Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Friends in Israel for pre-GA events had been reporting that CEO Jerry was bouncing off the walls with joy telling all within earshot "we've hit 3,000; we've hit 3,000." Of course that wasn't the case but if it helped Jerry to believe the unbelievable, go for it. Even if 3,000 is the number JFNA had used in D.C. when there were less than 950 lay registrants, it's such a great number -- like 2 or 4 or 6 or 8 but it's 3,000, and JFNA Jerry loves 3,000.

Then there was this Comment:

Anonymous said...

When the Silverman/Siegel proposal was published yesterday (11/7) in EJP the tweet/like/share response was about as low as you can get. It seems even their own accolytes including a power tweeter on senior management are distancing themselves and the internal shunning (a long held tradition at JFNA/UJC) is now actively at work. I'd look for an announcement shortly after the GA if not during.
So, perhaps, this speculation is driving delusion; perhaps this speculation feeds the CEO's need to serve a most public role in multiple GA venues -- a role that would/could better be played by others (even G-d forbid, lay people); perhaps this speculation is the catalyst for the multiple press releases and interviews that preceded the GA all self-serving, all ridiculous and all announcing that "I am the indispensable person, I am the 'thought leader.'" Uh huh.

And, perhaps, in the scenario that has been the last four years there have been lessons that might serve Jerry's successor well. Among them (and I am sure there are many more):

  • Understand the core values that drive success. The current and immediate past JFNA CEOs not only rejected the history of the federations (the former knew them but rejected them; the current CEO continues to have no apparent clue). Those values can drive success and create historical continuity, instead, there is no connection between our system's core values and the national institution... a prescription for the very failure we see all around us.
  • Tell the truth --  For example, what would have been wrong with first telling the JFNA Co-Chairs "this is going to be a very hard GA to populate given costs and logistics and the failures of the past GAs. But we are going to break our backs to make the program so compelling and so exciting and we have a major recruitment plan and we will keep you posted every step of the way." But, no, as I understand it, the CEO continued to misrepresent the terrible numbers into the Summer and, then, it was too late -- not too late to continue to misstate registration right into the GA itself -- "we got 3,000!!" -- the history of fake numbers empowered the CEO to make those misrepresentations weekly to the JFNA Chairs. There have been other instances of untruths -- the one sticking in my craw was evidenced by Silverman's willing, even eager, endorsement of the fabrication that Manning did not utter the words "no Zionism -- too controversial" at a GPT meeting, something that he knew had happened. Yet, he felt unrestrained by the truth in misrepresenting what Manning had said to federation CEOs across the country.
  • Stop the favoritism. There is ample evidence that at JFNA the federations with the gold rule...and rule...and rule. A CEO who understands the system would make it clear that he or she is listening to all federations -- to their CEOs and their leaders. When a Large Intermediate or Intermediate Federation lay and professional leaders see a Large City cut an undisclosed Dues deal and its new CEO put on panel after panel at GAs on subjects with which his community has had no demonstrable success while they get no speaking privileges (other than to kiss the JFNA CEO's ring), small issues grow to big ones. An excellent manager, be it in business, in law firms, in federations knows how it's done -- but not at JFNA. This has to change.
  • Focus on the big issues and get some quick victories -- this CEO focused on what in his first years? Community heroes, #ish, TribeFest  (all failed)and the tried and true hand-me-downs from UJA and CJF, the "rebranding" to JFNA (the name chosen by UJA-CJF pre-merger)? That's it? And other shiny objects -- the Global Planning Table among them -- began to capture JFNA's attention. There were neither big issues nor victories of any kind and haven't been.
  • Get over yourself. Know that JFNA is neither about you nor about JFNA -- it is to be about federations. Understand that there is no reason for arrogance, only humility. Succeed by doing not by talking; and cliche and jargon merely communicate failure. Listen to advice and don't reject criticism out of hand even from those you won't countenance out of spite or pique.
  • Hire the best and brightest. Instead of reaching out to hire the best and brightest as a focus, the last two CEOs have engineered a brain drain from the highest ranks within JFNA of the best and brightest. I won't embarrass them by naming them, but they have gone on to great success with among others Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, JA and the JDC, World ORT,  among so many.  Many former JFNA professionals have been engaged by a broad array of federations around the Continent to supply what JFNA now can't. Friends, if you can't keep the best, how do you recruit the best? When this exodus began -- at the very beginning of an avalanche of departures -- I asked the  then Chair of the Executive to do some exit interviewing, to understand how bad things were -- she never did so.
  • Transparency. A concept apparently unknown to the CEO and embodied in the questions unasked by a succession of Chairs. "Never ask, never tell." Shouldn't the laity know what is the total of all consultant contracts; who are the individual consultants and how much is each paid (including the ubiquitous Ms. Smith); what has been the return on investment from each consultant contract -- for starters. There are millions being paid out to consultants. And how are GA deficits handled -- how are the deficits there and at TribeFests, for example, "processed" within JFNA -- certainly there has been no formal Executive Committee action, no Board review. There is no transparency at JFNA, not in its Budget and not in its practice. It appears that staff has, at its whim, shifted dollars from one Budget line to another while everyone involved, right up to the Treasurer, sits with the hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil cheerleaders, not as the fiduciaries they are supposed to be.
When will things change? When the Co-Chairs realize they are in fact the Co-Chairs.



Anonymous said...

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.

Anonymous said...

I work at JFNA. You would not believe the numbers of us who have been tasked to the Global Planning Table tasks -- often with conflicting directions on the same day. It's not gone and certainly not forgotten here -- just everywhere else. And, it is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Conflicting directions for the GPT? No surprise. Both Silverman and Caspi are failed managers

Anonymous said...

If I was Chairman of JFNA and the President (Silverman) put me up at a microphone to discuss a billion dollar initiative for pre-schools and summer camps, without vetting the concept and getting Federations in alignment first, I would return to his office and help him pack his things.

It would be Silverman's last day on the job.

Even worse, is the fact that the Federations are not even upset. They already accept that JFNA has no relevance.

JFNA wants a billion dollar pre-school and camping initiative. JFNA wants a part of the Prime Minister's initiative. And JFNA does not want to shut up already about he Global Planning Table Fiasco.

Calling Silverman and Caspi failed managers does not begin to capture the depth of the issue.

If Chair of the Board Michael Siegal and Chair of the Executive Diane Feinberg support the renewal of Silverman's contract - it is they who have failed the American Jewish Community.

Be responsible: do a 360 degree evaluation. You will hear nothing but failure. The only place people talk about JFNA success is inside its own offices.

JFNA is a failure. If you do not believe it, hire an impartial firm to just compile what people are saying in the field. Listen to them. They pay the dues.

The latest excuse is now Jerry has a team in place. Give him a chance to use his team, It was Jerry who already proved his failure when he refused to put a team in place. Professionals and lay alike begged him to recruit and build a team. They told him he did not know Federations and he needed inside professionals. He refused.

You gave him his chance. He failed the challenge. Time for a new batter. "There is no one better out there" is the next battle cry. Yes there are. And it does not matter. You do not need to pay somebody a half a million dollars a year to make the chairs look foolish in front of the whole Jewish world. And you do not need failed managers to have no accomplishments.

Michael and Dede, you represent the owners of this team. It is up to you to set the standards of the players who will play on this team. You wanted the job - you won the responsibility.

Yes, Michael and Dede, you are both dedicated, caring and wonderful lay people. But you are looking foolish to everyone, as long as you are standing next to the Harlem Shake Jerry Silverman.

You cannot defend the indefensible.

Do the right thing.

RWEX said...


Anonymous said...

Let us count the ways: "if the GPT goes, JFNA will collapse;" "there is no one better out there," "he needs more time to implement the Strategic Initiatives;" "he deserves chance to work with this great new team." What's the next excuse for keeping this person: "there was actually a GA even if it stunk?" "4+ years just isn't enough?"