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.


Anonymous said...

Would be interesting to know Kathy Manning's role in this decision.

Anonymous said...

Are you aware that in May 2012 this CEO published his own "Message" -- OTZMA Experience Strengthens Federations -- now, 5 months later, he writes that OTZMA is dead. What was an "inspiring initiative," per this guy, is now to be gone?

We are played for fools.

Anonymous said...

Who ever wrote "we are played for fools" is dead wrong.

We are fools. We pay this buffoon, this pathetic excuse for a CEO $750,000 a year.

No meaningful experience and we gave him a job he was not qualified for. Surprise, he has failed. Buy out his contract and get him out of there before he destroys JFNA,.

We are not being played for fools, we are damned fools.