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" 


Anonymous said...

Maybe the new brilliant SVP will rename Festivus.
Better yet, maybe she can get it buried for ever.

Anonymous said...

why are we investing so much in mikvehs!!!????

Anonymous said...

You, of all people, should know that this is all about the "brand" or "brand" not at all about substance. There is clearly a separation at JFNA between substance and the illusion of substance. Based upon the history of this organization, can there be any expectation whatsoever that the initial financial commitments of those federations will last let alone grow into years 2, 3, 4 or 5?

Sadly, it's the most needy Jews who will suffer.

Anonymous said...

In an interview with the Times of Israel, Natan Sharansky makes the interesting point that revolutions happen when the "double thinkers", those unhappy with the status quo regime but unwilling to publically commit, join the dissidents. I think its time that our Federation "double thinkers" step forward and join Richard in calling for some dramatic change. If you are reading this, and are in a position to step forward and be heard, I respectfully request that you do so.