Friday, October 25, 2013


I am, by nature and experience, an optimist.  Perhaps, if you review the Posts on these pages over the past 4 years, you wouldn't think so...but, you would be wrong. And I am increasingly optimistic about the possibility that JFNA's Co-Chairs can right the Costa Concordia that JFNA has become and move it forward.

Let me explain...

I truly believe that in Michael Siegal JFNA has a Board Chair who truly cares about the federations he represents; and in Dede Feinberg, a Chair of the JFNA Executive who understands and truly loves the totality of our system. They are dedicated, as their predecessors were not, to JFNA serving the all of the federations and all of our system as opposed to JFNA existing to promote itself. Yet, they are almost at the halfway point of their three terms -- and, candidly, there is so little to show for the time they have invested in trying to save JFNA from itself. So, here, before I try to offer a prescription of what can be done coupled with what needs to be done, is a Comment received from a brilliant albeit Anonymous writer (I have edited a small portion of the Comment as inappropriate):
"Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "ARE YOU SURPRISED?":

Our JFNA Lamentations are different.
We spend more time and money on a Global Planning Process to spend money we do not have. (Yes, I have heard the lies, there is money just waiting in the wings for this to all happen.) 

We spend millions of dollars on this GPT waste of time and not even a fraction of that amount supporting campaign.

We make a mockery of leadership development in TribeFest that grows no leadership. We trot out the occasional young person who discovers Federation via a free trip to Las Vegas. Do we support and nurture the existing young donor - not.

We invite our competitors as Partners to TribeFest and other venues, while we ignore our real partners in the JCCs, JFSs and day schools.

We raid the Pushka, virtually stealing Tzedaka dollars to promote JFNA, and not our fund raising mechanism. Not to build capacity, but to build the kingdom of JFNA. It is a crime against the Jewish people.

We have built a virtual Fiefdom in Israel, whose goals,  expense, and actual activities would not be endorsed by any Federation in North America.

We hire senior staff, pay them 6 figure salaries and never let them do their jobs.

We have weakened the treasure of UIA, by diminishing its crucial role and effectivity at the altar of JFNA's megalomaniacal past leadership and the false idol of "Brand". UIA is the only JFNA activity in Israel actual serving the Federations.

We claim success in the face of repetitive failure. We self congratulate and repackage failure as success. If one cannot admit failure one can never really improve. 700 some people planning to come to the Jerusalem GA and no more than 40 Federation execs will be a failure of biblical proportions.

Our well meaning top leadership accepts the lies of our chief professional and are being lead like sheep to slaughter. Their naïveté in the face of the Flim Flam Man - our ... salesman in chief, is very sad. They diminish their own reputations of solid past leadership. It is not fair because they are not the cause of the devastation, but if they do not step up and stop it, history will only record their failure, while it gives a pass to those who came before them.

I too lament. I lament that Jerry Silverman is being allowed to destroy the JFNA that I love.

Pay off Jerry's contract, pay off our Senior VP in Israel's contract and fire the overpaid consultants before our Jerusalem on Broadway is destroyed in Biblical proportions. We do not need a new book of Lamentations.

Michael and Dede, the time to act is now."
Yes, the time has come for action. Yet, I suspect that one of the barriers to the action needed is a fierce opposition from, who else, Kathy Manning and the acolytes who believe that she walks on water; after all, one of the two or three "accomplishments" of her three years was installing Silverman, in "taking" the CEO position from the "clutches" of federation CEOs. The other "prize," the GPT, remains an ultra-expensive barrier to real change presented as if it were change. She just doesn't get it; and the current Chairs need to move forward and do the right thing.

I would suggest that the Chairs appoint an "Interim CEO" -- a person who would step in for no more than two years; evaluate the professional staff; make such changes as would help the Chairs and the person who will succeed him/her right the ship and position JFNA for moving forward at the end of that person's stewardship in the right direction as a vehicle of and for the federations. JFNA must become about its owners; no longer about itself.

A cartoon in a recent New Yorker illustrated the problem: two lumberjacks, axes in hand, are assessing their task -- cutting down a truly massive redwood. One turns to the other: "Should we have lunch first?" To Michael and Dede, no time for lunch anymore.



Anonymous said...

The suggestion was tried with that guy from Cleveland, what's his name, and it failed. I have a 3 part alternative:
1. Offer Jerry an employment at will extension
2. cancel the 2014 GA and close the Israel office with necessary functions overseas carried out by the UIA team
3. Redeploy the absolute bulk of JFNA
staff and resources to the next year's
campaign with large numbers of staff
sent into communities (they will help, they will learn).
Then reconvene in Winter 2014-15 and see where we are at. A successful campaign will bring good candidates to succeed the present CEO and give impetus and credibility to needed advocacy efforts on behalf of overseas needs.
Let action not cosmetics drive the needed change.

paul jeser said...


With the JFNA and the Federation movement in such trouble... I'm not sure I understand...

Especially since support for Israel is nowhere to be seen...

Jewish Federations chiefs call for free Jewish preschool

Anonymous said...

Silverman on an extension of any kind will drive JFNA to the extinction for which it is rapidly heading. Let him go now -- his successor can only bring some sanity to a place badly in need of it.