Friday, June 7, 2013


I have let a few days pass between the end of the JFNA Board meeting and the  meeting of the GPT, these twin efforts in mental onanism that pass for serious deliberation and planning, to see if my nausea would pass. It hasn't. During the JFNA Board meeting, things started on a high with the D'var Torah and went to hell in a hand basket immediately thereafter -- and stayed there. Every speech was fantastic --as in "fantastic...remote from reality" -- and the greater the fantasy, the greater the applause. 

And nothing was more "fantastic" than the apparent belief by those assembled that they had passed a "Budget" -- unanimously no less. That document that totals up to over $31,000,000 does not associate a single dollar amount with a single program. Ask "what will this program cost?" and you will be sent to a corner...but you won't to get an answer. All I can think is that federation CEOs encouraged their lay leadership to vote for this "thing" because they would like to have the same document passed in their own communities. 

I was in Israel working on a special project a number of years ago when Sonny Plant,z"l, a great leader of real integrity, sat down next to me in the King David Hotel Bar, and told me: "I just resigned as UJC (JFNA today) Budget Chair." I asked why and Sonny said, "I won't be associated with anything that I am just told to rubber stamp." That was then, before the system was turned over in its entirety to the cheerleaders; to those who are willing to sublimate their own independent thought for "being on the team." Those who would never let this happen in their own communities (and I know it doesn't happen in Jacksonville) applaud this thing as if it were a Budget. I guess this what is meant by a "herd mentality:" "herd mentality" or "mob mentality" describes how people are influenced by their peers to do...anything."

What I heard was fantasy -- in good spirits and with all good will -- fantasy. Three speakers in a row -- over many, many minutes -- described an FRD (uhhh, sorry, "Philanthropic Resources") effort that doesn't exist, extolled a rebranded UJA Annual Event as "Fund Raising University" that has not yet even happened. Oh, and forget the reality that the budget for the Campaign Chairs and Directors Mission is being cut by $100,000 -- it's the JFNA Three Card Monte. I know Susie Stern, as I have written before, she is too smart and too experienced to believe much of what she said other than as the "good soldier" she has been. And I love a good campaign speech as much as the next campaigner, but I hope the new National Campaign Chair has more in her quiver than she disclosed.

It's bad bad as it could ever get.

And, then there is the Global Planning Table. (Audible sigh.) I was not present but multiple sources have told me so much in disgust and, for some, disappointment.  The "bright spot," if any, was found in a quiet effort by some federation CEOs to pare down the unrealistic (that is, "fantastic") expectations of the Global Planning Table leaders -- Manning, Butler, Caspi, Silverman  -- of multi-million dollar transfers of funds from federation core allocations to the fictional "signature projects" conjured by GPT's leaders and an attempt, albeit one I believe  to be futile given the hard sell being by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse leading this charge, to fit the bulk of these Projects (which I have reviewed before in detail) into the on-going work of our partners.

No, the full court press is on -- in large measure being driven by the wholly false premise that "if the GPT is not funded, then JFNA will self-destruct." Just think about this for one moment -- an organization so devoid of original strategic thinking that it embraces the convoluted structure of a Global Planning Table that operates by its own governance, not JFNA's, believes that if that structure isn't fully operational JFNA itself will collapse. 

The historic partners of the federation system -- the Jewish Agency and the Joint (and you can add World ORT to the list) are already being told to expect further reductions in core funding in the millions of dollars, from already historic lows. And, not a peep of protest is heard.




Anonymous said...

I have been following this blog for what must be years now and agree that the system is very broken.
What I don't see being addressed is "What can we do to fix it?"
Instead of continuing to try to convince the convinced (I imagine that the unconvinced are simply not reading or not paying attention), how about trying to get something going to attempt to change things before total collapse?

Anonymous said...

Richard, you and JS don't seem to agree on the budget at least according to the JFNA release. You say it is over $31 mil and this is the quote from JFNA - The 2013-2014 budget totals close to $30 million, level with the current fiscal year. - I guess $31 mil is close to $30 mil but when I first read the release I assumed that it meant UNDER $30 mil.

RWEX said...


The so-called "Budget" is as confusing as it is opaque. The "Dues Budget" is less than $30 million but JFNA leaders have made certain fund raising income assumptions (which I had previously noted) that raised the "Budget" to over $30 million (and, given the JFNA fund raising goal, I assumed [though I know with JFNA, one should never do that] that the real amount would be close to $31 million.

Anonymous said...

While JFNA lives in its lala land, check out the raging real world debate( s) going on in in regard to generational fairness, the firing of a senior federation pro, pandering to or, depending on ones point of view, patronizing young people and speaking honestly and openly without fear of retribution. GA's should only be that exciting or relevant.