Sunday, December 1, 2013


Wow, can that Jerry Silverman talk...and talk...and talk. The master of hyperbole, cliche and jargon can't distinguish fact from fancy. And, so it was, shortly before the recent GA, in an "interview" with JTA, CEO Jerry, at his most bombastic, said it won't be "..just talk when federations meet in Israel for GA." And, then, it was..."just talk."

The GA? "It's about really creating the great debate and dialogue on the challenges of our times." 250 (yes, that's 250) "young adults" would be brought together "to debate and contribute ideas to 'tackle key challenges facing Jewish communities and Israel." Uh huh. And, per the CEO: "The idea is to listen." If you ask Federation leaders you would quickly learn that a major fault with JFNA and its CEO is an inability to do just that... and Jerry has proved to be the non-listener in chief. 

There is also, as you know from recent JFNA pronouncements, an intense focus on the Pew Report -- even if the responses from JFNA have been a set of half-baked, par-baked, non-baked "ideas" thrown out there without planning or forethought. 

But all that "promised debate" -- "debate" that Silverman promised "[T]here are going to be real actions that will be taken post-GA from this." Uh huh. Even a mass walk of participants (really a "small mass" -- not 3,000 but, maybe, 1,000 or 1,200) from Safra Square to the Kotel in what CEO Jerry said " a show of Jewish unity to underscore the centrality of Jerusalem and that there is a place for all Jews at the Kotel." And, yet there weren't enough North American Jews to make any real impact.

It's so difficult to actually envision a GA at which debate takes place after years of enforced silence. When in the 70s the so-called "Young Turks" rebelled seeking (and obtaining) seats at the table, or when the GA was the place where the decision was made to stage the great Rally for Soviet Jewry, we had GAs of substance and debate, dialogue and decision. But that was then and this is now...and has been "now" for too long.

To Jerry Silverman it appears that saying "the right thing" is enough. In his mind, saying it is doing it. And that's the sad truth. As one commentator once observed, this is like "A loud noise at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other." He was, of course, writing about babies.

Seriously, while your organization hits the rocks and is sinking, what does it say about your CEO who dabbles in the folly that is Festivus for a third time; who at a critical time for JFNA promises young leaders that if they get 25 people to go on a Mission, he'll join them...and, then, does (you remember the Harlem Shake?); who drafts numerous white papers describing the GA as a place of debate and thought leadership while giving numerous interviews "full of sound and fury signifying nothing;" and moves his staff around like the deck chairs on the Titanic...and he is still there!!



Anonymous said...

Let's add that at the Jewish Agency BoG (which was after the GA), this CEO's entire purpose was to be seen - running in and out of committee meetings, taking calls - but not staying in any one meeting long enough to really get a sense for the committee. And I'm speaking about committees he and his SVP Israel have ignored throughout his tenure. But, wait, he'll have an op-ed with how to solve the JA's problems too. Probably not baked at all.

Time for the CEO AND the SVP Israel to move on.

Anonymous said...

The question is: how has the CEO now apparently pulled the wool over the eyes of the current Board and Executive Chairs? Do they neither listen nor see?

Anonymous said...

The board chair takes his cues from Hoffman.
'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the Board Chair aware that having the "bully pulpit" is a joke if he is just going to read the script no matter how ridiculous the ideas on the page? The "$1 billion for free Jewish pre-school" with no pre-discussion or planning is but a joke, an applause line, and nothing more.

Pre-school professionals know that it would take $3 - $4 billion or more to make school "free" and that such money were it ever to be raised should go elsewhere. But did Silverman or Siegal talk with them? Of course not...that would have made too much sense.

Herzl's child said...

Maybe it's not the politics of JFNA or the personalities involved but our 20 year mishugas of telling American Jews that they are lousy parents who make lousy Jewish choices for themselves and their children. Perhaps if we spent more time building our global and local infrastructures in all it's programmatic diversity and less time obsessing over Jewish identity we would recapture our purpose. A few months ago, a senior professional at JFNA told me that we should worry that secular Jews in Israel were losing their Jewish identity by adopting an Israeli identity. Really? So much for a true appreciation of Zionism, not to mention our diaspora role in sustaining the Jewish state. Civilizations fall because we lose faith in ourselves and the inevitability of change. A little less gevalt and a little more thoughtful and reconstructive action please.Our children have no interest inheriting a sinking ship built on self-debasement or gloom.