Wednesday, January 28, 2015


1. JFNA has many issues as we have identified on these pages from time-to-time. Engagement is one of the most serious. So, here is a critical Resolution that the JFNA Board just approved:
"WHEREAS, Article VI of the JFNA corporate by-laws identifies and defines the responsibilities of JFNA corporate officers, included therein, at Sections 6.5, 6.6, and 6.9, respectively, are the offices of Chair of the Board, Chair of the Executive Committee, and Vice Chairs, also identified more in the roster of corporate officers in Section 6.1-2, Paragraphs a, b, and c, respectively; and,

WHEREAS, as part of a comprehensive by-laws review and in the interest of clarifying and streamlining leadership roles, the Governance and By-laws Committee has recommended a re-configuration of three officers to specifically provide for:
  1. (1)  The Chair of the Board to preside not only at meetings of the Board, but meetings of the Executive Committee of the Board, as well.
  2. (2)  Re-designate the Chair of the Executive Committee as (sole) Vice Chair of the Board empowered to act in the absence of the Chair of the Board.
  3. (3)  Eliminate the office of all other existing Vice Chairs of the Board" 
Yep, an organization with an engagement problem eliminates all of five of its Vice Chairs, vests all authority in the Board Chair (if only we had one!!) and CEO (if only we had one!) and in the Chair of the Partnership Committee of the GPT (as of now, we do have one), and creates a new single Vice Chair whose only role will apparently be to preside in the event the Board Chair cannot. Friends, placing more power in the hands of fewer people has never been a good idea; and, when one of the people is the current CEO, even a more terrible one.

It has been evident that the current Chair of the Executive, Dede Feinberg, has been so marginalized by the perfect storm of Board Chair, CEO and the Chair of the Global Planning Table Partnership Committee, that made this specious marginalized as to not even exist. Whether Dede is consulted on anything of substance on-going at JFNA other than reading the Executive Committee script is debatable. If this were happening to another leader, I have no doubt that the person would have resigned in protest; but Dede is too gracious to do so, the daily humiliation notwithstanding. (When Sonny Plant was ignored on Budget matters when he served as Treasurer, he resigned, only to be coaxed into withdrawing his resignation with promises of total consultation going forward [a total consultation that never happened].)

As I write this, prior to the Board meeting at which it will be approved, I'm certain that the Board heard that this is being done "consistent with best business practices"..."this will streamline our governance" and similar bulls__t. In an organization that hardly operates like a business in any way, isn't this preposterous? There actually have been instances where the Chair of the Executive performed critical functions -- Joel Tauber, Sonny Plant, z'l, and, of interest, Kathy Manning herself. The Vice Chairs who will be eliminated could be vital players for JFNA -- in FRD, allocations, etc. or they could be the sitting lay Chairs of the City-size groups -- but, to the perfect storm, these lay leaders just got in the way. 

And, when I say "got in the way" I am joking because the response should be "got in the way" of what -- the nothing that JFNA is doing? There is no need for Vice Chairs to assist in advocacy for JFNA's FRD...because there is none. There is no need for Vice Chairs to lead an allocations advocacy effort...because there is none. You name it...there. is. none. Not that there couldn't be, but no one's home.

When JFNA was created by merger, it was explicitly contemplated that the Board Chair would lead JFNA policy and the Chair of the Executive would be responsible for oversight of the day-to-day operations of the entity. Oh, what might have been the case had JFNA lay leadership followed the merger guidelines and had there been lay oversight of anything. But, of course, as in all things, those guidelines were first ignored (as early as in the formative days of the first Co-Chairs) and then heard of no more -- certainly for the last nine years and, probably, many more, there has been no oversight and no accountability. We would not permit this willful ignorance in our own communities, but at JFNA...

2. I don't even understand why this issue of French/European Jewry in 2015 had  but one place on the public agenda of the JFNA Board Meetings. Of course JFNA heard from Hillel's President, a report on attitudes of younger adults toward Israel but, other than a report from Malcolm Hoenlein, and the typical "table discussions" -- nothing. And here is how those table discussions were framed: "The Board will discuss how JFNA and Federations might support the European community." Filler. Just filler. Check it off the list and move on. Worse, the plight of the Jews of the Ukraine didn't merit a moment of this important meeting...not a moment for a major Jewish population more directly threatened -- "War is exploding anew in Ukraine" the NYT reported on Saturday -- than the Jewish community of France...not a moment. Can't be bothered.

3. Meanwhile another Board meeting passes with no questions about the waste embodied in a JFNA Budget which CEO What's-A-Budget? treats as merely a fungible framework for shifting funds with no apparent accountability.* Referencing back to the two years that Sonny Plant chaired the Budget and Finance Committee, or to the UJA/CJF years when Budget Chairs and the Committees took their roles seriously, it's hard to believe the depths we have reached today.

4. Following on its uncertain support for French Jewry -- no Continental FRD aside from creating a "Fund," asking for letters of support and a Mission -- Siegal announced a Solidarity Mission and scheduled it for February 8-10. It follows immediately upon a previously scheduled Jewish Agency/Keren  Ha'Yesod Mission which will convene February 2-4 in Paris. After asking a simple question -- why two Missions, why not just one -- I learned from several sources at JFNA and Jerusalem that the Jewish Agency requested  that JFNA join the JAFI Mission -- a single unified Mission -- and heard back "not interested."  Now, JFNA's subsidiary, UIA, issued invitations for the JAFI Mission. Of greater interest is the fact that both the JAFI and JFNA Missions have excellent Itineraries. 

5. Seeing as JFNA has abandoned FRD, it is no surprise that for the second meeting in a row, the Philanthropic Resources Committee/Council/Whatever discussed the Sapir Award Again; oh and how to raise money at the GA!! By whom? Don't know.

A mess.


See 1, above.


Anonymous said...

I must say that this was the most depressing, boring and dis-spiriting organizational meeting I have ever attended. Spent most of the time asking myself "why am I here"? Then I realized that it's because the sun was shining, the food was far better than the meetings and there were a few people there who were nice and committed Jews. But every decision was pre-cooked and real info was totally lacking -- questions though invited were clearly considered challenges to authority.

And, then, I couldn't get home because the winter storms had shut down all flights. Brought home the sense that I had wasted my time all the more.

Anonymous said...

The fact that JFNA has turned its back on the Jews of the Ukraine in this most dire of times, is criminal neglect for which this leadership should be removed for dereliction of duty. They should immediately resign or be thrown out of office.

Anonymous said...

This is tragedy writ large. A do nothing Board echoing a do nothing leadership while doing noting for Jews in need.

paul jeser said...

So, the question still remains, is there a group working to try to fix this mess?

Anonymous said...

Two Missions, why? Good for the Jewish Agency to have a Mission led by one of its great past Chairs to Paris where the Jewish Agency and JDC are doing and have been doing great work, and where JFNA is doing and has been doing absolutely nothing.

If JFNA is going to lead a Solidarity Mission the participants should wear brown bags over their heads in shame for the organization's lack of support.

Anonymous said...

To Paul Jeser,

I am part of a small but growing in size group of federation lay persons and philanthropists from around the country who have begun discussions about the shape and scope of what we hope will be a successor organization to the inept and costly exercise that is and has been JFNA. Suffice it to say but we must remain anonymous as we know, were our names known, pressure would be brought to bear to shut us up and shit us down.

paul jeser said...

To Anonymous 9:46 AM.

THANK YOU! I understand the need for you to remain anonymous and wish you the best. We NEED a community Federation system. I'm not saying my idea is the right one - but it might be helpful in your work - Richard was kind enough to publish it over four years ago:

Anonymous said...

To the last anonymous ---
Give me a break. If you are a group worried about pressure, you do not have the strength or the courage to make change.