Wednesday, November 28, 2012


At last month's Jewish Agency Board meetings, the Unity of the Jewish People Committee, on which many of us serve, called upon JA leadership to express our People's grave concern with assaults on Jews, and, in particular, Jewish women, at the Western Wall.  Natan Sharansky immediately stepped forward on our collective behalf, writing the Government; the Government's response follows:


"Mr. Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Executive

The Jewish Agency for Israel

48 King George Street

Jerusalem 91000

Natan, my friend,

Thank you for your letter regarding prayer arrangements at the Western Wall, and for your continued efforts on the subject amongst Diaspora Jewry.

A balance must be struck between the right of every person to pray as he wishes, and the need to balance that right with the needto avoid harming the prevailing custom held by others who worship at the Western Wall, and we—the Government of Israel and the leaders of the Jewish people—are responsible for finding appropriate and balanced solutions that address everyone’s needs.

It is in light of this worldview that I have, in recent years, actively promoted the expansion of the prayer area in the southern part of the Western Wall, as well as the area’s formal definition and separation from the archaeological park.

I would be glad to join you in further examining the subject in the context of the roundtable that we jointly head."
Our national organization, our JFNA, so desirous of being the spokesman for North American Jewry, in particular on matters such as these: silent.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


We republished Haviv Rettig Gur's superb analysis of the current state of both the illusory Global Planning Table and the illusory JFNA last month (courtesy of ejewishphilanthropy)  in our REAL INSIGHTS Post. In response, we received the following advice, certainly worthy of consideration at 25 Broadway:

"What I find most fascinating (and frustrating) is that it should be relatively easy for JFNA to pivot itself and become that clearinghouse for best practices; providing value as a trade organization. There are bright spots out there, with professional and lay leadership who are reinventing the Federation best practices for collective giving and redefining what creating and supporting Jewish community and infrastructure means in the 21st century. Nurturing and highlighting them should not be an insurmountable feat. It is just a matter of making it a priority."

If we had faith in the professional leader of JFNA, we would ask him to work with his new lay leadership team to "provide value" to the federations in meaningful ways.

And, then, further insight from another Anonymous Commentator:

"Anonymous one is correct. And they can start by sending their staff uptown and out to Queens and Brooklyn to see how one Amazing version of 21st century federation community building works when in a challenge mode." 

Sadly, most would not know or understand what they were seeing, but...some would. And, those that would understand this incredible community building and rebuilding to those who would not...starting with explaining all to the CEO. 

Perhaps, as a first step toward understanding, the new Chairs might direct the CEO to spend a week at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, or in the Departments of the UJA-Federation of New York, or a week in Baltimore, Miami, Cleveland...wherever strong  federations are busy doing the sacred work of community.



Thursday, November 22, 2012


This is a cautionary tale for JFNA's newly installed Chairs. This is about what can happen when there are no checks and balances. When there is no one around our national organization who knows enough or is confident enough to turn to a Chair and say "No, you cannot do this" stuff like the following follows like day follows night.

We all know that the Global Planning Table structure is such a convoluted maze that it would escape the design of even a Rube Goldberg. Work Groups report up to Commissions which report to the GPT Committee whose recommendations flow to a "Partnership/Executive Committee" which makes "final" decisions. Got it so far? We have a governance structure operating independently of the JFNA governance structure...and even more ridiculous. The hard work takes place at "Working Groups" wich were told by JFNA and GPT leaders during the "zionism" imbroglio, your work doesn't matter.

So, while significant Federation leaders have given serious thought and time to the GPT process. But, at the end of the day, real decisions will be made at only one level -- this "Partnership Committee" level. And, who do we find there as the self-appointed "Interim Chair?"  Who else? Kathy Manning. And, had the original GPT timeline been followed, we would have had the same person sitting as Board Chair and Allocations Chair. We don't permit this in our federations, but, at JFNA, be our guest.

This circumstance reminds me an old Western comedy movie farce where Gabby Hayes, Western supporting actor of yesteryear, would first appear as barkeep in his small town, then Sheriff, then Judge (and probably jury). Here, the Board Chair appoints herself as Chair of the GPT Partnership Allocations Committee, sits on all of the Work Groups, and dictates wording, outcomes, etc. And the best and brightest of our system sit by...nodding. And, David Butler, the GPT Chair appears to perceive his role as toastmaster, MC and disciplinarian.

If that weren't enough. Manning apparently wishes to take the "Interim" from her GPT title while at one and the same time joining the Board of the JDC one of the two major "historic partners" of our federation system whose work and value are being "judged" by the Global Planning Table. Conflict of interest. perhaps? Self-aggrandizement for sure. Narcissism? Call it what you will; it is a form of leadership alien to every construct of good governance.

During her Terms (and aren't the lack of accomplishment and self-aggrandizemnet evidence enough that two one-year Terms [as originally incorporated in the merger documents] are more than sufficient) some of the best and brightest lay leaders -- lawyers, business persons -- just sat back and let power either accrete to or be grabbed by this now past leadership, often without process or governance approval. When challenged face-to-face, the responses I observed most often were: "we elected her Chair and we are obligated to follow her" or "I trust her." When I suggested that we don't follow leaders taking us over a cliff or that trust should be earned not assumed, eyes would glaze over.

So, where does this all end? To me, it appears quite simple. Kathy can graciously (and immediately) resign her position within the Global Planning Table structure. Or, the new Board and Executive Chairs, given their By-Law responsibility to appoint Committee Chairs and members, can give their thanks to Manning for her service and appoint another in her stead. 

This farce has gone far enough and has gone on for far too long.


Monday, November 19, 2012


Haviv Rettig Gur, journalist, Director of Communications at JAFI and, now, a journalist once again, has been engaged with our system in a serious way for years. In ejewishphilanthropy, Gur, after this year's General Assembly, offered readers the most insightful analysis yet of the futility of the Global Planning Table and of JFNA itself. It is a long and thoughtful analysis and I urge all of you to read it in its totality at

 I commend Haviv's analysis in particular to JFNA's new lay leaders (if I had any hope that JFNA's two professionals leading the GPT effort or "sell" would read and could/would understand what Gur has written, I would suggest they do so as well).

This is how Gur ended his piece.

"What is JFNA?

And finally, the GPT suffers from JFNA’s own lack of clarity about its purpose.
Is JFNA a trade association that offers services to constituent federations? A Jewish “government” or representative that lobbies in Washington and Jerusalem? A professional advisory (or even decision making) body where federation dollars are divvied up and shipped to projects and organizations?

Those are all radically different missions that demand radically different capabilities. As a lobbyist (at least in Jerusalem; its Washington office is widely regarded as successful), JFNA is not an effective agent of influence or change. Professionals from medium and small federations at the General Assembly say it isn’t even on the map as a trade association exchanging best practices, or offering skills development and fundraising expertise for smaller federations. And the GPT process notwithstanding, it is increasingly not the address for overseas giving, even from federations.

Instead of clarifying the organization’s purpose and role, the GPT process seems to be highlighting the confusion.

Those affiliated with the GPT often speak of the need to “grow the whole pie” rather than merely move around a shrinking amount of dollars. But the response of the GPT, the attempt to entice federations to shift more money to GPT-related giving and away from their own local investments, isn’t really “growing the pie” at all. The pie, after all, is generated by the constituent federations themselves. It is their budgets that must grow if anything else in the federation system is to flourish.

For many years now, JFNA has focused too much on its own place in the system, and too little on transforming into what many federations, particularly those smaller than the behemoths of New York or Chicago, desperately need it to be: a clearinghouse of serious research and knowledge, a repository of best practices and clear-headed analysis, an enabler of growth, a living social network for thousands of federation and fundraising professionals across America.

As the trade association of a struggling industry, it is time for JFNA to shift away from its focus on decision making and management of a declining pot of “collective” overseas giving, and truly commit itself to “growing the pot” – to transforming weak federations from beleaguered, collapsing dinosaurs to the innovators and inspiring storytellers that the best, most adaptive federations have become.

What is missing is not a new organization or process, or more terms like “collective” or “partners,” but rather a clear understanding of what JFNA is, and what it is not.
“One should use common words to say uncommon things,” Arthur Schopenhauer once advised.

Nowhere is that more necessary than in philanthropy, where fear of a donor’s displeasure too often paralyzes an institution and robs it of the ability to speak bluntly about its challenges and strategy. It is, perhaps, time for JFNA to speak plainly about the struggling industry that it serves. JFNA isn’t the cause for the weaknesses of the federation world, but neither is it part of the solution."

Kal ha'kavod, Haviv.


Friday, November 16, 2012


As the Terrorists' War on Israel expands with rockets falling in South Jerusalem with the Israel Defense Forces poised for a ground war into Gaza, it is with pride and relief that our federations, JFNA and the Jewish Agency are all standing tall.

JFNA has formally thanked President Obama for his steadfast support of Israel's right to defend itself and mobilized its leadership. Michael Siegal, installed just this week, will lead a Solidarity Mission of federation leaders "in the coming days" and JFNA has rallied federations to a $5 million Terror Relief Fund to aid the victims of this War that has been thrust upon Israel.

And the federations have already responded with rallies and funds. My Chicago Federation has already transmitted $1 million to the fund for the victims of terror and others are doing likewise.

The Jewish Agency has responded with direct assistance and respite to those directly in the line of fire. 

All of us pray for the well-being of those of our People under constant threat and terror, literally living in shelters and now at risk whether in Ibim, Be'ersheva, Kiryat Malachi, Jerusalem or Tel Aviv . 

We stand, as always, with Israel.

Shabbat shalom.



In further pursuit of the Global Planning Table, JFNA just can't seem to stop itself as it hurtles down a path of chaos and self-destruction. Hence, under the rubric "The Power of Giving," JFNA published the following:


A new and innovative initiative established by the Jewish Federations of North America will provide information, insights and understanding regarding global Jewish priorities. This initiative – the Global Planning Table – will give Federation leaders and donors an entry point into a wider, more diverse and vibrant Jewish world / Darryl Egnal

The Jewish Federations of North America ‏(JFNA‏) represents 155 Jewish Federations and more than 300 independent Jewish communities, protecting and enhancing the well-being of Jews and Jewish communities in North America, Israel and around the world.

“As Jews, we have always cared about our entire community and, since the early days, the North American community has supported the needs of the Jewish people locally in the U.S. and internationally,” says Rebecca Caspi, Senior Vice President, Global Operations. “The Jewish Federations are defined by their ability to take collective action to address Jewish priorities. Working together, we have had a profound impact on world Jewry, having played a major role in building and strengthening the Jewish State in its early years, helping European Jewry recover after the war, rescuing Jews from around the world, building Jewish communities and more. If you fast-forward to current times, you get to a place where defining top-level priorities is more complex, but there remain many important and significant challenges that our people around the world are facing. How to prioritize them and how to have the biggest influence on those needs is less clear than it was only a few decades ago,” says Caspi.

Enter the Global Planning Table

The Global Planning Table ‏(GPT‏) came into being to provide the North American Jewish community with a place to come together, identify and wrestle with those challenges and the opportunities that need to be targeted − and together to think how to have the greatest impact. It is a venue for communal leaders to grapple with the challenges and opportunities facing the Jewish world and to establish priorities. The main aim of the forum is to determine how the Federations can have the greatest impact where it is needed the most."

This drivel appeared in a Haaretz Advertising Supplement hand-out at the GA. Its content, speculation presented as fact, bears the mark of Rebecca Caspi, who has taken on the GPT after the resignation of Joanne Moore this past Summer. Ms. Caspi, who must have seen the Global Planning Table professional leadership as a threat to her role in "Global Operations" (define, please?), just plows forward without regard for the damage that will be done to the very federations JFNA claims to represent, the federations which own JFNA.
Will the new JFNA lay leaders step up? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Was it just me -- after watching the GA Plenaries on JLTV (a great service) and listening quite carefully -- or did those of you who attended find this to be a most desultory GA, one totally lacking in evidencing the power of the federation dream? How sad that we have been reduced to this.

Oh, there were moments, there were highlights. Among them for me:
  • The introduction of the Board Chair, Michael Siegal, whose self-effacing address evidenced a new and welcome leadership style;
  • The dialogue between Elie Wiesel and Natan Sharansky, two of the great heroes of modern Jewish history, celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the zenith of the Federation system. Sad that no one from within the Federation system joined them to make the connection between the collective action that took place that day and what we achieved as a People going forward from that day. Why not?
  • Gail Norry's beautiful and meaningful presentation on what federation has come to mean to her and her family in such a personal way. All else is commentary.
Unfortunately, I think that "desultory" is the most descriptive of terms. Some have speculated that this was so because amcha is waiting for the Global Planning Table to be delivered down from the mountain to save us from "the split." I fear great disappointment when what is delivered from on high proves to be but another golden calf. (BTW, the "split" has become nothing more than a red herring [if I can be permitted to use golden calf and red herring in successive references]. That "split" became honored mainly in the breach over five years ago and the market has dictated how allocations are made even longer ago than that.) We still do not know how much has been and how much will be spent on this golden calf that will in the end only divide us further if the GPT continues down the thoughtless path it has been following.

So now we will look toward Jerusalem for GA 2013. Rather than let the incoming Chairs select the GA Chairs for 2013, as should be the practice, JFNA's former leaders chose those who have already had that privilege (at least once, maybe more). Perhaps those who were already so anointed will show their leadership by declining and graciously offering our new Chairs the opportunity to use the 2013 GA for new leaders to serve. But, then again, probably not.

In all events, let us hope that the 2013 GA will offer real opportunities for federations themselves to put on display their "strategic approaches to change" rather than those being nothing more than words in an observer's speech.





A few GA items of no special moment:

1. The Count. For those of you enjoying the GA, know that JFNA has counted you at least 4 times to arrive at its "more than 3,000" attendance number. If JFNA had been responsible for creating the Omer,  know that it would be 365 days a year.

2. Tours. It has been reliably reported to me that for some the best thing about this year's GA location is that almost directly across the street from the Marriott is a "Gentlemen's Lounge" (i.e., JFNA-speak for a strip club). Called "The Goddess." I guess that is what JFNA meant when it said it would hold future GAs in "the most attractive tourist destinations."

3. Sad.  One FOB claims that she was walking past one of the suites at the Marriott when she heard through the closed door the following: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the most powerful woman of them all?" And, in response, a low growl: "Not you anymore, m'lady, sorry." Now, I can't believe this story is anything other than an old fairy tale, but a good one as I recall.

4. Transparency. JFNA has a large and no doubt cutting edge IT Department, adept at, among other things, at the orders of the bosses, at checking out the hard drives of those suspected of "disloyalty." But, when really needed, where were they...those, like me and many others, who actually wanted to participate in the JFNA Board meeting, called in at 6:15 CST only to be confronted by static (or unable to connect at all) until about 8:30 when JFNA leaders reported that the "connectivity issue" had been resolved. Of course, the Board meeting was over by then.

6. And...finally. At what I have heard was a lovely reception in honor of the new Chair of the Executive, among others, the now former Board Chair felt compelled to speak. In her remarks she reflected on the fact that she began each day infuriated by whatever might have appeared in this Blog -- a fury only exceeded, as she reported, by that experienced by the now former Chair of the Executive. And, this from the person who had told me to my face that the only time she read UJThee was when someone sent it to her. Thus, as she ended her appearances at the GA, Ms. Manning admitted that which she had for all these years, she, too, is a FOB!!


Saturday, November 10, 2012


What has JFNA been best at these past six years? Hmmmm. Nothing...tenacity...wasting our resources...never, ever being wrong? All of the above? Well, nothing exemplifies all that is wrong than does the Global Planning Table. The GPT has been pursued with tenacity. it has wasted millions (millions that, by the way, could have been allocated to the Jewish Agency, ORT and Joint for their core budgets). and its leaders are never wrong...even when they are, they aren't if you get my meaning. Terrific lay and professional leaders (chosen in JFNA's belief, wrong I hope, that they [and, thereby, their communities] can be the most easily co-opted) have dedicated themselves to the GPT as have Chairs Manning and Butler, pros Caspi and Silverman and a consultant (paid...what???)

The latest GPT Update evidences so much that is wrong:
  1. The October 23 Update of "another meeting of the Global Planning Table Committee" relates that "All of the working Groups...examined the program areas Federations are currently funding collectively." Let's take a careful look at this: Neither the Jewish Agency nor the Joint nor ORT were allowed to be present for these "examinations;" though JAFI and JDC have seats at the Table...they were but invited in to make extremely brief presentations and then invited out. I am not aware of any serious discussion by GPT leaders with the leaders of the "historic partners" since the GPT went off on its own.
  2. From this insulting come in/get out we learn that "recommendations emerging from this process both reaffirm the importance of our on-going work (shhhh, no "zionism" allowed) and outline a set of far-reaching and bold new ideas..." HUH? What are these? Sorry, you are on a "need to know basis" and WE have determined YOU have no need to least not yet. We'll get back to you.
  3. We've already developed a set of "hypothetical outcomes" -- you know how those work, don't you, the JFNA way of evolving hypothetical into demanded outcomes. Oh, you haven't seen those either -- you will; when we think you're ready. Remember this leadership has the same belief as did Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men: "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH."
  4. It would have seemed to me that the optimal place for a discussion of the Global Planning Table with federation leaders would have been at the GA. And, there will be "...a series of stand alone (1 hour) sessions (whatever those are)" at the GA. What else is the General Assembly for if not that., not this group. On October 25 JFNA announced that there will be two "Webinars to Discuss Global Planning Table." When? November 27 or November 29. These are, after all, the Replacement Refs. Personally, I am holding my breath for this roll-out!! They are coming to the Global Planning Table Committee from a set of Working Groups and, then, unmentioned in the Briefing, they will then go to some decision-making Executive group and the Committee will appoint some Commissions to work in "specific assigned areas." HELLLOOOOOO Rube Goldberg. This Post is more deserving of the Halloween just past.
Equally poor is the quality of the draftsmanship. Each document emanating from wherever these things are being produced contains something incredible, nonsensical and incomprehensible. Case in point: "We also need to maximize the glue that connects each individual to Israel and the global Jewish people." By all means...maximize the glue. Read these things and weep.

Bottom line: today, and for at least the past six years, overseas allocations have been market-driven in the context of the reality that all decisions are essentially local. And, the market should be driving those divisions at the local level -- JAFI and the Joint are perfectly capable of taking the needs they identify and serve to the market. BUT. JFNA, which has proved to be incapable of evaluation of any of its own programs, let alone the programs of others, and which has refused to advocate for the work of its historic partners TO THIS DAY, now wants to dictate the overseas market through the Global Planning Table device; it wishes to take away from the local federation all allocations decisions and take away from the historic partners, to which JFNA now offers only lip service (oh, and criticism), the ability to plan, budget and implement. Does anyone...anyone other than those who worship at the feet of 215 Broadway...believe that the 157 federations will give up their allocations responsibilities delegated to them by their donors to this GPT device? Come on.

At the end of the day: we are wasting JFNA professionals and lay leaders time; we are wasting federation lay and professional leaders' time; we are wasting donors' precious money; we are creating false expectations; outcomes will be dictated and fail for lack of consensus; and will have destroyed decades of good will between the federations and the historic partners. And, why? Yes...and, why?

Sad...and scary.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Several months ago we wrote about JFNA Jerry complaining to the federation CEOs about the straight-jacket JFNA experienced from a Budget of $30.3 million annually. JFNA felt encouraged by a response that suggested, at least to CEO Jerry, that JFNA consider sources of income other than Dues. Last month the Budget and Finance Committee received the Budget to Actual Revenues/Expenses for the JFNA Fiscal July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012. Have you seen this revelatory document? It's probably a secret.

Suffice it to say that the Financial Relations and Executive Committees approved Dues hardships of $1,051,531 in the relevant Fiscal Year. Do the JFNA Board Members know what communities received Hardship status reducing their Dues? Were these communities names ever disclosed to the Board; were the relevant hardship circumstances ever disclosed to the federation Owners of JFNA? I don't think so. Seems those are secrets.

Then there is the disclosure that "[U]nbudgeted capital purchases for voice over IP equipment..." resulted in another $54,676 cost overrun in a line item of $1,026,032. If this was an "unbudgeted" investment, how and where was it approved?

Finally,  revenue had been budgeted at $10,899,134 -- but actual was $598,535 less. NORC management fees were down, bond deals closed at a slower pace, that low-end Donor management system that was such an innovation that budgeted income was much, much less, and because Alliance membership was down and allocations from members down as well, revenues were again below budget. Not our fault; never our fault. Other than the NORC and bond transactions, we have made suggestions in each of these areas of under-performance -- all suggestions for changes in approach, or aggressive advocacy that might have increased revenues...ignored.

But, JFNA, as you know, was able to spend $1 million on another Fest;and it was able to set aside another $280,306 for the 2013 Israel GA. But it did experience a positive variance of $811,398 attributable to unfilled positions/staff turnover, hardly the best news for an organization needing more  excellent professionals not fewer.

So, how exactly does JFNA propose to increase its Revenues over Dues when in each current Non-Dues Revenue category, its income actually receded in FY 2012. Fairy dust, perhaps. Maybe a tie-in deal with the English language version of a failing Israeli daily newspaper? 

No transparency. Secrets...secrets all. 


Sunday, November 4, 2012


Until I learned of her latest misstatement of history, I was only vaguely aware of the Board Chair's expertise in what she characterized, at a meeting of UIA and JFNA representatives to the Jewish Agency, as the "myths" of our national philanthropic history. What she said there is important because it evidences how little this leadership knows of our institutional history, how little they care about that history and how readily they just fabricate their unsupported version of that history as fact. Here is what I learned...

Alan Hoffman, JAFI's brilliant Director General, had just completed an environmental scan of the Agency's current condition. He had included in his remarks an observation that in the days of the United Jewish Appeal, UJA was the Agency's and JDC's "front office," with our two historic partners the "back office; that UJA not only raised money for the partners but was the constant advocate for the partners. He concluded that today JFNA was never the front office" of the partners; instead it was silent at best. Alan opined that if the Global Planning Table results would be greater resources for JA/JDC those results would have the partners' enthusiastic support; if those results were to mean less resources for JA and JDC...well, you know.

Alan's summary, though totally true, caused Manning to rise in protest. The UJA history of support for the Agency and Joint was a "myth," she argued strongly...but without facts to match her misplaced passion she was once again a laughingstock (or would have been had the assembled leaders not been so polite). Here, then, are the facts:
  • The UJA saw as its twin responsibilities fund raising for overseas needs and advocacy for the core budgets of the historic partners. The great special campaigns of the 90's would not have been possible without UJA's leaders' dedication. On the allocations side UJA was far less successful but it viewed its advocacy as its moral obligation -- something wholly missing from JFNA where the very idea of moral obligation is anathema.
  • At no time in the history of UJA did the historic partners experience the precipitous drop in allocations to their core budgets that they have experienced during the tenure of the very leader who termed this UJA history a "myth." 
  • Not only has there been no advocacy during the "JFNA era," there has been almost no Financial Resource Development. From Operation Promise to Completing the Journey, one failure followed another. (The Israel Emergency Campaign, in fact, only happened because the federations themselves demanded it.) The lay leaders of today somehow believe (and have believed for the past 6 years) in their mythology that you raise money by sending a letter to followed by a bill to the federations.
And, of course, it is the outgoing Board Chair who is the mythologist gadolah. She has convinced herself that the Global Planning Table policies (which, if she isn't writing them, she is sure as stuff editing them) will mean more dollars for JA/JDC. Her "myths:"
  1. The GPT will spur fund raising to support the needs vetted by the GPT. There is, of course, no evidence to support her conclusion. In fact: ONAD, before that failed effort lost all credibility, recommended that federations increase their allocations by 5% to help fund the Ethiopian National Project, 2 of 157 federations responded; through today when the Completing the Journey "effort" ( I won't dignify the "effort" by calling it a "campaign" ) has been an abysmal failure.
  2. Federations which underfund overseas needs today will be inspired tomorrow by sitting at the GPT "table" with high performing federations. Sure. The same argument was made about the ONAD process; yet, the results were just the opposite...that's just the opposite.
Here is the current JFNA leadership's -- lay and professional -- formula: you "go from bad to worse and then take a hard left at pathetic."  And, then you call that "success." The mythmakers rule.


Friday, November 2, 2012


Here's how decisions are made (and announced) at the JFNA of today:

"Dear friends and colleagues,

As a program way ahead of its time, with a unique approach to engaging young adults in Israel and the Jewish community, OTZMA began in 1986 and started an international trend. It provided a 10-month opportunity for young Jewish adults to live in Israel, learn Hebrew and volunteer in small communities in partnership with their local Jewish Federations.

Today, there are more than 200 Israel programs for young Jewish adults, built upon OTZMA’s shoulders, and many offer similarly extraordinary experiences. As a result, at the end of this academic year, JFNA has decided to stop implementing OTZMA as a stand-alone Jewish Federations’ Israel experience program. JFNA will continue to work with existing Israel experience programs, such as Masa Israel Journey, to provide the crucial bridge to Federations that an Israel experience can and should offer, and to ensure they complement our many Young Adult programs and services.

Through OTZMA, we are proud to have sent more than 1,400 Jewish young adults from nearly 100 communities in North America to Israel. The program helped to develop young leaders around the Jewish community, and created strong connections to Israel and the Jewish Federation world. After returning from OTZMA, more than 60 percent of alumni served as professionals or volunteers in their Jewish communities.

OTZMA’s Class XXVII will finish out the remainder of their Israel experience, and JFNA will explore transferring the program to another organization or program provider for future classes.

As we conclude OTZMA, we want to recognize the tireless work of so many volunteers and professionals that made the program such a success. We are incredibly proud of what OTZMA has accomplished in its nearly three decades of existence, and of our hundreds of OTZMA alumni that have made – and continue to make – an impact on the Jewish world.

Jerry Silverman
President and CEO"
Yes, there are other Israel Experience programs but:
  •  How many have or will impact directly on our federated communities?
  •  How many can claim an alumni dedicated to our communities -- here and in Israel?
  • As an OTZMA petition, signed to date by over 200 OTZMA graduates, condemning this unilateral act of closure states: "OTZMA ensures that these leaders of the future have a real understanding of how federations work, how their philanthropic efforts seek to effect change in Israek, and how they can connect to their local Federation..."
But these future and current (for OTZMA began in 1986 with the enthusiastic support of the federations, including mine at the time of my Chairmanship) leaders should know that JFNA would rather throw $1 million a year at a Tribe Fest of no visible value than continue to fund a program of such modest cost with proven value. 

Guess who wrote the following on May 25, 2012:

With so many Israel programs to choose from, OTZMA stands out. It is OUR Jewish Federation program. No other Israel experience produces the caliber of OTZMA alumni, who have contributed so much to Jewish Federations and the community. For 26 years, this program has nurtured and infused our communities with committed, passionate, knowledgeable and transformed young Jews who get involved in the work we do in Jewish Federations and become connected to the Jewish People worldwide. 

Yep, you guessed it -- none other than CEO Jerry Silverman. But, that was 5 months ago. "Flip-floppers" aren't limited to politics are they?

And where and how was this decision made, how was it processed? None of our business? Were federation CEOs involved (because Federations have paid the most significant costs) and, if so, what was their position and who were they?
That's the JFNA of today, my friends.
More's the pity.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


It's a little early, I know, for a Purim Spiel, but Boston's Federation has created one of the best...ever. So, please read what follows and then we'll talk below:

"The Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston took a donor family’s lead in creating a new program to provide jobs for young people with disabilities.

Jay Ruderman, head of his family’s foundation, and several of his relatives approached Bos­ton’s Jew­ish fed­er­a­tion two years ago for help in pur­su­ing a new philanthrop­ic goal for the family: pro­vid­ing aid to young adults with dis­a­bil­i­ties. Officials at Com­bined Jew­ish Phi­lan­thro­pies of Great­er Bos­ton didn’t take any action at first, they just lis­tened very care­ful­ly.
Then, the federation swung into ac­tion. It reached out to Jew­ish Vocational Services, a group it had long sup­port­ed that pro­vides job train­ing to adults. Now the do­nors’ mon­ey is help­ing the vo­ca­tion­al char­i­ty serve a broad­er num­ber of cli­ents, giv­ing teen­ag­ers and college-age students with disabilities ac­cess to train­ing, in­tern­ships, and jobs.
The Bos­ton group is un­usu­al in its will­ing­ness to col­lab­o­rate with do­nors over where they want their mon­ey to go. As long as a pro­ject advances a Jew­ish cause and meets oth­er bas­ic cri­te­ria, do­nors can ear­mark their funds. And when do­nors sug­gest a pro­ject that the fed­er­a­tion thinks might be pop­u­lar with oth­er sup­port­ers, it might even pro­mote the idea in city­wide fundraising pitch­es.
That ap­proach is not typ­i­cal in the Jew­ish-fed­er­a­tion world, where for dec­ades lo­cal lead­ers have cho­sen which so­cial-ser­vices and other char­i­ties will ben­e­fit from the mon­ey raised in an­nu­al fundraising drives.

Shift in Ap­proach

The Bos­ton fed­er­a­tion’s fundraising ap­proach evolved un­der the lead­er­ship of Bar­ry Shrage, its pres­i­dent for 25 years. He in­cor­po­rated the ear­mark­ing idea into a 2007 plan for ways of im­prov­ing con­tri­bu­tions to the or­gan­i­za­tion by more than in­cre­men­tal in­creases over the five years that fol­lowed.
The new ap­proach did not in­su­late the Bos­ton fed­er­a­tion en­tire­ly from the bad econ­o­my. Do­na­tions to Com­bined Jew­ish Phi­lan­thro­pies fell by 21 percent in 2009 and 14 per­cent in 2010. But with the group’s new fundraising out­look, those losses have been more than erased.
Bos­ton of­fi­cials have worked es­pe­cial­ly hard to col­lab­o­rate more with peo­ple who set up do­nor-ad­vised funds, ac­counts that in­di­vid­uals and fam­ilies set up at the fed­er­a­tion to make char­i­ta­ble gifts at a lat­er date. Be­cause more and more do­nors went to use some of the mon­ey for sec­u­lar causes, says Da­vid Strong, the fed­er­a­tion’s chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, “we want to make them un­der­stand how we can work with them on all their phi­lan­thro­py, not just Jew­ish causes.”
That at­ti­tude, along with re­cov­ery in the stock mar­ket, Mr. Strong says, has helped gifts to do­nor-ad­vised funds to soar, to $76-mil­lion last year, and then more than dou­ble in fis­cal 2012, to $159-mil­lion.

Gains Not Typ­i­cal

Over all, few fed­er­a­tions have a­chieved such im­pres­sive re­sults. Compared with the Boston federation, al­most ev­ery oth­er Jew­ish fed­er­a­tion on the Philanthropy 400 had a much small­er in­crease or re­port­ed a de­cline in to­tal con­tri­bu­tions last year.
At the Chi­ca­go Jew­ish fed­er­a­tion, for ex­am­ple, do­na­tions were flat in 2011, de­clin­ing by 1 per­cent, even though fund­rais­ers had per­suad­ed about 70 of its most gen­er­ous do­nors to dou­ble their an­nu­al cam­paign gift.
Chi­ca­go takes an ap­proach sim­i­lar to that of oth­er fed­er­a­tions in urg­ing its do­nors to make un­re­strict­ed do­na­tions. Mr. Schrage says that what both­ers him a­bout that long-held tra­di­tion at the fed­er­a­tions is that it fa­vors the same “en­ti­tled in­sti­tu­tions” year af­ter year and is “gen­er­al­ly emp­ty of vi­sion and pur­pose.”
With lit­tle rea­son to donate more, he says, do­nors sim­ply contribute a lit­tle more ev­ery year when they might give big in­creases if they were ex­cit­ed a­bout a cause or asked to pay at­ten­tion to new and press­ing concerns.
While some fed­er­a­tions have philo­soph­i­cal ob­jec­tions to let­ting do­nors have so much say, they also have a prac­ti­cal con­cern: Will peo­ple give as much in unrestricted mon­ey to an­nu­al cam­paigns if they are al­lowed to ear­mark a por­tion of their do­na­tions?
As it turns out, the Bos­ton campaign hasn’t suf­fered from of­fer­ing the op­tion.
Its an­nu­al drive will raise $45.6-mil­lion this year. It’s one of the fast­est-grow­ing cam­paigns a­mong fed­er­a­tions in big cit­ies, says Jer­ry Sil­ver­man, pres­i­dent of Jew­ish Fed­er­a­tions of North America, an um­brel­la or­gan­i­za­tion for 155 fed­er­a­tions.
Over the past five years, do­nors who ear­marked a por­tion of their gifts for par­tic­u­lar causes in­creased their un­re­strict­ed gifts at twice the rate of oth­er do­nors, the Bos­ton fed­er­a­tion found.
While oth­er fed­er­a­tions may be sub­ject to crit­i­cism from do­nors or board mem­bers if they em­u­late Bos­ton, Mr. Sil­ver­man says the fed­er­a­tion is “on the lead­ing edge of be­ing able to rec­og­nize a shift in their mar­ket and be­ing able to adapt, ap­ply, and grow—and raise the me­ter on re­sults.”
Oth­er Jew­ish fed­er­a­tions have tak­en no­tice and sent staff mem­bers to Bos­ton to learn more a­bout Com­bined Jew­ish Phi­lan­thro­pies’ in­ter­nal op­er­a­tions and its re­la­tion­ships with do­nors, says Zamira Korff, sen­ior vice pres­i­dent for de­vel­op­ment. “There is a sense of emo­tion­al and in­tel­lec­tu­al part­ner­ship” with do­nors, she says. “We are not just hand­ing out a menu of giv­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.”
Serv­ing as an ex­am­ple to oth­ers, she adds, can be both ex­hila­rat­ing and daunt­ing. “It’s a high-wire act,” she says. “The more we suc­ceed, the more pres­sure we have to keep the bar high.”
As Vice-President Biden might say: "this is just a bunch of malarkey." Had the reporter -- for the Chronicle of Philanthropy of all places -- understood the basics of Jewish Federation FRD, she would have known that she had been served a plate of hogwash. Let's look at some facts:
  • Boston with the same Jewish population as Chicago, claimed to have raised $45.6 million -- Chicago, which Barry Shrage for some bizarre reason chose to criticize, raised $80 million in that same year;
  • And, Boston has historically lumped together its designated gifts (which, at last look, comprised the lion's share of its Annual Campaign), while the $80 million Chicago reported was the amount of unrestricted gifts;
  • It was Boston which was the first Federation to unilaterally reduce its overseas allocation after committing, at the creation of what is now JFNA, along with all other federations, to maintain the level of overseas allocations for two years; and
  • After the Fair Share Dues obligation was imposed by the Federations upon themselves, it was the Boston CJP which was the first to demand that JFNA recalculate its dues, subtracting from its annual campaign totals the very designated gifts it now brags has set "the bar high."

Then there are the quotes from CEO Silverman that reflect how little he still understands of where federations must be -- to suggest that Boston "is on the leading edge" by embracing designated giving as its mantra, is strange in that "donor choice" has been around for a long time....a long, long time. Strange that CEO Jerry would not have known that, thinks its something new and different. Stranger still is that the "collaborative model" was developed at JFNA (back when it had an FRD Department) -- but why would Jerry know that?

Friends, you should know, as the reporter could have easily learned, that Boston's professional leader has been attempting to peddle his anti-federation message for too long -- with its suggestions of deconstructing the very basis of federation as the central planning instrument of the Jewish community. Now he used "statistics" that bear no relationship to truly raising money...and who applauds it? CEO Jerry Silverman.

Boston embarked on its anti-federation journey long ago. Barry Shrage has been trying to sell his community's story -- which is one of lack of success clothed in a camouflage jacket of so-called "cutting edge innovation" for as long as we've known him. Now, with further proof that 55% of all statistics are wrong, he has "convinced" the Chronicle and Jerry Silverman. Pitiful that some will now buy into it without regard for the facts.

Sad indeed.