Thursday, December 26, 2013


Since I began this Blog almost five years ago, we have been blessed with tremendous insights from our readers. Like this one, responding to our Post on Delusions:

"Jim Collins, who once (after doing his homework on our system) made a brilliant presentation on finding an organizational core focus. If we think back -- both UJA and CJF understood what it meant to have one precious purpose driving everything they did. For UJA it was building a Jewish state and protecting overseas Jewry; for CJF it was empowering, ennobling and networking the senior lay and professional leaders of our communities. And both organizations delivered because they stuck to their unique strategic purposes humbling adapting grass roots experimentation into national models. When Milwaukee developed a national model for young leadership programing on a local level CJF promoted that model; when a relatively new Federation in DC came up with Super Sunday UJA ran with the program. They listened, they learned and then they led, a process duplicated time and again. All because they thought through who they were and what they were about. Purpose, focus, humility and excellence in delivery."
Anyone who has observed the aimless wanderings of JFNA over the past six years, and specifically, the past four, has to ask: where is core purpose, where are the core values upon which we built a once great system?

Instead we find our national organization in convulsions before each Board meeting and every GA on its calendar. Concepts that may sound good to a bored/Board audience, upon examination are always...always...found wanting to the point of specious. In JFNA we have an entity that exhibits all of the elements of Institutional Attention Deficit Disorder, jumping from one shiny object to another without sufficient thought or substance. As someone wrote me: "JFNA and, therefore, Jerry, are babbling on about preschool while the world merrily marches on without them." While all would applaud the concept of free early childhood education for very Jewish child, to roll out a concept as a "plan ready for implementation" is mind numbing.  JFNA is so out of touch with the realities with which federations are dealing on a daily basis as to be irrelevant.

Only at an organization that has no core could the CEO dismiss all prior "plans" and roll out things like a "$1 billion special campaign" to ostensibly offer free Jewish school tuition without any prior planning, without any consultation with the federations that would have to raise the money, without any consultation with anyone with expertise in Jewish early childhood education...without, without, without. Maybe this CEO is as Sun Tzu -- "let your plans be dark and as impenetrable as night" -- more likely, he's "Dopey," one of the Seven Dwarfs.

One "wise" act of self-preservation of this CEO and his predecessor has been to totally destroy the institutional memory that UJA and CJF bequeathed to this successor entity, JFNA. Some of those our Anonymous commentator cited above. And with the Kanfer-Manning and Manning-Goldberg regimes, the erasure of memory was so easily accomplished while too many who could have done something about this deconstruction sat by and watched in silence (and, worse, tried to silence and then censured those who pushed back). At least Howard Rieger had a sense of that history himself (even if he believed that institutional memory needed to be eradicated if a new "JFNA culture" was to emerge); once JFNA fell to the leadership of Manning-Goldberg-Silverman, the die was cast; personal agendas trumped building the system time and again.

Now, with the current Co-Chairs, leaders within their communities and the national system, and knowing, as they surely do, that what was once so valued could be once again, they need to get on with their jobs and assure the present and future as their predecessors did not.

From the road to institutional irrelevancy,



Anonymous said...

And let us not forget the professional careers derailed and destroyed by these clueless self serving machinations.

paul jeser said...

An option for all to consider:

JNF - the 'new' UJA

Focused and successful leadership and staff.

Their tag: "Your Voice in Israel"

They closed this year's campaign at over $120million.

Impressive 30 second spot:

Anonymous said...

Jim Collins sadly had a name for what JFNA is experiencing, jumping from failed tactic to failed tactic devoid of an overarching strategy. He called it "the doomsday loop".

Anonymous said...

Why do you have any confidence in the current Chairs? They appear to be totally unable to deal with the state of JFNA that they inherited. They are, in the vernacular, wimps.

Anonymous said...

No, the Current Co-Chairs are among those who hear no evil, see no evil and, God forbid, speak no evil. All's well in their minds as the Titanic sinks below the waves.