Tuesday, December 10, 2013


The recently concluded Jerusalem General Assembly was "marketed" as "A Marketplace of Dialogue and Debate." Not having been there I have had to rely on the insights of the many who were there and who offered theirs to me. The general consensus -- actually, the unanimous opinion of those who wrote or called -- was that at no Session was there a truly involving and engaging "dialogue" or, even more certainly, "debate" in which the audience was invited to participate.

After everything I heard, I am pretty sure that JFNA leaders neither understood or care about the definitions:

  • "Debate" -- "a discussion involving opposing viewpoints"
  • "Dialogue" -- "an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue"
Sure, within the "shuk" and in the hallways, as always, Registrants (the few) and attendees (the "more") engaged in  both debate and dialogue; but at the public sessions, points of view were expressed and brief Q and A allowed, but what you and I know to be "debate and dialogue" -- uh uh.

If there was unanimity on anything about this GA, it was that JFNA, desperately trying to reach its attendance projections, did the same thing the Chicago Democratic machine did at the disastrous 1968 Democratic Convention -- it filled the room with whomever it could -- mainly Israelis -- folks who paid nothing or almost nothing. So, while JFNA trumpeted boxcar and fictional numbers, if anyone cares to examine actual North American lay registrants, the numbers will turn out to be around 1,000. 

And, that's bad, really, really bad. These results demand that the GA be fairly studied in depth by a group of federation lay and professional leaders, led by Executive Chair Dede Feinberg -- not a one person "Committee" as was the case when Ms. Manning led and determined the outcome of the last Study. (And, when practical recommendations for reform drafted by a professional experienced in and with our communities were simply suppressed by leadership dictate.) 

We all recall that one recommendation from under Ms. Manning's dictate was to move "all future GAs" to places offering tourist attractions -- somehow this resulted in a Houston GA being canceled and moved to D.C. (where 942 lay leaders paid and registered). The 2014 GA will convene in D.C. (this marks the third time the GA will convene in Washington since that last, failed GA "plan." Why will the 2014 GA even be held? "We've made big deposits."

It's past time to examine the costs/revenues for the last five GAs and an honest, transparent accounting be provided the JFNA Board. This Study should take place immediately, be concluded by the January Board Retreat, and then, discussed at the federation level, and at the June Board Meeting, a real debate and dialogue can take place as to the future of the General Assembly.

That's a real debate and dialogue, my friends, not a meaningless marketing tag line.


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