The Merriam-Webster Dictionary -- "Potemkin Village: an impressive facade or show designed to hide an undesirable fact or condition."
Eureka!! I have discovered the reality of JFNA -- it is the Jewish organizational equivalent of the Russian Potemkin Village. Hiding behind the facade of JFNA Washington, some marketing materials and a group of young professionals who would like to be and have the capacity to contribute in a meaningful way to federation growth, one discovers...nothing at all.
What do I mean? Take a careful look at JFNA-Israel. What do you see? Look at the 2011-2012 Budget for "Global Operations" -- what's there other than the expenditure of millions of our dollars? Examine the Global Planning Table -- who are the professionals responsible for this mythic structure -- Jim Lodge departs the professional staff next month; hiring is planned. Add $1.2 million to the GPT Budget and what do you have? Nothing at all.
Then you have Philanthropic Resources f/k/a Development f/k/a Campaign. Millions budgeted. You have some Regional "Ignitions," Planned Giving and Endowments, the constituencies and...nothing at all. Oh, of course, there are references to national and VIP Missions -- and that's exactly what they are...references.
Then, the new "core program," the Second Annual TribeFest. The first was such a "success" that it attracted about 1,000 young men and women not already involved in federation life to Las Vegas for what was advertised as a weekend of fun. Lost over $350,000 (when one includes staff overhead and travel; $253,000 without those). Let's build on that "success," sure.
Even programs with real promise appear to offer only a glimpse behind the Potemkin facade-- take the JFNA Professional Women's Leadership Conference -- strangely restricted to "...professional woman leader(s) in your federation (who) have worked in a Federation, non-profit organization or corporation for at least 10 years..." Jerry offered "Thoughts on Effective Leadership." Would love to have heard that one. Kathy spoke on something called "What, I Can Be a Mentor?" Huh? One, and only one, woman federation CEO or COO, Chief of Staff, Campaign or Endowment Director or EVP was a featured speaker at this Conference -- not the woman professional leaders from the LA Valley Alliance, New York UJA, Chicago, Hartford, Columbus, San Francisco, etc., etc., etc. Maybe the organizers didn't know they exist. The Conference was held in Chicago May 17-19; perhaps the group would have been best served by attending the Chicago JUF Women's Division Spring Event on May 18 -- and seen how over 1,000 women leaders, lay and professional, gather to express their commitment to community and People. But, no.
And, yet, this group that seems to have the reverse Midas touch, not content to revisit the continuous screw-up of JFNA itself, has convinced itself that it can control the overseas allocations process without screwing that up. It's "mirror, mirror on the wall" Fantasy-land. They look at the Potemkin Village they have created and all they see is a Shining City on the Hill, bright, reflecting their greatness.
I guess that gets them through the day.