Thursday, January 12, 2012


Yes, I was totally wrong. The current JFNA leaders have proved that you can fool all of the people all of the time. In fact, you can even fool those one thought would be the ones who would first argue that the Emperor/Empress wears no clothes. What am I writing about? Read on...

JFNA Board members just received the By-Law Amendments that will be considered at the February Retreat. In the main, these have nothing to do with the health or success of JFNA or making JFNA more critical to the best of our system, to those who contribute the most but, as always these days, about the accretion of power to the Chair.


    1. The Delegate Assembly was designed to create a check and balance on the JFNA Board. Thus, voting at the Board was one Board member one vote; at the Delegate Assembly, votes were distributed in a weighted fashion, thereby assuring that those who contribute the most to JFNA had the greatest number of votes on Budget and more. Now, no more Delegate Assembly; to these "leaders" it's but a vestige of the past. No check, no balance any more. And to justify themselves, they just rewrite history.

In the JFNA "explanatory" Memorandum on the By-Law changes, leadership wants you to believe that the Delegate Assembly was nothing more than a relic from the CJF era...that would be wrong. The Assembly was created at the time of the merger; what was incorporated from CJF was only...only...the formula used for weighted voting, a complex combination of campaign and Jewish population, (And, because JFNA was apparently too "busy" rewriting history, the formula was unchanged from 1999 even though governance required annual modification.)

The Assembly was also to be a place for representation in JFNA's work by representatives of our religious streams, our partners, academics, JAFI, JDC and others. This was discussed and debated at length -- the religious stream leaders considering this minimal representation insulting and worse. (I know because I spent hours in these discussions.) Now, as some argued at the time of the merger, JFNA's leaders have assured that there is no place for them at JFNA. Was this history ever discussed by JFNA leaders with anyone? (That's a rhetorical question.)

Yes, it's pitiful but, after all, they are JFNA.

     2. The Merger Agreement determined that there was to be a Board Chair and a Chair of the Executive. It seemed like a good idea at the time -- a Chair of the Board who would be a mega-donor (a Bronfman or, at the time, a Bobby Goldberg) offering not only the example of his/her generosity but new ideas and program proposals, and a Chair of the Executive who would be someone knowledgeable of our system (a Tauber, a Sonny Plant, z'l) who would lead an "operating Executive" dealing with JFNA operational matters. (had Manning understood her role as Chair of the Executive one has to wonder whether the morally bankrupt serial termination of women during her three years would have been tolerated.) Over time, the original concept was ignored and, in the current iteration of roles, with a self-described "full-time volunteer" as Board Chair, zealous to arrogate all matters JFNA to herself and not good about sharing with others, it has been evident that the Chair of the Executive was an appendix that required a By-Lawectomy. A Chairman of the Executive -- no more. After all, it's tough to have two microphones operating at the same time -- especially when one person wants both. I have to give Michael Gelman credit for his patience and leadership here, but not for his apparent acquiescence.

     3. And to those federations who were assured...promised...guaranteed...that there would be a "best we could get" Second Membership Criterion?  There is a "model" floating around out there; one so weak and pathetic it represents "the least" not the "best ." Remember JFNA's leaders told you that the November 2010 Agreement with the Joint and Jewish Agency promised a Second Membership Criterion that promised the two "partners" greater funding (" increase overseas allocations to support the important work of JAFI and JDC"); and are now proposing a Membership Criterion that promises the opposite. Seems JFNA promises, assurances and guarantees were as misleading as the JFNA signature to that Agreement with JAFI and JDC in November 2010. That is to say...MEANINGLESS.

     4. Finally, I have great respect for the lay and professional leaders of World ORT, but just exactly when did ORT (or is it World ORT, or ORT America or ORT Israel...who knows for sure) become a federation partner, a co-equal with the Jewish Agency and the Joint? Some friendship the Board Chair has with  an ORT-something Chair? There's no there there. One of those ORTs is being fooled -- not invited to the GPT meeting in Florida...but in these By-Laws a "partner?" Come on. What's up with this...and why? The cash to the ORT from federations allocations through JFNA in 2011 was 1.45% of the infinitely small aggregate of allocations to JAFI/JDC. Terming ORT a "partner" is terribly misleading to all, and especially ORT itself. JFNA -- handing out the title "partner" and making it meaningless.

Someone STAND UP!!




Anonymous said...

I was apparantly of the misperception that the Delegate Assembly was also created to guarantee inclusion of the 100 or so federations that don't get a delegate at the board. If I recall by formula the top 20 or so have 2 board members always, the next 20 or so have one board member always and then the intermediates have something like 4-6 "rotating board members that they select. Even if it is 10 that still leaves 100 federations without a delegate. But I guess the old Groucho Marx comment is relevant here.

Anonymous said...

All points well taken Richard. However I think the critical issue for a national organization is when and how should it serve and when should it lead and what is the proper balance between the two. What JFNA/UJC never internalized is that only with quality and continuous service can you build the credibility to lead and the organization needs to be smart, selective and strategic in picking its leadership issues. Whatever their limitations (and there were more than a few) both UJA and CJF understood this.

Anonymous said...

In the movie business it is said that you you can fool all of the people all of the time if your special effects budget is large enough.

With $30+ million to spend - JFNA easily fools everybody all the time.

When people are basked in the discipline of Communal Service, when they have an education and when they have spent time in a major federation - they are equipped to make balanced decisions.

JFNA is missing all of those criteria. So we follow a longer activity cycle:

1) The NEW IDEA > produces
2) Irrational Enthusiasm > necessitates
3) Inevitable Confrontation with Reality > produces
4) Rational disillusionment > necessitates

Fill in the blanks:

The Trust for Jewish Philanthropy
Center for Jewish Philanthropy
Global Planning Table

ad nauseum atque etiam

OMG! Federation Executives! said...

Bravo Anonymous #3! So very well put! Now with TribeFest rapidly approaching, I think we need more dish on how that NEW IDEA is progressing in light of last year's "results." I was in Las Vegas and despite the fact that the vast majority of attendees were self selected Young Leadership types, when discussing plans for this year almost no one knows about the massive cost overruns, the failure of achieving stated goals etc. I mean I had a very fun time last year on my heavily subsidized trip - but I don't know how I can justify going again while remaining at peace with my conscience. So please - let me know how it's going. Please tell me that JFNA is taking active measures to organize a better event, to attract any new blood etc. Please tell me this is not going to be just another booze soaked Vegas weekend...