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.


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