He likes being characterized as an "intellectual" and "professor" who has neither achieved a PhD nor authored a book. He is one of the top Jewish bureaucrats but appears unable to balance a budget or actually accomplish much at all. He is a man who demands total and unquestioning blind loyalty from his staff but appears never to stand up for those same staffers, discarding them at the slightest outside criticism, seemingly forcing out time and again (or conspiring to force out) those with competence and a demonstrated ability to get things done whom he may have perceived as a threat to his constricted "circle of trust."
Meet Alan Hoffmann, the Director General of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
- Moshe Vigdor the superlative and accomplished manager as the Agency's Director General with universal admiration and unequalled leadership...Gone
- Eli Cohen the indefatigable fighter for JAFI's lead role in Ailyah, a professional of competence and achievement...Gone
- Yaron Neudorfer the outstanding, brilliant and dedicated JA CFO, who fought with his lay partners for an annual balanced budget, demanded that JAFI's finances be transparent, with the total support of JA lay leaders and major funders...Gone
- Leah Golan a major figure in Israel, creative and dedicated, a professional who nurtured her staff to excellence, and a champion of the most needy in Israel...Gone
- Gerda Feuerstein thought to be the real "brains" behind the JAFI Zionist Education Department and all programming for the FSU, who tried to "manage" Hoffmann as advisor to Natan Sharansky's Office...Gone
- A succession of JA Spokespersons whom Alan apparently perceived as being hired to promote Alan...Gone
The record suggests that this incredible professional brain drain -- one that has sorely weakened the Jewish Agency -- was on the watch of Alan Hoffman, pure and simple.
But, that's not all...
Sources told me that as JAFI leadership contemplated the election of Natan Sharansky as Chair of the JAFI Executive, it was speculated that Alan worked the shadows surreptitiously politicking against Natan for the position. Rumors were spread that this true hero of the Jewish People ahead of any selection Sharansky measured the Chair's Office to figure out how it could best be furnished for him. There are those who claim to have been present at a "secret meeting" of his friends and allies at Hoffmann's home to plot how Alan could rise to the very position that went to Natan.
...and, now, JAFI circles the drain.
As was related to me, the Jewish Agency Executive was advised that one Ayelet Shilo Tamir was recruited from MASA to "free up" Alan to work on what would be the moribund Government of Israel/JAFI Initiative. This appeared to many to be a real attempt by Natan Sharansky to have someone near the top of the JA bureaucracy who actually knew how to manage within the organization. But on her arrival, Hoffmann, who plays the bureaucracy like a chalil, appeared to go into a protective shield, and hired Yael Weiss Gadish to direct the work of the Initiative. Garish, who is said to be sorely lacking in the trust of the Agency staff, almost succeeded (and still might) in a plan that would, if implemented, sell out the Agency to Diaspora Affairs Director General Dvir Kahane, aiding Hoffmann, her sponsor, in the creation of an alternative to the Jewish Agency, the GOI Initiative's "Public Benefit Company" known sarcastically in Israel as "Sochnut B" -- a way too transparent effort to break the JA/GOI partnership that was engineered, incredibly, by the Jewish Agency itself. As the entire Initiative has apparently collapsed, Hoffmann has created a new position at JAFI for Gadish -- "Director of Strategic Planning" -- swelling the top of the bureaucracy even as the brain drain is on-going.
But, there is the Jewish Agency bureaucracy, which his predecessor, Vigdor, struggled to manage and there is Hoffmann's personal bureaucracy, his personal "Circle of Trust," the construction of which required further programmatic cuts (which Hoffmann denies). If you want to move up at the Jewish Agency, you had best be within that Circle. The most competent on the list of senior pros above have all been replaced by those personally loyal to Alan. We all know what happens when personal loyalty in any organization is the trump card.
Given that the Jewish Agency has, as its Chair of the Executive, one of the great "thinkers" in modern Jewish history, Natan Sharansky, and a shadow Director General in Tamir, the unanswerable question is what does Alan Hoffmann actually do? Is he holding regular staff meetings or even regularly communicating with his staff? No. Is he out in the field visiting Absorption Centers or Agency projects the length and breadth of Israel? Rarely has anyone seen him. Is he undertaking projects to assure the quality delivery of services as did his predecessors? He is rumored not to even acknowledge his staff as he passes them in the halls of the Sochnut.
And, then there is fund raising. MASA is one of the shining stars in the JAFI firmament. If this was Alan's brainchild, he deserves great, great credit for it. But raise money for it? Uh uh. For example, the Jim Joseph Foundation is one of, if not the largest allocator to Jewish education programs annually worldwide. Hoffman, respected by and a great friend of that Foundation's CEO, may have even served as one of the Foundation's "Thought Leaders;" but, has MASA even applied for a Grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation (in 2011 those grants totaled almost $13,000,000)? Nope.
Back in the early years of JAFI North America, David Sarnat, then the JAFI NA CEO, and I as his lay partner, traveled to Israel and met with the Agency staff to urge that there be a single Jewish Agency FRD effort in North America, in part to end the confusion being sewn by uncoordinated Departmental forays into the federation fund-raising arena that were self-defeating. The then JAFI Director General supported us, most of the staff were enthusiastic, but in Alan Hoffmann we hit a brick wall. Alan had his own Departmental fund raising staff. He told me directly that he would support the "one Jewish Agency" approach only if JAFI NA "guaranteed" his Departmental Budget. As soon as we left Jerusalem, we learned that Alan had advised the Director General that "his" FRD staff would continue its work -- that staff raised nothing relative to the need. Meanwhile, Alan has worked constantly since the formation of the Jewish Agency International Development, to stymie its leadership and deprecate its achievements.
Hoffmann loves the PowerPoint; he is the "king" of the PowerPoint. Everything is a "pilot," a "new Model," an "Initiative" and/or a "paradigm shift." Like other leaders so familiar to those who read these pages, his presentations are rife with jargon and double talk, because if one looks deeply into the pages of the PowerPoints, there is little of substance.
So, what, if any, are JAFI's "accomplishments" under Alan's stewardship? He championed the Jewish Agency's shift from being the State of Israel's/the Jewish People's premier and singular agent for Aliyah from around the world to nothing more than a travel agency. He has sat in silence while the Agency's sacred and covenanted Aliyah franchise is taken away by the Government's Aliyah and Absorption Ministry, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, Nefesh b'Nefesh and Youth Movement Ezra. He supported a ridiculous "deal" with the WZO that has, unreality, empowered that entity to the detriment of JAFI.
In his exuberance to see his Strategic Plan override JAFI's historic roles, his actions had the appearance of alienating the GOI and the Agency's strategic funding partners worldwide. Jewish Agency funding, beyond the Draconian cuts in federation allocations to JA core, has been in free-fall since that moment. And, while Hoffmann has often stated that he is responsible for the JAFI/Keren Ha'Yesod relationship, he distances himself from the reality that KH has drastically reduced core or even project funding despite a succession of wars and the dramatically increased Aliyah of the present. And no one has questioned how KH continues to spend as if its fund raising were at an all time high rather than at its lows of the past decade.
How does Alan retain his position and power when the Agency has suffered by his strange interpretation of "leadership?" Simple, he has the best of friends in highest of places. Over many years as Alan's lay partner in the Agency's Department of Jewish Education, which Chuck Ratner chaired while Hoffmann was that Department's Director General, it seems clear that Alan was able to convince Chuck, who is nobody's fool, that World Jewry's survival, and, thereby, JAFI's, must be based on a total recommitment to Jewish Zionist education worldwide. Chuck, one of the most passionate and insightful of Jewish leaders, is the coattail to which Alan is permanently attached; that attachment has served Hoffmann so well.
It is probable that in Chuck's eyes Alan Hoffmann can do no wrong. If Chuck reads this Post and believes it nothing but screed, all he need do is ask the present and past staff of the Agency and its partners and Board members about Alan and he will learn the truth. The entire Jewish Agency has been demoralized and undermined -- and the causation is crystal clear. Even those who love Alan have no faith in his ability to lead JAFI at this critical time.
It's time for him to go.