Thursday, May 9, 2013


Well, the Global Planning Table Committee met yesterday. Before the meeting, several folks sent me three papers on potential JFNA-saving so-called "Signature Initiatives" and the Agenda -- documents they received only moments before the meeting began. The federation leaders who sent these to me independent of each other accompanied their transmittals with phrases like: "you won't believe how bad these are;" "they write in some kind of crypto-language that only they understand:" and "for these we have paid millions already?" I heard not a single positive comment; though I'm pretty certain that, knowing that anything negative is never appreciated by this leadership, they shared their critical comments with me and not with JFNA.

Let me preface what follows with an observation: these are really bad; they should never have seen the light of day; they appear to have been written in haste, maybe in panic; and with no knowledge of our institutional history whatsoever. 

Let's take a look:

1. The "Task Force on  the Cycle of Poverty" and something called "Israel Family Zone." I would subtitle this thing the  "Reinventing the Wheel Zone." There are some smart folks on this Committee -- I would wager that many of them saw as I did that this "Initiative" is no more than the UJA's Project Renewal of the 1980's...that's right, the 1980's...restated as a "[S]calable (they just make up a whole new language don't they):
(scalable: adjective:capable of being scaled: the scalable slope of a mountain.") pilot program building a sustainable community-based approach to breaking the cycle of poverty throughout Israel." But inasmuch as these folks seem never to have heard of Project Renewal, they are going to "buil(d) on the model of the Harlem Children's Zone..." And, then -- funding -- "Federation funding for this project would be organized into an 'adopt a neighborhood' model..." GENIUS!! This is already branded as the IFZ.

2. Then, there is the output of the "Task Force on Working with the People of Israel to Strengthen the Fabric Of Israeli Society." (Probably already branded as the TFWPISTIS except, see below.) The system would "[W]ork on multiple levels (top-down, bottom-up, etc.) to enable real change" "(leveraging) the current Israeli government's resolve and commitment to religious diversity and democracy." (Uh, huh?) This thing is already branded as EXPRESS, full of sound, signifying nothing. Through this "Great Signature Initiative" (the caps are theirs not mine) we will "...ensure an inclusive and dynamic Jewish society in Israel" and we will have "...a watershed moment for the Federation system to make a significant contribution in partnership with Israelis." OY!!

3. Then there is the aptly named "Task Force on Immersive Experiences and Follow-Up Opportunities." Yep, that's the actual name of a focused Task Force. Here are two sentences that say it all about the not just this Task Force but about the entire Signature Initiative "Plan." Read 'em and weep for our system:

     ~ "Resume-building immersive experiences have wide appeal."

     ~ And then there is this most amazing sentence of all (perhaps of all time): "Too frequently, immersive experiences are not maximally impactful because they are not contextual." Too cure this apparently, this Initiative will offer "Participant-centric and authentic immersive experiences, contextualized with pre- and post-trip opportunities." Ah, yes, that should do it. (BTW: the Dictionary defines: "[ih-mur-siv] adjective noting or pertaining to digital technology or images that deeply involve one's senses and may create an altered mental state" but JFNA has its own vocabulary you know.

I presume that the precursor to these Initiatives was CEO Silverman's most recent Mission experience with the newgen where he had the immersive experience himself in St. Petersburg doing the JFNA version of the Harlem Shake.

FYI, the "brand" for this thing is JILF -- I'm not making this up. This is JFNA's "brand" for this thing. I recommend that you all Google JILF. And, then ask yourself the question -- what's with these people? 

JFNA could readily endorse an allocations process that would attract our donors -- market MASA, market fighting hunger in the FSU and anywhere a Jew is in need, market camping in the FSU, market the best of Jewish identity programs -- instead it's Project Renewal, EXPRESS and JILF. irrational, inexplicable and doomed to fail. And federation after federation are being told: "iIf you don't support these, JFNA is doomed." YOU...all of you, each of the judge of what will doom JFNA.  

If you are buying this stuff that these "leaders" are trying to sell, I have a Bridge in Brooklyn to sell you -- oh, yes, I branded it already -- the BIB Project.

I think we have just seen JFNA hit rock bottom...but, probably not; it will no doubt get worse. And, where oh where are the Chairs of the Board and Executive and the CEOs of our best federations, all of whom know better?



Anonymous said...

You ask where are the CEO's of our best federations? The answer is right there letting it happen. Because a weak JFNA serves them well. There is no ROI for any of them for JFNA to develop strong, solid leadership.

Anonymous said...

If you doubt RW and didn't bother to Google JILF here's one of the more disgusting things you will find near the top of the list.

Details recently published an awesome article entitled "The Rise of the Hot Jewish Girl: Why American men are lusting after women of the tribe".

Love it, love it, love it.

And note to my future boyfriend(s?)/husband: Please read 7 Do's and Don'ts of Dating a JILF.

Anonymous said...

Richard, after this Post, there is little left to be said. The GPT and these programs -- all DOA. Whoever worked on these should be ashamed -- on the IFZ, they didn't even know that many, many federations are still engaged with their Project Renewal partners; on that JILF, how insipid...

Anonymous said...


Remember when you wrote about United Jewish Catastrophies? This is worse, so much worse.

Anonymous said...

People give money to people for people and not to acronyms. A good program brand links instantaneously the donor, heart and mind, to the recipient of service, the solution to the problem and the larger brand of the sponsor organization. From what I'm reading these programs do none of the above. The first initiative would repackage, in probably less effective terms, programs of the Joint; the third would be a retooling of JAFI initiatives that donors already do not find particularly compelling and will in their mind confuse and contrast with Birthright; while the second betrays a gross, patronizing and hubristic ignorance of the complexities of Israeli society and and the priorities, politics and hodgepodge make up of the present Israeli government.
JILF? Yup, that's us and our still loyal donors in spades.

Anonymous said...


A note of thanks for exposing this stupidity. Others will no doubt be angered at what they will shriek is a breach of their rules of confidentiality but which we know to be nothing more than an attempt to silence any and all who might expose their inane plans.

Usedtobe important said...


One of the funniest ever. The old RLW I remember best..humor as nuclear bomb. I once said they "took the extraordinary and made it ordinary"; not so, they took the extraordinary and made it extraneous.

Anonymous said...

No, they "took the extraordinary" and made it a laughingstock.

Anonymous said...

To be serious, the system needs to do alot of due diligience on these initiatives. For example, the Harlem Childrens Zone is a very ambitious yet not without controversy program that is comprised of a charter school with wrap around health and social services. It is quite expensive with annual cost per child in the thousands. This would not be a one off committment, would require the full partnership of the Israeli educational system and multiple ministries and municipal agencies; and results cannot be measured for years. Questions have been raised whether it is even duplicable in other American
cities let alone overseas. So kudos for thinking big but big questions on whether it is the right model and a doable project.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the members of the Global Planning Committee were silent in response to these Initiatives because they were struck dumb by how ridiculous they are.

Anonymous said...

We have an organization unworthy of us...or is it just the opposite: we have the exact organization we deserve.

jon9509 said...

I don't know-- I check out this blog periodically and find it wanting. there are lost of over-the-top ad hominem criticisms, but very few alternative suggestions or CONSTRUCTIVE criticisms. Why is this?

RWEX said...

Dear Jon,

Thanks for dropping by. I am sure that f you read the full array of Posts AND Comments, you too would find a host of Constructive Criticisms and "alternative suggestions" -- although you would probably not think them to be so.

C'est la vie. Keep reading, keep writing.