Saturday, January 10, 2015


You may remember that one of the windmills at which the earliest JFNA leaders tilted were the alleged "silos" remaining post-merger in the form of United Jewish Appeal holdovers and those of CJF. In my opinion, these silos were, in the main, a fiction, but it gave leadership something with which to distract themselves from the real issues facing our system. 

Then, over the last decade, JFNA effectively eliminated any remnant of the FRD "silo" by effectively ending the continental system's engagement in fund-raising.  First, critical FRD professionals were forced out of the organization's ranks, one-by-one along with their lay partners; then, in a truly incredible move, the FRD function was subsumed by fiat under Consulting Services; then, the National Campaign Chair position was relegated to JFNA  cheerleader status with a succession of ineffectual Chairs after David Fisher's resignation; and, ultimately, FRD became nothing more than a minor cog in the JFNA bureaucracy "rebranded" as "Philanthropic Resources." Ineffectual to the point of irrelevance, JFNA would still claim, on paper, that 50% of its budget is dedicated to raising money. Yes, the  imaginary "silo" was no more.

That wasn't the end of silos, of course. While ostensibly deconstructing that represented by FRD, JFNA was busy constructing a remarkable set of ineffective silos, one-by-one, accompanied by waste and confusion, the hallmarks of JFNA under this leadership. Let me explain by JFNA acronyms: I and O, UIA* and the GPT and the JFNA-Israel Office. Now and forever. Four silos, accomplishing nothing separately or in the aggregate.

Now, this should not be...but it is. Oh, yes, it is; oh, yes, they are.

  1. Israel and Overseas -- at one time one of the most critical "pillars" of the new JFNA; now, invisible.  Its formal title: Global Operations: Israel and Overseas Coordinating Council. In reality, it coordinates nothing. So ignored with the onset of the futile Global Planning Table that its immediate Past Chair, Miami's Sabi Behar, resigned (only to be "rewarded," if that's what one calls it, with a minor chairship at, vu den?, the GPT, of course). Now chaired by Chicago's David Brown, unless David is given authority over both the GPT and the UIA and the direction of JFNA-Israel -- and, to date, those ain't happening -- he will be the Chair of nothing;
  2. UIA -- this subsidiary of JFNA is actually performing its sole functions -- monitoring the U.S. Refugee Grant, operating its owned properties and the income therefrom in Israel and vetting allocations to the Jewish Agency on our behalf -- very well. Yet, it is lost in its own ambitions and in the restraints placed upon it by JFNA. Two of UIA's leaders were charged by the UIA's current Chair with developing a strategic plan for the "Future" of the organization, approved by its Board and JFNA's and, then, at the whim of UIA's Chair, shelved. Now, UIA is engaged in an attempt to mount an advocacy effort -- Chaverim -- which would deploy 30 trained lay advocates to the communities which will have them solely on behalf of the Jewish Agency. Surely a conflict of interest for the parent company, JFNA, which, were it ever to understand its role vis-a-vis overseas needs must advocate for all of its partners, not just one and that would never be UIA's role...but it would be JFNA's.
  3. The Global Planning Table -- what can one say that I already haven't? This Rube Goldberg joke of an entity has arrogated to itself JFNA responsibilities, one after another -- planning, domestic and overseas, fund raising, priority-setting, among others -- and executed not a single one. It is JFNA in microcosm...and no one is watching the store. If JFNA is a democracy gone bad, the GPT is a kleptocracy (sans financial corruption) gone nowhere. It has been a five year distraction that has driven JFNA closer and closer to the drain.
  4. JFNA-Israel -- an office bloated with staff and budget, a mini-empire within the empire of JFNA, operating with no apparent management by the JFNA CEO, deciding what and where it will focus operate without any regard whatsoever to the priorities of the federations. This is the natural result of having a Global Operations CEO who came to the Office with neither federation understanding nor experience much like the JFNA CEO himself. JFNA-Israel assured itself that it would control the GPT, control UIA, ignore Israel and Overseas and...accomplish nothing.
Now, this remarkable quartet of ostensibly Israel-focused entities within JFNA share one characteristic in addition to their ineptitude...they do not relate to each other. Each is a mini-silo within the huge silo that JFNA has created and, apparently, ignored, letting each flounder to the extent that the totality of our system's work in Israel lacks focus, purpose and coordination. We have been advised that many of these parties have worked over the past weeks to develop "guidelines" for their future work -- we don't know what those guidelines are -- and only time will tell.

If there were a CEO and a Board Chair, this futility would not be allowed to continue. But, this is, after all, JFNA.


* The UIA staff continues to do first class work in its areas of assigned responsibilities.


Anonymous said...

So long as JFNA leadership, if there is any at all, permits the GPT to grab its powers and assume its responsibilities, the enterprise is doomed to fail and fail and fail as it has been failing, failing, failing. This used to be just a fear, now it is a transparent reality. Transparent that is to everyone but Siegal/Silverman.

Anonymous said...

As a federation exec I can tell you that these are not the only silos that have been created by the leaders of JFNA. Just call there some time with a question and try and get an answer. Usually I end up in total frustration and call one or more of my colleagues. It's a total fiasco.

Anonymous said...

I think we should all just sit back and watch this claimed "reorganization" of Israel - Overseas unfold. It's going to be a bunch of sharks eating each other. This should be fun watching even though they are fighting over nothing but power

Anonymous said...

This silo-building is just the JFNA version of the hokey pokey -- you put your left hand in, you put your right hand out, and you turn yourself about -- except the left hand and the right hand have no idea what the other is doing -- so they all fall down (or is that something else?)