"thought leadership" at JFNA - a good one!! LOL