Thursday, March 13, 2014


I started the week writing of the Tower of Babel spinning out of the minds of those foisting the Global Planning Table on us. And, we have written before about the Rube Goldberg-like structure of the Global Planning Table, where ultimate decision-making after a labyrinthian set of Committees and Task Forces makes accountability almost impossible and puts the ultimate power in the hands of very few -- but not in the hands of JFNA's Chairs. And as we have observed, since the "Planning Table" was "conceived" five years ago, that the GPT was the tail wagging the JFNA dog to the exclusion of the vast number of federations large and small alike -- except when money is needed. And, we have called the GPT "leadership" on their misrepresentations -- from the now GPT Executive Chair's dismissal of "Zionism" when she chaired JFNA to the most recent confusion by the GPT Chair of real vs. "tentative" financial commitments for Strategic Initiatives allowing these to move forward with nothing more than the latter. "See, if we wait for firm, real financial commitments, we might not ever get these Initiatives off the ground, so we'll take the 'soft commitments' so we can move forward even though we at GPT resolved to await 'firm commitments.'" Friends, this is your GPT at its best and most cynical. So, I'll end the week observing the helpings of hypocrisy that the Global Planning Table is serving in larger and larger portions.

Now, as the rubber hits the road, the Global Planning Table Committee at its meeting on January 28 and in the Executive Committee of that Committee  meeting thereafter evidenced the basic cynicism and hypocrisy that have characterized this out of control "thing" from its inception. In the recent past, we have discussed the inherent conflict between the GPT leaders arrogation of JFNA's responsibility to advocate for the core needs of the Joint, the Jewish Agency and World ORT -- while, for all intents and purposes, the leaders of those organizations and the leaders of JFNA itself stood silent. I mean, after all, there is an inherent conflict, isn't there, between the pursuit of dollars for "Signature Initiatives" and the advocacy for increased core allocations when the former are not restricted at all to new money? 

And, it gets worse. As we have reported CEO Jerry Silverman, in meetings with JA and JDC leadership, demanded that these two organizations commit to funding JQuest and The Children's Zone -- as we called it "JFNA's/GPT's version of fund raising."

This GPT hypocrisy is picking up speed. Chair Butler reported that the GPT is in the process of appointing a "special advocacy subcommittee on core allocations" that will eventually get on with the task -- probably after studying the self-evident data for months -- got to be careful, don't you know. Meanwhile, the GPT leaders see the Government of Israel/World Jewry Initiative as, among other things, its opportunity to access a new pool of money -- apparently referring to Israeli tax dollars. (I'm not making this up.) Oh, there's also hortatory language of "how important it is" that funding for Signature Initiatives not be merely a reallocation of dollars from overseas core, but these "hopes" are clearly nothing more than the same language offered during the debacle that ONAD had become by the end of its sad history. GPT plans to contact your donors, your prospects, your foundation donors and your federations. (CEO Jerry has already talked to foundations, "some of which are interested in investing" in the Signature Initiatives. Uh huh.) While some GPT Committee members actually raised questions about the obvious conflict in simultaneous approaches to federations to both increase core and fund these Strategic Initiatives, there was no response.

So what about the Jewish Agency and Joint? Their representatives told the Global Planning Table Committee that neither has sufficient funds to contribute financially to these Initiatives -- citing the precipitous drop in core allocation funding by the federations under JFNA. When the Global Planning Table Committee went into its "Executive Session," those allowed to be present, I am told, concluded that while it's too bad that core allocations have been reduced, the GPT expects the Jewish Agency and Joint (and presumably World ORT) to financially support the GPT priorities. You see, the Global Planning Table has now determined not only the priorities of the GPT, but those of JFNA and those of the Jewish Agency and the Joint (and, presumably World ORT). Oh, they'll set up a meeting of GPT leaders with JA and JDC to tell them so.

Get ready for an Education and Engagement Campaign, soon to come to a meeting place near you. And JFNA lay leaders sit idly by.



Anonymous said...

From day one the GPT declared that it was about "new" money. All over and above. Steve Nasatir, John Ruskay, and Steve Hoffman all repetitively clarified this in meetings and made declarative and definitive statements over this issue. The issue was clear and the worries were assuaged by ironclad promises by GPT and JFNA leadership.

This is no urban legend. Now comes JFNA and declares this was always about reallocating JDC and Jewish Agency core allocations. This is reason alone to drop membership in JFNA.

A group of well meaning Jews meeting primarily in New York, and occasionally in Florida and California dream up some well meaning programs and without any study or understanding of the existing budgets of JDC or the Jewish Agency, decide that they know better and that JAFI and JDC should pay for it out of dwindling core allocations. This process slanders the very concept of "Planning".

They ask JDC and the Jewish Agency to work on the proposals and put meat on the bones of the wishes of the committee, and then declare that the Jewish Agency and JDC support the initiatives. Pure sophistry.

To suggest that there is a conflict of interest between advocating for increased core allocations while advocating for signature initiatives is illusory. There is no conflict. JFNA is not involved in any meaningful way in increasing or even maintaining core allocations. Voila - no conflict! And voila dwindling core allocations too. The GPT, by its very ongoing existence, is eroding the glue, the connecting tissue, the very ties that bind us together as a collective community for fulfilling Jewish responsibility world wide

This is only another indication of an organization operating out of control. The only thing that matters any more to JFNA is its own public personna. It no longer represents the Federations, no less North American Jewry. All that matters is promoting JFNA.

Just look at flagship programs:

Tribe Fest: measure of success - just numbers. It serves no mandated need. It does not develop Federation leadership. It is in the primary programming business which is not now nor has it ever been JFNA's mandate

General Assembly: All about the numbers. Federation recipients like JCCs, JFS,s, Homes for the Aging, and day schools are not even invited to participate. It is all about agencies that we do not fund. Shiny objects, smoke and mirrors. No meat.

Mark Gurvis: JFNA heralds the hiring of a quality federation professional. To quote JFNA in its press release: "In this newly created position, Gurvis will work closely with President and CEO Jerry Silverman to manage the organization and strengthen JFNA’s services to Federations. " The first major project assigned to Gurvis is the Israel Prime Minister's initiative. Help me. I am not kidding. There stand Becky Caspi and Danny Allen, the top paid senior staff hired to manage JFNA's Israel engagements, and Jerry adds Gurvis to head the project. As we used to say in solicitations, when JFNA made them, "I would like you to consider" that this is complete and total proof of managerial incompetence. The one place that did not need Gurvis gets Gurvis, while the rest of the system continues to be starved to death.

My beloved lay chairs, this is virtual embezzlement of our peoples' Tzedaka dollars. You have a higher responsibility than even your own money. This money is coming out of the Pushka. You gave your manager resources to manage and he mismanages them day in and day out. And you are standing by.

This is your reputation on the line. And this failure is ultimately yours.

Josephus said...

Were there an historian of the Federation system (which there really is not for want of survivors) that person might summarize the past 15 or so years as follows:

The partnership of Federations with its global partners was replaced with a vision of an all powerful federation driven UJC;

UJC board authority was replaced with the supremacy of the large city executives;

The supremacy of the LCE'S was replaced by reliance on a smaller inner group LCE's;

The small inner circle of LCE's was replaced by the UJC/JFNA CEO working in consort with a powerful and bullying chairperson and chair of the executive;

When, with a formal change of lay leadership, past leadership refuses to give up authority, and newly elected persons to the senior two lay positions showed the potential if not the will for independent action, the CEO ignores them and does what he pleases.

Anonymous said...

Josephus accurately wrote about Jewish Destruction. Then and now.
Well done.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't link the destruction of JFNA to the entire Jewish people. That gives JFNA way too much credit. Look at any number of positive trends in Jewish life (Pew results not withstanding). The Jewish people have faced adversity numerous times far greater than JFNA (tomorrow is Purim after all) and always survived. All we need now is a "Mordechai" to appear.

Esther and Mordecai's Daily Frier said...

You heard it first here:
FM Lieberman will declare his candidacy for PM with a Shirtless appearance in the Knesset hinting that Israel need not rely totally on the US. Michelle Obama's reaction was
Kathy Manning will declare her candidacy to lead the Conference of
Presidents promising that all work will be performed by a consultant of her choosing. The consultant will anticipate all points of view, make a recommendation on all pending issues and announce the vote based on the contractually defined talleys.
JFNA has announced that henceforth an active healthy Jew is to be defined by attendance at Tribefest, following
William Daroff on twitter and possessing an autographed poster of Mayim Bialik. JFNA therefore
believes that the problems of Jewish continuity can be solved in time for next year's Emmy's.
Mark your calendars for the publication of "Conversations with Myself; the Collected Essays,Wit, and Wisdom of Steve Hoffman" out in time for Tisha B'Av.