In the face of this record of constant failure, the Alliance determined to defund two national agencies which were making substantial contributions to the work of federations and other organizations -- the NCSJ and NFJC -- while inviting two agencies with only the most distant relationship to the federation system to participate in funding from the drastically reduced national agency funding pool.
And, just days ago, one of the national agencies which was vetted by the Alliance and determined to be eligible for full funding, JESNA, determined that it would cease operations at the end of July. Yes, the Jewish Education Service of North America, "...the Jewish federation system's educational, coordinating, planning and development agency" out of business. And, where was the Alliance as this was happening to one of the agencies it determined worthy of continued 100% funding? Silent; comatose; in its "let's see who we can cut next" mode; where was JFNA? Don't be silly -- busy planning to be American Jewry's "sole source" in our dealings with Israel, and to convene another Fest.
I believe that JESNA had an absolute right to rely upon the federation system for the most major funding its work. And JESNA was certainly a favored national agency within the Alliance for whatever that was worth. Its founding CEO, Jon Woocher, who morphed into the "Chief Ideas Officer" in recent years, has been one of my heroes ever since he was my daughter's favorite professor at Brandeis, and his major work Sacred Survival, describing the passion with which my generation embraced Jewish communal life, remains the seminal work on the subject. (Jon also has been a private and personal critic of this Blog from the beginning.). But, being a favorite of the Alliance has proved to be of the same value to JESNA as has being deemed a JFNA "partner" to JAFI, to JDC, to so many others. One knowledgeable Anonymous Commentator has written:
"There is a JFNA angle and culpability in the JESNA demise. However other factors are also in play including the downside of having a supposedly charismatic and iconic CEO and his decision to hitch the agencies future to the ever fickle foundation sector and pursue a national agenda at the expense of serving agencies at the grass roots."And yet, my friends, there is a most relevant point, JFNA's Alliance was created in part to vet the member national agencies for the federations as to the agencies' financial accountability. Year in and year out, right up to JESNA's closure, JFNA's Alliance assured the federations that JESNA was financially accountable and approved the maximun allocation. Sad but true.
In my view the Alliance was to be a stalking horse for the Global Planning Table -- it would engage in national planning for its member agencies, directing more funds to those favored by its evaluations (no matter how skewed those evaluations were). Instead, federations lost interest in collective funding, more and more reduced their allocations to the national funding pool and even more dropped out altogether. The Alliance's lay and professional leaders themselves failed to communicate with the national agencies, failed to advocate for the national agencies who were its members and failed to actively recruit greater federation participation in the Alliance.
And now our system has lost JESNA.