Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Still don't know what is we're doing? Then we must be doing it well.

When it comes to the GPT and the Second Membership Criterion, you know my sense that the Board Chair and her Sancho Panza, the CEO and President, have been gaming the system from the get go -- (1) the bogus "mandate" from the February 2008 Retreat,(2) the constant push for a GPT nobody really wanted but them, an Agreement with JAFI/JDC that they never intended to observe, (3) a Second Membership Criterion that excluded JAFI and JDC allocations notwithstanding the express provisions in the November 2010 Agreement that they wrote, claiming they couldn't "sell" anything more, and (4) even though they had never tried in earnest to advocate for anything other than that which they intended from the start.

Then came the week of January 15. Leaders in more than one Large City Federation read, for the first time, the proposed JFNA By-Law Amendments, the November 2010 JFNA/JAFI/JDC Agreement and the Second Membership Criterion (unchanged since September 2010). They also received a passionate and reasoned letter from the JAFI Board and Executive Chairs, the former, a mega-donor highly respected for his leadership and the Executive Chair, the heroic leader of Soviet Jewry and a force within the Israel of today. All of these factored into a "discussion" with Manning by a few Federation leaders who left that "discussion" with the hope, even the expectation, that Manning would convince recalcitrant federation leaders of the need to refocus the Membership Criterion on the core allocations of JAFI/Joint.

It seemed to me that this would be no more than an exercise for Manning/Silverman. Earlier in the same week, Silverman had reported that the outliers were unwilling to consider any commitment to the Jewish Agency and Joint as a condition precedent to JFNA membership -- after all, these "leaders" in some cases literally had spent years divorcing their federations from any semblance of collective responsibility. Now, after the continuous, uninterrupted Manning/Silverman acquiescence -- after all, it's been far, far easier to play on those federations with a sense of systemic and collective responsibility ("do you want your federation to be responsible for the system deconstructing?") than to advocate among the outliers for any sense of responsibility whatsoever -- Manning would somehow change her tune? Come on. But, in an exercise I would characterize as "buying time," she claimed that she appeared to understand that her failed leadership had dictated the breach of the November 2010 Agreement ("I had no choice") and, once again, she would make the attempt. (Actually it would be the first time.) So, Manning, like a permissive parent who has favored one child over another for three years, was now going to impose discipline on that one at the behest of the other? Not really.

So, mirabile dictu indeed. The Board Chair's chances, if she took this charge seriously,  seemed to me to be as good as the chances that Gingrich would beat Romney in South Carolina. (oops!!)  And so it was. JDC and JAFI, the historic partners, and our continuing commitment to them, will be cited in some Preamble language to come. The Global Planning Table Partnership Committee will be comprised of those communities which allocate 20% or more to JAFI/JDC. But, that Committee, as opposed to the multiple other GPT Committees, will make recommendations to the GPT decision-making body where federations which may make no allocations to JAFI/JDC sit and vote. This represents a seminal shift between supporting JAFI/JDC and to a small extent ORT to supporting undefined "global Jewish needs." In other words, "we'll give you some hortatory language in a Preamble you haven't seen talking about the historic systemic support for the core allocations of JAFI/JDC and urging that that support continue and you give us support for the Second Membership Criterion" and...that's it?

At the JFNA Board Meeting, Manning actually stated that there are "differing interpretations" of the JFNA/JAFI/Joint November 2010 Agreement as it pertains to the Second Membership Criterion. THAT WOULD BE SO WRONG. The language is clear; the language was written by Manning; there can be no interpretation other than that the Second Membership Criterion was mandated by the November 2010 Agreement to support additional financial resources for JAFI/JDC.  And she knows it. But...can't let the facts stand in the way of progress, can we now?


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