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


Anonymous said...

A wise federation pro once taught me that in times of declining dollars all allocations models fall short but in times of increased dollars some approaches are better than others. Advocacy and increasing the pie are therefore critical. What's needed is a solid well crafted case statement developed outside of a marketing bubble with both honest passion and real substance; a scripted road show that speaks the language of federations and is respectfully presented by both lay people and pros. It would not hurt if the travellers did some individual solicitations during their visits to both provide added value and learn from donor feedback. Lead with that and a cooperative allocations/planning model will have credibility and what to allocate. And it ain't over till the smart and caring people sing!

Anonymous said...

Discussing the Global Planning Table at the the JFNA Executive as the "central decison making body for all alloocations" to "beneficiaries". Is like discussing the ideal knot for the hangman's noose at your own gallows party.

It reminds me of the MASH song:

"Through early morning fog i see visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me i realize and i can see . . .
That suicide is painless it brings on many changes
And i can take or leave it if i please."

"That suicide is painless it brings on many changes. . . "

As JFNA seeks outside funding due to the reluctance of Federations to pay their dues, so to will my Federation need to go a hunting to replace my annual committment.
Without PARTNERS JDC and JAFI at the head of the table. I have no need for a multi million dollar "Global Suicide Planning Table"

Anonymous said...

Um, Mr. Wexler, what's the point of blogging about this when your main audience are the people you're criticizing?

If this is as important as you say, then why don't you and your well-known and influential friends get together and do a little "super-sunday" telethon where you call the key donors around the country and have them call their friends who are key donors and make sure that the threat of stopped contributions hangs over this JFNA move.

Isn't this that important?

RWEX said...

So, first two insightful Comments and then one that appears to have been sent by one "disappointed" that her/his prescription for the system's collapse may not be filled by the federations.

joebrown42 said...

Lay leaders, lay leaders, lay leaders.
I wonder how many federation heads - small, medium, large, actually talk to each other.
Because if JFNA is the accumulation of the federations, where are its heads?
Why are they not talking to one another?
Why are they not saying "hey, we set the priorities - not the chair, not the staff. this is ours."?

And on another note, JAFI - led by Sharansky and his good friend Galperin - have decided to direct JAFI (surprise surprise) towards supporting Russian Jewry. This is what they have done in every position they have held, and every time they have worked together. To date it has failed - how can JFNA see that as a "partner institution" when it does not fit the document that was settled upon earlier, either?

Anonymous said...

As this morning's exchanges of attacks and counter attacks on illustrate, internal politics and claims of victimization is alive and thriving among the Russian speaking elite. G-d help us if Lieberman and his party set their sights on JAFI. Grown-ups take note.

Anonymous said...

Dear Michael, I mean JoeBrown42

Back in Annapolis Senior High, I thought you were pretty smart, but. . .

JAFI has failed with Soviet Jews?? What world do you live in?
A million to Israel - literraly making Israel viable economicaly, hundreds of thousands to the US.

And, now try measuring our successs by the fact that a Russian speaking Jew rose to be the Executive of your Federation dnd now the chairman of JAFI.

I see that as reason for celebration! And yes there are still huindreds of thousands of Soviet Jews that we risk losing if they do not make Aliyah or get just the spark of a brief Jewish Education.

A Russian speaking Jew getting off the airplane in Israel after studying Hebrew in the FSU is nothing short of a Jewish Miracle that we are privildged to be able to support.

Get behind creating Jewish Miracles or you will have the legacy of celebrating Son of Tribe Orgy in Las Vegas next year.

JAFI and JDC are violating what agreement? The agreement of the merger that promised more core finds for both while JFNA spends millions to find the way to justify reducing support to Core of JDC and JAFI.

My dream is for the largest 40 Federations to have a JFNA planning Table and talk about how they will use THEIR money at JFNA. A FEDERATION WILL TELL JFNA WHAT TO DO WITHOUT PAYING DUES.

And just think how creative we can get when the JFNA Planning Table decides what JFNA will do. We will have meetings to discuss your keeping agreements.

We will have a grand old time. We will learn form New York and put out adds soliciting bids and then we will argue if JFNA will be a preferred vendor or not. Maybe just maybe we will let JFNA sit at the Planning Table. But for sure only if Wexler is not there.

Because Wexler might just point out that your tuches is showing and your JFNA are around your ankels

Anonymous said...

sounds like we can all use a couple of four cups of wine.

Anonymous said...

Richard, I don't understand your swipe at the third comment. Seems to me that he's right. You're a leader. So if you want to make a change in the world, lead. Call key allies in key cities and create an advocacy group.

Whether they're in formal leadership positions in their communities or not, your friends are the ones with the gold and their voices will be heard. If you choose, you might actually make a difference.

Unless it feels better to sit alone in your office and carp.

RWEX said...

Dear Anon,

Had I the power you suggest, things would be very different. As to the GPT, it didn't take me to rouse those who care about collective action and systemic values to direct intervention -- many saw it for themselves and expressed their shock and reasoned opposition.

JFNA's leaders knowing not how to respond respectfully to criticism tend to always ignore it -- in this instance, at the JFNA Executive last Monday, the Board Chair, rather than internalizing the respectful criticism she received from one of JFNA's most significant professional leaders, instead lashed out -- "...isn't the GPT exactly what you do in New York?" Not satisfied with the answer, she went further citing an NY Program she felt was exemplary. And, not satisfied with that answer, went back to he note scrawling. At no time was there any indication that she or any JFNA leader was listening to any criticism.

Par for the course. But JFNA moves the GPT forward -- in Dallas last Thursday -- desperately seeking support.

Friend, major donors and leaders are letting their voices be heard. If only someone were listening. Not liking what they are hearing, JFNA's so-called "leaders" just ignore --their hands are over their ears as they continue to shoot for a May vote on a G-d-awful "plan.

joebrown42 said...

a small apology -
I did not mean that all efforts have been useless re Soviet Jewry.
I also did not mean that JAFI's efforts have been useless.
I just meant that these specific 2 individuals have not always been as successful as one could have expected.
I apologize about not making myself as clear on that.
Oh, and my name is Joe, not Michael.
google me - you'll find that most joebrown42's lead to the same guy.

RWEX said...

Dear "THIRD Anonymous," I have your most recent Comment -- one which you directed me not to publish. If you wish a private response, e-mail me at