Thursday, April 28, 2011


Friends, a basic premise underlying the "rationale" for a JFNA kidnapping of the Israel and overseas allocations is that "...federations will no longer support a percentage split in core allocations decided by JAFI and the Joint." And this "argument" is as specious as is almost everything associated with the current Global Planning Table "plan." Yes, JAFI and the Joint have in place an expired agreement pursuant to which core allocations would be divided between them according to a 75/25 ratio. But, the reality, which JFNA leaders find convenient to totally ignore, is that at least a plurality if not a majority of federations, while continuing to support JAFI/Joint core, have, more and more and more, moved their dollars away from core to designated projects of both partner organizations -- while reducing their allocations to both organizations for all purposes by over $100 million.

In fact, after years of arguing that "the market" should drive allocations, it is doing just that. But...and this is "But" with a capital "B"...that isn't what the small group of leaders who have determined that we need a GPT want or demand. They do not want the market to drive decisions...or the federations; this small group wants JFNA to drive those decisions (under the guise of federations doing so). And, to that end, they ignore the consequences -- to the federation owners, to JAFI and JDC (and, for that matter, the national agencies whose expenditures they also want to control through this "process"), and to JFNA itself.

It's institutional insanity, but JFNA appears wholly willing to throw itself in front of the bus that it is driving. Why? Because it must control all things even as it has demonstrated time and again that it is incapable of executing in almost any activity. Control...for its own sake. give JFNA a reason for being. JFNA's leaders are already aware that pursuing this "plan" for the GPT will cost it the support of some of its most critical member federations...among them those that have for 11 years provided unquestioning total support. And, yet, these "leaders" continue down a path of self-destruction.

It's all so sad.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


When I commented negatively on the Los Angeles federation's "brilliant" idea of doling out a $100,000 prize to THE BEST NEW JEWISH IDEA, I also noted that the Portland Jewish Federation was offering a $300,000 grant for innovative programming. From the LA CEO, whose innovation and persona I admire, I received an intemperate response telling me to "be ashamed" and offering, in aggressive language a statistical defense that I offered to print if that CEO would provide some back-up (to which I received an even nastier response -- but no back-up). I also received an e-mail from Marc Blattner, the Portland CEO, which I wanted to share with you:

"Let me provide you with some background information:

  • The purpose of our Community Impact Grants is to change the thinking of our partner agencies and our Jewish community as a whole. The past history has been institutions not working collaboratively (these grants are forcing collaboration) and new ideas were not coming to the table. Federation can no longer be the 'budget deficit filler.' We must find ways to create new and exciting programs to meet tomorrow's needs and not solely on yesterday's budget woes.

  • We are excited that we have received dozens of phone calls from organizations around the world interested in trying new initiatives in Portland...I truly believe our community can be the 'test market' for Jewish America, so why not start new ideas here. Any 501c3 is eligible as long as they partner with a Jewish organization on the ground in Portland. This has opened the doors to new people and new organizations bringing ideas to the table. I am confident we will get incredible proposals with many ideas not thought about in Portland before.

  • In regard to your comment about funding, and where will that $300,000 come out of. Well, our intent is to not have it come out of anywhere. We have raised an additional $132,000 in special gifts to help go toward the $300,000 (...over and above annual campaign contributions) -- with more 'asks' outstanding, and our campaign is currently up this year. Donors are excited about the potential for these new initiatives. In the end, we may see a small decrease in our typical agency allocations (not expected to impact overseas allocations at all), yet more dollars will be going into the community (local and overseas) in the end. We have explained, and our agency partners agree, that this may be a 'small short term loss for a larger long-term communal gain.' In addition, many of our partners may, in fact, receive even more money than they would have through a regular allocation cycle due to the extra funding for new (collaborative) projects.

  • Portland is still a community that provides 'block grants' to its agencies and does not allocate based on specific programs. We believe this helps to maintain the system as a whole.

  • It is important to note that unlike larger Jewish communities, Portland does not have scores of major donors, nor does it have hundreds of millions in endowments and donor-advised funds. We do have a passionate donor base that is seeking to maintain our quality services while also realizing the Jewish world continues to evolve and we must change with it."

LA CA and Portland OR. Contrast and compare. Remember the era of "best practices" -- when JFNA actually knew what was going on in the field?


Monday, April 25, 2011


Way back when, I received a hand delivered envelope addressed to "The Honorable Richard Wexler, National Chairman, The United Jewish Appeal." The envelope was 8 x 12, at the least, with extremely impressive calligraphy. I ripped it open only to be shocked -- it contained an invitation to the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Diana. When I collected myself, I called Bernie Moscovitz, UJA's CEO, to inquire whether we could assign this invitation to a mega-donor. Bernie checked and we couldn't. So, after purchasing something called "tails," off I went to represent the UJA at this incredible set of events. Wow, it was so awesome to be in the presence of a Queen, and Prince "Call me Charlie" Charles. I was speechless in their presence and overcome with just the joy of being there. What a highlight in a life of them. So imagine my shock when I responded to a pounding on my front door last week only to discover a gentleman in livery holding an 8 x 12 envelope addressed to "The Honorable Richard Wexler, National Chair, United Jewish Appeal." The delivery man said: "Mr. Wexler, we have had a heck of time finding you. What happened to the United Jewish Appeal; and what happened to you? We were fearful you were dead and buried." "Long, long, sad story, I'm not dead but I have been buried" I replied, thanking the gentleman for finding me. I ripped open the envelope and found an invitation to Prince William and Kate's Wedding. My first thought was that this was a major error -- if anyone, this invitation should have gone to Kathy Manning, JFNA Board Chair. After all, whenever there is a White House event, it is she who attends in awe and silence. Then, I thought, "what the hell. I still have the 'tails.' the thing is addressed to me; I'm going." And then I thought about it: JFNA is now in the party business, almost exclusively; someone from JFNA should go, take notes and build a better TribeFest. And JFNA has constructed a monarchy -- or, at the least, a self-perpetuating oligarchy. I have sent the invite on to Jerry -- he'll figure it out. Rwexler

Friday, April 22, 2011


As a public service I offer a definition of "consensus decision-making" for us all: "...a group decision-making process that seeks not only the agreement of most participants but also the elimination or mitigation of minority participants..." Easy to define, right? But under certain circumstances difficult to achieve. Our federation "system" is totally dependent upon "consensus decision making" -- without that, my friends, the system fails. I bring all of this to your attention because in the context of the so-called JFNA Global Planning Table (a/k/a the Global Dictation Table) it suddenly struck me that not only don't lay or professional leaders know how to build consensus, they don't even know what "building consensus" means. After all, certainly on the lay side, our "leaders" believe they can merely wave a magic wand, declare "we have consensus" and march forward, ignoring all reality. (In fact, that is how the GPT "concept" was formed -- at the very end of a poorly attended JFNA inter Board Retreat [less than 1/3rd of the federations were present], the GPT "concept" was discussed -- very briefly and in bare outline form. The current Board Chair, then the Chair of the Executive, declared a "consensus" and marched the concept forward as if it had been approved [there was no vote] and as if it were now Torah.) The JFNA Executive Committee met on April 13. The feedback in response to the GPT "straw man" presentation were, as I have learned, so uniformly negative, the paid consultant complained that the Executive Committee was excessively "conservative" and the opinions of "San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas and Houston" weren't being heard. To my knowledge, the consultant formed no focus groups and, based on the presentation in Chicago, cited anecdotes as data and continued to ignore feedback that conflicted with the preformed judgments that are at the basis of the JFNA plan for the GPT. In fact, if the reaction of federation lay and professional leaders serving on the JFNA Executive was as I have heard, there was a very strong consensus against the GPT as presented. Those who have led federations or national organizations should have learned from the examples of others and through their own efforts the craft of "consensus building" -- it is Federation Leadership 101. Sometimes as leaders we aren't able to build a consensus no matter the effort put in. But, in the instance of the GPT, there appeared and appears to be no such effort. The Chair apparently believed that as the paradigm was based in part on New York UJA-Federation's successful "Commission Model," that extending that "model" continent-wide would be readily supported. What she and her claque didn't appreciate was that New York used its model, among other things, to increase the unrestricted core allocations to our partners, JAFI and JDC; whereas, the JFNA GPT was clearly designed, as disclosed to the JFNA Executive, to be the "...central decision-making body for all allocations." A micro-management body if you will. That's not what New York had created. The questions now are -- were JFNA's lay and professional leaders paying attention at the Executive Committee or have they so convinced themselves of the holiness of their own preformed conclusions that they will bring the Global Planning Table process as outlined forward as if there had been no objection to it? It would not surprise me if some surface attempt were made to respond to those Federations who have expressed opposition as a matter of principle, then a shrug of the shoulders, a "well, we tried but they are impossible" and then a vote as early as the May Board meeting. And that would bring our system down, pure and simple. As I have written before, these leaders, if they so proceed, will have to look themselves in the mirror and answer whether their actions in deconstructing our national system can ever be excused. Rwexler

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


~ The LA Federation CEO, Jay Sanderson, objected with virulence to that section of my Post last month suggesting that I didn't know the success of the Greatest New Jewish Idea. After stating that I ought to be "ashamed," he continued pointing to the great achievementof the $100,000 effort. When I advised that if he sent me the back-up to support his claim that 100,000 votes had been cast and 50,000 new e-mail addresses added to the Federation contact list, I apparently further enraged him. For more on Mr. Sanderson read the very entertaining and illuminating article in The Los Angeles Jewish Journal -- Jay Sanderson Pushes for Change But Some Lose Heart in Light of His Leadership Service -- _his_lead/ (More to follow on the Portland response...) And, a week later, the enthusiastic letters which, in the main, applaud the CEO's performance and come from just whom you would expect. ~ My, my, my, the Blog has finally made it!!! Yes, I made The Jerry Silverman JFNA Daily Media Guide. Here's how: On March 17, Jerry was still ferreting out congratulatory stories on the Festivus (which by the way continues). Thinking he had found one in The Jewish Week, he linked to it and, lo and behold (but surely unknown to the five or six people at JFNA who cull world media to find articles) right there in the article was a link to the Blog. Heads will no doubt roll at 25 Broadway (Oh, wait, unrelated, heads are, unfortunately, already "rolling.") but I can't thank Jerry enough. ~ You may not remember the Conversion Crisis initiated by the so-called Rotem Legislation introduced in the Knesset last year as a bill favorable to recognizing, in the main, conversions of Russian Jews in Israel, then amended to reflect only the conversions conducted or approved by the rigid Orthodox Rabbinate. Jerry Silverman spun like a top while in Jerusalem and, eventually, left matters in the hands of Natan Sharansky who had been designated by the Prime Minister to negotiate an acceptable compromise. Then, two months ago, while in Jerusalem on other matters, Silverman and Manning decided they would confront the Interior Minister with no notice to Sharansky. The results -- no so good. JFNA has now once again stuck its collective head in the sand while the Chief Sephardi Rabbi has been advised by a committee of rabbis he appointed recommended termination of the JAFI-driven IDF partnership in Nativ -- a conversion course that has produced significant positive results. Why? Well Sephardi Chief Rabbi's rabbinic committee found that Reform and Conservative teachers serve on the staff of Nativ. 4500 conversions have taken place under Nativ auspices; their validity had been approved by the Sephardi Chief Rabbi as recently as January 2011. I guess JFNA's silence is fed by the reality that neither Silverman nor Manning happens to be in Israel on other business. ~ Irony. I read a News flash from JFNA that the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta retained "the Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence of the Jewish Federations of North America" to conduct its search for a new President/CEO. If I recall correctly, the DC Federation had engaged the self-same to search for its new CEO, tired of the futility, hired a headhunter who searched and, ta-da-da-da-duh-duh, found the Atlanta CEO for D.C. Maybe this is not ironic after all; something else ~ It was recently reported in YNet that every South Korean home has a Talmud, the Koreans believing that "...Jews are geniuses" and that if we are our genius comes from our sacred texts. WOW! Chag Pesach Sameach to you all. Rwexler

Saturday, April 16, 2011


I had lunch with a great professional when I visited Los Angeles a while back -- one with a great memory. He reminded me that back in 2001, in the first years of JFNA, the aggregate of federation annual campaigns was $826,000,000; and federation allocations to JAFI and JDC core activities were $272,000,000. Last year, the aggregate of annual campaigns totalled about $800,000,000 and those same allocations to our partners' core budgets had shrunk by more than $100,000,000.

This has been a horrifying outcome of a merger a core purpose of which was to increase the resources of our Israel and overseas partners. And, what's worse? JFNA has allowed itself to become the captive of those whose ignorance of the past is only exceeded by their disinterest in these failures. Both of these realities are compounded by the policies our leaders propound while the system collapses around them. They are distracted by the trivial -- by areas of "investment" that defy reason. Then you've got those who clearly support a "strong national system" in word but not in deed.

You want a "strong national system?" Really? Then, damn it, do something about the one we have. Yeah, that's hard work, the hardest, but if not now, when? After Humpty Dumpty falls, the pieces will be impossible to put back together...impossible. There is no one -- no one in the federation system and certainly no one at 25 Broadway or within the lay leadership of JFNA examining looking at the big picture, looking at how JFNA can be relevant to the federations. One of my friends, involved in federation and national Jewish life for quite a while, has characterized JFNA as fatally "self-absorbed." It has no purpose beyond itself. While self-absorption might be OK for an individual, it is a fatal flaw in a communal institution. Thus, JFNA leaders are quite comfortable in rejecting participation in any number of things by those they characterize as "not JFNA;" equally comfortable in their creating programs that waste piles of money that could be devoted to communal needs on programs and projects and parties that at most get JFNA's "brand" out there (as if that has some importance to the owners attached to it); and create "product" the sole discernible purpose of which is to arrogate unto themselves greater power; and, as is evident, these leaders lack any ability to articulate "purpose" aligned with the federations.

The system is in free fall.


Friday, April 15, 2011


~ In the category of unbelievable but true --At its Executive Committee meeting this week, JFNA "leaders" indicated that $30.3 million in Dues just ain't gonna be enough for 2011-2012, and as they anticipate some non-payment of Dues as well, they plan to engage in direct fund raising...get it, they think they will be able to reach out to donors directly (one might call that competitive FRD might one, with the very federations that provide the $30.3 million?). My suggestion, a federation-driven Owners Planning Table to control all funds and JFNA's FRD>

~ Some federations never cease to amaze. One of our largest has determined that it won't support an annual and historic grant to the community's Annual Israel Festival. That would have been $20,000. While the event has annually drawn about 10,000 people, the federation called it a "local event" in ending its annual support.Yet that same community can afford a $100,000 reward for the Next Great Big Jewish Idea. Priorities, values? As of right now, the Israel Festival has been canceled.

~ On April 11 I attended a beautiful Memorial Service in New York City honoring the life and works of Yitzchak Shavit, z'l. Each speaker's memory was beautifully done and fully evocative of Itzik's life of commitment and compassion. So many lay leaders were present to remember Itzik -- old friends and partners; even more so, hundreds of the professionals who worked side-by-side with that great and inspiring leader were there. It was so wonderful to see so many of them once again. So many wonderful memories for all of us. Too bad that JFNA's lay leaders couldn't find the time to be there.

~ At that epic JFNA Executive Committee meeting on April 13, where the federation owners stood up and asserted themselves, Michael Lebovitz, the Chattanooga leader who has quietly served as National Philanthropic Resources Chair these past couple of years, announced that TribeFest was such a success that TribeFest II is already being planned. Wow, with even more advance planning than the original, certainly JFNA can lose far more than $250,000 (before including staff overhead or travel) on an event that was at its essence but a further expensive example of JFNA's total self-absorption.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Several months ago, after listening carefully to the JFNA "leaders" answers to the federations' wholly appropriate questions during the January Board Retreat, I concluded, as I then wrote, that JFNA would use the so-called "Global Planning Table process" to ultimately destroy the collective system that the federations had constructed over the past 50 years. My fear was that I would be proved correct; my fears have been realized. As now contemplated, an organization -- JFNA -- so inept that its accomplishments over its 11 years of existence can be counted on the fingers of one hand while spending $600 million of our communal, our donors', dollars would be entrusted with determining how and for what purposes our dollars are spent in Israel, around the world and, now, as I understand it, nationally and continentally. It is evident that the leaders of JFNA, out of either ignorance or their apparent need to control all things, are willing to put the federation enterprise at risk to accomplish goals only they have set. Let me explain... The idea of a Global Planning Table was formulated in the fertile mind of the current Board Chair in consultation with her predecessor, pushed at a February 2009 Florida Board Retreat attended by less than 1/3 of the federation population at best and never voted upon there. From that false premise that there was some form of imaginary "consensus," the Board Chair, as is her style, determined that she had carte blanche to impose a JFNA-controlled allocations system on the federations, the JDC and JAFI. And, don't kid yourselves, it is this leadership's construct that JFNA (and only JFNA) is to control all overseas and national allocations to our once-cherished partners and national agencies. Ignore the reality that JFNA has no execute these responsibilities if JAFI, JDC and the national agencies acquiesce; this is all about is only about control without regard for the deconstruction of our communal fiber this power grab will wreak. Chevre, Our federation system is about trust -- trust of the donor in the federation, trust of the federations in our partners and our national organization, and the mutual trust of the system's historic partners -- JDC/JAFI -- in the federations/JFNA as the reverse. That trust of JAFI/Joint in the national organization has broken down almost completely -- and with reason. Today, JFNA's hand-picked consultant, Board Chair and CEO are making the argument that the GPT must be implemented as they dictate because federations will no longer make large unrestricted allocations to the JDC/JAFI. Yet, JFNA for the last 6 years engaged in not a bit of advocacy for the Partners' core allocations. The organization leadership's argument for the GPT is comparable on all fours with the tale of the child who kills his parents and then pleads for mercy because he is now an orphan. The current situation, if JFNA's premise is correct, is the direct result of JFNA's abandonment of its historic responsibility, mandated in the Merger Agreement which created it and embodied in the JFNA/JAFI/JDC Agreement reached less than 6 months ago, which JFNA is clearly willing to breach in exchange for the control it now demands. Yes, in November 2010, after lengthy negotiations between the Board Chair/JFNA, JAFI and JDC, in which Manning was the sole lay participant for JFNA, thanks to Cleveland's Steve Hoffman's "shuttle diplomacy," an agreement was reached premised on 4 co-equal legs: the GPT, JFNA's commitment to a Second JFNA Membership criterion based upon federations' allocations to JAFI/Joint core, the implementation of aJDC/JAFI/JFNA advocacy program, and a common commitment to FRD, branding and marketing. The good faith that characterized those negotiations and were embodied in the agreement was immediately breached by JFNA's unilateral (and obsessive) pursuit of the GPT to the exclusion of the other mandated areas of activity and the willful exclusion of JAFI and JDC through this date, and the pursuit of the GPT with a clear bent toward the deconstruction of the core allocations -- the absolute opposite of the promise and intent of the Agreement. (In fact, it has become clear that the application of such core allocations as may remain upon the GPT going operational will be determined by the GPT, not by UIA, JAFI or the Joint.) The pursuit of the GPC is such an obsession that the 2012 JFNA Budget to be approved in May 2011 will include an additional $1.2 million for the Global Planning Table to include another four professionals dedicated to the "process." That's $1,200,000 for a "plan" that has yet to be approved. (It can be argued that the diversion of $1.2 million contributed to the peremptory firing of eight JFNA employees -- to date.) That's your money, folks. But, to this JFNA leadership, never mind -- it's their money to spend as they may dictate -- that's life in the monarchy. The Budget and Finance Committee, a more than willing servant. But, what the GPT threatens and and promises has awakened federations and donors around the country to the potential for destruction of all that we have built. There is momentum today for change -- to examine how much we have collectively lost since the merger that created JFNA (for JAFI/JDC well over $100,000,0000 in core allocations) while at 25 Broadway thumbs twiddle and leaders make a mockery of agreements (including the Merger Agreement) and the concept of good faith, common commitment and partnership. As one federation leader observed at a GPT Regional self-styled "Feedback Meeting," none of our communal values are reflected in the GPT as presented -- when the question was raised, the answer was something like "...let me get back to you on that." Friends, a self-styled "Big Idea' Can also be a bad one. The JFNA of today, rather than inspiring us to the best that we can be, demands the least of us. That is both a tragedy and a too heavy price to pay for $30.3 million per year. If you believe that this is another "no big deal," think again. There are of course choices: you can sit in a darkened room and cover your eyes and ears like the hear-no-evil, see-no-evil monkeys. (JFNA calls this the preferred way and those that do so are called "they're JFNA.") Or burn a major amount of incense to mask the stench coming in the days ahead. Or you could speak up for our system's, your federation's, your own values and principles -- but, first and foremost, you'll have to explain them. Speak up. Rwexler

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I have recalled for you, chevre, that during my UJA Chairmanship I took to heart the criticism leveled at the United Jewish Appeal from the great CJF Planning Director, Norbert Fruehauf, that UJA had become nothing more than "excellent party planners." UJA's Development professionals took the criticism to heart as well. We looked critically at ourselves; we reentered the arena of federation FRD -- training, lay leader solicitations, reinvigorated constituencies, innovative programming, strategic planning -- and we tried to respond to the federations and UJA's lay leadership. We attempted to renew ourselves pre-merger. One of my close friends, a terrific federation pro who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent, related to me that one of the participants in TribeFest questioned "..when did we get into the party business?" Or words to that effect. In 2011. Well, we're in it and from the pat, pat, pat of backpats, we're proud to be in it. Here's my take. JFNA doesn't know what to do with itself. It budgets $30.3 million per year and collects a substantial part of its Dues. It must believe that its funds are fungible because though it recites 58 programs in its current Budget, funding actually goes where ever its leaders direct. (The Budget is apparently but a set of multiple "suggestions" of where your funds will be spent.) Financial Resource Development used to be, long in the past now, the major Budget block for JFNA; now it's merely a memory; assisting federations with FRD used to be a major function, now that is but a memory...Now, beyond the substance of JFNA-Israel, or disaster response what is there of real substance? And how does JFNA define its purpose? (For example, for TribeFest it's "social action and volunteerism" [luckily without citation]), for its Annual Reports something far different). But, as JFNA's leaders can't, how would you define what JFNA is -- not what it should (or could) be? To many of us, first, JFNA must be a serious organization confronting serious issues in a serious way. Second, its priorities must be those of the federations -- it's great (OK, maybe not great) that JFNA "partnered" with 40 organizations, many with a focus on Jewish young men and women, many not, to the end that TribeFest would attract 1,000 people or more, and to what end? A Global Planning Table is being constructed ostensibly to increase the resources of our true "partners" but to what real end as JFNA has demonstrated no commitment to increasing those resources or advocating for them -- so, to what end? And, so it goes, in every area but Washington, one can ask the same question: to what end? Where has the question been asked of the federations, what are your priorities for us? (A good question for Jerry to have asked on his 78 federation visits. Maybe he did. To what end?) Then JFNA must act on the answers it receives. Not on the answers it thinks it hears -- on the actual answers it receives. If it is capable of doing so. My fear is that this JFNA is in the party planning business -- and we aren't real sure they are even good at that, just defensive. Rwexler

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Based on a true story:

The wife: "Honey, would you roll over. I need some room."

The husband: "I'm not in bed; I'm in the bathroom, what are you talking about?"

The wife: "Then, who...? Oh my G-d!!! It's Jerry!!!"

Yes, it's the "Secret Silverman Sleepover Tour" -- Jerry's latest strategy to learn more and make new friends. Having visited 78 (+) federations since he became CEO and President, apparently Jerry is now into house calls. And not just any houses, mind you, only the nicest and, apparently, those in the nicest winter climes. No, he hasn't been to my house, but Bobbi and I want to use this Post to invite Jerry any time -- kosher home on top of it (although that appears not to be a criterion), nearby the Nasatir Residence, etc.

So far the "Tour" seems to be strategic -- Jerry has mainly visited the homes of those who can influence Dues decisions in their communities. But it would be unfair of me to suggest ulterior motives to a guy just looking for some quality conversation and...a good night's sleep. Newton's First Law of Physics clearly applies to Jerry -- "an object in motion tends to stay in motion." He takes copious notes (which I applaud) but does he have time to read them?

I won't be revealing whose homes Jerry has graced so far and I don't pretend to know his plans into the future but I don't expect that he will visiting your house or mine any time soon.


Monday, April 4, 2011


In a full page ad in The New York Times special Section on Fundraising, November 11,2010, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations" "Fund" placed a full page ad that promoted itself and sought contributions "[T]o help support our efforts and learn more about our programs..." sent readers to their fundraising website. Don't get me wrong, the Conference is our most critical Israel support and advocacy organization -- it is also a membership organization. Maybe the federations, which pay a steep membership cost to "belong" to the Conference, don't care that the Conference is now out there publicly and blindly fundraising, but maybe they should.

The ad itself could have been limited to the critical roles the Conference has been mandated to play. But, in the interests of donor solicitation, the Conference "Fund," in addition to properly claiming the mantle of enhancement of the US-Israel relationship and related matters, broadly claimed to be:
  • "Advancing freedom, justice and human rights at home and around the world...
  • Combating anti-Semitism and assisting endangered Jewish communities.."

All in pursuit of "UNITY. COMMITMENT. ACTION." Now, Alan Solow and Malcolm Hoenlein could convince me of almost anything but, given the real critical mandated focus of the Conference's work, why exaggerate?

I went to the Conference of Presidents website (linked in the ad) and not only found a better and more limited definition of the Conference's mandate but further exaggeration. I did not know, for example, that the Conference is engaged in "Rescuing Persecuted Jews." Maybe this hyperbole arises out of the Conference rental of office space from the Jewish Agency for Israel in New York. But...its own website describes the Conference well: "For over half a century, the Conference of Presidents has played a key role in American Jewish history. From mass public events to private diplomacy, the Conference has been at the forefront of mobilizing support for Israel and educating the public in times of conflict, and in the pursuit of peace." Dayeinu...or I guess not.

One can debate the propriety of a membership organization openly soliciting donations. One can recall how this activity might have been controlled had JFNA ever actively implemented the Guidelines its Board approved five years ago. One can certainly applaud the Conference's work on our behalf. But, one can also applaud truth in advertising.


Friday, April 1, 2011


First, I again want to apologize to all those at JFNA, those on the JFNA Board, at JAFI, at the Federations, who have been accused by JFNA's "leaders" of being the source(s) for this Blog. It is amusing, in a sad way, that so many (most of whom claim they "...never read the damn Blog") are so obsessed with discovering "...who told Wexler about that?" Best I can tell, anyone known or suspected of ever having had a single conversation with me is believed to be my source for something. It's this leadership's version of the Salem Witch Trials (and you all know how well that turned out). Remember, no one argues that what I have written isn't true; it's just that they...they...want nothing written about JFNA at all...nothing that they don't totally control. And, also, please remember that the same people engaged in the witch hunt never ever read the Blog. Never. Ever. Makes as much sense as anything else at JFNA.

I read with interest The Forward front page article (March 11, 2011) -- Did D.C. Editor Lose Her Job Because of Politics? The Washington Jewish Week was purchased seven months earlier by a group that included current, former and future D.C. Federation leaders. These new owners dismissed the long-time editor of the paper, apparently finding the paper insufficiently supportive of the federation. It goes without saying that with the exception of a few owners of newspapers, news content has been considered to be "sacred," safe from the interference of the publication's owners. Even the most strong-willed, as is Sam Zell, who took control of Chicago's Tribune, the LA Times, etc., a while back, have restrained themselves. But not these folks; they own it, they will deal with it as they wish.

Unfortunately, for some, they confuse their federation leadership roles with ownership of the enterprise. They have forgotten the public trust associated with their leadership roles -- that we, the donors and members, are the "owners," "they," our elected leaders, serve the institution and us; they don't own either. Out of this confusion arises so much of the hate and bile addressed to this Blog and this writer. They just don't like to be reminded of their fiduciary obligations.

As I have written before, no one who has been accused of being a source, is one. I have told the CEO time and again that any time that he, the Board Chair and/or Executive Chair want to discuss the Blog with me, all they need do is call me. Never happened, never will. Want the Blog to go away? You know what you have to to do.