Tuesday, January 13, 2015

OH MY G-D!!!

As I write this my head is about to explode. (I know that some/many wish that would just happen and the sooner the better, but I have more to write before I go.) I just can't believe the latest sorry episode of the sorriest organization in Jewish communal life; yep, JFNA, so feckless as to be beyond feckless.

Let me explain.

It is all about France.

In the wake of the Terrorists' murders in the Hyper Cacher Kosher Market and the fear that we attribute to the Paris and French Jewish community, JFNA leadership, as they always do, wrote some letters -- to French Jewry and to its own constituency. At one and the same time some federation leaders began to contemplate some actions -- yes, actual "actions." My own Federation, in evident anticipation of a true continental effort on behalf of and in partnership with French Jewry, sent a detailed action plan to Chicago's constituency, announcing the creation of a "French Terror and Security Fund" (the "Fund") for the following purposes:
"This Fund will provide financial aid to victims' families, security to Jewish institutions in France and help support the expected additional costs in increased aliyah from France, beyond what our annual campaign provides. French philanthropists and the institutions themselves have committed to 80% of these security costs, and the American Jewish community has pledged to absorb the remaining 20 percent."
And Chicago's leaders announced the first $100,000 contribution to the Fund.

OK so far? And, then JFNA stepped forward -- remember, in the JFNA world "forward" means "backward" and "go" means "stop."

So JFNA, over Michael Siegal's signature, had sent out an excellent "leadership briefing" Sunday evening, summarizing steps to be taken by JFNA. Then, the next morning, yesterday, JFNA convened its Executive Committee and less than 24 hours after that excellent letter, it backed away with a speed unbecoming a Jewish organization at a time of crisis. These are the action steps as JFNA described them:
"JFNA’s Executive Committee met today to discuss the situation and our response as a system and approved three specific recommendations:

1)       That Jewish Federations send their own messages of support to the leadership of the French community and encourage other Jewish organizations and community members to do the same.  We want to ensure the broadest possible expression of support
2)       JFNA will organize a national solidarity mission to France as soon as possible, in consultation and coordination with the French community leadership. 
3)       JFNA will open the France Emergency Fund as vehicle for communities and individuals who are motivated to provide philanthropic support. Funds will be used to address security needs of the French Jewish community, as well as to provide humanitarian assistance to the victims of the terror attacks. You can link to this fund here: http://fedweb.fedwebpreview.org/france-emergency-fund.

       With respect to the last item, JFNA will convene an ad hoc committee to analyze the            needs in this situation and approve the allocation of monies contributed to the fund.

       If you have any questions, please let me know."

Although Michael Siegal's expression of the steps being taken don't need footnoting, let me package them for you even more succinctly: you send letters (yes, adopt the JFNA methodology, send letters, lots and lots of letters, letters are great); you come on a Mission; and you contribute if you feel like it. We'll collect whatever you send and we'll decide how to allocate it. And, what's not in Michael's Memo?

  • No mention of the 80/20 split between French Jewry and North American Jewry;
  • No mention of any "commitment" having been made by...uh, JFNA??...to raise the 20% share;
  • No mention that Chicago and LA have each committed $100,000 to the Fund; and
  • No mention of any commitment to assist JAFI in meeting the needs created by the anticipated increased aliya.*
Maybe they just forgot.

And, if you go the link above, you will find the most pathetic, woeful "ask" I have read in 40 years of fund raising (and the link therein to a JFNA letter [what else?] to French Jewry doesn't connect). We all know that there is a crisis; JFNA just can't express it.

We have reached rock bottom -- but we will probably sink even lower. I'm just guessing.


* Meanwhile the Jewish Agency and JDC are already at work accelerating their own fund-raising to help meet the needs they are trying to meet in France. 


Anonymous said...

If you think the JFNA solicitation message was pathetic (and it was) feast your eyes on Misha Galperin's letter to "Dear Jews of France". Maybe these letters/solicitations are all written in the same place.

Anonymous said...

Richard, You haven't a clue how bad this really was. Your conclusions are totally correct. We have a terrible situation that has just gone worse.

Anonymous said...

Richard, I was on the JFNA Executive Committee call that you referenced. The outcome of that call is not consistent with the Memo that JFNA then issued. This is not the first time. I am convinced that these meetings have become nothing more than "ratification sessions" designed strictly to provide cover for the decisions that have been precooked among exactly whom?

We have a farce masquerading as a responsible organization.

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous #3 - I assume there were many others at the same meeting. Can you share any observations that they might have had? Do they agree with your assessment? If so is there any hope that you and they might rise up and try to bring about any change? What would you need from others like myself and the many faithful readers of the Blog who are (fortunately?) not on the executive committee?

Anonymous said...

To the First Anonymous above: Galperin's original "Dear France" message may have been weak but today he and JAFI made up for it with "Reporting Live: The Jewish Agency Responds" a series of reports each of which was excellent. JAFI might have retitled it to JFNA "The Jewish Agency Responds, No Thanks to You."

Anonymous said...

Richard, Siegal just sent another Briefing announcing that Boston has joined Chicago and Los Angeles in approving a $100,000 grant (for what purposes Siegal wasn't saying) and again urging letters, of which there have no doubt been many, and providing the link to an Emergency Fund website for those who wish to make contributions.

I would wager that Chicago, LA and Boston aren't going to entrust JFNA with deciding where their funds will go when theirs are the three largest grants. BTW, is JFNA even soliciting other federations to join these three? Doubt that too.

Anonymous said...

I am new to all of this. Why don't our leaders lead? Why doesn't the Jewish laity stand up and stand for something -- you know something like Jewish values, communal values and the like. All I see is am organization that if it's not reacting inadequately to a crisis affecting the Jewish People, it is doing only the SOS. It's a catalogue of failure at a steep price.

Anonymous said...

A number of federations are raising money for security in and aliyah from France asserting that 80% of security costs will be absorbed by the French Jewish community, 20% by North American Jewry. OK -- has anyone seen anything from JFNA that asserts that such a deal is in place???? If so, why not let us know?

Anonymous said...

Richie, Looks like Chairman Siegal is reading this Blog. Just received another Memo from him on JFNA's response to the Terrorist situation in France: immediate contact with French Jewish leaders, lots of letters, Federations raised and raising money and a Solidarity Mission to be led by someone from your town and JAFI will run its own Mission a few days earlier. In other words, JFNA is doing almost nothing but its very proud to be doing so.