Eli Broad, business baron and mega-philanthropist, and, now, active in Jewish federation philanthropy in Los Angeles, has many causes that he supports with both his time and money -- in particular modern art and education. So why speculate what Mr. Broad might do were he engaged with our system in addition to those causes he holds so dear and to which he has contributed with such generosity? Simple...
Last month the New York Times and Los Angeles newspapers reported that Broad had "suspended" an annual multi-million dollar grant from his Foundation to multiple low income school districts across the country because "...he cannot find school districts doing enough good work to merit the award." Tens of millions of dollars will no longer be awarded, the papers reported.
Hmmm. Just think if Eli Broad were the JFNA Chair. You think he would tolerate a leadership that sustains professional leaders who have achieved a level of mediocrity and worse? Does anyone believe that Eli Broad would have renewed Jerry Silverman's contract after 5 years without accountability or accomplishment? It strikes me from his history that Mr. Broad is an impatient man... in his businesses and in his philanthropy. Does anyone believe that Mr. Broad would tolerate the annual waste of almost $30,000.000 of donors' funds on an entity that once preached "more dollars and more donors" but now and for the past 5 years has done almost nothing to grow the donor base as more and more dollars leave our system while the system itself -- at least at the Continental level -- wastes millions 24/7? Of course Eli Broad wouldn't...but Michael Siegal would and does.
Of course, in Eli Broad's support of education grants, his Foundation was allocating his money, not donors' or federations'. But that's the point isn't it? That point being that we, as fiduciaries, are charged with allocating donors' and federations' funds as if those dollars were our own. Jerry Silverman seems not to understand that, Steve Silverman (JFNA's Budget Chair) seems not to understand that, and Michael Siegal seems not to care.
The end result at JFNA is so obvious -- no one appears to be watching the store, and we know from the experience of other organizations what are too often the consequences of such neglect -- from FEGS to the New York Legal Assistance Foundation, from the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty and beyond. We need a lay leadership that actually performs their fiduciary responsibilities; we don't have one.
Instead, we have seen JFNA leaders, time and again, stifle even the little debate that takes place within JFNA. For example: during a Budget and Finance Committee meeting three or more years ago, when basic line item questions were raised by federation lay leaders, John Ruskay, then the NY UJA-Federation CEO argued that these questions were impermissible because the budget had been vetted by the professional staff. Debate was stifled; questions quashed. Then, at the January 2015 Board meeting, when debate over a change to JFNA's governance that ultimately eliminated 5 Vice Chairs and the Chair of Executive position actually was taking place among men and women leaders of good will, they were told that the questions were inappropriate because the rubber stamp JFNA Executive Committee had already approved the changes. These are but examples of the deplorable state of JFNA governance today.
Sure, were Eli Broad to Chair JFNA we might expect different outcomes than we have experienced; however, I will be the first to admit, I expected the very same from Michael Siegal -- so did many others. And I admit to the frustrations and disappointments that I have poured out on these pages. And, I am certain that were Mr. Broad the JFNA Chair i am certain he would have acted out peremptorily in ways I would have found to have been highly objectionable, worthy of a Blog. Nonetheless, having suffered through the leadership JFNA has offered us...
Oh, for what might have been.