Thursday, April 11, 2013


Some things never cease to amaze:

The lead professionals at JFNA are often heard to complain that the organization lacks sufficient funding to accomplish the goals (which they then can't identify) they have set for themselves -- and if you read, or just skim, the JFNA self-described "Strategic Priorities," there is little doubt that they could be accomplished for a budget 1/2 the size of the current $30.3 million.

For the lay oversight that any charitable organization requires seems to have been totally lacking in so many ways. Let me count some of them for you:
  • Would a needy philanthropic organization need to hire, for cost unknown, a "send service" to distribute the self-aggrandizing "news summaries" of its Israel-Overseas Office? Maybe all that is needed is a Facebook page??
  • Would a charitable organization allegedly short on funds for programming permit its Israel-Overseas Office to grow to 27 persons (not counting UIA personnel)? Oh, yes, that number will drop when OTZMA, the only functioning program in that Office, is terminated as a JFNA/Federation function.
  • Would an organization apparently desperate for increased budget allow the Executive Office of its Israel Office to include an Assistant Director, a Special Assistant to the "Director General" (that is she of many titles), an Executive Assistant and a "Program Coordinator?" 
  • Do you know of a federation let alone this JFNA of ours that would permit, e.g., its Marketing Committee (or any Committee) to spend millions over and above the budget allocated to it without any vote of any governing body of the organization?
I could go on, but you get the idea.

I am waiting, with you, for a Budget and Finance Chair, that is the lay leader charged with Budget and income and expenditure oversight to cry "foul." But, candidly, that hasn't happened since the merger itself some 12+ years ago. No, a succession of JFNA Budget and Finance Chairs have, at best, bit their lips, shrugged their shoulders and just passed on Budget after Budget with the knowledge that the professional leadership of JFNA viewed all Dues income as fungible dollars to be spent at their whim. And, today, the Budget and Finance Chair, a tough businessman  who could step up, is one who has been nothing more than a cheerleader for Budget after Budget, no matter how vague, how little accountability he has demanded in the past.

At the predecessor organizations, UJA and CJF, and at JFNA itself, Chief Financial Officers like Lee Twersky and Harold Adler and Sam Astrof have set a high standard of personal integrity. The CFO today, Pam Zaltsman, has seen it all -- just as her predecessors protected the organization, sometimes from itself, it will fall upon Zaltsman to do the same. The question for today is, when does and when will she say "stop this" to a CEO who seems to believe that the JFNA Budget is nothing more than an ATM Machine and what will she do when he pays her no mind -- she might wish to consult with Lee or Harold or Sam or all of them, and/or she might wish to speak off the record with the new (or is he not so "new" at this point) Board Chair.

In the April 1 edition of The New Yorker, there appeared a great cartoon, reminiscent of this mess. A group of monkeys surround a vending machine, one says: "If only we had a system of currency other than throwing feces." That's what our Dues and JFNA's Budget process have become my friends.



Anonymous said...

Richard, as a service to your readers it would be helpful to secure and publish a line item JFNA budget and staffing totals (not individual salaries) by department. In that manner each of us can place the 30 million in the proper context as we see it.

Anonymous said...

Great idea.