Monday, January 30, 2012


For some reason, JFNA's leaders decided to roll out the panoply of functions allegedly performed by its "Philanthropic Resources Support Services to Federations" in a lengthy presentation/discussion/program filler at the recently completed Board Retreat. And I am sure that Susie Stern presented it in a compelling manner. I am certain that more than one Board member was thinking -- "Why us? Why not bring together the Campaign Chairs and Directors?" The answer: "No, they would know this was all just a rehash of what was done 15 years ago even if we don't." They also know that if it looks like bullshit and smells like bullshit, it's probably bullshit. I found the recitation -- three whole pages worth -- in light of JFNA's walk away from its FRD responsibilities -- to be uproarious. Those with whom I shared the document found my conclusion to be overly generous. All I can figure is that given the venue, Disney World, that they moved this particular presentation to Fantasyland.

 It appeared to me that this Philanthropic Resources summary was culled almost completely from a paper that Eric Levine, then the professional leader of FRD at JFNA, prepared (and shared with me at the time) at least five years ago -- and that piece was itself culled from the real work of UJA some 15 years ago. Listed in the JFNA piece are some 97...that's right 97...programs in which its Philanthropic Resources Department is "engaged." And that preposterous number doesn't even include the subset of programs under a given individual heading. Susie Stern reported that the Department is working with 107 Federations -- another preposterous number.  This at a time when the Department has been deconstructed to such a great extent -- leaving behind some excellent professionals to be sure.  Surely not even the few of them left would claim that, e.g., they have "loaned" a JFNA "executive" to a "federation in urgent situations," since, maybe, David Saginaw, long since moved on to Birthright, when he assisted San Francisco three years ago, or that they are engaged in, horrors, "fund raising." 

Then there's the claim of an "invigorated national Missions program." Take a careful look at this example of the shell game. There is no budget for Mission subsidies; the shocking lack of continental participation in the 2011 Prime Minister's Mission was a direct result of the failure by JFNA leadership to recruit and an apparent disinterest in doing so; the scheduling of multiple Missions to South America at almost the same time was self-defeating; and so on, and so on.

Then, again, it's easy to ratchet up the "program count" if you're going to include the "NYL Cabinet Shabbaton at the GA" as a program or "Boutique Missions" of which there have been none, or Festivus as a "Philanthropic Resources" program. Or throw in, as an example, I guess, of "Consulting Services, the "...integration of the Collaborative Model, an interdisciplinary approach" or the Large City Investment Program as a Philanthropic Resources program.

This is the sorry state of JFNA today: in overstating what you claim to be doing, you just destroy the credibility of what you might actually be doing. Instead of being a center of excellence with priorities clear, JFNA is a center of nothing, without purpose or goals. Fantasyland.



Anonymous said...

It was very interesting that at the very time that JFNA was having it's fantastical meeting in Orlando, JCCA was having one with it's Executive Directors.

The halls were filled with conversations of JCCs that had to save their Federations (drastically falling campaigns paired with successful JCCs).

The ED Development Seminar made many in attendance wistful for the CJF of old-there were deliverables, inspirational speakers, and action items that each person took with them.

Oh, for the Olde Days

RWEX said...

When our federations and their national organization fail in comparison with the JCCs and their national umbrella,we have a new measure of failure.

Anonymous said...

Richard you are so right on. For every successful JCC there is one under water. And the difference between the federation movement and the JCC movement is that most federations know they are being taken for a ride.

Anonymous said...

JFNA Fact of the Week:

There is no link between Campaign and Communications at JFNA.

The campaign does not have input into the work of the communications area.

Communications is fully independent.

Anonymous said...

Why is that the fact of the week? It seems to me that campaign doesn't have input into anything at JFNA. For those of us around a long time this is old news.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they need a consultant to get them all working together --you know like the one who developed GPT or maybe JAFI's person who decided that building a Jewish state wasn't an important enough mission.

Anonymous said...

Get Kathy. She can get a trained pediatrician to do a study then systemically eliminate isolate and terminate anyone that speaks out and says anything truthful that she doesn't want to hear!