Friday, October 25, 2013


Well, sometimes with JFNA there is hope and most of the time there is none. JFNA has been circulating an "on-line" Forward op-ed of which CEO Jerry and Chair Siegal seem to be extremely proud. It also appeared on-line in Huffington Post. It purports to be a JFNA response to the Pew Report. It is disgraceful if one is to be honest about it. And I have literally been flooded as rarely before in the five years of this Blog with copies of the op-ed from JFNA Board Members, federation chairs and federation professionals questioning how this could happen and the futility of trying to effect change at JFNA. One wag wrote: "this is governance by bad press release."

You may recall that we published the CEO's New Year's Message of just last month -- a statement that totally confused the work of others with those of JFNA and the federations. That was merely the prelude to this sad piece of claptrap. Maybe the CEO just doesn't comprehend that he is claiming as JFNA's the successes of others -- Birthright, PJ Library and, of all things, Camp. "Ideas" like free Jewish preschool for all can't be argued with -- but the CEO and Chair offer nothing on how to do it. Worse, they offer not a word about federations being on the front lines confronting the challenges offered by Pew (even as many are); and nothing about JFNA being on the front lines of anything in Jewish education (other than helping push JESNA off the ledge through the "work" of its Alliance). It is a real embarrassment that Jerry was able to convince Michael Siegal to add his name to this...this...ridiculous example of "let's throw it against the wall and see if it sticks."

And, then the twosome gave JTA an interview listing the "four ideas" -- all good, all without any specifics, all beyond any of JFNA's demonstrated capacity. The "interview" was merely the verbal regurgitation of the press release. Just words, just trying to catch a train that has left the station -- "this is what we see; this is what we think." OMG!! (In this interview, CEO Jerry demanded that Birthright's "gatekeepers" share their alumni lists with federations -- just a brilliant tactic in the midst of recent negotiations between JFNA and Birthright leaders on the subject). 

And, there is the idea of "Jewish Development Zones." It's a great idea -- sprung in this op-ed like something new on an unsuspecting populace...and that's what makes the whole op-ed even more shameful. In the early-2000's JFNA began intensive work with under-performing high potential communities. The idea sprung directly from a pioneering FRD Study. Working with the then JFNA FRD staff, I was proud to have been asked to serve as the lay chair of this effort. A number of communities asked to participate, two were chosen -- Las Vegas and Phoenix. The work had just begun, with Las Vegas, great progress was made...and, then...JFNA pulled the plug. It's professional heads of FRD had quit under duress; the CEO terminated this program. The lay chair of the effort was never consulted. 

So, for sure, pull a program that actually could have been fully functioning and fully funded out of the shredder, rebrand it as "Jewish Development Zones" and try to scotch tape the shredded strips of paper together -- it will probably read better than that op-ed. Then, again, it is likely, given his disinterest and the collapse of FRD on his watch (best evidenced by the inability to hire a professional leader to head the effort) that Silvermen was unaware of the earlier effort and no one on his staff was able to tell him about it. 

And, by what seichel, what pilpul does JFNA take an Israel GA and "turn it around" to focus on the Pew Report? To these guys, Jerusalem is just another New Orleans, another Vegas or Chicago. This is clearly an organization with neither purpose nor Mission nor priorities. Read Silverman's first reaction to Pew and compare it with these utterances. Look up "feckless" in the Dictionary and you will find it next to the JFNA logo.

Read that thing, my friends-- how many times (other than in the name Jewish Federations of North America) is the word "federation" used? I see "communal structure," I read "communities" and other such but "federations," our owners, not once. Better to call this a "death notice" as opposed to an "op-ed." 

We know that Siegal and Feinberg, our Co-Chairs, understand that for the 4 years that preceded their election and longer, JFNA's leaders engaged in an attempt to wipe clean historical institutional memory.  You read the op-ed and it as if no one at 25 Broadway has a clue as to what the federations have done and were doing before the Pew Report and will cpntinue to do. That the Pew Foundation has no clue could be expected; that the federations own organization doesn't is incomprehensible.

We're in worse shape than I had ever thought...hard to believe.



Anonymous said...

Creating communal expectations that cannot easily be fulfilled?
Unfunded mandates for Federations?
One more possibility that campaign funds will be funneled to a national pool for domestic needs? (a never again proposition for most big cities)
Regardless if these are good or workable ideas, you don't go public with such a proposal without careful planning and consultation.
It's 4th and 40 with the clock running out and these fools are going very long.

Anonymous said...

"Creating communal expectations that cannot easily be fulfilled?

"Unfunded mandates for Federations?

"One more possibility that campaign funds will be funneled to a national pool for domestic needs? (a never again proposition for most big cities)"

Hey, it worked for the GPT!

Wait, what?