Thursday, January 30, 2014


I seem to recall, as you will that the use of the phrase "Coalition of the Willing" was employed at least twice in the context of Iraq Wars -- as you read on, just how did those turn out? 

At the JFNA Board Retreat earlier this week, David Butler, Chair of the Global Planning Table advised, in a manner that would confuse even accountants of the potential financial burden of two Federation "Signature Initiatives" -- J-Quest (the new name of what was briefly J-PIE [you know, like changing ONAD, z'l, to GPT] ) Immersive Experiences and addressing Childhood Poverty in Israel in a program tagged "The Children's Zone." For these most ambitious Initiatives, very little money appears to be necessary at the outset -- an aggregate of $500,000 per year per Initiative for something like 5 years -- for $50,000 per community per year, J-QUEST can go forward. And, Chair Butler made clear that these funds "should" -- not "must" but "should" -- be funded with new money. Pardon my cynicism but the tentative "commitment" of full funding at least the first year of the  J-QUEST Initiative has yet to be committed at all -- but no doubt will be. 

That $500,000? That's "seed money" -- just for what is to be known as J-Quest. A lot of dollar demands were discussed and, perhaps, inasmuch as no data were distributed at least to those participating in the Board Meeting by phone, this J-Quest Initiative will ramp up to over $4,000,000 annually, if I heard correctly. (Yet, the GPT's own budget figures for this Initiative had the costs climbing up to in excess of $63,500,000 by 2019 -- back in the day federation leaders would have been screaming at this sloppy math; today...they ignore the discrepancies, the sand-bagging and applaud.) I also heard, from the soon to retire New York CEO that he, if no one else, believes that Initiative funding is somehow responsive to the JFNA leadership's call for increased core allocations funding, thereby contradicting Butler ("new money") and JFNA's Chairs' call for increased core allocations. They all were silent. So much for increased core; but, may be they don't understand the difference.

I have learned that CEO Silverman, who mouths a call for increased core one moment, has told both the Jewish Agency and Joint that they will have to support these Initiatives out of their core. Knowing Jerry he doesn't fully comprehend the inconsistency between calling on federations for increased core and telling the "partners" they must apply core as JFNA dictates. The question remains whether JFNA's Co-Chairs are even aware of these totally conflicting, totally inapposite positions. And, if they find this as offensive as I do; what are they doing about it? (That's a rhetorical question.)

But it's not just these GPT "Initiatives" that are to be Federation-funded "priorities" but, as the Agenda dictated, the Israel Action Network, as well. You may recall that after the first year of the IAN, at the initiative of that same soon to be retired NY-UJA CEO, JFNA readily assumed the full cost out of its Budget. Now JFNA has pushed the cost back onto the backs of the federations -- on the backs of another "coalition of the willing." So 90% of the communities will have no skin in this game -- in these games -- and, certainly, further disconnection will follow.

Based upon statements made at this Board meeting, JFNA actually believes that all of this "coalition-building" is somehow "fund raising" demonstrating just how little anyone at JFNA knows or remembers about just what fund raising is or, make that...was. New staff will no doubt have to be hired not only for the Signature Initiatives, but just to keep track of which federation is a member of which "Coalition." 

You and I have often noted on these pages that when everything is a priority, nothing is. So here you have the worst of JFNA -- multiple priorities, multiple "coalitions of the willing," if you will. As has been said: "if you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there." Or, more succinctly: JFNA 2014.

It doesn't have to be this way.


P.S. Brilliant new JFNA Sr. V-P Marketing and Communications, Renee Rothstein, was credited effusively for coming up with the J-QUEST brand. Now, perhaps she should rename the Initiative inasmuch as the word "immersive" has no meaning in the GPT context:  "noting or pertaining to digital technology or images that deeply involve one's senses and may create an altered mental state: immersive media; immersive 3-D" 

Monday, January 27, 2014


You know, it's near the end of the game, your team is down, the only hope is a miracle play -- it must be a "Hail Mary (pardon me) pass" -- one that fails over 97% of the time. And, that's exactly what Jerry Silverman is throwing (along with other stuff he's throwing) and throwing and throwing...

  • You saw one fall to the turf right before and during the GA: the $1 billion "special campaign" for a free Pre-School for every Jewish child. That pass fell to the ground when almost universally condemned for a lack of pre-planning, a lack of any support from Jewish educators, and the preposterous thought that JFNA could actually mount a massive campaign, having never done so in a decade while it planfully deracinated what had been a national FRD capacity that was the envy of every other fund raising organization;
  • Another is still fluttering in the air -- the future of the Global Planning Table, the collapse of which by its own weight is claimed, by Silverman himself, to presage the ultimate collapse of JFNA. While the present evidence -- the expenditure of what appears to be over $4 million with no results other than that a number of federations, some even initially enthusiastic, have opted out while JFNA continues inexorably on leading to...
  • One "Signature Initiative" now "rolled out" as the ultimate Hail Mary would create a new Company (in which your federation probably won't provide sufficient funds to enable its participation in this entity's governance [kind of like, ummm, the membership on the so-called "Partnership Committee," the decision-making body of the Global Planning Table Committee itself]) to brand, market and implement something called JPIE -- the totally immersive Israel and Overseas venture of JFNA, the Federations, the Jewish Agency and the JDC. This is such a desperate heave that it was thrown without the kind of financial commitment that could assure any possibility of success. (P.S., it is also JFNA's transparent effort to get on the last car of the train before the Government of Israel/Jewish Agency leaves the station without it.)
Sure, these are efforts to pump up JFNA but aren't these all being rolled out now, to be engaged in round table discussions in Santa Monica, to demonstrate how badly we need CEO Jerry to carry on, for continuity's sake if nothing else, to demonstrate that after four years of futility, we can't carry on without keeping Jerry at the helm JFNA's futility over the past four years notwithstanding. Meanwhile, our elected leaders and federation leaders who might influence JFNA's cringe away from effective remedial action, the action that might save JFNA from itself.

As these passes head earthward, let's remember the definition: "Hail Mary pass is a very long forward pass in American football, made in desperation with only a small chance of success." Yep, "...made in desperation with only a small chance of success."


Friday, January 24, 2014


While in San Francisco, Jennifer Gorovitz leaves as Federation CEO to return to the practice of law, back on the East Coast, a lawyer in New York City moves to the position of CEO of North America's largest and most important Jewish Federation. Eric Goldstein, a young (relatively) partner at Paul, Weiss and a Federation lay leader (a vice chair since 2013...that's July) will succeed John Ruskay in this the most complicated community in North America. He has chaired important Orthodox and secular organizations and he is, as I understand it, by marriage, part of one of the most generous, in terms of dollars and time, Jewish families in North America. So, let's be clear, Eric Goldstein has a remarkable background in lay leadership; me, I would move that he be elected as Chair of New York UJA-Federation...but, this?? 

As ejewishphilanthropy wrote:
"The appointment of Goldstein – a lay leader with no known professional work experience in the nonprofit world – as CEO of North America’s largest Jewish Federation, has already been described to eJP as a tsunami for communal professionals – particularly the up and coming working in the North American federation system. For decades younger professionals have moved to other communities all the while being groomed for more senior roles. Taken together with recent choices at other federations to hire “outside” CEO’s, many are concerned about their own career trajectories. Additionally other organizational professionals, particularly those in the overseas arena, express nervousness about a new cohort of leaders who, at best, have a different understanding of communal responsibility." - See more at:
On these pages we have decried this evident collapse of the professional selection process and the results that lead inevitably to the conclusion that the federation system is in collapse. What was once a selection "outside the box" is now the new, new normal. And, the history is clear -- there is not one federation that has hired a "professional outsider" that has any demonstrated success. We can only hope that somehow Eric Goldstein will be mentored and will seek advice from within and without UJA-Federation and will break the chain of failure. (I have asked you, my readers, to tell me of a single federation that has gone "outside" those professionally trained and experienced within the best federations who have led a community to success. I have heard from...none.)

A long-time communal professional and leader has written me a passionate charge to the leaders of the system in which he/she has toiled and to which she/he is so dedicated. This is how it read in pertinent part:

"This should be a growing concern for our Jewish communal professional field.  I do not know Mr. Goldstein so I cannot comment on his  credentials and qualifications.  But his appointment, along with the growing trend of appointing Jewish communal professional executives from outside the field and system, should be ringing an alarm bell throughout our profession.  As this article (in ejp) indicates:  it is sending waves of concern to the already nervous cadre of young professionals, mid-level executives and senior professionals...who is next?  Where is JFNA "thought leadership" on this issue?  Where are our professional organizations like AJCOP or JCSA?  Where are the voices of our senior colleagues, ______ included?  What about the schools of Jewish Communal Service?  And perhaps we have ourselves to blame for not truly organizing our profession, requiring licensing and demonstrating competencies required for the work we do and demanding recognition, respect and practical benefits for a systemwide profession.  Both the Rabbinical Assembly and Central Conference of Reform Rabbis require ordination to be recognized as a bonafide Rabbi for the movements and establish compensation and benefit parameters that all participating congregations must adhere to.  What does the Jewish Federation movement have?  Nothing.  We all fend for ourselves.  There is no national pension program or other benefit program.  There are no guidelines, no criteria, etc.  This appointment, and others that are similar to it in recent years, should be a wake up call."

In what is now considered to be the distant past, federation professional leaders like Sandy Solender and Stanley Horowitz, among other of the great federation chief professional officers now past, prided themselves on the number of their proteges, whom they trained so well, who became federation CEOs around the Continent. Today, our best and brightest don't even bother with succession plans for themselves, let alone in promoting the best of their staff in Search processes around the country. Why...why have the giants of today been so remiss in building the professional federation leadership cadre? Why have these men...and they are all men...allowed Mandel to promote its CEO searches as JFNA's agent as, first and foremost, looking outside the system? There seems to be not of whit of care that this hire, as excellent as Eric Goldstein may turn out to be, is, as one of the most knowledgeable of what is happening today wrote me: It's another "black eye for the system."

For shame.

And, that's all from system Woebegone for the moment.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Leadership Briefing

Our set of prized reduced Registration fees for those of you who really understand how to use social media was such a hit (and we at JFNA apologize profusely that our own William Daroff won in three of the social media categories) that we are offering a new contest, open to all -- except William Daroff -- to join us at TribeFest 3, the bestus Festivus yet.

And, what a contest it is!!! Here's all you have to do. Type your name and address on a blank sheet of paper and tweet it to us at #youcanfoolallthepeople not later than January 7, 2014. The first 1,000 twits will get a free Registration to the Fest. (According to the same people who were our official counters at the recent General Assembly, this will raise our Fest Registration to 3,000.) 

Whoooeee, are we gonna have fun at this one -- a drunken Purim binge on Bourbon Street will be what we like to call our "Signature Initiative." Dress will be Holiday appropriate. This will really be the bestus Festus yet

Join us, network with your fellow JFNA Young Leadership Cabinet members, hear JFNA CEO Jerry Silverman explain "what the TribeFest has meant to you," and enjoy everything New Orleans has to offer.


The push for this thing is really, really on -- recruitment cocktail parties in various federations, the Program is filling in, and here are some personal favorites:

  • Right now, the two headline celebrities are terrific: Josh Molina, who I grew to love in the ancient TV series, SportsNight, and, then, later, in another Aaron Sorkin vehicle, The West Wing. Josh is 47. And, Ben Platt, whom we all loved in Pitch Perfect and we Chicagoans enjoyed so much in the National Tour of Book of Mormon. Ben is bound for stardom; he is 20. (JFNA never learns.) So the two "headliners" -- one too old, the other too young -- are they being paid out of the $1 million budget"
  • Then, there is this Program "highlight": "Medical Marijuana...Not Just For the High Holy Days." They are just so "cute." (I am not making this up.)
Are we ever cool?? 

Be proud Jewish America. Be proud you leaders of JFNA.

Will they ever learn??


Sunday, January 19, 2014


In the realm of the absurd, it's hard to top JFNA:

  • A new national Mission: "Absorb history and culture  as you eat and drink your way from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, through the Galilee and across the Negev. Dine in Israel’s best restaurants; meet chefs, farmers, winemakers and food writers. Taste goat cheese on the farm where it’s made, and sip wine surrounded by the grapevines that produced it. April 28 - May 6, 2014." ARE THEY SERIOUS?
  • Upon Nelson Mandela's death last month, all JFNA could find was a 1996 speech from President Mandela at the UJA 1996 International Leadership Reunion in South Africa to publish as, I guess, a tribute.  It was an OK speech and a grand event, but reading it brought to mind not only the event (when the ILR was the ILR)  the South African leader's historic role in the birth of modern South Africa, his later embrace of Yasser Arafat and JFNA's abandonment of the ILR. ARE THEY SERIOUS?
  • Speaking of silence. When a national "academic" organization voted to boycott Israel last month, all of us were gratified when scores of university presidents rejected both boycott and this organization. The Philadelphia Federation issued a strong statement condemning the organization. JFNA? Silent. ARE THEY SERIOUS?
  • In December the Jewish National Fund held a breakfast in Los Angeles that drew 1300 guests -- in other words, a simple breakfast outdrew a succession of JFNA General Assemblies. Is anyone asking "why" or "how" JNF has accomplished this in Los Angeles where Federation must be unbelievably jealous (or should be)? No, the senior professional at JFNA actually believes that under his version of "leadership," JFNA is the most important Jewish organization -- anywhere. Maybe his lay Co-Chairs agree. ARE THEY SERIOUS?
  • The Inanity that is TribeFest: An anonymous Commentator observed his/her personal experience: "I cannot in good conscience go to another TribeFest knowing how much it costs the community. It actually sickens me a little when I think back on all the drinking and carousing and lack of purpose. All of us there were already committed to Jewish something or another. No new blood was brought in. I guess some people hooked up and that's ok, but still, all that money for a glorified singles weekend? $2 million?? Are you serious??" No, ARE THEY SERIOUS? 
  • Oh, then there is the 2014 GA. The dates have already been announced, "save the dates" e-mailed and the venue? It's back to Washington, D.C. where the last General Assembly (where Registration was announced as "3,000" vu den?) had an actual registration count of 942. Almost a decade ago, JFNA gave up on its most successful series of Washington Conferences because it could no longer compete with the annual AIPAC Policy Conference. But, since, two progressively more poorly attended GAs have been held in D.C...and, now, another. So recruiting starts earlier; hopefully, so does program planning that includes lay people. The idea six years ago was to find more and more attractive GA venues. I love D.C. but... ARE THEY SERIOUS?
About anything?


Thursday, January 16, 2014


In case you were wondering what the Global Planning Table has been busying itself with as it careens from plan to plan...

The JFNA Senior Vice-President in Charge of Acronyms -- the same one (probably) who came up with #ish, TribeFest and others -- has struck again. Continuing to operate in the apparent belief that branding and marketing are everything...that these will drag substance along...JFNA has seemingly convinced that it is essential to their new joint effort to create a meaningful "immersive Jewish experience" for young adults that will build upon the Jewish Agency's MASA and other Israel Experience programs and JDC's new efforts to create a Jewish Service Corps. 

Oh, yeah, what does all this have to do with pie? Or, more relevant, JPIE, their new and expensive and expansive brand? In a December, 15 page white paper (pretty well written for a JFNA document), while the acronym is used long before it is defined, JPIE is the Jewish Peoplehood Immersive Experience Network. It's a "brand of immersive experiences;" a new "company" with a Board "[R]esponsible for all policy and governance decisions" that will include JFNA, JDC, JA "...and 3-5 Federations (with the largest financial investment)." (This is not to be read as conflicting with a Program Management Team of professionals only from JA, Joint, JFNA and "two (unnamed) federations!!??) 

For starters three pros will be hired by who knows (a Director, something called a "Follow-Through Coordinator" and, of course, a Marketing/Branding Professional) and a budget that will grow from $1,400,000 in 2014 to, gulp, $63,545,000 in 2019, with projected program participants growing from 3,955 in 2014 to 23,450 in five years. (Typically, in the rush to publish and distribute this JFNA document, no one seemed to care that the numbers of participants to aggregate 75,000 by 2019.) If you don't see a new bureaucracy in the works here, you don't know JFNA.

Speaking of not knowing JFNA, if you read the document some day, you will learn that "[T]he proposed initiative capitalizes on....the vision and reach of JFNA" as distinct in all areas from the actual (as opposed to imagined as is the case with the self-congratulatory JFNA description) strengths of federations, JAFI and the Joint. The ultimate purpose is commendable -- "It allows us collectively to fulfill our responsibility to build the Jewish future by becoming a cutting edge leader in Jewish young adult engagement around the world." Yet, Birthright (upon whose marketing and branding efforts this thing obviously arrogates to itself) is mentioned but once in 15 pages and, then, only as a potential participant feeder.

In a January 6 Memo GPT Chair for Life, David Butler, (not to be confused with GPT Decision-Making Chair for Life, Kathy Manning) describes the JPIE (while never using the brand name) as "neatly dovetailing" with the "Government of Israel and World Jewry Initiative." Sure. That Memo led directly into a January 14 meeting, convened at the Israel Embassy in Washington by the Jewish Agency (!!) on the very subject of the "Initiative" -- if you weren't invited, fear not, you were well-represented by the JFNA Co-Chairs, CEO Jerry, the GPT Chairs (there are many), and some Federation CEOs -- "round up the usual suspects" -- all invitees. This is worse than the tail wagging the dog, friends, and if I were at JAFI and the Joint, let alone the GOI, I would demand to know who and what are in charge here. And just what are they bringing to the table. It appears to be, as do all things JFNA, chaos.

All of you know JFNA's horrible habit of over-promising and under-delivering in all things. This time we are asked, among "Exclusive all-alumni opportunities offered by the JPIE Network," to "Imagine the Clinton Global Initiative done Jewishly." This from an organization that has yet to produce a single viable new program in 13 years and has not fully funded any obligation it has undertaken over the last 6 years. 

And, while a recent study found that 817,000 Israeli children are living below the poverty level, Chair Butler wrote that the GPT is studying a "proposal focusing on Breaking the Cycle of Poverty for Children and Families in Israel." Yeah, let's look at that as a "replicable model" while our extended family is in crisis. Or, maybe, let's send a letter to the PM demanding action.

So there you have it. Let's go to table discussions so you will all have the feeling of participating. "JPIE" -- more pie in the sky? Oh my.


Monday, January 13, 2014


The title of this Post is a question all of us should be asking JFNA. Here is a definition:
"A systematic plan for the expenditure of a usually fixed resource, such as money or time, during a given period.."
That is a standard definition that we all use -- at home, at our place of business (even at Olympic Steel), at our federations -- but not at JFNA.

For Jerry Silverman and his minions, the annual Budget is nothing more than a $29.5 million ATM machine from which irresponsible people can spray money at irresponsible things, moving dollars around at their whim without process or accountability.

Examples, of course:

  • There used to be an Intermediate Communities Consulting Fund -- a line item in the JFNA Budget, until it...just...disappeared. No governance process; no Budget Committee process; it just went. Where, nobody either knows or, if they know, they don't tell.
  • The infamous TribeFests, lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in its first two iterations. How were those losses covered? No governance process; no Budget Committee process. The losses just got "covered." From where, nobody knows or, if they know, they don't tell.
  • How many federations were unable or unwilling to pay full Dues in 2013? How will the Dues deficit be handled? Have you heard a word about this; have you seen a list of federations in "technical default?" 
But, what you/we need to know is this: if CEO Jerry spies a shiny object and decides he wants JFNA to invest time and money in it, he doesn't bother with Budget and Finance, or the JFNA Executive, he just goes forward. The JFNA CFO, for whom I had great respect, she having come from a straight line that began with Lee Twersky and Harold Adler and traveled through Sam Astrof, raises no external red flags, maybe not even internal. All rules on non-profit governance and management are systematically ignored, trashed and no one bats an eye.

Thus, the checks and balances built into our federations' systems, built into the governance of JFNA, built into the Budget processes of every business, non-profit of for-profit, have been deconstructed at JFNA as if they don't even exist. Where's the Treasurer/Chair of Budget & Finance, where are the controls? Enough with the claque's applause already. This abuse has to end and end now.

The worst case is, as has been the case for the past three-plus years, the Global Planning Table. Budgets for Israel-Overseas, Israel Office and "Philanthropic Resources" have been raided for millions to fund the amoeba-like growth of this thing. And, today? Just think about this: JFNA/GPT (yes, you can't tell one from the other any more) proposes setting up a separate "Company" with its own overhead for the JFNA version of "immersive experiences." Let's say that this Company will have a "Budget" of $5,000,000 and will "contract" with, e.g., JFNA Marketing and Communications, paying JFNA overhead. Now, remember that JFNA has not funded $1...that's not ONE DOLLAR...of MASA; it has wholly failed to meet any financial responsibility to Birthright; yet, JFNA/GPT now demands that it be the interface between JAFI (for MASA) and Birthright and the communities. And, it's going to spend JAFI/JDC dollars (perhaps deducted from the deeply diminished core allocations) to do so. Only those with disdain for or ignorance of our system would make such a demand and only fools would honor such a demand.

We have a mess on our hands. And we are doing nothing about it.


Friday, January 10, 2014


A professional for whom I have great respect recently bemoaned the "brain drain" that has occurred in our system over the last six years on the watches not only of two JFNA CEOs but of the federation CEOs who have watched it happen and stood by in silence as this defenestration has gone on. And it continues, unabated. We, as a Jewish polity, have suffered grievous losses and we have, shamefully, done nothing. In an Anonymous Comment to the recent Delusions Post, one insightful reader wrote: "And let us not forget the professional careers derailed and destroyed by these clueless self serving machinations." Trust that we won't.

How good were the professionals we lost? They were superb -- and each of them has moved forward in often brilliant new directions often outside of our system, and often performing functions that our national organization should (and did) perform -- campaign, training, planning, professional placement, counseling, Missions, mentoring, you name it. Many federations have come to believe that the excellence they once received from the national organization(s), they can now only get by purchasing it from those who once served in the national system...and, sadly, most often they are correct. 

There are some excellent professionals at 25 Broadway and JFNA has added one or two in the past months at what appears to be the demand of JFNA's Co-Chairs. But you can't build an organization of excellence underneath weak leadership at the very top -- whoever heard of such a thing? And, while building from below, the organization continues to wander aimlessly from failure to failure with no Promised Land (or end) in sight. 

While substantive and excellent work is certainly being done -- in Washington, on some consulting assignments, on FedWeb since its beginning a decade ago, and in the continuity of programs of both the UJA and CJF, and within National Women's Philanthropy -- there have been the offsetting disasters. Namely #ish, Community Heroes, a series of TribeFests, GAs of such declining attendance that JFNA is too embarrassed to reveal the real number of fully paid lay registrants even to the lay Chairs. And functions we had come to understand were to be performed by our national organization -- like lay and professional leadership development and mentoring -- are being assumed by mega-Foundations because JFNA isn't making the grade.

Sure, part of the problem flows directly from the reality that the current CEO didn't know federation from Jewish Camp when he was handed the job and he still doesn't seem to have learned very much -- even after being paid close to $2.5 million (if not more) in the aggregate to learn on the job. 

And, though not the subject of this Post, what about the brain drain in the federation system itself -- most recently evidenced by the departure of the leading internal candidate to succeed a retiring Large City Executive -- a federation pro who left for a secular charity. For every federation with a succession plan, there are tens without one. And, of course, JFNA doesn't even understand that there is a problem.

Most of us like one team sport or another. Do you know of a team that continues to fail, year after year, that doesn't replace the manager? But, not us...G-d forbid.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014


I'm sorry. Each time I have begun this Post, a feeling that I am about to vomit overwhelms me. I do thank The Forward for publishing its Annual Salary Survey of Jewish CEO salaries -- I only wish the list wouldn't continue to make me so ill after just the first ten names. Here, read it for yourself:

OK, you've read it. Any questions? Other than about the lack of fiduciary responsibility on the part of a great number of Boards and Compensation Committees? You should not have any further questions about why our federation system has fallen so far in public esteem and why many are questioning the value and purpose of once revered Jewish institutions. 

What am I talking about, you ask. Well, look at the "Top Ten" for a moment. At the very top of this list you have a University President who has presided over a series of scandals and with the University in an apparent fiscal meltdown, this CEO took a $100,000 pay cut -- from $855,000 down to $755,000; a former CEO through 2004 of both then UJC and then/now a major (not the major) federation still earning as if it's 2004 and he were holding down 2 jobs (if, as some suggest, he is actually running JFNA by remote control, he's doing a terrible job at that); the septuagenarian "President for Life" of an organization that used to focus on anti-semitism, now branched out to, well, everything; the long time head of a pro-Israel pro-Zionist organization who presided over the organization's loss of its tax-exempt status; and attributed to a newly-hatched federation CEO who is still taking baby steps in what might be North America's most underachieving community (of any size) is not his salary, but that of his predecessor (sorry Forward, as it noted the reality in a footnote, the world's moving fast). (It's hard reporting this let alone reading it without periodically smashing your head into a wall in disbelief.)

The tally above inevitably leads to the outrageous compensation being paid to North America's most overcompensated -- if one is to match compensation to achievement. Yes, JFNA's CEO. When his predecessor was negotiating his compensation with then JFNA Chair Bobby Goldberg, Bobby, as he told me at the time, asked him "why should you be paid more that Hoffman?" Answer: "Because I am better." then, not ever. And CEO Jerry, what's the excuse for this compensation level? Hope, prayer, history? Certainly not achievement or execution. But this certainly is the simple answer to "why is this man smiling?" 

Our system (in fact, all Jewish organizations) is one that is based on trust -- the trust of the donor in, e.g., federation, the trust, in turn, of federations in their national organization. Other than corruption, I can think of nothing...nothing...that undermines that trust more than egregious compensation that rewards failure and mediocrity as often as it rewards success. There is something rotten at the core of a system where its professional leaders demand more, more, more while the lay leadership expects and rewards less, less and less.

While that list also includes those whose achievements were truly amazing in 2011-12, including three Large City Executives in the "2nd 10," there are as many who just make you gag as there are those who should be applauded for their (and their Boards') restraint. And, how many women professionals are on this list?

Remember when Jewish service was a calling, a mission and when, like law firms and businesses, we rewarded success? Those days appear gone forever. 


Friday, January 3, 2014


“Show me somebody who is always smiling, always cheerful, always optimistic, and I will show you somebody who hasn't the faintest idea what the heck is really going on.” 
― Mike Royko
Back in the day, each year Esquire Magazine would offer a Year in Review section that would feature, on multiple pages, a picture of Richard Nixon with the caption "why is this man smiling?" It was a rhetorical question. You would be smiling too if you were paid close to $700,000 a year and producing...well, almost nothing...not Nixon, CEO Jerry.

Michael Wilbon, the former Washington Post columnist, ESPN commentator and analyst, described recent coaching decisions by the Detroit Lions head coach as evidencing "a real dose of stupid every week." And, seemingly, that's the case at JFNA as well as with those Lions.

A couple of odious comparisons seem in order:
  1. Back in the day UJA was led professionally by Rabbi Brian Lurie. Brian was and is a leader of incredible charisma and as UJA's CEO, he was a constant font of ideas that flowed from him like water from a river. The ideas were expressed at the UJA Campaign Executive -- monthly, a most exciting place to be for those of us privileged to participate. Some of those ideas were incredible -- new FRD approaches, Partnership 2000, the Exodus Campaign. Others were, frankly, not worthy of comment -- but, they funneled through an Executive Committee where we debated and discussed. They either were rejected or emerged filtered through the experience and wisdom of everyone in the room -- from our patriarch, Max Fisher, z'l, to a pisher like me. And, the great ideas emerged ultimately from a process and elevated our system. There was excitement at every meeting; Brian was filled with passion, enthusiasm and creativity.        Then there's today, where an idea like a $1 billion campaign for a "free pre-school education for all" is thrown out there by the JFNA CEO with no filter, quickly rejected by Jewish pre-school educators, who had not been consulted, as both inadequate (with 540,000 eligible Jewish children and a cost ranging between $6,000 and $12,000, you do the math) and unresponsive to the real needs. Today, to use the words of a brilliant analyst in another field, our organization takes close to $650,000,000 of our donors'  money and "sprays cockeyed notions  like a showerhead in a spa." (Yep #ish, Heroes, TribeFests, and $1 Billion campaigns to nowhere.)
  2. Or consider this: at the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago's Annual Meeting, our CEO, the brilliant Steve Nasatir, presents the "State of the Federation" -- our work, our achievements, our challenges in the past year and going forward. Steve does so (as do so many of his colleagues in federations large and small across the Continent) because he can, because he has led our community to those achievements and because he understands the challenges we face and the opportunities those challenges create. Compare those annual addresses to the narishkeit of the JFNA CEO's annual GA speeches filled with pandering and jargon and cliche.
Friends, these are comparisons between fact and fiction, between real leadership and the ersatz brand we have today. It's just two examples of why JFNA is what it is today. Can our leaders not see? Of course they can. Can our leaders not act? Of course they can. 

What's stopping them?

And, "why is this man smiling?" Wouldn't you?