Monday, November 17, 2014


As I write this I am looking out our den window at the first snow of winter falls along with the temperature; winter has arrived early. Of course a long, dark winter descended upon JFNA years ago -- no sign of sunshine or light can penetrate the darkness.

Every day in some way JFNA exhibits exactly why it has become both irrelevant and a laughingstock. While JFNA lay leadership believes in the fairy tale of a really important JFNA and many of you may still believe in the ideal of a functioning and important organization, feast your eyes on what follows, look at yourself in the mirror and ask the following question: "How much money is my federation wasting on this?" 

Friends, what we have here is an epic failure of lay and professional leadership. They not only know not what they are doing, they know not even what they should be doing. So, instead, they don't do a damn thing.

The following is the actual verbatim Agenda of the JFNA "DEVELOPMENT CABINET" meeting at the GA. This Agenda tells you all that you need to know:
"Dear Development Cabinet Member,

The following is the Agenda for our meeting on Sunday, November 9th from 11 AM – 12:30 PM at the GA..  We will be in room Chesapeake 6.


1.     Welcome – Linda A. Hurwitz

2.     Philanthropic Resources Update – Reuben Romirowsky

3.     Reinventing the Sapir Award: How Should We Recognize Community Campaign Success? – Linda A. Hurwitz

4.     Making a More Effective and Powerful “Pitch” for your Cause – Chris Westfall, US National Elevator Pitch Champion, GA Plenary speaker

5.     Adjournment

The main purpose of our meeting will be to exam how we recognize successful campaigns."
Wow!! The "National Elevator Pitch Champion."

Yes, while so many federations need direct fund raising assistance and guidance from their national organization, if there was one, while the system's donor base has shrunk to heretofore unheard of lows, what does the so-called Philanthropic Resources  Development Cabinet" discuss? "Reinventing the Sapir Award" and "elevator pitching." Are you kidding me? JFNA has reached a point so low, it is off the radar screen; aren't more federations reaching out  today to consultants for the services that should be and were provided by our national organization? What are your federation Dues being used for at 25 Broadway?

And, at the same time, Chair Michael Siegal pontificated beautifully and meaninglessly about a vision and specifics JFNA is wholly incapable of framing with its current administration. As one Commentator put it so well:

"The federation "owners" don't have a shared clue about what they need or want. How can JFNA know what its owners want if the owners don't even know?

By and large, the federations are paralyzed. The American Jewish world has changed and its hardly done. The federations are the status quo institutionalists. supported by those who came to Jewish maturity (and I'm not talking bar/bat mitzvahs) via these same institutions. The donors are clueless or unaccepting about what change means, even as they know change is needed (it's already happening!) for the next generation (which they are scared to death of losing). The major lay leaders and professionals are scared to death of losing donors, their paychecks, status etc = paralysis. 

And JFNA is similarly paralyzed. Its doesn't know what it is and its owners are of no help in figuring this out. On second thought, it's not paralyzed; JFNA is simply and tragically chasing its tail the same way its owners are. When the owners get a clue and get decisive, JFNA will follow suit. In the meantime, buy long in tail chasing."
So very true.  It all just makes one want to cry.



Anonymous said...

hillarious....too bad Linda is a class act who deserves better

Anonymous said...

Linda may be a "class act" but she sure has been, as were the last few of her predecessors, a weak, weak, weak FRD National Chair. Are all of the lay leaders at JFNA afraid to push back against their own irrelevancy? Have they no pride?

Anonymous said...

I am a new reader of your Blog -- you won't be surprised that those at JFNA cautioned me not to read it. I wonder why?

Reading this Post with this pathetic Agenda explains so much about the sad state of JFNA. It's pitiful. It explains why my federation, which pays Dues in the mid-six figures has had to engage an expensive fund-raising consultant.

I will now be an advocate for a severe cut in our Dues and JFNA's budget. And I will keep reading. I have forwarded your Post to our entire federation Board.

Anonymous said...

This is an organization populated by faux leaders of the no nothing, do nothing variety. Especially those at the top of the letterhead. But no one does anything about them or it.

When annual campaigns have flat-lined, they devote a meeting to discussing awards. enough said

Anonymous said...

I'm a frequent reader of this blog, and am following the issues with a little bit of distance from the Federation world these days. Having said that, I'm concerned about Anonymous 11:41's comments on advocating for severe cuts and forwarding posts to entire boards. It is too easy to jump on that bandwagon without discussion, thought and context. Let's be very careful what we wish for.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous at 5:25 - Unfortunately too many people who otherwise know better have taken the attitude for far too long that they need to be patient and thoughtful in dealing with this ineffective organization. They have second thoughts about doing anything and then unfortunately move on to the next issue and forget about taking any action. Eight years (or is it more) have flown by at a cost of at least a quarter of a billion dollars (that's a billion not a million) already down the drain. If there were a mechanism in place to do something about this I would normally agree with you. We have heard that the real power rests with a handful of Large City execs and all the other execs are impotent or afraid to take any action. Some have suggested that they need to hear from their own boards that something must be done. If these blogs and comments open the eyes of leadership in federations maybe that is exactly what is needed to get action from the majority and not be beholden to a small minority of execs and the ineffective lay leadership of JFNA.

Anonymous said...

The meeting you cite was clearly either a joke or a total waste of time. Or both. The perfect model for what JFNA has become.