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...


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