Monday, February 11, 2013


The national federation-agency Alliance (you remember that thing, created in part, to increase the resources of the member national agencies, wholly failing in that purpose [sound familiar?]), which attempted four years ago to disconnect the federations systemically from one, if not more, of its national agency members, has now scored its own form of vengeance for agencies standing up for their rights, for fighting back. With neither warning nor reason, and with no prior discussion with the affected agencies (each thought to be and characterized as a "partner" in this now perverted process), the Alliance determined, over the objection of a number of its member federations, to cut three member agencies by 40%. Yes, you read it correctly -- 40%...allegedly based upon a Survey in which the Agencies did not participate.

These draconian cuts were accompanied by the admission to "membership" (about as valuable as being a JFNA "partner," they should be forewarned) the BBYO and American Jewish World Service, extremely worthy organizations for sure but those that bear no direct relationship to our federations or the federation system. So, here are NCSJ, the Foundation for Jewish Culture and HIAS all cut beyond bone and muscle, while not only is the Alliance adding "strangers" to its version of "funding" but holding back 20% of its allocated funds for...more new agencies, while funding for those agencies "lucky" enough to avoid the draconian cuts stagnate?

When four years ago one of the now punished national agencies fought back against defunding and prevailed, there was an implicit threat, if not explicit, from Alliance leadership that "we won't forget this and your time will come." And, now it has -- not because the three national agencies suffering these inexplicable and indefensible cuts have somehow failed in their missions on behalf of the federations but because the JFNA Alliance itself has failed...and failed miserably. And, why...just because it can. If this is any way to run our national system, then we can't be very proud.

Consider this: the NCSJ, whose membership consists not only of advocates but federation leadership, through its credibility as the institutional representative of American Jewry with the governments of the Republics of the FSU, was able to assure that one of our treasured American organizations saved nearly $1 million in claimed taxes; it is an organization daily on the firing line fighting  growing anti-semitism and xenophobia. Did the Alliance consider either of these matters? Was the Alliance staff aware of them? Come on, these horrifying cuts are the results of the Alliance's failings, not those of the NCSJ, not those of HIAS and not those of the NFJC...nothing more, nothing less.

I have reflected before upon the futility of the Alliance, the growing toxicity of its decisions, decisions announced from its star chamber to the agencies, its pitting national agencies against each other for the table scraps of funding it dishes out and now, this. I see so many parallels in so-called process and decision-making to the emerging outcomes of the Global Planning Table as to offer an evermore frightening picture of the months to come.

Meanwhile, no additional federations have joined the national funding process , which might have increased the pool of available dollars, a number of federations have left or cut funding deeply (LA and San Francisco have dropped out, among others) and the national agencies are more and more "demonstrating their mandates" by approaching federations and donors directly. And, what was, at the time of the Alliance creation, to be a more positive national funding process has become, as a direct result of its failures internally and externally, a "national agency defunding process."

It's shameful and they are shameless.



Anonymous said...

The Chicago Federation led the discussion on the new funding formula - which was agreed to unanimously by all of the other federations in the Alliance. Perhaps your enmity should be directed at your own backyard...

RWEX said...

Dear Anonymous (of course, Anonymous)-- if what you have written is true, what a shame. At one and the same time, the multiple failings of the Alliance can't be laid at the feet of Chicago, which continues to meet its financial obligations to the Alliance while Alliance lay and professional leadership merely "sends out letters," reports the sorry results, and writes sorry papers that apparently pass for "planning."

Any "enmity" that I have is directed at the train wreck that passes for national agency planning and vetting..and I know at whose feet those failings rest. As I wrote, the failings here are not those of the agencies whose budgets were cut so drastically but of the Alliance itself.

Anonymous said...


Sure The Alliance is as screwed up as is the parent company, JFNA, but isn't it possible that it's time for you to let go?

Anonymous said...

All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

paul jeser said...

It shouldn't be a question of Richard - or anyone else for that matter - personally 'letting go.'

The communities need a Federation; Federations need a national body to assist them in many ways.

If the JFNA is not doing hte job then it needs to be changed....

I urge y'all to (re)read the study of the UJC done by Bubis/

Anonymous said...

To metaphorically paraphrase an old Sicilian saying: "If you contemplate revenge dig two graves".

Anonymous said...

To the First Anonymous -- I sit on the Alliance as my community's rep and you have misrepresented the outcome -- there was significant opposition to what Wexler has characterized as "draconian" cuts, but after most communities supported the outcome, the communities decided to make the vote "unanimous." That outcome was more form than substance.

Anonymous said...

We all have wonderful memories of being involved with the Soviet Jewry movement. Clearly Richard has been intensely involved and his passion and emotional investment are understandable.

But as has been noted, it's not unreasonable to ask whether or not it's time to let go. If HIAS and NCSJ cannot demonstrate that they are relevant in 2013 (and not 1973, 1983, or 1993), so be it.

Jewish organizations come and go--that is the history of the American Jewish community. This era is currently in the midst of many such changes as well as mergers and new partnerships.

Some organizations have been able to completely reboot and change their mission over time, attracting new funders and volunteers to remain relevant and Jewish.

It is hard to make a case for either NCSJ or HIAS along these lines.

RWEX said...

To the Last Anonymous,

It is absolutely reasonable and wholly responsive to our fiduciary responsibilities, that agencies -- local, national and international -- be evaluated against valid and current criteria to fairly determine whether those agencies are fulfilling not just their own mandates, but federation expectations.

But...BUT...that is not what this "Alliance" has done. What it has done is to create a set of specious "criteria" that NO national agency performing its primary functions overseas could ever meet, apply those criteria with no opportunity for the impacted agencies to respond until after "decisions" were made. This neither a fair nor a rational process...

or am I wrong?

Ghost of funding councils past said...

JFNA is not solely to blame for the distinct failure of our national agency funding bodies - nor is CJF or UJC. From the post LCBC beginnings the effort was short on thoughtful deliberation and any semblance of planning... all the fault of the participating Federations who placed a low priority on the endeavor.

We back then quickly categorized the funded agencies as either favored, 1000 lb gorrillas not to be questions, whipping boys to be bullied or those we never took time to understand properly. That 20 odd years later our emaciated under fed chickens have come home to roost is hardly a suprise.

Anonymous said...

When this Alliance attempted to defund the NCSJ a few years ago, the hue and cry was about not just the substance but the lack any semblance of fairness to the closed door process that led to that result, subsequently overturned. To see the same closed door lack of fair process repeated is reflective of an institutional arrogance that is impossible to fathom in Jewish institutional life.

Shame on those who "led" the Alliance to these results.

Anonymous said...

Does it say anything about the Alliance that its immediate Past Chair came from a community that withdrew from Alliance membership immediately upon that Chair's terms ending?