Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Just when you think that things could not get any worse...In anticipation of the recently concluded JFNA Retreat, the organization released the sickening results of its non-efforts in allocations and its most woeful cash collection efforts -- the worst in recorded history -- in 2014.

From the early 1990s through his retirement as the first Chief Financial Officer of JFNA, Lee Twersky, would call me to report with enormous pride on
the outcome of an all-hands year-end cash effort. Only Pamela Zaltsman, the current CFO, will remember those moments -- she cannot be very proud right now...no one in our system, lay or pro, at JFNA or the federations, should be. It's reached the point where JFNA's irrelevance is self-evident.

Some folks at JFNA decided to complicate these numbers as much as possible to make them look better -- but, once again, its like putting lipstick on a pig. In our system we have historically compared undesignated federation allocations year-by-year -- what is typically referred to as "free money" -- the dollars allocated to the core budgets of JAFI/JDC/World ORT. We'll get to those numbers in a moment. 

But, first, it should be noted that leaders at JFNA have attempted to provide cover for their failure with a blizzard of other data...the "lipstick" referenced above -- data having nothing...nothing...to do with the unrestricted allocations. Worse, this data often evidence the abysmal fund raising results that JFNA has been misrepresenting for months. To wit:

  • The Ukrainian Relief Funds have totaled $2.7 million to JDC/JAFI in total, a  totally disgraceful amount, leaving the JDC and JAFI holding an empty bag;
  • "Completing the Journey" totaled $1.3 million -- far, far below the original $5 million ask and far, far below the $3 million "reduced ask" leaving JAFI holding the empty bag:
  • Though JFNA applauded itself, if I remember the figure correctly, for "raising" $21 million in the effort to support JAFI/Joint in response to this past Summer's Terrorists' War, JAFI/JDC received only $12 million with no possible credible explanation; and
  • While JFNA counts Community Funded Electives/Supplemental Giving/Israel Education Funds to JFA/Joint/ORT as part of "Total Distributions," these are funds raised directly by the overseas "partners," (and UIA to some extent) in which JFNA played no role other than to send the funds on upon receipt.*
Bottom line, simply stated, cutting to the chase, in 2014 JFNA failed our system's one-time true partners as never before. Never before have Unrestricted Distributions to the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Joint or World ORT fallen to the depths of 2014. 
  • To JAFI -- $87.6 million, down from $94.3 million in 2013 (the previous low point) -- and, by JFNA's own statistics, down 16.4% since 2010. (And, since the merger, almost a $100,000,000 reduction or 53%.
  • To the JDC -- $29.4 million, down another $400,000 from the low of the prior year;
  • To World ORT -- a $100,000 reduction, to its lowest point, down "only" 22% since 2010
Friends, these are but the latest and worst failings of an organization that has lost its way in so very many ways. The merger documents to which 100% of the federations agreed, created JFNA as an organization of and for the federations to, at its core, would raise more money and more donors, inspire our communities to greater achievement, and be the advocate for our historic overseas partners. Instead we have seen failure everywhere we look

Now, as never before, it is time for questions: where have the funds "raised" for relief from the Terrorists' War of 2014 gone? Have we as a Continental Community so totally failed Ukraine Jewry as JFNA's own numbers reveal? Do we even know how to raise money any more? Just what are JFNA's purposes?When Jerry Silverman reveals to the Town Hall at the Retreat that after 5+ years on the job "it's time for Jerry to be Jerry" does that very concept not strike fear in all who heard it?

But, the seminal question is this: does anyone even care?


* JFNA added its own totally baffling footnote to its own data: "Unrestricted for (the Jewish Agency/JDC) included in Electives." No one I have been able to speak to can explain what this gobbledegook means.


Anonymous said...

You have written about a lack of purpose, no vision, etc., but these horrible results tell a story of no commitment to anything. Maybe to the brand but to nothing else. They just don't give a damn. How the hell do they keep their jobs?

Anonymous said...

Richie, you don't get it, do you. Those numbers reflect the new normal; your wisdom reflects the past. How do you expect there to be any value placed upon the principles on which our system was built when we have in place a leadership that doesn't understand those principles or, if they do, don;t consider them very important at all.

Anonymous said...

Come on people, would it be that difficult for a new jfna board member to get up at a board meeting and ask someone to list 5 things that jfna does, and could be held accountable for?
Jerry's mantra has always been about measuring success and accountability.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Silverman always talks about "measurement and accountability" and then, voila, there are neither. And no one (other than on this Blog) ever questions. It's low farce and high tragedy.