Wednesday, May 9, 2012


The Global Planning Table -- that epic piece of "work" that is, in reality, a three-legged stool -- met in person in Chicago on April 23. The attendance -- 32 leaders including 8 or so from JAFI and JDC and multiple members of the JFNA staff were present along with an unannounced number of phone participants -- is the best evidence of the overwhelming lack of federation interest in this joint creation of the Board Chair and a consultant. Together with a supportive CEO, they managed to ignore each and every criticism moving inexorably forward toward the stool (I know, I know) they have now produced.

They convened a meeting at which those attending in person were literally flooded with consultant and staff work product at the last minute, papers which at best are overly simplistic, citing other source materials, paternalistic or judgmental (when is the last time you read a paper with the imprimatur of our national organization that termed the West Bank "occupied territories"), or written to the lowest common denominator? And since when do we just turn our meetings over to a Consultant when the GPT and Board Chairs are right there? But, so be it. 

And, what have we got? A Partnership Committee, a GPT Committee, some form of Executive/Steering Committee (where the "real" decisions will be made) and maybe three, maybe five, "Commissions" to study and recommend (like they do in New York [which, BTW, actually raises the money that will then be allocated]). Please stop reading if any of this makes sense to you. JAFI and JDC have already "invested" a huge amount of time to this exercise in futility as have, I am sure, World ORT and the Ethiopian National Project, the latter two now also known as "historic partners." At the end of the day, this time investment for all is in the nature of "playing defense" against JFNA's leaders' intent to totally disengage from historic core allocations support (other than lip service.)

Here you had federation lay and professional leaders summoned to Chicago (the wise stayed away) and a strong sense among those with whom I spoke that they had, as one told me, "...wasted another day and about $1000 (in air fare, hotel, etc.) that neither I nor my community could afford." And, this is only the beginning. It is true that many federation CEOs, in particular, among the Large Intermediate and smaller -- in the main, bright and knowledgeable -- see some sort of unidentifiable panacea, a Phoenix, arising out of the ashes of the core allocations to the Jewish Agency and Joint. In particular, some have emphasized to me, they don't believe JAFI's impact and disbelieve JDC's "case" any longer. Their solution -- well, it appears their only answer is the continuing defenestration of core allocations. And, JFNA is right there cheering them on chomping at the bit to offer any and all alternatives.

JFNA's leaders assert that "the GPT is not and will not be ONAD."  And, that's probably true -- ONAD in retrospect will prove to have been about the Joint and the Jewish Agency; the Global Planning Table is all (and only) about JFNA. We have previously pointed out that consultants in Israel independent of JFNA have already begun prepping 1000s of NGOs there to assault not just the GPT for support but your federation and mine. (Has Silverman called these consultants, who know our system extremely well, to "demand" they stop? And with what affect?) While ONAD, until JFNA lay persons at the time tried to substitute their unilateral judgment for the ONAD Committee's collective judgment, focused on the totality of core allocations to JAFI/JDC, it seems clear at the outset of the GPT's convoluted "process" that this "Table" will be dealing with marginal dollars at the most. And if that is the end product -- marginal dollars extended to marginal organizations -- along with the termination of assured contractual distributions to the Agency and Joint as has historically been the case, what will we be left with? C...H...A...O...S. And, in the midst of failure, JFNA will declare "victory is ours" while every Jewish non-profit is banging on the federations' doors.

But the CHAOS didn't end with the GPT way. Just two days ago, the internet was flooded with more requests of the "partners." There was this:

      Attached you will find two document on the Rest of the World topic- an Overview and Identity.  We expect to have the Caring one to you shortly.  Please take a look and get them back to us with your comments this week.  We would like to get the Overview which was sent last week by Monday, May 7, 2012 and the Identity document by Thursday, May 10.  We are trying our best to be respectful of your time and keep on our schedule to have them ready to share with the GPT Committee members before the June meeting.  

Immediately followed by this:

 We took a crack at the Leadership and Community Development document and thought it might be easier for you to review this, send us comments or additional information.

We recognize we have not asked for information until late this week and have a tight turnaround, but any additional information you can provide this working group would be greatly appreciated.  We need to receive this no later than next Thursday, May 10.  As with all responses, please cc Karen Barth.  

Read this in context -- you got three days. Yes, friends, there is a new definition of insanity -- the Global Planning Table. Participate at your own risk. 

And the worst of it? It didn't have to be this way. Next time we'll offer additional suggestions on how this insipid, convoluted "process" might be fixed.


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