Wednesday, August 6, 2014


I hope you readers recall my expression of optimism and encouragement on these pages by the early Program for this November's GA. Well...sorry. Yes, I am sorry to report that the chachams at 25 Broadway have decided that critical elements of the General Assembly are to be about...JFNA and only JFNA. Yes, comparisons once again abound that this year's GA will be like the old Seinfeld show -- about NOTHING!!

Here's the scoop. It has been proposed that what could be a vital Plenary in the midst of the GA will be dedicated to the system's overseas and Israeli partners. The focus will be on the core allocations -- even as JFNA has sat on the sidelines with no advocacy while those very allcoations have reduced time and time and time again to their lowest point in history. And, what about those "partners?" They have been instructed that each will have no more than five minutes and that they are to use those five minutes to talk about "what JFNA core allocations have meant to our organization." Yes, tell the assembled what JFNA's great work has meant to you. Could these chachams actually believe that JFNA has been anything more than a conduit of the funds raised and allocated by the federations? Are they that stupid? (Rhetorical question.)

I am reminded of the old saw about the self-centered guy who spends 15 minutes telling an old acquaintance about himself in exquisite detail; then he asks: "Well, enough about me; let's talk about you -- what do you think of me?" Only this is worse. What has JFNA meant to your organization? Well, as President Eisenhower responded when asked, on the cusp of Nixon's first run for the Presidency, what Nixon had contributed to the Eisenhower-Nixon 8 years: "I'll have to get back to you on that."

Back in the days of ONAD, before it collapsed of its own weight and futility, I was serving as Financial Relations Chair for the then UJC, and was asked to present an analysis of federation allocations to the partners' core. Even then it was not a pretty picture. I could see federation leaders' eyes glazing over. Then, one of the best and brightest professionals, a good and respected friend, erupted -- "why are we wasting our time with this?" He and his colleagues believed that the Israel Emergency Campaign raise should have been added to the allocations ignoring the reality that those dollars were ALL deployed by the partners for the emergency or passed through to other organizations. My question became: why are we wasting time with ONAD?

If these "partner" organizations are to be candid, they will need no more than a nano-second to respond: "What has JFNA meant to fill in the blank? We now receive millions less in annual support to our core budget." Then, sit down. But, of course, that won't happen. The Joint, JAFI and World ORT will mouth the politically correct niceties required of them. But we'll know what they are thinking -- "What the hell are we doing here?" 

And, you will be thinking the same thing.



Anonymous said...

The question and perhaps only question that needs to be addressed from a thoughtful, inspiring and informed plenary keynoter is: " The unfinished agenda: What the relationship to the state and people of Israel means to the Diaspora and the Federation movement and why some of our greatest collective challenges are still in front of us".

Anonymous said...

If those "in charge" (that's apparently Renee Rothstein with laypersons Howard Feinberg and Gail Norry as no more that microphone holders) can't reorient the GA Program to reflect the implications of the Hamas War on the future of Israel, then the GA should be forever discontinued

Anonymous said...

Howard Feinberg? I think you mean Dede Feinberg.

RWEX said...

No, I meant Howard Friedman. the eminent GA Co-Chair. But thanks for bringing this to my attention -- I clearly had Dede on my mind

Anonymous said...

Richard, you should definitely not feel slighted that Silverman doesn't read your blog. It seems he doesn't read papers either. Today's leadership briefing day 30 has the following statement. As of right now, "Israel has witnessed more than 24 hours of relative calm. The result is a growing sense of cautious relief throughout the country. While the IDF remains positioned along the Gaza border, officials confirm that Hamas’ terrorist infrastructure has been severely crippled, and that immediate threats posed by terrorist tunnels (which resulted in 11 IDF fatalities) have been removed." Either Silverman is using the same inept people to count that typically over count the GA and Tribefest attendance in this case to seriously under count the tragic death toll or he doesn't understand that the entire purpose of going in to Gaza was to dismantle the tunnels. This action has resulted in almost six times the death toll (as reported by J.S.for the IDF as of yesterday.

RWEX said...

Oooops. Several of you have pointed out that the Feinberg/Friedman error wasn't mine but appeared in a Comment. Well, I thought I had made the error in the Post itself so I take blame for all errors real or imagined

Anonymous said...

Richard, you will remember the GAs of old. There were GA Chairs or Co-Chairs, a lay GA Planning Committee that actually did something and an engaged staff pro who worked year-round on the GA. Communications to the laity came from the laity. At this point it appears that two terrific GA Co-Chairs have been relegated to applauding the staff and sending out cheery messages. We now get all of our info from two staff professionals (and it ain't much). The Speakers list, so promising at first, seems to be frozen in time.

Like JFNA, this too is going down.