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.


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