Thursday, September 11, 2014


Look, I can rant (as I have) about the pathetic wanderings of JFNA's CEO and the passivity of top JFNA lay leadership that just lets it happen but seriously, friends, bottom line the real failure is ours. We ask for no return on investment, we don't demand transparency or engagement -- in fact, we demand nothing. And, we get exactly that and less. And, there's the rub. We have an organization that supposedly represents our interests, our concerns and those of the Jewish People that is as inept as our U.S. Congress.

This was all brought to mind by the Agenda of this week's JFNA Executive Committee -- which neither you nor, especially, I are supposed to even know about if at all, only in redacted fashion. The items included:

  1. Dues matters -- which federations have not paid and what's happening to them. (BTW, if a federation does not pay JFNA Dues, absent a hardship variation, membership automatically is terminated without further action.) So, the question: which federations have not paid their dues in full and how many are there? Answer: "none of your or anyone else's business."
  2. Something called "Israel, Ukraine and France" where among other things, the JFNA Executive apparently discussed "fund raising." (I suppose that means Federations FRD inasmuch as JFNA is doing none of its own.) But, really, until this moment, since the Terrorists' War on Israel began, the growing plight of Ukrainian Jewry has been forgotten and "France" -- mah zeh? Wish we were doing something -- probably a "Solidarity Mission" in the offing.
  3. Those Global Planning Table "Signature Initiatives" -- yes, how are those going? With the on-going confusion of the GOI role vs. JAFI's, JFNA would be the last party to try to figure out how the primary Initiative -- "Immersive Experiences" through something branded JQuest -- will fare. It was reported to JAFI that the $15 million being sought in federation commitments required by the GPT's own "rules" is "on hold."  (That means that we have not raised the money. Have you read anything from Chair Butler lately? Just asking.) The Director General of the Ministry of Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs is spewing his own form of chaos and confusion, a JFNA specialty as it were, by attempting to end run JAFI, designated by Prime Minister Netanyahu to lead what was to be a GOI/World Jewry effort, reaching out directly to leaders in the Diaspora to "join him." Would it not be timely and appropriate for JFNA to assert that it and the federations which own it will work through the Jewish Agency on this Initiative -- as it has been doing up to this point in time? Sure -- but I wouldn't count on it. This is JFNA after all, already awash in the red ink of every fund raising "effort" (if only there were some); perhaps seeing a direct GOI/JFNA role as (1) easing the pain of failure and (b) enhancing its own institutional status in Israel.
  4. And in the midst of one failed lower case "initiative" after another, there is to be "discussion" about JFNA creating a "Jewish Education/Engagement Unit." Forgive me, but do you think that anyone...ANY ONE...within JFNA or on that Executive Committee uttered the words: "Are you kidding me, we are starting a new unit before we do one thing on our plate well?" Or words to that effect?
  5. AND, HERE'S THE TOPPER. YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE THIS. JFNA has what passes for a By-Laws Committee. It is made up of two Foundation CEOs, the ubiquitous Steve Hoffman (the fact that Steve's name appeared on the Memo so filled with this nonsense suggests that it might have been a forgery [but it wasn't]) and...Kathy Manning. It proposed to the JFNA Executive Committee that all JFNA "Business Committees" and more be considered for abolition.The rationale: it will allow JFNA professionals more time for...well, what exactly and, don't worry, they'll find a more streamlined and better means of lay participation (currently none)? They clearly would no longer be bothered with lay Chairs or, for that matter, laypersons in general. The intent is just so cleverly couched in bureaucratized jargon: "rationally streamlined," "support the organizational execution of...mission" and the like. I guess that these chachams believe that lay people just get in the way...and, of course, they do. In the clown car there is no need for the kind of engagement that Committee service means; there is no recognition or use for the checks and balances inherent in the work of Committees; and there is no understanding that Committee work is the nuts and bolts of a successful non-profit. Now, in any rational organization, like your federation, if this idea arose (and in a rational organization it would never, ever arise let alone be considered worthy of discussion), your CEO would simply say "are you f'in nuts?" and so would your Board Chair and an idea this bizarre and brazen would never see the light of day...but not at JFNA where the CEO apparently can't tell a bad idea from a good one and, quite obviously, the Board Chair has been supplanted by his predecessor.**
Do either the Board or Executive Chair have an opinion on any of this? We'll never know, will we?

For the love of G-d, can someone rescue this organization from itself?


* Other than, presumably, the Nominating, Budget and Finance and Audit Committees and certainly the Global Planning Table ..but, who knows?

** To be fair there are some decent ideas in this Committee's recommendation, including the potential discard of the Chair of the Executive and the Executive Committee.


Anonymous said...

so many acts of narrishkeit and so little space to comment:

1. Lost in yesterday's headlines was the message sent by Minister Naftali Bennett (who holds the Diaspora Affairs portfolio) that he and his party are preparing to challenge Netanyahu and Likud from the religious right. Our leadership is so clueless on Israeli politics that they are incapable of not ultimately getting sucked in to knesset cat fights and Bennetts need to have a power base linking him to Diaspora Jewry.
2. A Jewish education/engagement department in JFNA? Paid for perhaps through direct national agency funding that previously went to now defunct JESNA? Follow the dollars and the organizational/supervisory links in this byzantine drama.
3. The dumbest thing the new entity (UJC) did was establishing the pillars (that brainchild of the seer of Boston). Is JFNA now recreating Pillars under different names and once again turning community/global planning into a bifurcated mess?
4. On lay oversight: Once upon a time in a federation far far away a senior professional and his lay chair made an operational decision that had policy implications. A past president and six/seven figure donor called up the pro and asked whether their was lay process involved. " No, I guess we misstepped", said the pro. "You didn't misstep" said the communal leader, "you fell off a F****** cliff!"

Anonymous said...

I think we would all like to know whether JFNA will finally face any reality -- it has self-destroyed its fund raising function disabling itself f4rom pursuing any of its supposed "goals." As you have written, we have shamefully wasted 100s of millions of dollars on this abject failure.

Anonymous said...

You should have titled this Post "What's Seriously Wrong With Us" and then just mounted photos of Silverman, Siegal, Dede Feinberg and a couple of LCE (all of whose names all of us know so well).