Friday, April 13, 2012


JFNA-Istan, located at 25 Broadway, NYC, is a strange, foreboding land. A place that should be dedicated to trying to build consensus among 157 different tribes, instead it is a place that is all about...itself. On any given day JFNA-Istan is a place where, thanks to quotidian efforts, $30,800 is invested/wasted in...itself -- projects and marketing about...itself. Those 157 federations and 400 non-federated Network communities send their money (think of Foreign Aid to Iraq), hoping it will not all be wasted. That's hope against hope, good money after bad. JFNA-Istan is both purposeless and feckless -- the worst things (other than corrupt) that a Jewish organization in receipt of at least $30,300,000 a year of our money...that's ours...can be. And us? We look away, we avoid looking at the disaster we have created by our inattention -- and we can't look away when the results are as bad as they have been the past 6+ years. But look away we have and we do. For who would really want to see what we have, by our silence and our acquiescence, created and perpetuated?

Just like its namesake country and its operational model, JFNA-Istan is a place where dissent is never tolerated, confused with disloyalty. It was a the President of a Jesuit institution who recently praised dissent in a critical context when he said: "This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people. One need not agree with her substantive position to support her right to free expression." Of course, that was in America, and we are in JFNA-Istan. In JFNA-Istan dissent is treason and the treasonous are first isolated, then degraded and, if all else fails, word is passed amongst the mullahs (and accepted by them as fact without further inquiry) that the treasonous can't be "trusted."  And these are good and honorable men and women.

No. JFNA-Istan is a place where only those who "are JFNA-Istanis" are permitted into the Mishkan, decorated by the High Priestess herself. And it is She who shares the password she created with only the privileged few. Yes, it is she who has uttered the word "collective" so often and in so many inapt circumstances, that she and her followers believe that they demonstrate their commitment to this core concept by repetition alone. It is she and the CEO/President of JFNA-Istan who believe that something called the "Global Planning Table" will somehow increase allocations to Israel and overseas needs (and to JAFI and JDC) because the High Priestess has declared it so. No, the GPT is but an act of futility and desperation, as is so much that goes on at JFNA. There is so much bad that the infrequent "good" (like the recently announced "regional alliance" in southwest Florida) gets lost in the back wash.

JFNA-Istan, like its namesake, is a place from which thoughtful leaders should announce either a planned, swift withdrawal, or a massive takeover. Sadly, neither will probably happen.



Anonymous said...

What-the-fuckistan is going on in their heads?

Anonymous said...

JFNA is a bad place to work. I have every right to say this because I actually work there.

Used to be Important said...

As the "partnership" was forming before it evolved into UJC, you and I, Richard, were intereviewed separately by the New York Times and I remember a question to me that was something like "What do you think the purpose of UJA is" and all that came into my head was to tell the reporter (and she promised and delivered the "off the record" respect I requested)that it was "like the 'Mother House' to the Federations and their Campaigns. While certainly not a Jewish concept,it sure isn't bad to have a place to look up to; a place from which real vision (not consultant facilitated-in-a-group vision) flows; a place well-informed and seasoned in the ways of assisting success and growth and development, both of leaders and of dollars. We had such a place and it was the seat of a uniqely uncomplex vision; "Collective Responsibility", The system, with all its flaws, worked to fulfill that Vision. The desire to not have a "central address"; the desire to not have the national organization be a lead organization; the desire to abandon the simplicity of a concept like "no gift touches more lives" in favor of the navel-gazing analytics of following the money; living in awe of poor research instead of in awe of humans with strong Jewish hearts all contributed to the demise we are witnessing. When "Kol Israel zeh-la-zeh" becomes "every one for him/herself", you get what we got.

Anonymous said...

In the spirit of the current Hag when is it time to say "Dayenu" to JFNA? "For nothing that they have given to us - Dayenu and let's put an end to this nonsensical organization.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said that JFNA is a bad place to work...

I work there, too.
Bad does not begin to explain it.

First, not even the executive committee or finance committee has been told about the federal lawsuits that are underway over employment issues.

Every one will tell you that Jerry is a nice guy, he even eats lunch with the employees. What they won't tell you is his vicious disposition when he does not like something. All smiles and then like a rabies infected dog bite he gets you.

The staff asks every day what will Kathy Manning think? She is the do all end all. Nothing but nothing can happen without her being in the spotlight. Even campaign material goes out to the trustees under her signature. The Campaign chair is a workhorse with zero authority and zero recognition. Kathy controls all communications. If there is sucess in any area or anything she can thumbprint, she runs in and pushes the lay-leader in charge out of the way. Examples are campaign, budget, UIA, endowment, emergency, GPT, and even the executive committee itself. Whenever there is an issue it will not go to the executive for discussion, Manning will name an advocate committee, just so she can chair it. She chairs a dozen functions that should be other lay leaders.

I discuss this with colleagues around the country, no other organization has such a deadly combination of a clueless "out-of-the-box" chief executive matched with an organizational destroying "one-woman-show" despot like Kathy Manning.

Death by a thousand cuts. Even a new chair will unlikely be able to prevent this place from sliding further. Raise critical questions here? Only at the risk of your job. Anybody with a conscience who can find a better job is gone. Most people are looking.

This year's toll: Saginaw, Astroff, Neuman

Look around. We stink. It's terrible. We work to advance JFNA not the Federations. We work to make our organization in the press, we do not work to advance our mission.

I am ashamed to work here.

Anonymous said...


paul jeser said...


Dayenu only when leaders of our community are willing to admit to and correct this devastating mistake before it is too late.

Anonymous said...

I was referring to JFNA - Dayenu of JFNA. Translation - someone needs to step up and put a stop to JFNA. There are so many people (professionals and volunteers)who have decicated their lives to bettering the Jewish people and it now seems that everything about JFNA is contrary to what a Jewish organization is meant to be. It abuses its staff and volunteers who are not "from JFNA", it is destroying in a little over 10 years what was built for almost a century (and in the case of our overseas partners) more than a century. Yes - Dayenu to JFNA.