Thursday, June 30, 2011


One of my great friends, a professional leader in so many areas of Jewish communal life offered me consolation with the following memory. One of his favorite Broadway musicals was 1776. In that smash hit, John Adams sings a melancholy ballad that concludes: Is anyone there? Does anyone care? Great, great questions.

Today, with this final Post, I place UJThee and me... on hiatus. Hopefully, forever. Those in our system who have been my mentors and partners have convinced me that which I should have realized long ago -- they can effect change but I can't; this Blog can shine a light on the need for change but can't cause change to occur. I am clearly a slow learner.

When I was so privileged to receive the JDC Ma'Asim Tovim Award in December 1998, the base of the beautiful Shofar bore this message: For Leading Our National System Into a New Era. This Blog has been a personal expression of pain as to where the "new era" we had dreamed of and worked so hard to create and implement has taken us.... literally nowhere. This Post places this Blog on hiatus with the hope that federation leaders, JFNA's owners, will begin to take their responsibilities of ownership seriously. And if the past is prologue as it always has been, as any reader of this Blog knows, this leadership will face which path to choose and will once again choose the wrong one.

On two previous occasions -- in February 2008 and in September 2010 -- I placed the Blog on hiatus; in 2008 in response to an initiative from leaders of my federation which would have put a stop to both the Blog and to the personal fatwa the JFNA leaders had declared on me based upon their own constant misrepresentations of fact (the fatwa continues -- see below); and last year in the hopes that a new lay and professional leadership team at JFNA would bring a new focus on matters relevant to the federation agenda, rather than on the personal agendas of leadership.

Sadly, in 2008 JFNA's leaders could not restrain themselves, they continued in personal, petty attacks in darkened hallways and e-mails; they even threatened the very existence of organizations I had led. And, throughout, they pursued their personal agendas as if they were the organizations, and in fact, with federations' abject silence, they became convinced that they were right -- after all, to use their phrase: "We are JFNA."

Then, while claiming that they never read the Blog, the vendettas and vitriolic attacks continued since 2010 and the "new" leadership could not find its still cannot and, apparently, won't. The allegations by the Board Chair that this writer has "no integrity" and is "a liar," lacking any basis in fact are even more scurrilous given that Manning knows there is no basis in fact -- to acknowledge even the possibilty that may be wrong would destroy their narrative. Each allegation has been directly rebutted without response from JFNA's leaders. The suggestion that one who has chaired his federation, our CRC, the NCSJ, Operation Exodus, served as UJA National Campaign Chair in the days of a national campaign, led our system into the merger that created JFNA, and chaired UIA has "no integrity" evidences the lengths this leadership goes, unfettered in its attempts to discredit. They have sent a clear message: "Don't ever criticize us or this will happen to you." One can only be saddened for them.

The pettiness, vendettas and JFNA's slanders aside, from the beginning this Blog, at its heart, has been about integrity, truth-telling and transparency. It has also been about the failure of JFNA leaders to demonstrate any real commitments to true transparency (characterized time and again, by Minutes of meetings bearing no relationship to what actually took place), to the federations' core values and timeless principles or to the necessity of engagement through real and meaningful process, and it has been about trust. (For an incisive examination of our institutions' need to develop and build trust, see Dan Brown's Times Have Changed; the Value of Trust in ejewish philanthropy, June 16, 2011.)

As well, mine has been a very personal attempt to urge the federations and you, their leaders, to assert, to demand, as the owners of JFNA, just such commitments. There has been almost unanimity among the federation leaders with whom I have met or from whom I have heard, whether they supported this Blog or hated it, directly and unequivocally that JFNA is in disarray and out of touch in meaningful ways. And, yet, JFNA's leaders apparently hear only that all is well.

It has saddened me that, for years before this Blog, my private correspondence to JFNA's leaders were either ignored or treated as "destructive criticism" or, perhaps, "lies." And while, in meetings and phone calls, Jerry Silverman has encouraged me to offer, privately, what he termed "constructive criticism," I quickly learned (as I probably already knew) that "constructive criticism" was such a subjective term that any suggestions I made were viewed with a jaundiced eye as "not constructive." When I would end a letter by stating "[L]et me know how I may help," I was accused of disingenuity. (I already knew that these "leaders" had determined that I was "not JFNA" even if everyone who knows me well, knows full well that "I am very JFNA.") To the Board Chair, there could be no criticism at all that would ever be considered "constructive." And, so, the Blog continued.

To some, the 660 Posts I have written have been but examples of witless bloviation, a three times per week exercise in narcissism and la-shon ha'ra. Certainly there is some substance to those opinions, even though of 660 Posts, the veracity of only one has ever been questioned -- and then the question was raised by one who "...never ever reads the thing."

Many have argued, not with the substance of this Blog but, instead, with the fact that the Blog exists at all -- hanging our system's dirty laundry outside where everyone can see it and offering to pull back the ever-closed curtain are considered by some an act of betrayal of the system that they know that I love. And there are those, as well, who believe that our when our system elects leaders, their every action by that very election becomes cloaked in an absolute immunity to criticism -- public or private. (Something that certainly these JFNA leaders believe absolutely.) Yet, over my history of communal involvement I know of no leader other than these who has not heard criticism, absorbed it and learned from it.

But the real focus and frustration of the Blog has been with those in Federation leadership who have allowed JFNA to wander aimlessly while wasting so much of the $600,000,000 (+/-) in Dues paid. For the lay and professional leaders of JFNA didn't create this environment of federation passivity, they have merely exploited it. That has to stop!!

And,as but one example of so many, can anyone explain this? After a $185,000,000 reduction in core allocations to the Jewish Agency and the Joint -- while JFNA leaders watched it happen in almost total silence -- how can this group of "leaders" possibly believe that they (and this is about them) should control the application of our federations' and donors' core allocations? When they learned that the Agency and Joint have had to reduce their allocations to a favored program (solely because of these core allocation reductions), how can they rationally suggest that "...this will stop when we control the Global Planning Table?" But, this is exactly how they think, how they behave and what they say. They engage in denial that they have any responsibility whatsoever for the outcomes forced upon JDC and the Jewish Agency.

Now, not for the first time but hopefully the last, I place the responsibility for assuring that JFNA becomes the leader of our national system for the federations and not for itself in your hands, in the hands of you, the leaders, lay and professional, of the federations. It is no longer enough to tell me in private meetings (where I have listened to you in confidence) how terribly dysfunctional our national system is, decrying the waste and disarray that are on-going but doing nothing about it. Chevre, it's time for you to grab the wheel and turn this ship around.

We will see how it goes. My hope and expectation are that this space will be devoted in the months ahead to other matters of concern to all of us in Jewish life rather than JFNA. But if the leaders of JFNA continue to pursue the irrelevant and insubstantial and pursue their personal vendettas without any evident understanding of the core values and timeless principles that were and are at the heart of our communal hopes and dreams, then...!!?? Let's together aspire to the most that we can be; we have seen the waste of aspiring to the least.

To the 800 and more of you who have read these Posts three times a week for three and one-half years and who have understood my motivation and my inspiration, in the words of one of my favorite films: "I love you guys!!" Let's close this chapter with those words of inspiration: Eem ain ani li, mi li? V'im lo achshav aymotei?



Monday, June 27, 2011


JFNA has many wonderful professionals on its staff. I know that were they allowed to focus on new and big ideas, JFNA would not be where it is today. But, here is what they have been ordered to do over the past months:

~ Beg federation staffers to provide subsidies to and recruit for TribeFest;

~ Plead with federation Endowment pros to attend the "second North American Jewish Legacy Forum" in Kansas City -- thirty-three communities did so. The agenda included "...future events and communications around 'Create A Jewish Legacy,' such as a third Legacy Forum...";

~ Call federation leaders in communities with Dues issues to: (1) excoriate them; (2) plead for full payment; or (3) deny that the federations have "hardships;"

~ Call CEOs to demand that they call a mega-donor in their community to get them to attend the first meeting of the new albeit the same Mega-Donor Group;

~ Call whoever they know in federations to plead that the federation participate in the ill-conceived "Select Core Priorities" program -- calls generally falling on the deafest of ears. No reference in those calls to holding the core allocation to the Jewish Agency and Joint -- just forgot, I guess.

This is but a partial list, of course. Soon, very soon, our federation pros and lay people will be getting urgent JFNA calls to, among other things: (1) support the Global Planning Table...please; (2) get people to attend (and provide even greater subsides) Festivus II; (3) attend the Denver GA; and (4) and always, pay your Dues.

These are JFNA professionals with the potential to do great things, doing as they are directed. If there is a professional malaise at 25 Broadway, guess why.


Sunday, June 26, 2011


Dan Brown, the founder and editor of ejewishphilanthropy, never ceases to amaze me with his insights into our system. On the eve of the Jewish Agency meetings, Dan published several observations, one of which dealt with the sense from 7,000 miles away from my home, the disaster that JFNA's leaders seek to impose on our system, locally, nationally and globally through the Global Planning Table. Here is what Dan wrote last Friday:

"Indirectly related to the tensions surrounding the (Jewish Agency) board meeting, in the Jewish Federations "handling" of their desired Global Planning Table (GPT) and how money is allocated for overseas needs. This is another place where it is difficult to tell where it will eventually play out, but despite being in self-denial, JFNA's lay and professional leadership needs to not only understand but accept, that this continuing fiasco has caused them significant damage across not only the federation system but across all meaningful global giving discussions." (emphasis added)

But, at 25 Broadway and Greensboro, N.C., they push forward without regard to the consequences. More's the pity.


Friday, June 24, 2011


As an outgrowth of a JFNA (f/k/a UJC) FRD Study, among the Co-Chairs of which was Michael Lebovitz, the immediate past Philanthropic Resources Chair, JFNA engaged in a partnership with two "emerging communities" -- Las Vegas and Phoenix -- communities of high potential as yet unrealized. The abandonment of these partnerships dictated unilaterally by JFNA leadership while they pursued their own agendas is but one example of an organization gone wrong.

Las Vegas. At the onset of the JFNA-Las Vegas partnership, Las Vegas was the fastest growing Jewish community in the United States. Over the few years of the partnership, thanks to great local lay and professional leadership, the community campaign, if I recall correctly, jumped/sky-rocketed from under $1 million to over $4 million. JFNA's role in this partnership was supportive and as a national "cheerleader," called upon, among other things, to assist the community in its direction and in the creation of both a new culture and in alternative means of developing critically needed infrastructure.

The national/local partnership was unilaterally terminated by JFNA at the most critical of moments: the recession hit Las Vegas especially hard (and continues to); and an entire new group of professional leaders were coming aboard. JFNA didn't merely terminate the partnership, it abandoned Las Vegas at its moment of greatest needs. The annual campaign has dropped to a little over $1 million. Most of its largest contributors no longer are. And where is JFNA at this moment? It drops in for "events" like TribeFest and TribeFest II and then disappears until the next event.

Phoenix. An equally sad story. The Phoenix Jewish community was growing by leaps and bounds. Geographically spread out with very low affiliation rates, with an annual campaign in stasis and a separately incorporated Foundation seemingly competing with Federation, the Phoenix community was a perfect paradigm for the "emerging community." JFNA's leaders determined that it was necessary to have a written "contract" with Phoenix "spelling out" the responsibilities of the "partners" and, seemingly no sooner than the ink was dry, without notice or discussion, JFNA walked away.

And, since, the Federation has literally collapsed. Its CEO has left, its lay leadership has stepped in...and last month that leadership voted to put an end to the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix with the formation of something called the Jewish Community Association of Greater Phoenix -- a "federation" no longer. It appears that the main focus of the new Association is to operate and manage the beautiful Campus of the Valley of the Sun JCC...and, then,"we'll see."


Could a JFNA that understood that among its critical purposes is assisting the Las Vegases and Phoenixes of the federation world have made a difference in either instance? While we will never know, it is clear that JFNA's "walk away" at critical moments didn't help, that's for certain. What is also clear is that these partnerships were hard work...and holy work...and for those of us involved, the reward of working with federation lay and professional leaders who cared so much. But, this JFNA, our JFNA had more important things on its plate -- based on history, I just can't for the life of me figure out what.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011


As we wind the Blog down toward June 30, it's hard to avoid some of the "stuff' that JFNA provides on a more or less daily basis. Some of it good, some of it bad and some of it...strange. For example:

~ The strange. On June 20 the JFNA Briefing: JFNA Participates In Israeli Emergency Simulation Drill. I think the purpose was to tell us how important JFNA-Israel is but to me it just suggested the following:


JFNA staff participated today in a fire drill exercise at its New York Headquarters. Alerted by the New York City Fire Department that the drill would take place today, JFNA mobilized its floor captains and hall monitors to assure that....

Worthy of a Briefing? Only at JFNA...

~ The good. After fifteen years the Jewish Leadership Forum will convene with minimum gift requirement from the high potential leaders who will attend. That's great and a major step forward, coupled with the progress made in last year's event, toward making the JLF federation-centric. Congratulations to the JLF lay and professional leadership.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011



I received an e-mail from Dr. Conrad Giles and Rabbi Steve Gutow; you probably received the same one. It was a mass mailed solicitation letter on JCPA's behalf following up on one sent pre-Pesach -- "last chance" to contribute $250 or more to JCPA (and ridiculous out of the Holiday context). It was serendipitous that it arrived shortly after I learned that the notorious JFNA Alliance had determined that to maintain the allocation to JTA at its current funding level, it would reduce funding to...the Foundation for Jewish Culture and the NCSJ rather than spreading that reduction equally among all of the funded national agencies.

Thus, in addition to JTA being supported at its current levels, so were the other largest funded national agencies -- the JCCA, Hillel, JESNA, the AFJCA and...JCPA. Many, if not all, of the national agencies which suffered no reduction in allocation through the Alliance's secret "process" have development staffs or consultants; hence the JCPA mail solicitation.

Does JFNA concern itself with this rogue fund raising by organizations that are the beneficiaries of our federation campaigns through the Alliance? Does it even know it's going on? (I do recall that about three years ago after one of CEO Rieger's failed fund raising attempts -- this one for the JFNA/JCPA partnership in the IAI -- he merely told JCPA to go out and raise the money itself.) Does it even care that (1) this is taking place and (2) if it knew or didn't, should JFNA's "leaders" not be concerned that JCPA is raising money during the critical time in almost all federation annual campaigns?

The Fact is "guess not."

On another note the JFNA Daily Media Guide now links to articles about George Soros!! WHY would that be? And does this Daily exercise really provide value?


Saturday, June 18, 2011


At calendar year-end, I retired from the practice of law after 45 years. This is something I had planned for the last two years and I and my Firm worked out a transition over the past years. Over the last six months, I have received many messages and questions (as has my wife) from friends and family -- here are a few with some answers:

~ "Is everything OK?" -- from those who fear that I was pushed into retirement for spending too much time blogging. So far, so great.

~ "You're too young" -- from my grandchildren -- G-d bless 'em -- and a few others (some of whom fear that if I am home I will drive my wife nuts). I wish it were true.

~ "What are you going to do with your time? I am almost afraid to ask" -- from a wonderful professional partner who has admonished me from the beginning about this Blog. See below.

~ "You might want to take up wood-turning" -- from a long-time professional partner at JFNA (who I suggested might have wanted me to chop off both my hands in the process). No, I do not know what "wood-turning" is except that it involves, inter alia, lathes, scrapers and "chucks."

So, here are some of my plans: I am officing 5 minutes from my home, with my uncle and cousin. I have a chance to breakfast and lunch with many friends in the 'burbs similarly situated where we engage in, as Woody Allen described it so perfectly, "...the customary exchange of insincere remarks about how neither of us had aged." I am working with an editor on a book that I hope to get published that consists of anecdotes and stories and is tentatively titled: "Dumb Jews...and Other Stories" or "'Who Told You About That...and other Questions." More likely -- Judgment Fled...The Musings of a Wandering Jew.(Or I may convert the Blog to book form.) We are going to visit our children and grandchildren far more often. And I have a few plans for Jewish service. In addition, I have been very gratified by the outreach from two national publications which have inquired over the past two months in whether I would bring the Blog to their publications.

And, the Blog. It's time (or long past time in the opinion of many) to put a -30- to this saga. While I despair that JFNA is unable, actually refuses, to effect changes to reflect the goals that all of us had and have for it, on June 30, after over 650 Posts, I will place the Blog on the shelf and observe whether the federation owners -- that's you -- will take responsibility for the Dues we pay. Clearly the very idea of this Blog, let alone its execution, has been accompanied by charges that I am guilty of nothing less than heresy. The so-called "leaders" of JFNA continue to attack me -- always, of course, in the shadows. Now, they can, if they are able, focus on more critical things. And, if they don't, if they can't, and if you, the owners don't stand up, this Blog will return.

To those of you who have asked "how are you doing?" Just fine, thanks. (Ask me again in 6 months. Or ask Roberta for the honest answer.) As James Taylor wrote: "the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time."

And to those who may choose to continue to attack me: Enjoy. But remember Life isn't about how you survive the storm, but how you dance in the rain.

Tomorrow is my 70th Birthday. Can't wait. See ya'.


Friday, June 17, 2011


~ It's nice and appropriate that JFNA remembers those great philanthropists and communal leaders upon their deaths. But, how does one explain the eulogy appearing on June 13 for one of our People's best ever, one who died on April 2? Did they forget? Were they asleep at the switch? Whatever? All of the above?

~ Whenever I am at breakfast reading the International Herald Tribune, I know that I am in a place I love and/or with people I love and admire. The latter us certainly true as I write this from Moscow. In today's Trib appeared three headlines that caused me to ponder: (1) "Walesa is ill with pneumonia, but his health is called good;" and (2) "Blogger known as 'Gay Girl' is American man;" and, to make Mel Brooks proud, (3) "A 21-volume dictionary for a language not spoken for 2,000 years." Then, I went back to my breakfast.

~ A brilliant Comment to my Post on "Arrogance Unbound" questioned why any federation or donor would "trust" JFNA to substitute its determination of the application of overseas allocations. "JFNA is a mess" the Comment went on. That is, of course, a seminal question. JFNA has been charged with certain basic responsibilities, none of which...that's "none" as in zero...other than JFNA-Washington and disaster relief are being performed adequately if at all...yet, it believes its judgment is better than that of the federations themselves, our donors and JDC and the Jewish Agency. Why? Just because "we are JFNA" apparently.

~ Rebranding, again? One of the FOB caught this one: on June 16, we received the JDNA Daily Media Guide -- that's right, "JDNA." The reader asked: "huh?" So, I Googled "JDNA." Here's the answer: "JDNA is ... currently the sole distributor for Gogo's Crazy Bones in Noth America." Sounds about right to me.




JFNA reported last Thursday on a real success. I had expressed my cynicism as to JFNA's ability to bring together mega-donors as a group. After four years of talk, they did it and in a Leadership Briefing announced Leadership Roundtable Convenes Major Donors. Setting aside JFNA's obsession with "tables" -- round, global, etc. -- there were 25 mega-donors present for this first meeting, a feat in itself.

Presentations by Steve Nasatir and John Ruskay key-noted the meeting.

Truly a success.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011


While the Jewish Agency for Israel and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee pleaded with JFNA to advocate for their collective funding needs over the past six years, JFNA leaders looked at them as if they were crazy. While allocations to JAFI and JDC core allocations dropped by over $100 million over the same timeframe, JFNA leaders shrugged their shoulders -- "not out problem." But now, with JAFI, the Joint and even ORT actively engaged in financial resource development activities -- much like Birthright Israel -- and gearing up for more, JFNA in the guise of the federations' national organization is threatening the partners with so-called draconian "Guidelines" that JFNA wants to impose -- er, make that "discuss" with JAFI and JDC -- and, let's be clear, only with JDC and JAFI -- not with ORT, not with Birthright, not even with itself (for, you will recall, JFNA proposes to fund raise to supplement its own budget).

Arrogance? How's this....The IEF, the Israel Education Fund, was the tri-party creation of the Jewish Agency, the Government of Israel and the United Jewish Appeal. It served those interests by attracting donors to projects in Israel -- it was professionally led for the last two decades-plus by Yitzchak Shavit, z"l. Shavit ran the IEF as a one-person shop, more or less, from within JFNA post-merger, while he also professionally directed the UIA and, at the end, the Network. It has taken JFNA, with no serve the interests of donors or JAFI, less than two months since Itzik's death, to begin to push the IEF into a new direction -- toward the non-existent Global Planning Table -- vu den? Those who would control all things couldn't pass up this chance could they? My suggestion, the Agency, having no interest in maintaining the IEF within JFNA, should pull it out, staff it and expand it under JAID.

Then, this Keystone Kops operation that is our national organization has promulgated a Position Paper -- JFNA Relationship with JAFI and JDC: Fundraising and Co-Branding. If it weren't for the chutzpah, it would be laughable...actually it is laughable anyway. In a White Paper emanating from 25 Broadway, never discussed with the Agency or Joint, JFNA demands adherence to a set of JFNA-dictated yet undefined "guidelines," the violation of which will result in sanctions upon the partner found to be in violation. (Oh, there may also be sanctions imposed on federations which fail to meet an undefined minimum unrestricted core allocation [with all kinds of "prior conditions" and reasoning together]. Not surprising, but this has never been discussed with the federations -- at least we have consistency to go with the arrogance.)

It's impossible for the Keysone Kops to remember that but five years ago Itzik and I, working with Michelle Tycher Stein, and Barbara Promislow and Dvora Blum in Israel, developed fund raising Guidelines which were accepted by the Agency and Joint. Never implemented by JFNA, that was before JFNA's leaders stood on the sidelines for the past six years with a "tsk tsk" and watched the core allocations to the partners drop by over $100,000,000. And, same leaders want to control all. One can only express awe at their unbridled chutzpah.

One can only speculate as to what could possibly be JFNA leaders' intent in promulgating a White Paper that could not possibly be accepted by those for whom it is intended. My conclusion: JFNA wants to blame the Jewish Agency and Joint for the entire JFNA/Jewish Agency/Joint contract falling apart. What better way, in the minds of the Keystone Kops, then to publish a Paper the terms of which had to be known to them to be totally beyond the pale. But, these Klever Keystone Kops should know better -- JFNA bears all of the blame here. Their "straw man," their "White Paper," fails the good faith smell test in every way.

As always.


Monday, June 13, 2011


Last week was quite something at 25 Broadway, let's take a peek:

~ Silverman announced that new hire Joanne Moore would not only "direct" something called the Global Planning Department (heretofore non-existent) but would also "plan" the GA and direct JFNA's non-existent planning and research effort while "managing" the non-existent GPT. And she would do all of this from D.C. while reporting directly to Jerry. Open questions: (1) what does this appointment mean to JFNA Global Operations: Israel and Overseas; (2) how will Global Planning integrate with Global Operations (by the way, one doesn't exist, the other appears not to) if at all; and (3) what are the organizational implications for Rebecca Caspi and that huge expense in Israel; and (4) can one person actually do all of these things? Was any of this thought through? Does anyone remember that the JFNA Executive Committee was created as an "operational Executive" for just this purpose -- to reason through just this kind of operational change.

~ From time-to-time I go to the Jewish Federations of North America website -- just to read what new mischief is going on. I did so last week and right there, on the Home page was a link to something called The Israel Solidarity Drive -- something to which you can "DONATE NOW." Gosh, you go the link and learn that The Israel Solidarity Drive and learn that the Drive has already raised $9 million...that's $9,000,000...which has largely gone to help Southern Israel recover from attacks and invest in disaster preparedness. Then you see links to atrocities dating back to March.

But, then, reading on, the Drive really isn't one...might have been one once but not now. Upon inquiry I learned from one who knows better than I -- "It's probably been sitting on a shelf since (Operation) Cast Lead. Someone must have knocked it (to the floor) when they cleaned out their office after being right-sized and it rolled into Jerry's office." So, there you are -- right there on the JFNA Home Page -- a "campaign" that isn't and almost never was. Maybe Jerry should put Joanne in charge of this as well?

Next to dysfunctional organization in the dictionary is JFNA's logo.


Saturday, June 11, 2011


So, over the past few years, rather then reform its governance and those who govern us, JFNA has been permitted by us to distract us with a bunch of shiny objects -- Heroes, #ish, rebranding, TribeFest, GPT. But, on closer examination, these shiny objects aren't silver...just dross....just waste material to distract us. Week after week, day following day, we follow the shiny objects, often-times applauding them as any claque would do.

For some who have watched, as one involved friend observed, JFNA has been engaged in "raccoon management" -- chasing shiny objects. It's been much worse than that, confusing the shiny objects for goals and results. For example, TribeFest "attracted" a purported 1300 participants; lost $253,000. If you accept JFNA's numbers -- notoriously overstated -- the organization lost $200/participant (before accounting for the additional costs of staff overhead and travel). So, what does JFNA do -- it declares and declares and congratulates itself on a great victory and plans for another TribeFest. No thought is given to just supporting another organization with a proven track record with this generation -- like jewlicious or Moishe House -- instead we have a crazy, wasteful and frivolous effort now to be repeated. Shiny objects...

The Young Leadership Cabinets, once the pride of our system, the place where so many of the men and women who lead federations and federation campaigns today, learned and committed so much, are but shadows of what they once were. They raise less today than at any point in the history of the United Jewish Appeal. Rather than Washington and Tel Aviv Conferences, they read the scripts for TribeFest. And we see JFNA chase shiny objects instead. And the federation leaders sit on their hands, eyes and mouths closed. Shameful...

$2,000,000 of our donors' dollars "invested" in "rebranding" to JFNA and how much more "invested" in "spreading the brand? And, to what end? UJA is still the "brand of record." Cost to the system for "UJA the brand"...none. Examine the 2012 Budget and see if you can determine how much will now be invested in "JFNA the brand?" Shiny objects...

And now JFNA's "leaders" chase the Holy Grail of the GPT as if it were a panacea. But, trust me, your objections, your constructive criticism of the GPT are being totally ignored. More millions will be wasted on a product that few want and, to the best of my knowledge, for those who have examined the GPT "model" carefully, no one supports. Shiny objects...

A perceptive observer once said that "chasing shiny objects can lead an organization...into failure." Federation leaders, take your hands away from your eyes and look what we have permitted to happen by our silence, with our acquiescence and, too often, by our silence, with our encouragement.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Let's say that in your business life you are a lawyer. You attend a negotiation with the other parties to a transaction; the negotiation is in good faith, all of the parties are acting in good will. The parties plan another meeting to iron out many details and open issues. You decide unilaterally to draft a contract which you then characterize as incorporating "all of the understandings of the parties" even though the document contains only your version of the facts and your determination of the agreements reached. You send the document out and demand that it be signed as is. What would happen in the real world? You would be laughed at, your work product scorned, negotiations would be over.

And, such is life at JFNA. JAFI and JDC entered into an agreement that modified the split between them; it failed when JFNA (guess who) unilaterally redrafted it...not once, but twice. Then last fall, JFNA, JAFI and JDC leaders met. While preparing for a follow-up meeting , the JAFI and Joint leaders received (unannounced) a document drafted by JFNA (guess who) purporting to represent their agreement but so far beyond the discussions that JAFI and JDC were forced to substantially revise it over the virulent and ceaseless objection of JFNA's leaders.

And so it has gone with the Global Planning Table -- the "plan" for which was yet to be discussed face-to-face with JDC leadership at the time this Post was written. And so it has gone with a so-called "White Paper" on JAFI and Joint FRD and co-branding and community advocacy -- no discussion, just fiat, dictate, demand and veto. The lack of any sense of good faith or good will self-evident in every document, in every "shall not," in every "will not." Yet, the Board Chair clings to the myth she has perpetuated that the GPT has inherent value with the tenacity of what the New York Times described as to another "process," " a koala to a eucalyptus tree." The only party to the GPT for which the Table would have any apparent value would be JFNA...and, even then, at what the federations, to the Jewish Agency and the JDC and to JFNA itself?

And, then this. Making the ultimate mockery of process, and as if the Agreement with the Jewish Agency and the Joint doesn't exist, Jerry yesterday proudly announced the appointment of a D.C. lay leader -- with a distinguished background in business, government and federation -- as the Senior V-P of a new "Global Planning Department" -- this "Department...will manage the Global Planning Table." That's the Global Planning Table that doesn't exist...and may never exist. JFNA has found a new way to define institutional insanity. I can hear the argument now: "But we must have the Global Planning Table, we already have a Department." Fiat, dictate, demand and veto. OMG!!

Some have suggested to me that every step has been planned to make the GPT a reality...every step. The most major donors ignored; communities which have marched lockstep with JFNA down every path into every other brick wall...ignored. The GPT is to these "leaders" like cocaine is to a crack-head. Got to have it!! Any and every objection, no matter the source, will be ignored in pursuit of this Holy Grail of control.

Friends, in any successful consensus-driven organization, the search for common ground begins with a meeting, with discussion, with agreement on broad points leading to agreement on the details. More and more leaders are brought into the discussion and a broad consensus emerges. But...not at JFNA where those who lead seem never to understand how to do so.

In any event, chag sameach...


Sunday, June 5, 2011


In response to a Post, a correspondent who appears to know JFNA intimately and from the inside, sent the following set of "Rules:"


Federations will do nothing unless prodded to do so

To survive, staff and lay volunteers must not question or make waves

The best decision is one made in a phone booth

It all comes down to marketing

Intelligence is over rated

The best consultant is one not tainted by exposure to a local community (because there is little to learn from the local experience)

Overseas travel is good; overseas funding less so"

I thank the writer for his/her insights. I might have added the mandate from the current monarchy: "Let them eat cake but pay Dues."


Friday, June 3, 2011


You might think that on his travels across the Continent, Jerry Silverman might actually engage in a meaningful debate about the federation system and what JFNA's roles might be in such a changed circumstance. Yeah, so you might think...but you would be wrong. For our CEO and President is a salesman...and those 80-plus federation visits, begun as a Hillary Clinton-style "listening tour" have now become sales trips -- but Jerry is no longer selling Dockers, he's a modern day medicine man selling...well, to put it bluntly...bullshit. Tribefest 2, Heroes, the Denver GA and stuff of that ilk -- ignoring the reality of close to $1 million lost in those efforts even as JFNA tried to pump them up with subsidies, etc. And Jerry has traveled hither and yon with the Global Planning Table team, trying to sell what would be the end of our system rather than listening to concerns.

What choice does he have, some would ask? After all this has been his Board Chair's pursuit of her Holy Grail -- the end product, as she sees it, of her quest for control of all things even as she controls today only the minutiae. Perhaps, even her next Chairmanship? How does a CEO resist that? Well, the CEO could call any one of many Federation CEOs across the Continent, so many of the best of whom have been "managing" lay leaders for years. He might ask them "what do I do when...?" Or, perhaps, worst case Silverman agrees with his Chairs, views JDC and JAFI as mere supplicants while calling them "partners" in all public pronouncements -- like the new "40 partners" in the Festivus and no more worthy than they.

But, in the Global Planning Table circumstance, certainly Jerry (and if not him, his faithful liege, Jim Lodge, or the consultant), who has traveled the Continent listening, allegedly, at the so-called "GPT Regional feedback" meetings, has heard, loud and clear, that there is no consensus...none...for the GPT as "planned," strong opposition to "folding in national agency funding" into the GPT and a total rejection of the underlying thesis that the GPT will not reverse in any way the $100 million (+) allocations reduction over the last six years -- six years in which JFNA leaders engaged in no advocacy whatsoever. And where has the Board Chair been during these "feedback sessions?" Other than at the meeting with JAFI leaders and the JFNA Executive Committee meeting, nowhere to be found. (And, at the Executive Committee, as she heard one negative comment after another, rather than understanding, she chose to strike back defensively at federation leaders who appeared to oppose her grand scheme, using her usual technique of ridiculous argument and feeble cross-examination, suggesting to one JFNA supporter that that she knew [of course] more about what was going on in one program in his community than did he.)

While all this Global Planning Table "selling" is going on, Jerry and his "team," seem unaware of significant new efforts at "redefining" and reconstructing federation in a number of communities. (No, I am not talking about Philadelphia, where leadership believes that "change" in a negative annual campaign environment means eliminating core allocations to JAFI and the Joint [while supporting the discredited Global Planning Table "plan" -- of course] and not Los Angeles, likewise -- both communities having become the bell-weathers for JFNA -- they pay their Dues [and support the GPT], don't they?) Where is that debate, where is that discussion? Debate and discussion of what federations are doing? You have got to be kidding.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Just thinking about....

~ Festivus II, the rerun. As you recall, the original Festivus convened in Party City Las Vegas. While Festivus the Second is currently proposed for Las Vegas, consider this -- The Hangover I film was set in Vegas; The Hangover Bangkok, Thailand. It's a huuuuuge hit. So, TribeFest II in Thailand. See you there.

~ Summer Camps. JFNA sends out a Fact of the Day proudly embracing the opening of Jewish Agency summer camps in the FSU. Must have forgotten that another 18,000 young men and women were turned away because of a lack of available funds; must need a Global Planning Table to remind them. So let's do some planning about that, huh?

~ Memory Issues. Then there was this remarkable May 26 JFNA Leadership Briefing celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Operation Solomon, the international effort, led by Israel, that brought the surviving remnant (or so we thought) of Ethiopian Jewry to Israel by airlift and the Special Campaign folded into Operation Exodus to help fund our national portion. Where did JFNA go to find the quotes, the background, the sense of leaders at the time? To Joel Tauber, vu den? Joel thought back to those days when, he said, in 1991 he was UJA National Chair -- "...national UJA chairman in 1991 and a guiding force in the Ethiopian immigration campaign." Only one problem: in 1991, Marvin Lender was UJA National Chair -- Joel's service began in 1992. Maybe Joel believes that he and Marvin were interchangeable, two halves making up one whole. He would be wrong. Tracking backward: I was National Chair 1996-1998; Richie Pearlstone, 1994-1996; Joel Tauber, 1992-1994; Marvin Lender, 1990-1992. But, it's OK, Joel, just a couple of months ago, you took exclusive credit for the Operation Exodus Campaign. Soon it will be credit for the parting of the Red Sea. (See, Irving Bernstein's, z'l, authoritative volume Living UJA History for a list of UJA National Chairs and their years of service.)

~ Branding gone mad. Sports Illustrated recently published the following under its rubric -- Sign of the Apocalypse: "A federal judge ordered the U.S. Polo Association to stop producing merchandise with a logo featuring two silhouetted horsemen and the word polo because, he said, it confused customers of the Ralph Lauren Polo line." Ahem!! Can you picture the Jerry/Kathy show running around suing federations for using the "federation" name because: "they're not JFNA?" Just asking.

~ Maybe, like your Blogger, you received an e-vite to the JFNA King David Society Mission to Argentina this December. I was pretty excited at first -- sounds like a terrific Itinerary, top hotel, etc. Cost? For a $25,000 (or more) donor? $4500. Then you have to page through a series of links to learn that $4500 doesn't include air fare. Minor omission. Should one really have to dig so deeply to find out the real price? Guess so.

~ Does anyone remember? So, does anyone out there remember why the Jewish Agency and the Joint agreed to the "Select Core Priorities" ill-conceived plan? Aren't most federations which have given this some thought, rejecting the notion outright -- "thanks, but no thanks?" Does anyone remember the JFNA rationale for this....this....thing? Other than JFNA staff calling all federations to urge them to implement the Select Core Priorities (and, when asked "why?" they can't respond without looking at their script), what real advocacy is going on? NONE!