Monday, December 29, 2014


The Forward published its annual "Salary Survey" last month. While much of the data of federation CEOs were no better than 2013's or earlier, it caused me to reflect on the accusations fired at me when I published the reality that the then Board Chair had publicly objected to the inclusion of "Zionism" in a Global Planning Table Committee document as "too controversial" -- I was told I was "destroying the Campaign" and worse. That Post of mine had no impact on the Annual Campaign whatsoever, but no one seems to suggest that the salaries being paid Federation CEOs have a real negative impact on (1) the perception of federation and (2) the Annual Campaign when numerous donors question annual compensation.

You and I would agree that many of the CEOs whose compensation made the top of The Forward's list are doing a superb job, are terrific leaders and merit the highest reasonable compensation -- they have proved it year-after-year. Then there are the Jerry Silvermans who have proved year-after-year that the more one is paid doesn't always equate with results -- or, in Silverman's case specifically...ever.

You can read the entire Survey at, then, you can weep. Or, if you are Yeshiva University's Richard Joel, you may laugh hysterically.

When I looked at the compensation being paid to, e.g., a new Philadelphia CEO before day one on the job -- $462,000 -- measured against successful CEOs, I have to question the negotiating ability of federation lay leaders and ask "WHY?"  I looked at Philadelphia and was reminded of the newly retired Major League baseball player, Alfonso Soriano. He had finished a season of relative mediocrity in 2006 when the Chicago Cubs, bidding against no other team only against themselves, kept upping their offer until they agreed to pay Soriano $20 million more per year than any other team had offered for the same services. Those former Cubs officials must now have been the negotiators for Philadelphia. And since this professional was hired, how has the Philadelphia annual campaign or how have special campaigns gone?  Maybe these chachams are also the ones who negotiated, if one can even call these "awards" that ("capitulations" might be a better description) at JFNA and several other federations as well. 

Compare, if you will, the incredible annual success of Chicago, much of that directly attributable to the efforts of Steven Nasatir, to the abject failure at 25 Broadway and the respective compensation paid CEO Jerry I-Can't-Believe-These-Idiots-Pay-Me-This** vs. Nasatir; or the modest compensation paid Jeff Finkelstein, the Pittsburgh Federation CEO, who delivers year-in and year-out with that being paid the untested and unknowing (albeit promising) new New York UJA CEO; or compare any of these with the relatively low salaries being paid JNF's Russell Robinson and American Friends of Tel Aviv University's Gail Reiss and the success they have driven at their organizations. 

If we wonder at all why so many...a growing number...believe that the federation system is in unstoppable decline, all one needs to do is measure CEO compensation against federation success. The answer sure seems clear.


* I have been advised by a Commentator using a nom de plume that the salary ascribed to Philadelphia's new CEO is that of her predecessor, the chief professional officer she replaced. 

** It should be noted that JFNA has yet to file its 2013 IRS Form 990 -- the one that covers the 2013 Fiscal Year. Thus, the numbers for Jerry the Lucky are still those reflected in the 2012 990.

Friday, December 26, 2014


A reader asked:
Just out of curiosity, can you name some people whom you think would be better at the top professional position of JFNA? Would be interesting for your readers to know whom you are thinking about...
If this Blog is but evidence of the truth in the maxim that banging one's head against a wall over and over again expecting change is insanity, suggesting potential successors to the failed JFNA CEO of today is but another example of that head banging against wall.  Friends, I have done this before but there is no harm in looking this list over once again, with some additions and deletions. So, here it goes in no particular order:

  • Russell Robinson whose success leading JNF and his prior experience at UJA are evidence of his creative and focused leadership
  • David Fisher, the CEO and President of the Birthright Israel Foundation, experienced within and without the federation system
  • Jacob Solomon, the long-serving CEO of the Miami Federation, or Marc Terrill, Baltimore's likewise, neither of whom appears to have any interest in moving on but would bring a world of experience and compassion
  • Maxyne Finkelstein, the former CEO of UIA-Canada and JAFI NA, she is a great manager and builder of relationships
  •  William Daroff, the constantly successful CEO of JFNA-Washington, William is the only JFNA insider with the proven capacity to lead the organization
  • Jennifer Laszlo Mizrachi, the co-founder and driving force of The Israel Project, now the President of RespectAbilityUSA, has proved to be a force to be reckoned with, whp would shake JFNA out of its doldrums
  • Nasatir/Hoffman/Ruskay, the troika who have been actually running JFNA -- charge them to step forward as interim Co-CEOs for, e.g., 18 months
  • Cindy Chazan who stepped away from her role as EVP of the Hartford Federation to VP of The Wexner Foundation
Jerry Silverman is living proof of the futility of parachuting in one with no engagement in Jewish Federation life into the position of leading it. Failure -- and we surely live in the shadow the current failure -- can be a great teacher...but only if we learn from it.

In all events, whom would you suggest?


Tuesday, December 23, 2014


For years too many to count I had a great professional partner at the United Jewish Appeal and, then, in its earliest years, at JFNA. Cheryl Lefland is a pro's pro, a person of incredible integrity, a professional who, over all the years we worked together, was honest  and direct with her lay leadership, and with our federations. She was not known to too many outside of the offices 25 Braodway; but she was known by everone inside of them. She led the UJA Financial Relations effort for almost two decades. During the first week of December, Cheryl resigned and left 25 Broadway the same day. What happened or why, I can only speculate (and will) as Cheryl and I haven't spoken for what must be the last 8 years as she was ordered not to speak with me by... well, you may guess.

Cheryl was not only my professional partner. She led the UJA Financial Relations effort with my successors, Norman Tilles, z'l, and Palm Beach's Alan Shulman, as well. We weren't the easiest of lay leaders but Cheryl gave each and all of us the tools to execute our allocations and cash collection pleas -- her work with great CFOs -- Lee Twersky and Samuel Astrof -- bespoke her wonderful professionalism. Her work with those CFOs and lay leaders at year-end after year-end in a national and, then, continental cash collection effort benefited the Jewish People and the federations themselves. Cheryl worked through her own illness and rehab and through her husband's illness as well; such was her undeniable sense of responsibility and sacred obligation 

I know the pride that Cheryl took in her work; we shared the frustration of declining allocations and long-deferred cash payments. She was no shrinking violet; when she identified a problem, she urged her leadership to address it. She pushed lay and professional leaders to do their jobs; when pushed, she pushed back; we respected her for urging us on in pursuit of our common agenda --  I am certain that others in this current regime resented anyone who had the temerity to suggest that they were ignoring their responsibilities and they would try to push her out, And I know that Norman, Alan and I strived to meet Cheryl's incredibly high standards -- too often we failed, but not for lack of trying and, certainly, never for a lack of passion. After a tradition of passionate allocations advocacy and planful year-end cash pursuit, it must have been painful for Cheryl to realize that JFNA had sold out to the cheerleaders, to a financial leadership, lay and pro, who would no more directly confront the challenges of lower and lower cash payments and draconian allocations than it would the failed leadership who preached a message of "sha...sha." Cheryl was one of those who embodied and was,  a true moral compass; an oh so challenging role in a place that has so terribly lost its way.

So Cheryl Lefland has left JFNA and JFNA has lost a wonderful, bright, intelligent, caring, dedicated professional. How many of those are left at 25 Broadway? She will be so missed. And does anyone care any more?


Saturday, December 20, 2014


The second highest giving level JFNA Mission now doesn't even contemplate any connection to the State of Israel. (Israel is so "last year" I guess.) It's almost, heck it absolutely is, an embarrassment. Here is how the 2015 King David Society Mission is being promoted:

"Steeped in history and rapidly emerging as a world power, today's China is a fascinating mix of the modern and the ancient, the dazzling and the quaint. Join us as we experience its unique culture, food and art. Together we’ll tour imperial palaces, climb the Great Wall and explore winding backstreets. We'll encounter the incredible Shanghai Jewish community—founded by Baghdadi Jews in the 1800s, a refuge for thousands fleeing the Holocaust and the Russian Revolution, and though small, still going strong today."

Land only? $6970. With a Hong Kong extension -- another $2,500. Cheapest Economy fare from Chicago -- $940; Business Class -- $5,700. Knowing JFNA -- no fund raising.

A shanda. Anyone...that's anyone...can visit the practically judenrein China for a fine vacation -- is this an appropriate venue at a time that Israel is more and more isolated? Is this an appropriate venue, with its Jewish "community" of 1500, mainly ex-pats, when Israel is not as isolated as today? Of course not; of course not. 

Is it right and proper for our national organization to act as if "Israel is played out" as a Mission venue? Is it any more right than the altogether minor role that Israel played in the recently completed GA? These are nothing more than rhetorical questions, of course. And this Mission is but further evidence that JFNA's leaders just don't get it. For the past 9 years, never have, and, apparently, never will.

No doubt CEO Jerry will be joining the "Mission," dance the NaeNae -- he may be alone.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014


One guy believes he is omniscient, the other thinks he should succeed the current CEO of the Conference of Presidents and believes he doesn't need to understand organizational history, another believes that she should control all things in Jewish communal life and rejects all institutional memory, another believes that he alone can solve the failures of JFNA and JAFI and the GOI, and a group believe that nothing good can happen in Jewish communal life without their imprimatur...and then there's this guy who writes a Blog. We are a conglomeration of outsize egos unworthy of their aspirations...but none of us...them...get it.

The result is the mess we are in. Those who should be in charge...aren't. We have Chairs and Co-Chairs of an umbrella organization who fail to exercise the power they have to shape the organizations they lead. They are satisfied with naming Committee Chairs, smiling and speaking into microphones unachievable grand visions while nothing gets done. They apparently believe that to lead our organizations is to follow others, raise questions but either never wait for the answers or inquire into whether the answers they are getting are factually correct. The results: a mass of misinformation spewed out day-by-day, the Chair of the subsidiary with both limited purposes and limited abilities trying to step into the void, the Chair of a self-created chaotic process arrogating to herself/it the powers of the JFNA -- and the appearance of no one being in charge.

From the maws of those ego-driven, the entire purposes of Jewish organizational life have been truly lost. It's a circus and the clowns are in charge.


Sunday, December 14, 2014


JFNA -- the fun never stops:

1. Kal ha'kavod to  ejewishphilanthropy for attempting to encourage positive change at JFNA, our failed continental organization where "change" is a term with which its leaders are unfamiliar. Link to;utm_campaign=Mon+Nov+24&utm_medium=email and provide Dan Brown and his colleagues with your thoughts for change. This could do what JFNA leaders can't bring themselves to do; then again, probably not.

Unbelievably, the UIA Chair devoted an entire UIA Officers Meeting to rant against this ejp initiative. Why, you might ask? Ostensibly because Dan Brown, ejp Founder has written some pieces that this Chair (and other job aspirants at JFNA) found "negative" without citation.

But the first submission, published last Wednesday, sadly anonymously, was a brilliant "United Jewish America (UJA) Press Conference Report." The author, a federation professional, offered some superb insights and excellent suggestions. Keep them coming; those who believe "everything is just fine" and "I just want to be JFNA Chair" be ignored.

2. Then there is this: while the failed Global Planning Table flounders, it's "voluntary funded Initiative" branded "I-REP" will focus on issues related and, I guess, unrelated to civil marriage in Israel, the New York Jewish Week reported on December 3 that a new Coalition had been formed, led by the American Jewish Committee that is already at work on this issue and others coordinating with Israeli counterparts. Numerous American Jewish organizations are engaged with the newly-formed Jewish Religious Equality Coalition; and guess which organization isn't...that's right, JFNA and its GPT. As an article in Haaretz on the Coalition disclosed:
"There was no representative of the Jewish Federations of North America, the umbrella body for the federation movement, at the AJC-hosted meeting, though months ago there had been discussion of their participation. Instead, JFNA has started it’s own effort.
“We have only recently launched iRep (The Israel Religious Expression Platform), which will focus on enhancing religious pluralism in Israel,” said Rebecca Dinar, a JFNA spokesperson, by email. “With regard to promoting freedom of choice in marriage in Israel, we are currently exploring how we might collaborate with other organizations that share our goals. AJC’s J-REC program presents one such potential opportunity and we will continue to have discussions with them, and others, as the iRep initiative develops.”
You read it correctly -- JFNA chose to go it alone in an effort that will only duplicate and confuse North American Jewry's positions on the civil society. In another universe -- you know, the one most non-profits work in -- the sane universe, someone would say to those who espouse going it alone: "forget about it." But in the universe that JFNA occupies -- the universe of the failed -- we only join coalitions that we form, thank you and best of luck. Really, shouldn't heads be rolling here before we waste more money in a duplicative effort?

And what is the acronym of the new AJC-led coalition? J-REC. It almost makes Susie Gellman, the Chair of the GPT's I-REP, almost totally underfunded to date by the Gellmans, want to cry. All of this is consistent, of course, with JFNA and the GPT operating in their own minuscule bubble of self-congratulatory ephemera, sowing confusion and failure in their wake. 

3. Finally, JFNA-Israel posted the following two weeks ago: "Due to planned maintenance in our offices in Jerusalem, we anticipate having limited e-mail access and no telephone service Thursday and Friday -- December 4th and December 5th." No one noticed...or cared.


Thursday, December 11, 2014


A Commentator to this Blog asked:

"As someone has stated recently, why all the guess-work?
Why doesn't JFNA simply poll all the member federations, asking them for the 5 (or pay a consultant to determine the correct number....just kidding) Top Priorities that will drive their local federation's mission statements for the next 10-15 years (mission statements do change from time to time, particularly when Strategic Plans are adopted)?
And, most importantly, make the results public so everyone can see the results.
Then JFNA can use those results as a guide for their relevance to their stakeholders.
Everyone will see what the system wants/ guesswork, finger-pointing, etc.
Then based on the results, JFNA will be forced to 1) Keep the status quo, 2) Restructure (at either a lower or maybe even higher annual budget), 3) Shut the doors."

These are, of course, excellent and seemingly simple suggestions. But they presume that JFNA leaders have any interest whatsoever in asking the federations for these kinds of input. What we have seen the past 9 years is a JFNA wholly in the thrall of itself; it has been and continues to be about itself and only about itself -- not about the federations, not about the donors. And, in being about itself, JFNA believes in is own itself...even though it isn't even that.

When the merger went forward, this excellent suggestion of federation prioritization was exactly what many of us believed would happen, what the federations would demand and to which JFNA would be responsive. But, no. Instead, distracted by shiny objects -- personal vendettas, the so-called "Global Planning Table," TribeFests, "Strategic Initiatives" and others -- JFNA , its leaders without a clue as to what federations wanted or needed -- turned inward and became more and more about itself and nothing else. 

The JFNA Budget which could tell federations about JFNA's priorities is but a farcical fiction -- 50% for FRD!!?? Does anyone -- even those inside JFNA, even the CFO, really believe that? Expand Consulting Services? Where is the staffing that would be respected by the communities who are themselves hiring expert consultants, most of whom worked at one time for either JFNA or the federations?

I endorse the Commentator's ideas as set forth above. Do you think JFNA would even understand them?


Monday, December 8, 2014


Shame, shame, shame...on us. When a terrific communal leader, and Past Chair of both her federation and of the termination of two top Wellesley Hillel professionals -- the Director and Jewish Chaplain -- by the College after their protest of strident anti-Israel/anti-Zionist attacks on campus, she asked the logical questions:  "Why doesn't the Boston Federation get involved? Or the national Hillel movement.  Are they going to leave these (young people and Hillel former leaders) to deal with this themselves." 

My sister might have included in the list of the silent: JFNA, the Israel Action Network and JCPA. You might not be aware that immediately prior to the GA, Chair Siegal and CEO Jerry If-There's-Trouble-It's-Somebody-Else's-Fault, let us know in a lengthy Leadership Briefing of JFNA's critical role in bringing together all of the "campus players" which would now coordinate campus efforts to combat the campus onslaught against Israel and against Jewish students. Turned out this meant nothing more than that JFNA joined with others in the critical act of calling a meeting. That was enough as, apparently exhausted, JFNA has had nothing to  say when Wellesley Jewish students cry out that they have "lost our support system"  at a time that a small group of anti-Israel pro-Palestinians attack Israel and them. To the date of this Post, all we have seen or heard from JFNA is...not a damn thing. (It should be noted that three days after the event, JFNA, apparently awakened from its Thanksgiving tryptophan-induced slumber, was able to issue a December 2 Leadership Briefing condemning arson and vandalism at the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Bilingual School in Jerusalem in the strongest terms. But, on Wellesley...nothing.) 

The terminations were first described in Haaretz and, then, in all of the decision's venality -- no notice to the Hillel laity, the campus Jewish Chaplain terminated by e-mail -- in the Boston Globe wherein one Wellesley official, identified as Jewish, actually stated that the terminations represented a "restructuring" that would somehow "anchor Jewish life on campus" for the Wellesley Jewish student community. Meanwhile, Barry Shrage, the oracle of CJP, the Boston Jewish Federation, had nothing to say. Still, this could just be nothing more than insensitivity and a lack of process; yet...

The IAN, the Israel Action Network, prides itself on issuing statements praising Scarlett Johansson's courage, publicizing a group of Presbyterian clergy's resistance to the organization's resolution for a boycott of Israel and publishing books and countless papers. Good for them...but, then, this happens and the IAN's futility becomes too evident.

In 1984, writing in Sh'ma Jerold Auerbach penned an article "Fighting anti-semitism at Wellesley" in which he concluded: 
"Anti-Semitism is always repugnant, even in an institution as benign and genteel as Wellesley College. No glaring episode, or ugly incident disrupted the normal security of college life. Instead, there was abundant evidence of a persistent pattern: a history of discrimination, a legacy of insensitivity."
And, now, three decades after Auerbach wrote those words, we have Wellesley officials not only engaged in "insensitivity" but in a "glaring episode"...and our institutions sit by in silence. While I have no reason to believe that anti-semitism played any role in these terminations, the dictat way in which the College went about them was unworthy of the institution and the apparent complicity of Hillel International in this non-process beneath contempt. Here is what Hillel said as reported in a Haaretz follow-up article:
 "On Monday, Eric Fingerhut, the president of Hillel International, defended the decision by Wellesley College to oust two representatives of the Jewish student organization, stressing that the move was meant to enable the hiring of a full-time rabbi on campus.
“I believe that the college is wanting to strengthen Jewish life on campus by moving to a model based on the full-time professional support of a rabbi on campus, which other schools have,” he told Haaretz.
 Fingerhut said, however, that the replacement of the Hillel representatives on campus “certainly wasn’t handled as well as it could’ve been.”*
The latest Haaretz article seemed to suggest that with no notice to the Wellesley Hillel laity or professional staff, Hillel International was busily "planning" with Wellesley College officials the professional Hillel campus leadership. Shameful.

 So, my sister -- you remember her from the first paragraph -- had a suggestion:
"Someone from one of our great agencies should notify the admissions office at Wellesley College that parents will be informed through Jewish news outlets, etc., that the Wellesley College environment is not conducive to a safe or appropriate Jewish life. Since so many Jewish families pay full tuition, perhaps the pocket book can change the attitudes of the administration."
The withholding of support is happening, the "change of attitudes" so much.  All around us, as always, is silence.

I so love my sister.


* Reporter Debra Nussbaum Cohen, as is always the case in my experience, has done a superb job of reporting the facts and just letting them speak for themselves.

Friday, December 5, 2014


Like many at JFNA, reading this Blog on a regular basis is like being flogged three times a week -- who wants your faults, your failures spelled out in italics for all to see? I wouldn't...but I might admit to peeking at it once in a while. If you ask one of these so-called "leaders" if they read this, they would tell you that they don't and try to get you to stop reading it as well -- better their lies than my truths any time.

Lou Feldstein has had a terrific career that included productive stints at JFNA and the Atlanta Jewish Federation. He now is a change consultant. Here is his most recent publication -- how wonderful it would be if those leading our Continental institution could read it and comprehend it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Yes, her fingerprints remain on everything that has gone wrong at JFNA. I won't go through the litany of failures once again -- you know them as well as I. Like the President she holds in such awe, the promise of home runs for Obama in foreign policy has given way at the White House to the fiction that there have been singles and doubles, at JFNA they can't even been able to get to first base...on anything. 

And the 2014 Terrorists' War on Israel -- oh, that one interfered with her plans for the takeover of JFNA by her treasured Global Planning Table; fund-raising for the hallowed "Initiatives," if any was swallowed up in Federations' commitment to emergency funding our work in Israel. She lives in what must be a hall of mirrors, each one reflecting only her visage holding the framing documents of the GPT. That's how she came to her Chair-ship at JFNA; that's how she conducted her Chair-ship; and that's how she elected herself the critical person at her disastrous creation, the Global Planning Table. In those fun-house mirrors that distort the real image so badly she sees herself, and we see her, as the indispensable person in an organization she has made dispensable.

As we all know, I am talking about Kathy Manning. This is a tribute to the brilliance of her use of her leadership roles to promote herself and those who would be totally supportive of her without question, and she, whose brilliant manipulation of JFNA's governance positioned herself, even after her years as the failed Chair of the JFNA Executive and then Board Chair, to be at the top of a food chain that she and she alone created while others merely sat by and let her do so...and they are still doing so. Quite frankly, while I and a few others had seen through this manipulation, this charade, from the beginning, I am in awe of Kathy. As they say: "if only she had dedicated herself to doing good."

The two (and as she left her Board Chair position she could name only two, by the way) seminal "events" of her many -- too many -- years in leadership of JFNA were: (1) the hiring of Jerry Silverman; and (2) the creation of the Global Planning Table. In reality, these "triumphs" have tolled the death knell for JFNA as an institution in service to the federations. I hear the bells ringing as I write this. 

In demanding the hire of Jerry  Silverman, she broke the hegemony of the Large City Executives, which arguably might have been a good thing for the system; but she hired someone so lacking in understanding federations and so unable to gain that knowledge after five years, as to turn the continental organization on its head, serving only its own interests. Oh, and, of course, hiring as CEO and President one who would be her foil in her tunnel-visioned approach to the GPT, the federations and our historic partners (with which neither Kathy nor Jerry were the least bit familiar) be damned.

Those who challenged or raised questions about the abuses of governance and process and/or the black hole that the Global Planning Table would and has become, were "off the team," relegated to outsider status or, for some of us, a walk in azazel (not that it's such a horrible place to be). Those who wanted to find a new CEO were disabused of the notion by those who remained in Kathy's thrall even after she no longer occupied the JFNA Chair. (One of my favorite observations was at a Jewish Agency Board meeting, shortly after the installation of Michael Siegal and Dede Feinberg, where the bima was set with seats for JFNA's Co-Chairs and the Keren Ha'Yesod Chair along with JAFI leaders and Kathy merely preempted one of the JFNA Co-Chair's seats because she could. [I am certain that Ms. Manning has no recollection of the preemption].) Follow this now: If Silverman were gone and, then, the GPT failed, as it has, then she had no "accomplishments" (not that Jerry's retention is much if any of an accomplishment, if any) whatsoever.

Now, return to the Global Planning Table. At every Regional Meeting called to discuss JFNA's so-called "options" for the GPT...there was really just one...the "plan" that was put on the table by the consultant and Silverman, was actively and vigorously rejected -- as an abandonment of the core value of collective responsibility, an abandonment of the system's historic partners and as nothing more than a gilded ONAD, the failure of JFNA's first five years. This rejection came not from the mouths of the naysayers; it was a global rejection from federation lay and professional leaders of every City-size and across the Continent. So, what happened? You know. Absolutely nothing -- it was as if the Regional Meetings were but a speed bump to be run over at mach speed (as was the qualified professional hired to shepherd and reframe the "plan," quitting within 6 months of her hire.) 

This universal rejection, this talk of "red lines that cannot be crossed" was ignored with total impunity and the total silent acquiescence  of all. And once it became evident that the federations were but toothless, the GPT moved inexorably forward until it came up against the stark reality that not even the minimum funding could be reached by JFNA, an organization driven so far from where it was supposed to be that it no longer could raise money for anything, nor could it inspire the federations to goals set by a small elite. In the "process," the GPT has been the institutional equivalent of water-boarding -- torturing a willing system with insufferable pain but ultimately failure.

And that takes us to today. Here is what the Global Planning Table now plans to become:
The Global Planning Table
        Recommended Next Steps for Phase Two

Guiding Rational(e)

We envision the GPT’s work being cyclical, including planning (discussion of pressing needs and promising prospects which the Federation collective could positively affect), program development, program implementation, and impact assessment. During its first three years, the GPT successfully facilitated planning and program development processes; in its second phase, the GPT will focus primarily on implementing the initiatives it shaped, and on assessing the impact of collective funds invested in Israel and overseas. The GPT will also continue to serve as a planning arm for the Federation system, facilitating a next round of planning.

GPT Primary Goals for Phase Two

 Raise funds for and launch implementation of GPT-developed Signature Initiatives (the Israel Children’s Zone and JQuest) and Voluntary Project (iRep).
 Convene and dialogue with local Federations regarding challenges and opportunities around the world.

GPT Functions for Phase Two

The Global Planning Table will (continue to) serve as JFNA’s planning body. As such, it will:

1. Identify opportunities and challenges facing the global Jewish community and develop and implement responses as needed. GPT will remain available to focus on new projects and opportunities, as they are referred to it by the JFNA Board or Executive Committee.
2. Inasmuch as the Israel and Overseas portion of GPT’s work is already moving forward, GPT will develop and implement a process to analyze and assess the impact of collective funds invested in Israel and Overseas through unrestricted and designated allocations, emergency response, and applicable signature initiatives and voluntary projects, working in cooperation with our Partners.
3. Track and analyze Federation allocation trends, needs assessments and other planning-related information, and provide data and analysis to local Federations. Where possible, GPT will convene coalitions to share knowledge and explore opportunities to maximize and leverage investments (e.g., partnerships).
4. GPT’s Partnership Committee will continue its mandate to develop recommendations for an annual allocation of unrestricted funds to our Partners.

These recommendations will be shared with the GPT Committee, which will advance them to JFNA’s Board of Trustees for ratification.


The Global Planning Table will continue to be a freestanding Committee within JFNA, reporting to JFNA’s Board of Trustees."

Now, at its meeting on November 24, there was widespread pushback to this transparent plot to usurp the functions of JFNA, UIA and the federations. One GPT member sent a strong letter of objection. The response from Chair Butler, who was no more present at the meeting (which was run in reported inept fashion by Silverman) than I, was that a strong majority supported the "plan." That was untrue.

Some might believe that this "plan" is the GPT version of the end of the Vietnam War (in more ways than one) -- declaring victory and getting out of Saigon as quickly as possible. You know this -- "Phase 1" was a failure; so let's build on that failure in a Phase 2 -- this is so JFNA. Others, knowing Kathy, Jerry and the claque (as well as the evident weakness of the current Board Chair), see this set of "Next Steps" as the framing document for the Global Planning Table arrogation to itself of the most critical functions that we expected to be those of JFNA itself -- planning (overseas and domestic), fund raising, allocations, advocacy, Israel and Overseas, "new projects and opportunities." To all of this there was strong objection.

Never mind that JFNA's Siegal just named Chicago's David Brown to Chair the Israel and Overseas Department Committee; or that David Butler, the erstwhile GPT Chair after three years of parroting Ms. Manning and fronting the failed, has accepted the role as Chair of JFNA Washington while (currently) continuing to Chair the GPT Committee. The questions now include: will Michael Siegal take charge, bring the GPT into JFNA as what it should be: a subcommittee of Israel/Overseas; name David Brown as the Chair of both; and dissolve the GPT Partnership Committee (that decision-making elite of elites now chaired by Manning) transferring its functions and decision-making to JFNA's Israel Overseas; and thank Kathy Manning for her creativity, tenacity and her leadership. Buh-bye. This would have the effect of JFNA doing what the organization of and for the federations should be doing; and it would retake the powers of JFNA from the clutches of a small group of federations and an even smaller group of leaders. And Chair Siegal would have asserted his leadership before it is too late, if it isn't already.

One can dream, can't one?


Saturday, November 29, 2014


Straight from one Tower of Babel, or maybe two...or three. Forgive my skepticism, but...

You surely recall the Government of Israel/World Jewry Initiative that descended into chaos two months ago when a dispute broke out between the leaders of the Jewish Agency and the Israel Diaspora Ministry over, what else, who is in charge. The dispute in the press grew ugly and as the control issues were not resolved, the parties appeared not to be speaking to each other,  unnamed but highly aspirational UIA  and JAFI lay leaders (none named "Rube Goldberg" but THEY appeared to be in the same gene pool from the work product) stepped up and the results...well, they speak for themselves -- here they are:

  1. There will be something that will be called a "Public Benefit Company" ...
  2. The shares of which will be held in Trust for a Steering Committee...
  3. Which will consist of 12 seats -- 4 for the Government, 4 for the "Principal Funders" (undefined what that means) and 4 for JAFI whose...
  4. JAFI seats on the Steering Committee will be selected by the JA Chair of the Executive (subject to approval by the JA Executive Committee), 3 lay leaders -- one each from the World Zionist Organization, Keren Ha-Yesod and UIA/JFNA...
  5. This Steering Committee will "steer" the Public Benefit Company "Oversight Committee" which will have 3 members -- one each from the Government, JA and the Principal (sic) Funders...who will "control everything by "consensus" and...
  6. Create a "New Project approval process" (undefined)...and
  7. Oh, there is that Public Benefit Company that will have Project Boards (undefined) directing "projects" approved by that Oversight Committee subject to a "Delegation of Authority" by its "Independent Trustees and Directors" to that "Steering Committee." HUH?
Now, if this is something your federation/major donors would like to invest in, have confidence in, or believe this balagan will work, please send millions of dollars to "Boy We Sure F----d This One Up, Inc." -- a "Public Benefit Company." This could be from the folks who brought you the Global Planning Table...but it isn't. If you believe that any deal is a good deal, then this is good; if you believe that no deal is better than a bad deal, well...

Remember, if you will -- the Government of Israel/World Jewry Initiative began as a Jewish Agency/Government effort. The Prime Minister and Jewish Agency, with JFNA jumping on the then bandwagon agreed that a Company would be formed, managed by the Jewish Agency, folding in the unfunded Global Planning Table "immersive Israel experience" Signature Initiative. On the cusp of the roll-out, the Diaspora Affairs Ministry asserted that it would be running the company, JAFI was relegated by the Government to a participant with the WZO, etc., and a public spat erupted in the press. Then, these two JAFI and UIA lay leaders (JFNA was once again relegated to no role) embarked on a compromise effort. What resulted, you may judge for yourself -- but it appears to this trained eye to now be a process with no one in charge, a compromise for compromise's sake and an "agreement to agree." Oy vey.

Most amazing, this is the work product of hundreds of hours invested in good faith by truly committed volunteers. That part of this is to be applauded and remembered. They prevailed where, frankly, in the political thicket in Israel, I never thought they could. More amazing, as reported in ejewishphilanthropy two weeks ago, this structure is the basis of a "non-binding Memorandum of Understanding" on tentative programming between the Jewish Agency and the Government, et al., whatever that means. The focus of that MOU is spelled out in detail in an official JAFI statement detailed in the ejp article. If this works, these volunteers are to be congratulated; even if it doesn't work, their efforts were truly prodigious. A more optimistic note was struck in an article in The Jerusalem Post
Who will be the funders? Don't know. How will the money be raised and by whom? Don't know. How much money? Will anyone really be able to explain how this will all work? Don't know. But...we have a "structure," now, don't we? Don't we? 

You must see the "flow chart" on a piece of paper -- as in the ejp -- it makes even less sense than my description. Such is compromise.  Two volunteer lawyers had been running around Jerusalem selling as a "compromise." I have a strong sense, having spoken with friends in Jerusalem, that leadership there, listened, rolled their eyes, said "sure," initialed the thing and went back to their business. Sure, these fine gentlemen who drew up this structure convinced themselves this will work. I just do not think so; time will tell. 

And, as an anonymous "senior leader at JFNA" observed: "So, we have an agreement but no money." A fair comment that ignores the reality that it is JFNA that committed to raise the money in a pro rata match with the Government. 

Oh, that. Never mind.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014


My parents were the proudest of Jews, proud Jewish Americans, proud and liberal Jews. I have inherited my own liberalism from them and from my many aunts and uncles. No one would ever have questioned my parents', my aunts' or uncles', or my own embrace and support of Israel -- from pre-state through today. But, today, the general characterization by way too many, among them close friends, equating "liberal Jews" with anti-Israel attitudes and positions has become an intolerable and thoughtless canard. Being a "liberal" or "progressive" Jew today is to be cast aside by normally thoughtful people as being on the "same side" as J-Street, the NIF or whatever other organization is being castigated on the right and by the right as "anti-Israel."

Seemingly, it has become so simple for too many commentators to point a constant finger at "liberal Jews" for all of the ills that impact our Peoplehood. Thus, an otherwise incisive columnist, Jonathan Tobin, writing in Commentary concluded in a column on the idiocy of a Jewish Federation opposing students erecting a Sukkah at their public school:
"The problem here is that liberal Jews fear conservative Christians far more than they do ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, or the Taliban (as Tablet points out, it is unlikely that the federation would have opposed accommodations of Muslim practices). And they are so paranoid about it that they are ready to restrict examples of Jewish faith in the public square in order to forestall any manifestation of Christian faith there."
Yep, it's those damn "liberal Jews" -- to Tobin and his ilk, it's my and your parents and aunts and uncles...and, me. To others it's anyone who voted for Obama -- "liberal Jews" all. Norman Podhoretz, writing in the Wall Street Journal asked "Why Are Jews Liberal?" And, on and on. The deconstruction of Jewish unity -- "Jewish liberals." The support of J-Street -- "Jewish liberals." All of the Jewish People's woes the fault of "Jewish liberals." As one of my mentors, a relatively newly-minted conservative, admitted to me: "we need every liberal pro-Israel voice we can find" to offset the wave of left-wing anti-Israel ones. 

We have a tendency today to sloganeer, to paint all with an ugly brush -- facts don't get in the way. I and many of you continue to thrive in an environment that embraces all Jews -- liberal, conservative, even neoconservative. But let those who believe that they can condemn all those whose views they oppose -- the Tobins and Podhoretzes and too many others -- remember, in doing so you are attacking my parents and yours. Shame on them.


Sunday, November 23, 2014


In a prior Post I linked you, my friends, to an absolutely idiotic interview that CEO Jerry I-Just-Can't-Help-Myself gave to the JTA's Uriel Hellman. All Hellman did was ask Silverman to provide an update -- a status report, if you will -- on each of the programs Silverman set forth in speeches, interviews and article over the past year. Hellman just let Jerry bloviate on-and-on without comment self-destructing in his jargon, cliches and "never minds." Is there any question of why and how JFNA has become the laughingstock of Jewish organizations? In case you missed it, in one of the most stupefying moves in human resources history, Jerry's contract was renewed.

On the cusp of every GA from my first in 1975 to the present, I would await eagerly the arrival of The Forward, to see who from the federation system, from UJA and CJF, would be named to that year's Forward 50 -- The Forward's  annual list of those it perceived were the most important figures in Jewish life worldwide. And that anticipation was always rewarded with the annual lists that always included our friends in leadership of federation and our system; those among our friends who inspired us. Take a look at the 50 the last few years; no, just look at this year's list on which the only...only...representative of what was our system, our Movement, were John Ruskay, recently retired from his leadership of New York UJA-Federation and Doug Seserman, the CEO of what was the Colorado Federation now a federation no longer, just JEWISHColorado, another "rebranding" without meaning to anyone other than Seserman and The Forward. Doug Seserman is someone who has proved his ability as a marketer, in marketing...himself, especially to The Forward -- to which doing the "bucket challenge" appears to have been a thing of genius.* The "system" is now not just a joke, but a footnote, an after-thought, if that.

Dan Brown, whose contributions to Jewish communal life, thought leadership and Jewish education through his ejewishphilanthropy have been incredible offered another commentary, when he wrote us in evident disgust: "Not one person - professional or lay - has the courage to write a serious article on the Jewish communal system as it exists today. I know - I've invited submissions from some of the most visible." JFNA has no voice, the federation system has lost whatever voice it once had. I believe that Federation CEOs have written papers time and again for each others edification but they apparently fear exposing their thoughts to a broader public. 

And, that's just part of the problem. JFNA cannot offer mentoring to Federation CEOs at any city-size level -- there is no one at 25 Broadway with sufficient federation background or experience to mentor, teach or, G-d forbid, learn. There is no one there with sufficient background or experience to even know what questions to ask let alone provide answers. Thus, these CEOs on the ground struggling with new demographics, a declining donor base, mobility, the need to engage not just the "next" generation but the generations of today, have no place to turn but to their fellows, directly or in their chat rooms and, too often, they are turning to those whose experience is even less than their own.

We have seen a succession of JFNA CEOs who have contributed to this strong perception of failure that racks the organization and the system today: Steve Solender, who was essentially "rewarded" upon his retirement from New York UJA with the professional leadership of JFNA (opening the door to the "reign of Ruskay") but who never had the confidence of his own leadership; Steve Hoffman, who did some good things, but began the exclusion of lay leadership from the decision-making process; Howard Rieger, another of the LCE post-retirement, who spent his four (+) years mainly behind his closed office door, drawing up enemies lists, and beginning the isolation of JFNA from its owners; and, now, Silverman, who, to his credit, has visited maybe every federation and, to his and the organization's everlasting detriment appears not to have understood a word of what he heard on any of those visits. 

The reality is that Jerry The-Brand-Is-Me has invested almost everything in "building the JFNA brand." But...and this is the biggest "but"...Jerry clearly never understood what the "Brand" stands for. The end result is a brand that stands for nothing. It is not about the federations, which it should be of course, but the brand "managers," if you will, don't have a clue what the federations are all about; the brand is, therefore, about itself. 

And "itself" is nothing but a joke.


* When The Forward first promoted this guy in April, we responded with When Insipidity Reigns, April 24, 2014. Suffice it to say insipidity still reigns.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


One astute Commentator raised an important question:
"A lot of time has been spent discussing the drop in core allocations to JAFI, JDC, and World ORT.
For all we know, JAFI, JDC, and World ORT may, in fact, be receiving more total dollars annually from the federation system than at any time in history....or maybe not.
Doesn't JFNA have the data on not only how much each federation sends JFNA for allocations to the core, but also in addition to the core allocation, how much each federation allocates directly to JAFI, JDC, and World ORT?
That, it would seem to me, would lay all the cards on the table for a transparent analysis of the situation.
And it would seem that this information should, in fact, be public information for the members of the JFNA System."
 In fact, JFNA has a lot of data which it parses out only to those it deems "worthy." The Global Planning Table has seen the same data as I -- allocations to core and total Supplemental (designated) giving. There is no breakdown as to where those dollars were allocated to in supplemental/designated fashion, but "Total Supplemental Giving 2013-2014" was $40.3 million (+/-) --  again, there has been no breakdown of the recipients. This total is not insignificant, but it nowhere approaches "more total dollars from the federation system than at any time in history" for JDC/JAFI/ORT. Far from it when one merely considers that the drop in core to JAFI since the merger now is approaching $100,000,000 annually.

I agree wholeheartedly with one recent correspondent who wrote:
"The conversation on advocacy needs to shift and focus on three basic truths:
1. The indivisible nature of local and overseas needs- hence a single Jewish agenda built around peoplehood and community
2. The unique set of deliverables provided by global partners (what we once described as "the franchise")
3. The acknowledgment that for 3/4 of our Federations or more local needs alone cannot maintain the loyalty of their biggest donors"
If JFNA could lead us here, what a change in systemic attitude might occur. But the leaders of JFNA seem to be so involved in brand and self-promotion, they appear to have no time or interest in promoting the critical work of those with which we have charged with our responsibilities.

But, far too often, there are federation professional leaders who, when challenged about the deconstruction of the overseas allocation engage in pathetic sophistry. Here's how it works -- a donor sees the JFNA data. It shows your federation with an overseas allocation of 12.3% including Supplemental Giving. He asks the CEO how can that be? The CEO responds: "Well, JFNA's number is just wrong. You have to deduct our cost of raising the money, our overhead, from our campaign numbers first. Then you compute our percentage -- it's really...40%." Thus, you have a community whose overhead is 50% -- and there are those that even exceed that percentage -- which allocate almost nothing but under this perverse logic that community's CEO could argue that its allocates 50, 60, 70% to overseas. Sophistry, pure and simple.

JFNA's numbers, which are the same as those used by UJA before it, compare true federation-to-federation figures -- annual campaign and allocation  -- applicable across the board. The results may not look good -- in fact, they look horrible -- but this data enable a fair evaluation of each federation's allocation in the absolute and relative one to every other.

You will recall that JFNA abdicated its advocacy and allocations responsibilities to the ineptitude of the Global Planning Table; and what did that leadership do? Nothing. It collected data that disclosed that over ten federations are allocating directly to overseas beneficiaries; it "eliminated" the "split" by converting it to cash; they acquiesced to the "repayment" this year of not only allocations "advances" by a few federations but of an allocations loan by JFNA. In other words, in the shadows in which JFNA and the GPT work best, these two Potemkin Villages just did what they do best...nothing. And, in doing nothing, damaged the credibility of our system even more than they did before. And, just who have been the continuity in this deconstruction over the past five years? Kathy Manning and Jerry Silverman. 

Let's have transparency and let's have some honesty -- two excellent places to start.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014


There is a post-GA or pre-GA or a constant at JFNA -- confusion compounded by another missive "From the Desk of Jerry Silverman" post-GA.

What am I talking about? Pay attention, if you please...forget the constant misuse of numbers -- 2,000, 3,000, 4,000 -- we all know that these numbers are always...always...just made up to rationalize failure after failure. Just pay attention to this -- Jerry's hallucinatory summary of the GA (he may have been at another conference after all):
Innovation and Collaboration at the 2014 GA
November 17, 2014
Dear Friends,
It’s hard to believe that only one week ago, 3,000 lay and professional leaders from Federations around the continent, as well as representatives from every corner of the Jewish world, were gathered at the General Assembly (GA), awaiting special addresses by United States Vice President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Under the banner “The World is Our Backyard,” we came together just outside Washington, DC for three days of learning from experts, sharing success stories and celebrating Federation’s unparalleled ability to touch more Jewish lives than any organization on the planet.

Many of you flocked to FEDovation sessions, which showcased more than 50 of the most groundbreaking Federation programs this year, from new approaches to education, Israel and communal engagement for Millennials to the latest fundraising strategies that are invigorating Annual Campaigns. As Michael Siegal, chair of JFNA’s board of trustees, reminded us, “Many of the most innovative Jewish communal programs today started as pilots either created or embraced by Federation.” Together, we are working to foster further idea- and resource-sharing, both online and through in-person skill exchanges.

This year, we introduced a smartphone app that enabled all participants to communicate in real time throughout the conference. One user remarked that the app made the GA feel like an “intimate gathering among close friends.” According to app users, GA high points included an address from actress and activist Marlee Matlin, who emphasized how crucial inclusion of Jews with disabilities is in creating a truly accessible Jewish community, and the commemoration of Veterans and Remembrance Day, led by five distinguished Jewish military chaplains from the U.S. and Canada.

From our global backyard, Jews from Ukraine, France and Israel reinforced the importance of Federation and our partner agencies’ support as rising anti-Semitism and anti-Israel actions threaten Jews around the world, and Holocaust survivor Nesse Godin reminded us never to forget our past as we forge ahead to the future.

Likewise, Vice President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahuaffirmed the strength of the historic American-Israeli partnership, especially against continued unrest in the region and the looming threat of a nuclear Iran.

In the words of our Federation leaders, this year’s GA was “thoughtful,” “meaningful,” and “full with love and appreciation for the Jewish People.” Relive your favorite moments and share them with friends and colleagues with our multimedia Video and Press pages."
BTW, I won't accept for a moment a reference to a Holocaust survivor's vivid reminder "never to forget our past as we forge ahead..." from someone who has partnered in the erasure of our institutional history. "Innovation and Collaboration" indeed.

Then, reflect on the reality that not one specific takeaway, not a single "FEDovation" is offered. Then hit the "Video" link above and watch the 4 minute clip from CEO Jerry's address to the 3,000 (I would add..."or so" if 1,500 were close to 3,000). Listen/observe the use of the "royal we" and readily realize, as I did, that there is not a single reference to a single thing JFNA, itself, did. "We" is really you..and all that "you" did you did without one bit of assistance from JFNA even as you paid $30 million to JFNA to do something for "you." (Oh, and one of the FOB's suggested that we all turn off the audio and just watch CEO Look-At-Me gesticulate wildly [and inappropriately]. It's damn good.) 

And, why couldn't CEO I'll-Take-Credit-For-What-You-Did reference anything that JFNA had done for you other than organize a series of small Solidarity Missions -- because JFNA, under this leadership, didn't help you much if at all.


Monday, November 17, 2014


As I write this I am looking out our den window at the first snow of winter falls along with the temperature; winter has arrived early. Of course a long, dark winter descended upon JFNA years ago -- no sign of sunshine or light can penetrate the darkness.

Every day in some way JFNA exhibits exactly why it has become both irrelevant and a laughingstock. While JFNA lay leadership believes in the fairy tale of a really important JFNA and many of you may still believe in the ideal of a functioning and important organization, feast your eyes on what follows, look at yourself in the mirror and ask the following question: "How much money is my federation wasting on this?" 

Friends, what we have here is an epic failure of lay and professional leadership. They not only know not what they are doing, they know not even what they should be doing. So, instead, they don't do a damn thing.

The following is the actual verbatim Agenda of the JFNA "DEVELOPMENT CABINET" meeting at the GA. This Agenda tells you all that you need to know:
"Dear Development Cabinet Member,

The following is the Agenda for our meeting on Sunday, November 9th from 11 AM – 12:30 PM at the GA..  We will be in room Chesapeake 6.


1.     Welcome – Linda A. Hurwitz

2.     Philanthropic Resources Update – Reuben Romirowsky

3.     Reinventing the Sapir Award: How Should We Recognize Community Campaign Success? – Linda A. Hurwitz

4.     Making a More Effective and Powerful “Pitch” for your Cause – Chris Westfall, US National Elevator Pitch Champion, GA Plenary speaker

5.     Adjournment

The main purpose of our meeting will be to exam how we recognize successful campaigns."
Wow!! The "National Elevator Pitch Champion."

Yes, while so many federations need direct fund raising assistance and guidance from their national organization, if there was one, while the system's donor base has shrunk to heretofore unheard of lows, what does the so-called Philanthropic Resources  Development Cabinet" discuss? "Reinventing the Sapir Award" and "elevator pitching." Are you kidding me? JFNA has reached a point so low, it is off the radar screen; aren't more federations reaching out  today to consultants for the services that should be and were provided by our national organization? What are your federation Dues being used for at 25 Broadway?

And, at the same time, Chair Michael Siegal pontificated beautifully and meaninglessly about a vision and specifics JFNA is wholly incapable of framing with its current administration. As one Commentator put it so well:

"The federation "owners" don't have a shared clue about what they need or want. How can JFNA know what its owners want if the owners don't even know?

By and large, the federations are paralyzed. The American Jewish world has changed and its hardly done. The federations are the status quo institutionalists. supported by those who came to Jewish maturity (and I'm not talking bar/bat mitzvahs) via these same institutions. The donors are clueless or unaccepting about what change means, even as they know change is needed (it's already happening!) for the next generation (which they are scared to death of losing). The major lay leaders and professionals are scared to death of losing donors, their paychecks, status etc = paralysis. 

And JFNA is similarly paralyzed. Its doesn't know what it is and its owners are of no help in figuring this out. On second thought, it's not paralyzed; JFNA is simply and tragically chasing its tail the same way its owners are. When the owners get a clue and get decisive, JFNA will follow suit. In the meantime, buy long in tail chasing."
So very true.  It all just makes one want to cry.


Friday, November 14, 2014



To: Trustees, Federation Chairs and CEOs
From: JFNA Leaders

In a recent message to you, we at JFNA appeared to take credit for the passage of a conversion bill that, upon cursory examination, could be a game-changer. That Memo pointed out, in pertinent part: "The issue is complex, most of our involvement took place behind closed doors..." As our Memo concluded, this was not legislation at all but a decision of the Israeli Cabinet in the nature of an Executive Order in the United States. In fact, our critical involvement was so secret, we weren't even aware of it.

Now we wanted you, our faithful, to know that "behind closed doors," JFNA has even more critical and secret successes. Among them:

  • The settlement of all issues in resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process;
  • Hamas's abandonment of terrorism;
  • Hadassah Hospital's reorganization and balanced budget;
  • Recognition of the State of Israel by the Satmar;
  • Universal agreement that the world is flat;
  • The elimination of all anti-semitism in Western Europe and Great Britain;
  • The restoration of the International Fellowship of Christian and Jews allocation to JAFI;
  • Reconciliation between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu; and
  • Our takeover of the work of both the Conference of Presidents and Aipac.
It's true that none of these matters are particularly relevant to the things we are supposed to be doing for our owners, the Jewish Federations of North America, but we thought them very, very important for JFNA, and, in particular, it gave our JFNA-Israel Office things to take credit for even though all of this was accomplished where we do our best work -- "behind closed doors."