Way back in November, JFNA leaders (uh, CEO Jerry) unilaterally announced that it was dumping (for lack of a better term) the cherished, leadership-building 27 year-old OTZMA Program. No plan for continuing the Program elsewhere -- it would just be gone. I saw this, as did others, as a budget savings decision -- to JFNA where 4 Jerusalem based staffers were assigned to OTZMA; and to the Large City Federations which supplied the bulk of the significant financial support for OTZMA participants. Forget that OTZMA was one of the few stars in the JFNA firmament -- I imagine a conversation among a some Federation CEOs and their faithful servant: "Jerry, get rid of OTZMA -- and we don't want to ever see our fingerprints on this decision." Without a second thought, Silverman did so -- after all currying favor with the Execs is CEO Jerry's first (only??) priority, as it should be. But, of course, this is all, ahem, speculation on my part.
No one apparently expected that the OTZMA alums, as a group and individually, groomed for professional leadership, might speak out, let alone lobby for the continuation of a Program that actually produced positive results for our system and other Jewish organizations. The return on investment in OTZMA was disproportionate to the federations' investment -- directly and through JFNA and its predecessor organizations. So, under pressure, JFNA desperately sought out an organization that might provide the requisite continuity.
And, so it came to pass that two months after JFNA announced that it was closing OTZMA down, it broadcast that OTZMA would continue as part of the Jewish Agency's Israel Experience operation. I chaired the United Jewish Appeal during OTZMA's first years of implementation -- now, OTZMA is returning "home" as it were, But, at least two questions remain: (1) what support will the Federations provide in 2013 and beyond to a program, its value to those very federations notwithstanding, to a Program they really...really...wanted to just disappear or, even better, continue without federation financial support? And, (2) inasmuch as the Jewish Agency itself ceased its financial support for OTZMA in 2009, and as JA's core budget support from the North American federations has drastically declined for all purposes since then, where is its financial support for OTZMA come from today?
And, here is the bizzaro JFNA "moment" in all of this...In announcing that OTZMA will now be in the hands of a Jewish Agency operation, washing its hands of this "problem," Silverman wrote on January 4: "In determining the best new home for OTZMA, JFNA utilized a professional task force and advisory committee comprised of past and present OTZMA chairs." But...BUT...in determining that OTZMA's home should no longer be housed within and funded by the federations' umbrella body...no task force, no advisory committee...no...nothin'...
Just asking....when does this stuff stop?