Let's face it -- for the last five years, notwithstanding the phony numbers annually thrown out by the national organization, full paid registration has dwindled to around 1,000. GA chairs have served two and even three times even as others who have never served as Chairs are left on the sidelines. The programming has become redundant. There has been no excitement, no buzz. No great names to highlight plenaries, and, recently, neither the President nor the Veep. In announcing the Prime Minister's attendance at this year's GA, a few blocks from his office, JFNA thought the following was apparently "great news:"
"GAs have featured such global leaders as Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel; Natan Sharansky; Vice President Joe Biden; Israeli President Shimon Peres; Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak; Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren; the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro; Former Israeli Opposition Leader and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni; and senior members of Congress including Sen. Barbara Mikulski; Rep. Eric Cantor; Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz; and VIPs in business, culture and philanthropy."Yes, this was the best that the GA could present over recent years...the very best. A JFNA professional with great promise was engaged, among other things, to bring her creativity to the GA, to revive it; and she left before she could do so.
And...and...the cost, Oh My God. And, the cost for an Israel GA, OMG squared. It is as if a succession of JFNA professional leaders disregard the escalating costs as if they themselves don't have to pay them -- oh, wait a minute, they don't pay them -- we do, however, and we do so twice -- we pay for ourselves and our Dues pay for a flock of JFNA pros to be there -- their flights, their hotels, their cars, their drivers, all of it.
I understand that at every City-size federation, the squeeze is on -- JFNA squeezing to find attendance to justify the GA in Jerusalem, and federations being squeezed, unable to justify the escalating costs of Israel travel for their professionals for a three day GA in Jerusalem. All the while JFNA is tweeting its insipid 65 Reasons ("best Hummus," "cool soldiers") to attend while many in the federations are finding about $4000 and more in reasons that they can't.
Some of you may remember the 2004 GA in Jerusalem when Steve Hoffman was at the helm of what is now JFNA. Surprise, the same couple who will Chair the GA this year, chaired it then -- apparently"double the flavor, double the fun." Hoffman somehow sequestered in excess of $250,000 and subsidies flowed to all mission participants who later attended the General Assembly. This year -- just come, pay full price (have you seen the hotel rates??!!), go home.
Isn't it about time that those who demand an annual GA justify it beyond "if we, the federations don't do it, some other organization will?" Shouldn't someone be asked to redesign the GA to make it: user friendly, substantive, exciting and cost effective with a real return on investment. The GA was last "studied" by a one person Committee of Kathy Manning -- after consulting none of the past professionals who ran the GA successfully over time and none of the Past GA Chairs (for what would they possibly know), she did a really great job of recommending moving the deck chairs on the Titanic around -- ever since the "new GA" (yep, that's what the marketer-in-chief insist it be called) hit the calendars, it has been one desultory, under-attended GA after another.
When federation after federation has advised JFNA that they either won't be attending Jerusalem 2013 or will attend, but in smaller numbers (in the main because the costs are too high to justify when accompanied by a lack of corresponding benefits), one would think that CEO Jerry's message to the Chairs would be one of urgency, even panic. Instead, it seems to be -- to these federation leaders "you'll be sorry" and to the JFNA Chairs. he'll just make something up like "all is well, don't worry."
When you hear "don't worry"...start worrying.