Saturday, March 22, 2014


The "what me worry" attitude of Hadassah WZOA leadership has been blown apart in an in-depth analysis that is required reading for anyone who cares about non-profit governance. And what did Wharton discover? After the research disclosed abuses in almost every area of Hadassah Hospital's management, operations and leadership: "That begs a bigger question: Where were the whistleblowers? Where was the board of directors? Why didn’t either Hadassah headquarters in New York or the health ministry intervene?" The lack of accountability, the lack of controls and the utter disregard of Board Member responsibility was a cancer within Hadassah WZOA. And, of course,  the same questions of accountabilitycould be raised with regard to JFNA.

Look around, my friends. Hadassah WZOA has no monopoly when it comes to non-profit organization Boards disregard of their responsibilities. At one important Federation, for example, a Board Chair was heard to say that "I and our Board are delegating everything to our CEO/President." Too many JFNA Board members and officers view themselves as nothing more than cheerleaders and eager rubber stamps for a woebegone series of JFNA administrations. Unbelievable but true: when substantive questions were raised at a JFNA Budget and Finance Committee, those raising the questions were admonished by one of our system's most respected professional leaders that questions at a Committee meeting are inappropriate -- end of discussion. No further questions? Motion to approve. "Great meeting; thanks for coming." 

Worse, the JFNA lay and professional leaders have engaged in a course of conduct where the organization's budget is nothing more than an ATM from which funds can and are moved around the JFNA ouija board at apparent whim. This is an abuse of process in itself; the entire budget process is thereby corrupted. Where is the systemic accountability here?

A leader for whom I have the greatest respect just wrote a magnificent albeit absurdly pollyannaish letter to his constituency on the incredible future vision the past weeks have created in his mind for the Jewish future in the hands of among others JFNA. When I finished reading it, I felt like the woman at Katz's Deli in the great film "When Harry Met Sally." You remember, the woman had just witnessed what she believed to be Sally's epic orgasm that chewed the paint off the walls. The woman's request of the server: "I'll have whatever she had." To all the Kool-Aid drinkers: get ahold of yourselves.

And our organizations go forward down the path to their demise happily oblivious to their own destructive moves. Our JFNA Board Chair with his CEO, with neither process nor much thought, can dramatically announce out of the blue on the cusp of last year's GA that JFNA must immediately commence a $1 billion special campaign to enable a free Jewish day/pre school education. The GPT Chair announces two -- count 'em, two -- "Signature Initiatives" that could total a cost of close to $100,000,000 or more, without real committed federation financial support and almost no details. As one analyst, in another context wrote last month: "When you don't need to grapple with specifics or difficult trade-offs, writing speeches with uplifting themes is extremely easy."

Process...governance a means for thinking and then working things through. But not at our national organization, not at all. Friends, it's all so pathetic. 



Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to Jerry's big idea at the GA about free preschool for every Jewish child?

Anonymous said...