Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Those who have been reading these pages for the last couple of years know that my focus has been on the meaning and execution of leadership, lay and professional, across our system. Sure, I have found refreshing new visions of our system in so many places just as, unfortunately, in too many places, and, certainly at JFNA, I have seen a system in disarray, without purpose or direction.

I have been told that my "message" is going unheard in many important places and by many "important" people, because I am "so angry;" yet, those who have taken the time to look at the issues that I and you, the readers, have raised, those of you who have chosen to discuss these issues with me, by phone, face-to-face, or in written dialogue -- all of you know that I am not "angry," just terribly disappointed and frustrated. Yes, disappointed and frustrated that the actions of a small group of lay leaders, including friends and former friends, and an even smaller cadre of professionals have had a stultifying impact on both the potential and the reality of our national entity rendering it nothing more than a continental and international joke. Sorry...but what we have aided and abetted has resulted in an organization that is nothing more (other than in a few isolated corners of continuing brilliance)...nothing more...than a dispiriting slog of ineptitude.

Examples, there are many, but let me just offer a few... One of the best local leaders I have served with told me shortly after I objected in principle to the deconstruction of FRD at the national organization and to the isolation and termination of a group of highly respected women professionals there that "...if you don't agree with the organization's leadership, just resign." That now national leader, brilliant and considerate in his chosen field and passionate about community and People, has risen to near the top of JFNA by ignoring the facts, not wishing to even consider facts at variance with what he is told by others, merely sitting in silence while the organization self-destructs. (This leader also accused me of what he termed my "latest scam" when I stated the fact of the then Board Chair's unacceptable and public mischaracterization of "Zionism" as "too controversial" to be included in a Global Planning Table document.) 

Then there are the personal agendas. The best/worst example is the Global Planning Table, so preposterous that it cannot attract more than 15% of the federations to a meeting to discuss it, yet it moves inexorably forward under the threat that "if this (whatever "this" is) doesn't pass, JFNA will crumble and die and that will be your fault." (And who would want that on his/her shoulders?) This is a "perfect" post hoc ergo propter hoc argument -- a fallacious logic that because of A happening, B will happen with no regard for true causality. Yet, I have heard so many, including those with doctorate degrees, make this argument as if they truly believe it.

While I congratulate the Past Board Chair for creating a claque of leaders who evidence the worst of "reverential sycophantism," sadly only she and her hand-picked CEO, and not JFNA, were the beneficiaries of their own plans. How can this happen: through sheer laziness -- too few take the time to read and understand what is being proposed, budgets are approved without substantive questions and the organization's leaders have for the last 6+ years, demanded a trust they have neither earned nor deserved but which they have received from those who, in the main, know better. We desperately want JFNA to be worthy of our trust; and, yet, time and again JFNAs leaders abuse the very trust that they both demand and presume upon

Friends, JFNA (and too many federations) is in the midst of an institutional torpor where the go along to get along crowd have assured that no change is the currency of mediocrity or worse. Those who read this who are federation leaders know that we as leaders are just ordinary people called upon to accomplish extraordinary things. We can't leave our sacred task to others; yet, that is exactly what we have done. And the consequences are all around us.



Anonymous said...

Global Planning Table. My community has heard the argument that if it does not continue/pass/come to fruition, JFNA will crumble, go out of business, or lose its self respect. Whatever, the changing excuse for the month is that month.

This process has already cost JDC, JAFI and JFNA millions of dollars of our charitable funds.

This ship has sunk. There is no saving it.

Michael, Diane, Stephen and Gerard: Please listen carefully - you are shepherding JFNA's own demise.

Nobody chose you to do that. Please do something before it is too late.

JFNA is spending more on GPT staff than it spends on campaign staff.

Just announce that it was a great process, we learned a lot, thank you to all the participants, and the number one lesson that we learned is that we have to go out and raise more money for our overseas partners.

My community will be announcing a significant reduction in our JFNA dues only as a vote of no confidence in JFNA. We will not be alone.

The three top lay leaders are good and capable people. It is time for them to stand up to the CEO who is out of control.

It is nothing less than their personal legacy that is on the line together with our most important national communal resources.

Stop fiddling around while JFNA is burning

Anonymous said...

Why some federation leaders go along with a mediocre nationsl organization:

1. You get to go to meetings, see old friends and have a nice dinner out

2. You have an always valuable escape valve for the placement of difficult or mediocre laity

3. The standards of excellence and relevance you invoke my be turned back on you and your organization

4. You never know when you need their help to secure your next job (professional, consulting or volunteer). After all who else has 30 million in walking around money.

5. Life is too short, there are bigger fish to fry and you are too cool... In other words you don't really care.

Anonymous said...

These are both great...is a revolution finally brewing?

Anonymous said...

If you are going to announce a reduction in dues, do it publically.