Friday, March 30, 2012



Now that the great, incredible, fantastic success (did I mention "incredible"?) of Festivus 2 is behind us (and even while certain participants who shall remain nameless are still wandering the Strip), we at JFNA are, as always, looking forward. "To our future," as we say even as I have to admit our arms are so damn tired from patting ourselves on the back.

Many of you who took Latin in the halcyon days of yore will remember "panem et circenses," the phrase which summarized the Roman formula for creating a docile population; give them "bread and circuses" and they will be yours. Here at JFNA it's just circenses -- the circuses have proved to be more than enough. And, have we got a circus planned for you. As we say in Latin: "Give a listen."

Given the undeniable (sure, you can deny it but here at 25 Broadway, we're not listening) success of two TribeFests -- young Jews subsidized by their Federations (well not "theirs" quite yet, but we have a tool kit for that) and the JFNA Endowment, awash in alcohol, testosterone and Vegas, the last one had a Budget of $818,000 (before staff travel and overhead) and an estimated 1400 participants (that's hysterical laughter you are hearing behind me) or a cost per participant of $584 per head (or $715 per at the real cost; yeah, that's astonishing, even astounding, but, boy, did we get bang for your bucks) -- with all that success, next year JFNA will proudly sponsor the first ever LollapaJewza. The first Jewish rock, rap 'n hip hop music festival for Jewish Young Adults --our favorite audience. "It's a natural move after the great achievements of these two Fests," said President and CEO Jerry Silverman. "It's like moving Dockers from pleats to straight-legged -- a no-brainer." Asked to list the "achievements" of Festivus 1 and 2, Silverman deferred to his new Managing Director of the Office of the CEO, who could not be found.

At the recently adjourned Festivus 2, high marks went to the performers on the Main Stages and at the Mosh Pits...and at the bars and in the suites. So, so popular. So JFNA staffers just sneaked a copy to us of the performers already scheduled for LollapaJewza 1: Diwon (producer and DJ), Dege Feder (Ethiopian dancer and choreographer), Hatikva 6 ("honorable 33rd place on the list of the 60 best songs in Israel's then 60 years"), Aya Korem (Israeli chanteuse), Moshav (Israeli musical group), the Drei Kopfs (singing group of Jewish mothers-in-law), the Alta Kachers (old Jewish men yodeling badly), Chutzpah (the "World's First Ever Jewish Hip Hop Supergroup"), The Adelson Elementary School Choir (big hit at the Festivus), Etan G ("the Jewish Rapper") and, of course, Rabbi Perl and the Rockin' Rabbis. (Do you know which ones actually performed at Festivus 2?) And, more...names too big to be released as yet. Those LollapaJewza Mosh Pits will run with Jewish blood.

And one of the five Main Stages will be dedicated to those we've invited -- like the pro-BDS crowd and J-Streeters -- but don't really want to attend. We'll charge 'em the same as anyone else but their Main Stage will have no acts; just speeches by the Israel Action Network on a continuous loop. It'll be just a way to increase our numbers and, if you know anything at all about us, it's all about the numbers we can claim.

If Festivus 2 was worthy of a waste an investment of $1 million, then LollapaJewza -- $2, $3 million. We're thinking, not a hotel in Vegas, Madison Square Garden. We're not just talking "big," we're talking "huge." TribeFestivus had one Main Stage; LollapaJewza -- five; the Festivi wasted three days (plus travel); LollapaJewza -- one week. Registration -- $500 -- but there will be subsidies (insiders tell me that JFNA is considering a $600 per person subsidy). When asked if the federations would permit a LollapaJewza, Board Chair Kathy Manning replied: "We're not planning to tell them; we're folding it into the Global Planning Table. No one will even notice."

Of course.


With apologies to those who produce the remarkable Lollapaloosa on Chicago's lakefront every Summer with great success. We've stolen the idea from you just as we stole the Festivus from Jewlicious.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


~  For your reading pleasure, I call your attention to as reprinted in ejewishphilanthropy. Written by Avi Lieberman, a stand up comedian...a young comic with clear insights into a world he doesn't know...seems to have more insights into our system than those who are supposed to know all about our system.

~ Since I started writing this Blog so long ago, I have tried (and, I think, succeeded) in writing according to a certain maxim: "You can criticize our leaders for how bad a job they are doing and have done in leading our organizations, but never make fun of how our leaders look or what they wear, or how they speak, because that's just mean. And, never lie about anyone." Our leaders, in turn, have developed (or always had) the thinnest of skins and have responded "..we will destroy anyone who criticizes us about anything, even if we have to make things up." Thus, from the start, I have noted how successive JFNA Board Chairs have just made things up about my service with JFNA, repeating things they know not to be true (they know this because I have told them so in writing and in person) -- because they have no truths that would serve their purposes. And these are not merely slurs: they are intentional, willful fabrications. They are known to those who repeat them to be untrue -- and, nonetheless, they have repeated them for over 4 years now. And it's happened as recently as this year -- after I met with Manning to try to "clear the air" once again. It's the worst kind of leadership and just what we have come to expect.

We know from experience that the more one repeats an untruth, the more those repeating it believe their false version of "truth." So I have no doubt that the JFNA leaders who have and continue to spread the same falsehoods actually have come to believe themselves. That I understand; I deplore it but understand. They just can't help themselves. What saddens me so much is that among those who have heard these total fabrications are a small number of those who know me well yet there appears to be not one who has stood up and said back to them: "That's total b.s." or words to that effect. And, those whom I thought were among my friends, have emboldened JFNA's leaders to further spread their poison. And, so be it.

I for one will continue to fight back against the hatchet job these "leaders" take to anyone...that's a..n..y..o..n..e... who publicly or privately opposes their lack of purpose and principle in exercising their version of "leadership." And, these leaders should know by now that as long as they are lying about me I'll be telling the truth about their leadership and the destruction that they have wreaked upon our system and our values. Their personal vendetta bespeaks an ugliness...sad.

~ I have heard from several federation leaders that their communities will not allocate to support the Israel Action Network, JFNA's pleas to the contrary notwithstanding. Other federations just write a check (mainly out of the core allocations to JAFI/JDC) as if responding to a high-pitched whistle that only they hear. The only explanation for the Pavlov's Dog-like response that never questions, just nods -- Stockholm Syndrome?

~ Speaking of JFNA's repetitive requests for funding, could it possibly be true that JFNA leaders are actually crying poor, moaning that they just can't subsist on a paltry $30.3 million in Dues per year -- even if the JFNA 990 reflects income of $43 million? And wouldn't those pleas for "more, more" be received "better" if JFNA could point to exactly how those additional funds would be spent; with the successes that might be achieved? Or would we expect to see more TribeFests at a cost of $1 million annually -- after all JFNA found $1 million of $30.3 million for that this year (and went forward with it over the objection of at least one Large City CEO to JFNA engaging in direct, duplicative programming). Here's my view: if your organization has $1,000,000 to throw at a Festivus, you've got plenty of money, maybe too much.

Now, laughably, I've learned that JFNA has threatened to engage in direct fund raising to support its Budget. Such exquisite irony -- an organization that used to have Financial Resource Development at its very central activity, then abandoned FRD over the last six years of the organization's existence, now "threatens" to fund raise to expand its own resources. 

"When will they learn; when will they ever learn?"


Sunday, March 25, 2012


Well, Festivus is off to an excellent start:

 ‘Tribefest’ excommunicates group of young Jews who dared to speak about ethnic discrimination

"We got this email from Young Jewish and Proud. Deeply dismaying. And I say the Jewish community is opening up! This is pure intolerance. What will it take to change these attitudes:

It's been over a month since Young Jewish and Proud (YJP), the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace, got accepted to have a booth at Tribefest, the Jewish Federations of North America's (JFNA) annual gathering of young people. We've signed contracts for the booth, sent materials, paid a hefty registration fee, booked our rooms, and planned our flights. And then, with no explanation or apology, we just got a call from Tribefest organizers kicking YJP out!
If you are like me and you are tired of Jewish community institutions stifling open conversation and silencing young Jews, please sign our open letter to the JFNA right now. ["Stop silencing the next generation of Jewish leadership"]
I was thrilled when the TribeFest organizers accepted our application to present to the largest annual gathering of young Jews in the United States. When we applied we thought it was unlikely they'd let us in—we had tried to have direct meetings with the JFNA but had been rebuffed—and so their welcome seemed like the sign of a new era of openness. We even used social media to share our excitement— it felt important to be completely transparent that we were coming to talk!
I thought that TribeFest was demonstrating its commitment to Jewish values, which have always emphasized the importance of learning and open debate.
Sadly, TribeFest's organizers, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), have decided that young Jews are not entitled to learn about the full range of Jewish ideas on Jewish issues. When we asked why YJP is being banned from an event that was supposed to be ABOUT being young, Jewish and proud, we were told only that the person calling to inform us was "not at liberty to share all the details."
While it's painful for us to be excluded from and marginalized within spaces that claim to represent our community, it's not ourselves that we're worried about here.
What we're worried about is the future of a community that allows its institutions to dictate which ideas are allowed to be discussed, and who is fit to discuss them.
We are worried that, as we're told we can't talk about it, Israel's policies of massive violence, collective punishment, and ethnic discrimination continue.
A large and rapidly growing number of people who are Young, Jewish and Proud have come to the conclusion that to be committed to Jewish values requires them to not only criticize policies with which they disagree, but to actively seek to change them.
At Tribefest, we intended to host a booth inspired by the Babylonian Talmud's call to "go and learn". We wanted to provide a space to talk about how we believe Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) can play a vital role in pursuit of Tikkun Olam. And we wanted to give other young Jews the chance to make up their own minds about it.
But instead of welcoming the chance for young Jews to exchange ideas about the issues most important to us, the JFNA leaders are shoving us out the door and locking the gates.
Jewish institutional leaders are spending their time silencing young Jews as settlements continue to expand, bombs continue to drop, repression continues to intensify, and innocent people of every ethnicity continue to suffer.
We need your support to help tell Jewish community leaders that gatekeeping and silencing have never served Jews. We need your support to tell them that young Jews will go elsewhere if communal institutions increasingly reject and marginalize us. We need your support to tell them that muzzling debate will not make the problem of Israel’s human rights abuses go away."


You decide: parody...or real? Of course, JFNA counted these folks that they wouldn't then permit to speak or show in their attendance totals, didn't they?

And couldn't issues like these have been anticipated when JFNA stepped into the arena of direct programming?  No, not JFNA. And just when did JFNA learn that this organization, which openly supports BDS, supports BDS? Don't we fund an entity at huge cost that could have told JFNA about the nature of the organization and its goals long before this embarrassment? The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight scores again...and again...and again.

Can't wait for Joe Berkofsky to 'splain this one.

Enjoy the Fest. Tell us how great it is.



I've written before of the potential for abuse when power in a Jewish non-profit is held too tightly by too few. And now, once again, the evidence is in that JFNA, our public charity, owned by us, is being run as if it were but a private business -- and none of ours.

We've noted on these pages that this leadership has cut Dues "deals" without regard to "hardship" with federations like Los Angeles and Las Vegas (the latter certainly a candidate for hardship) and, no doubt others, each without any disclosure to the JFNA Board of the extent of the "deals," individually or in the aggregate. We have been told, time and again, that JFNA has "never, ever" made its budget at times of Dues non-payment or under-payment by taking dollars from the ever-reducing core allocations to JAFI/JDC. Yet, somehow, annually, JFNA has managed to spend down its $30.3 million Budget. What's the magic formula? We'd all like to use it at home.

But, now, an even more serious action, writing off in excess of $1 million in unpaid allocations to JAFI/JDC with no governance approval and no consultation with JAFI or JDC reflects on how a miniscule group of our leaders have been taking unilateral action that impact on all of us -- with no standards and, worse, no process. A little history...

Back in the day, I chaired the United Jewish Appeal's Allocations Committee -- a great and dedicated group of men and women. You will recall that UJA was owned by the Joint and UIA, JAFI's principal; we loved going out to the federations to advocate for increased core allocations, prepped by UJA's brilliant CFO, Lee Twersky. I was succeeded by Norm Tilles, z'l, and then Alan Shulman, terrific and dedicated lay leaders. In some instances, we had to negotiate allocations write-offs, transactions that we (a) put in writing; and (b) always accompanied the write-down with what we called a quid pro quo -- an agreement with the community to increase its core allocation as its campaign grew. In each instance, we took those agreements to the UJA Executive Committee for approval. And in every instance, but one (and that one, in which the leaders of a single Large City unilaterally and without notice of prior disclosure breached its agreement with UJA, a story for another day), the agreements were honored by honorable people, leaders in their federations.

I just read, in the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix (3/2/2012) a report of the sorry state of overseas allocations from a community with which JFNA "partnered" in its aborted "Emerging Communities" effort (aborted unilaterally by JFNA without discussion with those of us involved in the effort)...a federation now reframed as The Jewish Community Association; a community with so much potential and almost no realization. The news story reported a $350,500 allocation to Israel and Overseas needs spread among 17 average of $21,000 per program. But, at least the community, in its new framework, is trying to do something. And,  then I read that "...over the next five years, JCA will reimburse the Jewish Federations of North America, $500,000 in total" for allocated but unpaid allocations -- that's $100,000 per year for the next five years. Then came the topper: "JFNA has also forgiven the JCA for approximately $1 million in unpaid overseas allocations..."  That's $1 million..."forgiven by JFNA"!!!!

Now, it seems pretty clear from the News story, that this JFNA/Phoenix "deal" was in the form of a quid pro quo -- a write-off and a promise to pay some of an unpaid allocation and a commitment of not less than 20% "from future campaigns...for Israel and Overseas needs." But this is no longer the era when the overseas partners owned the UJA; this is now. These unpaid allocations are not the "property" of JFNA, they belong to JAFI and the Joint...period. Everybody who believes that the JFNA "leaders" who cut this deal spoke with JAFI and JDC, please raise your hands. Seeing none, let me ask: how many believe that JFNA even thought that speaking with JAFI/JDC might be appropriate, raise your hands. Uh huh; same response. This is not about whether this is a good deal for JFNA, for Phoenix or for JAFI/JDC; this is about JFNA arrogating to itself the authority to make deals on money owed to and the property of others. This is about JFNA's continued disregard of its fiduciary responsibilities.

There seems to be an ad hoc policy at JFNA that reflects the sad state created by a closed off leadership: if you Chair an activity or Department, e.g, Financial Relations, and are deemed to be a "go along" kind of leader (e.g., in the thrall of the JFNA leadership, a vocal cheerleader, etc.), you can serve in perpetuity; if you are deemed by the Board Chair and CEO to be "not JFNA" (e.g., you may have questioned some policy, practice or expenditure and you are not "protected" by your federation)m you are "rotated" out of your position with, maybe, a form letter. What kind of behavior does this practice encourage? Is this a form of institutional corruption?

So, now the threshold question: was this write off of $1,000,000 of funds owed to and owned by JAFI and the Joint ever approved by any governance body of JFNA? And, clearly, the answer is "no." Friends, this "deal" is more than a shanda; it is as clear a violation of fiduciary responsibility as anything JFNA has or hasn't done since the first year of its existence when JFNA paid employee severance out of the overseas allocations.

This is JFNA at its worst. And, as always, the fault dear Brutus is not in our stars but in ourselves.


Friday, March 23, 2012


One Anonymous Commentator, responding to our Dream Job Post, wrote:

      "The Sr VP who works in Jerusalem might find her days numbered if JFNA actually hires a competent professional.

      By the way, I hear JFNA is considering another new position - managing director of the office of the CEO."

As to the first speculation: while it would be nice to see JFNA hire "a competent professional," this looks more like piling on at the high end. We will have three of JFNA's most costly professionals all doing, at least in part, the same job.

As to the second -- that JFNA will hire a "Managing Director of the Office of the CEO:"  many have urged the President/CEO to hire a COO since before his first days in office. Jerry said he wanted to wait, yet apparently he still can't bring himself to do so. We're hearing that he will promote from the inside, which might be a good thing were there the right person "inside" to serve as whatever this job will be. While it has been suggested to Jerry directly that he hire someone with deep federation experience for this position, he apparently believes that visiting over 110 federations (sometimes for more than three hours!!!) gives him the depth of experience that he can promote someone (who has been maneuvering for the job for months) who will primarily have his back. Oh, just love the title, as Dockers would say: "Just wear the pants." Or something like that.

     ~ I went to the Festivus website the other day and linked to the Speakers. There are page after page of them, about five of whom I could identify. I challenge you to do better. Now, this isn't a bad thing. I'm definitely not the Festivus demographic but I would wager that those who fit the demographic wouldn't be able to identify more than five either (and they wouldn't be the same five I recognized). So, what we have this weekend is an event that almost no one will attend without a subsidy, with a set of "speakers" almost no one knows, and with a Schedule that is, in the main, let's call it like it is, silly. Just silly. Really silly. Almost, but for a few sessions, demeaning to those young adults at whom the Fest is aimed. And, that's the real shame, after all. Oh, and Jerry will be speaking...a recent addition to the joy of the Fest.

     ~It appears that I am all wet. The funeral Ms. Caspi attended was that which took place in Jerusalem. My error and my apologies.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Friends, this Anonymous response to my Post on the failure of JFNA to even debate the issues raised by so-called Federation foundations/endowments' apparent ole goal of maximizing assets but failing to focus on maximizing distributions to Jewish causes and Federation priorities, underscores the problem:


I could not agree with you more. I am in a community with a separately incorporated Jewish community foundation from the federation. Their mantra is growing their assets. By growing their assets (DAFs, permanent fund, etc) they believe they will make Jewish life stronger into the future -- they are "about tomorrow" while federation's campaign "is about today." Really? I thought we were all about today and tomorrow.

What they are unable to see are the following:

1. The foundation seems almost afraid to "pitch" ideas for funding to DAF holders. Why? Because they want to be seen as "non-biased" and cannot help one organization over another. And, I would suggest, in most cases the foundation professionals have no clue about the interests of their fund holders. Therefore, donors are left to themselves to give their money away -- typically to pay off annual pledges they make every year to organizations -- not for new and innovative ideas.

2. More assets in reality for these foundations means more fees. They want to expand their capabilities and the only way to do so is to have more fees generated.

3. The foundations typically see themselves as an island unto themselves -- not involved in community priority setting processes. Therefore, if they make grants on their own (via own unrestricted funds) it is for projects of their choosing that may not be in line with the community's priorities at all.

4. The real measure of the success of the foundation, as you said, is not the amount of assets, but the amount of distributions. Where they go, how many dollars, what percent of assets are being given away, etc. is really what matters.

5. In addition, the ability for communities to speak directly to fund holders must be opened up. Ideas are out is already in the bank...yet "blocking" conversations is not a healthy scenario.

6. Finally, especially for those that are separate from the Federation, when there is a "community emergency" and funds are needed immediately, people always turn to Federation. How many times has a Foundation stepped in with their assets in the bank (especially unrestricted) and put dollars into the community itself? They often stay far away holding onto to their resources. Where are they when the community needs them?

I am glad you raised this issue. It has been a challenge for many years. Let's tout our billions in assets, yet watch as a large percentage of that money goes to non-Jewish causes or far less than 5% of the assets are distributed on an annual basis."

Isn't the Planned Giving and Endowment Department part of JFNA; and isn't JFNA a federation institution, owned not by independently incorporated Foundations but by the Federations themselves? Yet, nowhere, never, are the 6 issues raised by this extremely knowledgeable Commentator ever discussed.  And, just why is that? 



An article in the Forward -- Fast-Growing Charity Funds Raise Issues -- raised and discussed the "propriety" of charitable tax deductions for the "fastest growing method of philanthropy you've probably never heard of..." My issue is with an attitude that seems to be prevalent among many Federation Endowment and Federation-related Foundation professionals that their role is to maximize endowment and foundation assets (including but not limited to donor-advised funds and other forms of philanthropic funds) without regard to how the income and principle of those funds are allocated. A New York Fund professional expressed it best when she told the Forward's Paul Berger: "Our goal is to facilitate our donors' philanthropy and to do it within strict legal parameters." And there's the rub. For this attitude reaches the largest so-called "Jewish foundations." 

As reported this month in ejewishphilanthropy -- A Look at Jewish Foundation Giving -- The Institute for Jewish and Community Research studied the " characteristics of selected Jewish foundations with approximately $20 billion in combined assets..." Among the findings -- "[N]early one quarter (24%0 of total dollars donated by Jewish foundations, or $335 million, went to Jewish causes..." Should this finding be worthy of celebration?

Our communal endowments -- and the philanthropic and donor-advised funds therein -- have grown at a rate far exceeding that of the communities Annual Campaigns. That growth has been a source of incredible pride -- we now hear with great regularity speeches about communal FRD that by necessity emphasize growth in communal endowments and downplay the downturn in annual campaign. But nowhere is there any discussion about how the income and principal of those funds are being distributed. JFNA has a strong Endowment and Planned Giving effort but G-d forbid that this question is ever discussed there, ever raised with communal planned giving and endowment professionals. And the reality is that there is good reason for this "shhhhh." And, look at the record -- how many lay Chairs of the PG&E Department have resigned in frustration or otherwise since the merger?

The endowment professionals see their roles as principally focused on "growth," not on distribution. My own "research" suggests (and, certainly the results confirm) that in the main they refuse to move donors toward federation goals out of fear that they will lose that "growth." Sure, if Donor A wishes to distribute $1,000,000 from Donor A's philanthropic fund as an Annual Campaign gift, "we'll take it, but we're not going to push it." That's not perceived as "our job." The attitude is "better that the money is with us than with Fidelity" or something like that even if the results for the community end up being the same.

You can't even have a conversation on the subject. I recall a visit with one of the greatest professionals driving the communal foundation effort. I had looked at the data for this foundation -- allocations to Jewish causes, of which Federation and federation agencies were just ones among many -- and found that allocations to secular, non-Jewish causes were as I recall about 80%. So I asked, like the dumb son at the Seder, "at what point do you just stop calling it "The Jewish Community Foundation or ______________________" and just "rebrand it the Community Foundation?" The response, more or less: "..if not for us the community wouldn't even be getting the 20%" or whatever that percentage was/is.

I'm probably wrong about this. Maybe it is better to have whatever percentage it is "with us" than "elsewhere" no matter where the funds ultimately go. But, I do know:

     ~ The Annual Campaign is the lifeline of the community. Those funds support federation, our agencies and Jews in need wherever they may live -- all of it;

      ~ Planned giving and endowment funds, evidencing continued strong growth, are funding donors' wishes, often in the broader, secular community to the exclusion of federation and agencies' plans...and all we count nationally is the total of those funds' growth;

     ~ And, should not JFNA be the venue where we, as a continental polity, actually discuss how we can best, if we can, and if we should, be the facilitator and advocate among fund donors/creators for federation-centric funding. Isn't that also our responsibility? Would not the debate have value -- a debate from which our national endowment and planned giving professionals walk away from as quickly as they can.

I know, silly me.


Sunday, March 18, 2012


I have quoted Daniel Burnham's admonition before -- "make no little plans." And, sure enough, the leaders of JFNA, contrary to so many reports, have some big plans in the offing.  There is to be a Managing Director, Israel and Overseas Initiatives, housed at 25 Broadway, reporting to Becki Caspi in Jerusalem. Essentially this professional will be performing Caspi's job, adding to the top tier payroll of JFNA-Israel.

Anyway, here is the job. You want it, go for it:

 "Job Title: Managing Director, Israel & ...; Overseas Initiatives Date Last Updated: 1/5/2012
Job ID #: 10207

Role/Job Category: Israel & Overseas
Organization Name: Jewish Federations of North America
Location: New York, New York
Status: Full-Time

Managing Director, Israel & Overseas Initiatives
Israel and Overseas – JFNA Headquarters
New York City, NY

Reporting Structure:    Reports Senior VP, Israel and Overseas

Position Summary:
The Managing Director, I/O Initiatives serves as a cornerstone for JFNA’s overall I & O operation.  In this capacity, he/she manages all I & O activities in North America; represents JFNA to multiple organizational constituencies, with Federation leadership (both lay and professional) and with others as they relate to these areas; collaborates with and supports the GPT team; generates and conveys information and materials relating to assigned content areas, lay committees, round tables, etc. and to various federation and JFNA constituencies.  He/she serves as JFNA’s go-to resource at Headquarters with regard to community inquiries; inter-departmental coordination; I & O processes and content areas; and on an ad hoc basis.  He/she functions as fully integrated member of the I & O team and plays an important role in linking the work of the team to the overall organization.
In addition to working in these specific areas, the Managing Director, I/O Initiatives should develop a general understanding of all major issues and developments related to the work of the Federation movement in Israel and elsewhere overseas.

Specific responsibilities include:
  1. Designing and implementing I & O programs both at stand-alone events and as part of JFNA’s overall event planning effort (including, for example, at the GA; Tribefest; Planners Institute, etc.)
  2. Managing the work of key lay committees and supporting the overall lay engagement efforts for I & O
  3. Representing JFNA to a wide range of organizational constituencies including at key federation gathering and events as an expert presenter
  4. Managing JFNA/BRI and Birthright Foundation relationships and supporting relevant lay committee
  5. Staffing and leading internal JFNA Work Groups as I & O’s on site representative
  6. Driving information flow within JFNA and to federations; partner organizations and others as appropriate
  7. Leading coordination of various initiatives that require reporting, planning and collaboration with JFNA’s Israel Office; other JFNA departments; federations; funders and others
  8. Responding to ad hoc requests for information and assistance from both federation and JFNA sources
  9. Maintaining knowledge on various issues of interest to the federation system and communicating that knowledge to various constituencies
  10. Planning informative field visits overseas in collaboration with other departments
  11. Staffing missions and other events as an in-house expert for FRD and GPT teams as needed
  12. Assisting in development efforts
  13. Managing staff including both support and professional staff
Required Experience, Skills and Competencies (many of these are extremely funny if you read them carefully and think about them) :
  • Demonstrated commitment to the mission and core values of JFNA
  • Minimum 10 years of related experience and a level of success and accomplishment in the non-profit sector (either as a professional or volunteer)
  • Knowledge of the Federation movement and expertise in the Israel and overseas arena
  • Experience working in a complex environment and a comfort level with personally interacting with senior professionals, funders, federation leadership and others
  • Flexibility, creativity and resourcefulness in a changing environment
  • Strong personal presence and outstanding relationship-building skills
  • Effective, articulate, and supportive communications with the ability to inspire, influence and build credibility and rapport
  • Ability to juggle multiple priorities and work with a diverse group of professionals with different work styles
  • A doer who works hands-on in developing and executing a variety of activities
  • Problem analysis and problem resolution ability at both the strategic and functional level
  • Team player who possesses the ability to collaborate cross-functionally and departmentally
  • Bachelor’s degree required, graduate degree preferred"
Yes, of course, this represents JFNA's continuing ambition to extend itself into areas better left to others -- JAFI/JDC, the federations. And, of course, all of this work could be done within the existing expanded, expansive (might I add "bloated") staff of the Israel/Overseas Department. But, this is how bureaucratic empires are built, isn't it?

Then there is the reality that so much in this Job Description overlaps and duplicates the on-going Search for a successor to Itzik Shavit, z'l. Makes one wonder, doesn't it, who is driving this clown car? The CEO/President, the head of the JFNA-Israel Office, the Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence, the Sr. V-P in Charge of Job Titles, Ms. Manning...or, most likely, NOBODY!!??


Thursday, March 15, 2012


It has become clear to me reading the stories in the local Jewish press from communities around the country and speaking with so many of you that the federation system -- the very construct of federation as the central planning agency within our cities -- is, in places to numerous to mention, on the verge of collapse. And I am not looking long term here; I am talking about imminent collapse. Federations in some places being subsumed within JCCs; in other places, "strategic planning" but a guise for the reallocation of resources; and in others a lay leadership removed from the history and values of federation as an expression of collective responsibility, looking to hire those as their CEOs those who know even less.

It's time to answer these questions -- (a) was the peak of federation power realized on a frigid December day on the Mall in Washington in 1987 when we gathered 250,000 to 500,000 strong to demand that the then Soviet Union "let our People go;" or (b) did we find federations acme in the incredible outpouring of philanthropy embodied in the Operation Exodus campaign responding to real needs that followed? For today, really but a nano-second in our history since those epic moments, in so many places our annual campaigns are but a shadow of themselves, raising, in real dollars, less than we did twenty years ago, with a donor base that is but a quarter of what it was then. Our highest end donors are aging/aged and our efforts to inspire the next generations are wasted on TribeFest narishkeit -- but an excuse for failing to do the really hard work that would be necessary to replicate the successes of a number of communities. And those federations that continue to succeed -- they are characterized by the failed as being but aberrations in a decade of free fall.

Call me a cock-eyed optimist, but I continue to believe that the chapter of  modern Jewish history writ large by the federations is not over. To paraphrase a great statesman: "There is nothing wrong with the federations that can't be cured by what is right with the federations. "But we do need a few things: knowledgeable lay and professional leaders: who understand and can communicate the beauty of and are dedicated to the legacy that is federation history -- for that is the history and legacy of our communities and People; who understand and can communicate the meaning of collective responsibility and how the exercise of that collective responsibility elevates federation from just another Jewish charity to a place of meaning and beauty (rather than a current leadership that, in its total ignorance, merely attaches the word "collective" to its every action thereby totally demeaning  the concept); and who are willing to recommit to the construct that a national system must be the leader of a movement, not merely the reflection of the whims of its few leaders.

There was a time when our national organization knew that it must lead the federations to "new dollars and new donors." We failed in that effort then, but it was worth the effort then and would be worth the effort once again. We, as a lay polity, need to actually make demands of our federations, our Network leadership, and, certainly JFNA, whatever we have allowed that to become, that they are responsible to us, not the other way around. Certainly when we attract but a little over 800 full pay Registrants to our GAs, we have received a clear message of disengagement when we and our true partners and our beneficiaries need total and full  engagement.

Friends, we have wholly failed as a system to even acknowledge that we have a problem. Those who have done so -- a new Large City Federation CEO here, a renegade lay leader there -- are characterized as outliers and worse. We must face the fact that we have multiple problems before we can address them. (I reflect on the ridiculous and meaningless survey that will be done of the attendees at Festivus this month with regard to "issues" for consideration by the Global Planning Table and all I can think of is how many opportunities to engage are lost annually by a JFNA that has lost its way...and the irony of attempting to gain input into the GPT from TribeFest. It's exhausting keeping up with this ineptitude.) And, once we have identified the problems -- although they are out there for anyone and everyone to see -- then we have to have the strength to act upon them.

We need, the times demand, the national conclave suggested on these pages and elsewhere by thought leaders far more insightful than I -- the national conclave we have never had. The dinosaurs in our system are not I and you and others who remember the best of times, the dinosaurs are those who ignore that history yet believe that they see the future with a clarity denied the rest of us -- they just can't articulate it.  Nor can they understand let alone articulate the values inherent in the concept of federation, in the annual campaign, in anything. They are the true dinosaurs, for they will soon be extinct and, with them, absent some immediate action, so will the federations they were elected to protect and strengthen.

Are we going to let that happen?


Monday, March 12, 2012


There is the story of the football team that comes into the locker room at half-time trailing 42-0. The Coach is fuming -- he sees the quarterback, John Schmidt, snacking on a bench, looking half asleep. "You, Schmidt, what the hell is going on?" "Huh?" Schmidt responds. The Coach, apoplectic now, shouts: "Is this ignorance or apathy?" Schmidt looks up, "Coach, I don't know and I don't care."

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you...JFNA 2012.

When it comes to a JFNA that reflects federations needs and wants, instead we have a very expensive umbrella organization that attends to only its own perceived needs and wants. This turns the entire construct of a federation-owned organization operating in almost all ways on its own agenda while spending the federations hard-earned funds in pursuit of their version of fools gold. Oh, of course, the lay and professional leaders of JFNA believe in their own agenda but I wonder what the CEO/President actually hears on his federation visits that now exceed 110. Jerry is a salesman, a marketer but if he hears anything on these communal visits, that's certainly not reflected in JFNA's direction or, rather, JFNA's lack of any direction. They "don't know and don't care."

I don't believe that most of us care about "JFNA the brand." Not one whit. But those who lead JFNA they should...but not to the extent that JFNA's core purposes -- to serve the needs of the federations and Network -- are marginalized. And marginalized they have been and are. There's a modicum of apathy but, in the main, I fear that what we have is true "ignorance." We have observed on these pages the almost total elimination of FRD as we once knew it from the national agenda. This is not to dismiss Jerry Silverman's efforts to identify potential donors to the federation cause -- probably out of his Camp experience -- or Jerry's success in placing Dockers colleagues in FRD positions in federation (Question: if these former colleagues have excellent FRD credentials, why not hire them for JFNA?) But Missions, when they do go, are sent out today with no fund raising requirements; JFNA no longer solicits fund raising opportunities in communities -- no fly-ins, no suite solicitations in partnership with federations, the per capita fund raising among members of the Young Leadership Cabinets is but a shadow of what it once was (while its leaders are directed to encourage/demand participation in things like TribeFestivus). 

And we have watched as JFNA itself has become nothing more than that same shadow of what it once was; nothing like what it might have been. To conclude, let's return to football. It was the great future Hall of Fame Coach Bill Parcells who said: "You are what your record says you are." Do we agree?


Friday, March 9, 2012


Friends, JFNA'a leaders have sealed themselves off from reality to such an extent that they actually believe that their Press releases and public statements influence world events. But, as anyone who has read these pages knows full well, paraphrasing a superb columnist, these leaders have hermetically sealed themselves in the world of JFNA fantasy.

Let us look at a few examples:

     ~ In the midst of the Jewish Agency Board meetings in Jerusalem, JFNA organized a meeting with the Prime Minister. Aside from a bizarre statement by Ms. Manning to the effect: "don't worry Mr. PM. in the vent of a war with Iran, North American Jewry '...are ready and prepared to do whatever is necessary, including providing for urgent financial needs, leading advocacy efforts, dealing with domestic security concerns and more." I am certain that the Prime Minister was "comforted," but... of course, there was more. She expressed "her concern" that the Ethiopian aliyah was not moving fast enough. And, presto chango, exactly as JFNA wrote it: "[S]hortly after the meeting, the government agreed to significantly increase Ethiopian aliyah..." Ahhhh, the power, the hyperbole -- Manning demands and the Government of Israel genuflects and succumbs. Sure.

Of course the Prime Minister is so fearful of the power of Ms. Manning to influence world events to have asked "where exactly is the money you promised us to 'Complete the Journey?'" To which Ms. Manning would have replied: "Oh, that. Ask Jerry."

     ~ That was on February 27. It was only the very next day that JFNA was petitioning the Pope...yep, the Pope. "The Jewish Federations of North America is calling for support for an online petition urging Pope Benedict XVI to seek the release of Alan Gross during an upcoming papal visit to Cuba." This time the "urging" was made by Michael Gelman, Chair of the Executive Committee, and, presumably, of much less force and immediate impact than Chair Manning's demands of the PM.

     ~ And, earlier of course we have seen the Briefings on Beit Shemesh and the JFNA-led discourse on tolerance and civility in Israel where, dealing with even higher authority, all JFNA could do, so far, was to publicly whine.

I expect that in the coming days we will see JFNA Briefings demanding the release of Jonathan Pollard (probably responding to the urging of Pope Benedict to do so) and importuning Ahmadinejad to give up efforts by Iran to build a nuclear bomb, among other things,

Hyperbole and fantasy -- JFNA's stock in trade.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012


The Large City Executives are meeting (or have met) this week in Southern Florida. I am certain they discussed matters of critical importance, after all their communities are responsible for 80% or more of the funds raised by the Federations across our Continent. New and innovative programs might have been on the agenda, maybe fund raising -- it's really none of our business, after all. This is a meeting of the LCE, whom we may employ but who often have their own agenda, created by them and for them. 

But I have a few ideas that might have merited inclusion on their agenda:

     1. How long are each of our federations going to spend over $1 million annually (and, often, two and three times that amount) in an organization that we are supposed to own -- JFNA -- but contributes almost nothing to us, individually or collectively?

     2. From which of our federations will the next JFNA chief volunteer officers be chosen? Or will the largest of our communities continue to abdicate their leadership responsibilities to a self-perpetuating oligarchy of leaders,  as has been the case for the last 6 years?

     3. What are our responsibilities to other federations? How can we be mentors to new CEOs without regard to City-size, not just "better mentors" (because, really, we haven't been doing much, if any) but mentors?

     4. How do we encourage the best and brightest of the lay leaders in our communities to engage in our national and overseas organizations to assure that those organizations reflect our agendas, our goals, our values?

I am sure that each of you could suggest an Agenda that end up having meaning to our communities.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012


You know the drill; you've heard those exact words or something similar. You've learned that when you hear them it's either going to cost money ("Complete the Journey," "Support the IAN," "We need your Dues now," etc., etc.) What follows is a cautionary tale of just what JFNA means by "help."

When the beloved Marty Stein, z'l, and then UJA senior professional Russell Robinson first developed the concept of the Network and then implemented it, the United Jewish Appeal created not only a fund raising opportunity for 1000s of leaders in 400 non-federated communities across the country but also a strong voice in the governance of UJA. These were handed to JFNA with the expectation that Network FRD would increase and that the Network's "voice" would resonate even stronger than before. But this was JFNA after all.

Things started well. The Network leadership felt empowered and were supportive of their professional leader, Rhea Attias. Then, about five years ago, the Network first learned how much of its annual fund raising was being used to support JFNA's budget -- a much higher percentage than the JFNA dues of any federation. The Network leaders expressed their shock and outrage but were placated by promises that "things will change." They didn't. The Network Executive Committee had long engaged in creating a set of Procedures pursuant to which the Network would operate going forward. It was also a declaration of independence -- an Independence within and under the JFNA brand and umbrella. Manning was made aware of the Network process.

And, then, JFNA suddenly terminated the Network's long-time professional director without notice to or prior discussion with the Network lay leadership -- suddenly her position was "no longer needed" (the reasons for the termination are now being contested in litigation previously discussed). JFNA filled the Network professional leadership position with Jim Lodge, a long-time JFNA Senior professional with no prior involvement with the Network whatsoever...none. Jim, whose JFNA involvement was in the ONAD, Israel and Overseas area, performed as one might have expected, it was not long thereafter that Lodge himself was gone.

A new Network organizational proposal emerged for discussion in Winter 2011 -- a discussion from which Lodge was excluded. Now the JFNA Board Chair stepped in. No more assurance of greater Network leadership involvement in JFNA; no, without discussion, Manning issued her order: she created a "Committee" to study the relationship between the Network and JFNA. She appointed Lew Margolis as Chair. Margolis, no doubt a great guy, a Professor at the Gilling School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Ya' think Manning knew him? Nah.) Lew had had no involvement in the Network but he clearly was someone on whom Manning could rely. And the Network's steps toward independence within the JFNA came to a dead stop.

And the outcome of the Lew Margolis Committee's work? The Network Executive Committee was disbanded; in its place an "Advisory Committee" appointed by...Manning. The new Network Chair, a reliable lay leader from Miami...who had no prior experience with the Network. And no more troublemakers.

And what does the future hold? Bet on this: the Network's funds raised, heretofore supportive of projects of the Joint and JAFI will be deployed to fund the Global Planning Table, pure and simple. Manning will reward her latest acolytes with a meaningless seat or two at the "Table" and there you have it. The Network essentially out of the business it was in and into the sorry business that is JFNA.

But, that doesn't have to be the end. The Network can easily spin off into independence using its own resources to hire a strong CEO, one who sees the potential that Marty and Russ and UJA and the former (and many of the present) leaders saw and see. Then hire a small but strong staff. No need to support the bloat with no return that is the result of sending Network funds to JFNA now and in the future. The Network would elect its own Chair and its own Board without the intervention of Board Chair or Advisory Committee and it would identify the Israel and overseas projects of the Joint and JAFI that would inspire the Network's donors. Annually, leadership could convene a Network Assembly that would probably inspire attendance greater than the 800+ full pay Registrants that JFNA now attracts to the GA. All of this could be done with lower overhead and greater return than today. It would just take time and inspiration. All it would take would be for the Network's real leaders to take a look around and ask "what are we getting, really, from JFNA?"

Yes, this is a cautionary tale; but also exemplary. The Network had and has the capacity to raise $14 to $15 million -- all for needs of JDC and JAFI in Israel and overseas. But, never mind. To JFNA the Network's fund raising was far less important, even meaningless, to a leadership focused solely on absolute loyalty to it, total control and nothing more. Well, they got it; more great lay persons just thrown away because they wouldn't step forward in total fealty. And they...and all of us...lose.


Saturday, March 3, 2012


Friends, last month your Federation received the following letter -- only with a large number in it -- an invoice, a bill. As you will recall, this is JFNA's version of FRD.

"TO: __________________________________

FROM: Kathy E. Manning, Chair, Board of Trustees

Jerry Silverman, President & CEO

DATE: February 13, 2012

RE: Israel Action Network (IAN)

As you know, at the close of 2010 the JFNA Board of Trustees voted overwhelmingly to fund and launch the Israel Action Network (IAN), an initiative of the JFNA in partnership with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, to address the urgency of responding to a growing assault on Israel's legitimacy by foreign governments, NGOs and others in the BDS movement.

With your generous support, IAN has successfully ramped up its efforts, and implementation of the approved three year strategic plan is underway. Attached you will find the IAN 2011 Year End Report; 2012 Goals, Objectives and Deliverables that details the critical work that has been accomplished in the first year. Due to the time needed to recruit and hire staff and put an infrastructure in place, JFNA extended the first year budget (originally prorated for a 10 month start up year) to cover the first 18 months of operation that will conclude on March 31, 2011. IAN has carefully marshaled the funding to ensure achievement of our collective goals over this extended period.

As determined by the Board of Trustees vote, the first year of this initiative was funded exclusively by special federation allocations. In years two and three, 50% will be incorporated into the JFNA budget as a core function. Federation funding for this initiative was originally budgeted at $1.76 million for the first year, and then prorated to a 10-month year at $1.5 million as noted above. Federation funding is budgeted at $900,000 for each of years 2 and 3. We thank you for your support for the first year. We now respectfully request $           for year two of IAN’s operations.

We want to thank you for your ongoing support of this exciting new initiative, which we believe effectively represents our movement’s critically important response to an ongoing and insidious challenge to the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

When your federation does take action or you have any questions or concerns, please contact William Daroff at; 202-736-5868. Also, please make checks payable to the Jewish Federations of North America and send to the attention of:

Sonia Santos

The Jewish Federations of North America

25 Broadway, Suite 1700

New York, NY 10004-1010

Thank you for joining our movement in this vital effort."

Yes, "thank you for joining our movement in this vital effort." And fighting with all we have the efforts at the delegitimization of Israel is vital. You may remember that when the IAN was created, this leadership sent out another letter, expecting federations to respond unanimously in support of the IAN. They didn't; we didn't. So, at the insistence of the federations, JFNA agreed to fund the IAN out of its budget -- out of the $30.3 million budget you/we provide. I could have sworn that JFNA was mandated to assume the total federation share of the IAN Budget but, perhaps, I misheard both the demand and the acceptance...maybe it was just half (obviously, JFNA needs the balance of those funds for Tables and TribeFest and stuff like that.

But, how are the funds being spent. Well, not to worry. The JCPA is monitoring the expenditures and, I suppose, reporting to JFNA on the revenues and expenses. The potential problem -- some insiders have told me that they believe that JCPA has used some of the IAN funds to support its own staff and budget. So, if true, we've got the classic fox guarding the hen house. We aren't talking about pennies here -- we're talking about "$900,000 (in) federation funding." Shouldn't we expect our JFNA to monitor the expenditure of our funds? Or should we rely on JCPA, a beneficiary, in whole or in part, of those funds? Rhetorical questions, of course.

It's a damn shame that JFNA continues to rely on letters for its internal fund raising efforts -- the same format was followed in its ask (wholly inappropriate in this writer's opinion) for additional funds for the ENP and for funding the effort to "Complete the Journey" of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. And, of course, the preposterous JFNA initiative, long forgotten, to bring Yemenite Jews to Monsey (and how's that "monitoring" going?). And, on and on. Never is there any priority-setting, just the "asks"...always the "asks."