Saturday, November 26, 2011


When I was thinking about returning to the Blog, I thought of retitling this with a quote from a leader in one of the forty or so JFNA "partners" in Tribefest, who upon learning of his organization's new "partnership" asked the question as relevant today as it was a year ago: J f___'in A; what the hell is that? Here we are, 12 years into the merger and the question remains: what the hell are we? What is JFNA's purpose? What are its priorities? What is its mission?

If you sat with its leaders and asked them these questions, you would, no doubt, get back an amazing run-on sentence (and, as any reader knows, I am an expert in those) "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."  In the run-up to the GPT vote at the GA, the Board Chair, in her opening salvo at the Board Meeting, "proved" that she knows our values by reciting so many of them "caring for our elderly, educating our children, et., etc." Of course, reciting them doesn't connect JFNA's activities to them, does it? We continuously receive rhetoric in lieu of purpose...and it shows.

No matter the hype and self-congratulatory hyperbole, the Denver GA was the least attended in decades.  (As the 2010 GA lost over $250,000 and this one hardly drew flies, no doubt the same Co-Chairs who, for reasons unclear, were asked to chair both, will lead us to Baltimore as well.) The last GA held in Denver was so large, its Plenaries had to be held at the Convention  Center; this year, in a Hotel Ballroom. The GPT, so "vital" to the communal future, attracted only 80 federation representatives to the Board/Assembly meeting that "unanimously, or nearly so" approved it. The 2012 Prime Minister's Mission, recruited 32 participants, mainly from Chicago, to Greece and even fewer onward to Israel. The Young Leadership Cabinets, but shadows of their former selves, raised $6,000 per Retreat participant, while its leaders are diverted to Tribefest 2 activities. And, on and on.

It's time to rekindle the passion that brought so many of prior generations into communal, national and international leadership. Convene the past national Chairs of JFNA, UJA and CJF in a serious effort to get input and, just maybe, some inspiration. (The last time this was done, face-to-face, was by Jim Tisch and Steve Hoffman eight years ago; it was a good, if feisty meeting.) Today's leaders must stop believing that they are omniscient, that the only good ideas come from them...and from them alone. Stop talking in jargon -- e.g., "we will have robust debate in a dynamic process" and actually have "robust debate" and "dynamic processes."



Anonymous said...

Oops, one little problem.
If you ask the Chairs of JFNA they will explain that the past chairs of UJA, CJF, and UIA are NOT JFNA. Those past leaders will never pass muster because they have not sworn loyalty oaths to the current leadership.

Anonymous said...

I remember when young leaders were nominated by their community and recognized at the major plenary with a standing ovation. I also remember when communities could nominate individuals to receive recognition for their contribution to their local community endowment effort, and then there were rabbis who were appropriately honored after being nominated by their local community. These three efforts probably added 300-400 delegates as communites helped support their attendance. And the payback to the community was always possitive. I guess JFNA dropped these initiatives as they didn't add enough to the deficit.