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.