Monday, May 19, 2014


In response to recent Posts with regard to JFNA's sorry state, I have heard from numerous Federation lay and professional leaders off-line with their own parallel impressions of what should be our thriving continental organizations. And, no one escapes their ire -- not me for being part of creating what has evolved into a total, costly mess; not the LCE, and some are quite specific in pointing fingers as those of them they view as the main perpetrators -- those who know better but perpetuate the mess and enable its growth; not the JFNA Executive Committee (who some view as the most venal of the current breed of enablers); not the current Board Chair who is characterized by most who commented upon him as "a huge disappointment;" and, with an unusual unanimity among those who reached out to me, the current CEO (one called to tell me that "Silverman makes Rieger look like an effective leader). 

Then there the questions: what are ownership's expectations? If there are any, what are they and are they being realized? Has anyone ever set goals for its senior professionals, for the CEO -- or are they merely left alone while the CEO panders and patronizes -- "Great idea, I will get back to you on that," hangs up the phone and then...nothing? And if there have been goals, why don't we know what they are, so we,too. could evaluate the performance or, more than likely, the lack thereof?

Looking at the predicament of the "outside the box hires," Rabbi David Teutsch, the head of the Center for Jewish Ethics at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College commented in The Forward with great insight:
“Most people who go into Jewish communal work with the intention of doing good never develop the expertise or effectiveness [to run] an organization of this size…. It’s a comment on the failure of lay and professional leaders to nurture and develop and respect Jewish communal professionals.”

Read more:
And it is all the more sad when those who have perpetuated these "failures" are your friends, are people you otherwise respect.

One reader wrote the following to me:
"Try this thought-experiment. You are participating in a meeting of your family foundation or 'giving circle.'You have a modest five figure amount to distribute. In your back pocket is a memo you received as a member of your federation board. You, along with your fellow decision-makers are supportive of overseas needs, inclusion, religious diversity, outreach and the proud and equal role of women in Jewish life. However, in each of those federations and our (continental) organization are way down on the list of those making a real difference. We were once in our sphere the Macy's, the Lord & Taylors and the Nieman-Marcuses rolled one -- today we are not even K-Mart.
Nothing being done in areas mentioned is compelling enough to give you the reason to take that memo out of your back pocket. Maybe at some future board meeting someone needs to open the conversation as to what it is we do that truly separates us from our philanthropic competitors and quasi-partners. Maybe then we will understand the story that can and needs to be successfully told."
Yes, friends, "today we are not even K-Mart." We write our letters to the Prime Minister without realizing that we are no longer relevant -- here at home or in Israel. We are worse than a mediocrity; we are irrelevant. Blame flows everywhere and, yet, no one pays the price for our irrelevancy.



Anonymous said...

You left out the small Advisory Committee or Coordinating Council or whatever they call the miniscule internal lay group that Manning appointed, and which Siegal perpetuated that totally emasculated the Executive Committee and who have done the most damage to our system. They have even blocked Siegal's efforts to actually get something done. It;s the blind leading the blind ;leading the blind leading the blind.

Anonymous said...

Understand the last sentence of the K-Mart quote. We need not be irrelevant. We have a strong strategic position in product and style that we are squandering; perhaps by chasing after foundations and a next generation - as if there has never been wealthy people or new generations before. A little belief in who and what we are wouldn't hurt.

Anonymous said...

you can only blame the leadership so much. the puppet masters have a huge say in what goes on, especially who works where, what policies /procedures, programs, projects, evaluations etc are on the agenda.