This is all so sad; and it didn't have to be. My understanding was that Michael Siegal entered upon his Board Chairmanship with an absolute commitment to reassert the national organization's leadership in the Annual Campaign -- to "more dollars and more donors." And, what happened? The CEO frustrated the Chair's intent at every turn, ultimately hiring a New York senior professional to succeed Paul Kane, who himself continues to lurk in the hallways of 25 Broadway after offering no visible leadership to JFNA's campaign leadership (unless one counts the periodic meetings of a Millionaire's Roundtable that appears to have no campaign relevance) himself. That Silverman hired in succession two New York UJA pros (the current one, Dr. Reuben Romirowsky, formerly the "Executive Director-Westchester Region, UJA-Federation of New York," and before that The CEO of Jewish Family Services of Metro-West) to "lead" a national FRD effort demonstrated how little CEO Jerry knows about the needs in the field.
Again and again and once again, the question arises: where is the adult supervision -- are there any adults taking charge of the mess that JFNA has become? A mess that gets progressively worse? Jerry Silverman can publicly deprecate the value of the annual campaign -- so "counter-cultural" -- (that must seem better to him than admitting that JFNA can have no positive impact on the AC in the manner it is being run) and then permit/supervise/direct the ultimate defenestration of any semblance of an FRD function at the continental level. And the JFNA lay leaders, ostrich-like, keep their heads in the sand -- out of harm's way, abdicating their responsibilities as if they have none.
Maybe...unlikely, but maybe...all JFNA aspires to be is an expensive trade association...a mediocre Council of Jewish Federations. If so, let's remember that the CJF annual budget, pre-merger and absent the GA, was in the area of $6.5 million. If you believe the institutional aspiration to be something greater (as the merger intended), examine the professional leadership losses two successive CEOs have engineered or permitted:
- Vicki Agron -- now a happy and extremely busy consultant to a myriad of federations and organizations on FRD;
- Gail Reiss -- today the President/CEO. American Friends of Tel Aviv University
- Debra Roshfeld -- the Senior Executive V-P/COO. Jewish Federation of Palm Beach
- David Saginaw -- Executive Director, TIKVAH School, Odessa
- Matt Freedman -- ??
- Susan Solow-Dubin --SVP, Campaign, Westchester Region, UJA-Federation of New York
- Marilyn Wechsler -- still raising millions annually for the Jewish Agency
- Rhea Attias --former Exec of the Network
- Danyelle Neuman -- as a number of you reminded me, the invaluable professional who led Fisher Flight and worked to give meaning to the now shut down Jewish Leadership Forum who has made aliyah and leads major donor events for the Jewish Agency
As we have noted before, perhaps often, the place is a mess. As one of our correspondents noted: "Maybe the last person can turn off the lights." And, you know what? Even after the lights are turned off and the place is closed down once and for all, like the cockroach, TribeFest and the JFNA that perpetuates it will continue unabated. No doubt.