Sunday, September 9, 2012


She promised us that we had hired a new Moshe -- someone for the ages, from outside our system who would lead us out of Egypt. A successful businessman who spoke the language (ignore the cliches), not another of those "Large City Executives." He would be filled with new ideas. At last we would find our way to a new land of milk and honey. They flew in Moses from Boston. So far, truth be told, all we have experienced has been a deluge of toads. 

Jerry Silverman was hired by a Search Committee filled with federation lay leaders heavily in the thrall of Kathy Manning, hand-picked, in the main, because they could be "counted on." Jerry was whom she wanted...demanded. Interesting resume, great success at the tiny Foundation for Camp (where he rebranded the organization), great presentation to the Search Committee...and he had Manning's support. This was a support that continued through what was described as an intense two year evaluation -- I was not one of the "evaluators" but, those of you who were, answer me this: Did Manning approach you as she did me with the following: "I want your opinion about how Jerry is doing." "Don't you think he has been doing great?!" That's "evaluation" JFNA style.

I think that any fair evaluation would positively accentuate: Jerry's accessibility -- he has visited almost every federation by now (although what he has learned on those visits appears to be negligible when it comes to advocacy for the federations' wants and needs to which he expresses great sympathy and understanding...and then does nothing); he has been our system's advocate in the halls of the Knesset on issues ranging from "Who Is A Jew" to incivility in Israel (but in trying to do so alone, he has disregarded the playbook from the demonstrable successes in the past); we do have a new "brand" (but the cost of "rebranding" and proselytizing for the brand which actually first emerged in 1999 have yet to be totaled up and, probably exceed $2.5 million); he has been unique among current JFNA professionals  -- he has done some important major gift fund raising with Federation CEOs -- but not enough, not nearly enough; Jerry's professional hiring pattern has been awful: on the plus side, his efforts retained William Daroff, who continues, even with all of the tweeting, to be the JFNA superstar, brought back Mindy Hepner, and hired Matt Freedman away from Baltimore, terrific professionals (but what are they asked to do?), but he also brought in Joanne Moore, who appeared to have superstar potential, then deferred to a consultant and the Board Chair and the SVP for Israel and Overseas, leaving this professional of such potential no choice but to leave, and he brought over Paul Kane from New York UJA-Federation, perhaps at their demand, who has functioned as...what, exactly -- certainly not to protect and rebuild JFNA's FRD function -- maybe the consummate cheerleader.

Meanwhile JFNA has spent $90 million under this CEO with the same negligible results of his predecessor. A lost three years. Sure, there has been good continued programming in low level gift development. I-LEAD, and the like. But the big bucks have been thrown at, e.g., TribeFest 1 and 2, the Global Planning Table, Community Heroes, a futile Israel and Overseas effort that aspires to be something more when it can't show a single accomplishment over the last 6 years and branding, branding, always branding. And, now, Silverman sees himself as the little boy at the JFNA dyke, plugging gaping holes created by his Chair with his thumbs -- he'll need more of those, it appears  -- and joining in the  vendettas

When Jerry was on the cusp of his JFNA work, he visited with many of us, allegedly seeking guidance. Many of us told him to immediately hire an EVP from and of the federations. He demurred, "I want to first get the lay of the land." OK, and now it's three years later and... Hmmm. Rumors were he was searching for the right person earlier in 2012 but that there was such great pressure within the JFNA hierarchy from those not experienced in and of the federations on his senior staff that Jerry backed off. While Silverman now believes that he totally understands the federations because he has dropped in on all of them, he doesn't. The need for that federation-centric EVP continues, now more than ever.

Do I think Jerry should go?  I think he needs Chairs who understand how the federation system works and give him direction. And, he needs to understand that his current Chairs need to be told "enough" -- enough with the Global Planning Table, enough with the total misguided micromanagement, enough with the vendettas.

So much rests on the shoulders of Michael Siegal and Dede Feinberg...because we all know what follows a deluge of toads.



Anonymous said...


Are you kidding? This guy should be gone and gone NOW. No CEO has wasted more money, wasted more time and lost total sight of JFNA's purposes and vision.

Anonymous said...

As a sitting Federation CEO of a not so small community, I must tell you that Jerry's enthusiasm in person is infectious. He is a very likeable person. The problem is once he leaves your community there is nothing there.

He has the "we are here for you" speech down pat...what he does not have is the follow through nor team behind him.

I can tell you that my community questions every day the value we get from JFNA. For what we pay we could hire 5-6 professionals to manage everything we get from JFNA AND pay for our Campaign chairs at full cost to do a CC/CD type mission with plenty of money to spare.

Anonymous said...

I am a Cabinet member. Jerry Silverman comes to our Retreats and panders to us year after year to the point that our leaders would like to find a way to ask him not to come. We seem to know about federations than he does.

Thanks for speaking out for us.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, we've all heard the "we are here for you" speech. I can't believe he thinks we are that gullible. He takes advantage of our "distance" from JFNA (which grows more distant every day) and our basic courtesy.

Why are you holding back?

Anonymous said...

You heard the old saying: The Village called and they want their idiot back?

The thin lady, the tall lady, the short lady and the fat lady have all sung this song.

Time for this guy to go home. What were we thinking anyway?

Anonymous said...

If I read JFNA's 2011 990 form correctly, Jerry has 2 years to go on his contract. At a base salary of $610,000, it won't be cheap to move him out. But the cost of keeping him may be even higher.

Anonymous said...

Which is the better value? Tribefest for $1 mil or pay off Jerry for $600k per year? If you want to conduct a pole I vote pay off Jerry.

Anonymous said...

The same issue plagues the successful federations as it does JFNA -- no succession plans. At JFNA it is even worse because in place we have one who still seemingly knows as little about the federations now as when the mistake of hiring him took place. And to think, Manning considers this one of the "great actions" of her Queenship.

Anonymous said...

If only your followers had the balls to use their names!

RWEX said...

...and you, my Anonymous "friend?" What about you?

Anonymous said...

Yeah I heard Paul Kane was a forced hire until he could be out out to pasture. Having met him, have no trouble believing it either. A big waste of Federation dollars. Unless Manning leaves too, it won't matter whether Jerry does or not.