Saturday, February 21, 2015


1. Choosing to characterize the Posts that have appeared here and, maybe, that on ejp, Natan Sharansky corresponded with JAFI as follows:
"In light of certain communications that have been circulating which seek to tarnish the reputation of The Jewish Agency and the entire Jewish Agency team, I invite you to review, together with me, our accomplishments and achievements during 2014 as a result of the changes that have taken place in our organization over recent years."
While it may make some at JAFI feel so much better to characterize what has been written as merely "communication...which seek to tarnish the reputation of The Jewish Agency and the entire Jewish Agency Team," those who have read these Posts know that that was neither the case nor the intent. In all events, Natan's letter, which, of course, chose not to respond whatsoever to the facts appearing on these pages, did provide an impressive list of Jewish Agency accomplishments. 

Sad, but this is clearly another laity unwilling to come to grips with the sorry state of its management and administration.
2. A whole bunch of questions arise out of the JFNA Solidarity Mission to Paris earlier this month. 

  • Why? The Jewish Agency convened its own Mission one week earlier. JAFI had invited JFNA to join in that Mission. JFNA demurred. The more "solidarity" the better no doubt.
  • And on the JFNA Mission, among the 45 listed participants were: 7 (or more) JFNA staff members (someone, anyone, explain that ridiculous over-staffing to me, please), including p.r., a videographer  (for about 5 minutes total of "David Brown Reports") and the ubiquitous Becky Caspi, at least another 8 federation CEOs or senior staffers (the CEOs all from federations whose overseas allocations are far below even the sorry national average percentage); and 8 Chicagoans -- a great percentage and appropriate inasmuch as Chicago had raised $156,000 by mid-January to what we understand to be a paltry, embarrassing $675,000 "non-campaign" to assist French Jewry -- almost 25% of the paltry continental total. (Oh, there was also someone called "Rabbi Bob" Alper -- a Rabbi and, yes, a comedian. [On purpose, and heard to be a good one, unlike "CEO Jerry," accidental and a bad one -- comedian that is.] On this serious occasion, according to the excellent summaries from UIA Chair Rich Bernstein, Rabbi Bob performed at least part of his act [he frequently performs with a colleague -- a Palestinian stand-up]-- and what's funny about that?)
  • The Mission videos reminded me of that time -- in the 1970s if memory serves me -- when, in advance of serving as UJA's National Missions Chair, I authored (on my own IBM Selectric) a Mission Leaders Manual that UJA used for at least a decade. I recall that among my suggestions for those who Chair Missions were: stay flexible, have a great sense of humor and share the spotlight with all those who have joined you.
  • Why, in public venues has CEO Silverman actually stated that the "purpose" of this Mission was to consult with Paris Jewry on security measures at Jewish schools and institutions based on what we do in our communities here in North America when that is clearly and unequivocally false? As one Anonymous Commentator observed, "Solidarity" means "presence" -- I would say it means an expression of unity -- either way, a valid premise not requiring Jerry's ridiculous hyperbole.
  • Both Missions had incredible Itineraries -- UIA's Chair, Rich Bernstein, a JFNA Mission participant, has provided superb Summaries of the JFNA Mission in his Memos from Paris. 
  • At the end of the day I am certain that the JFNA Mission was a valuable experience for the participants and proved that JFNA can run a Mission that educates, even inspires, while at one and the same time raises not a dime to assist the Jews of Paris, of France. 
  • So, what will be the next "triumph?" On to Denmark, anyone? 
3. The situation for the Jewish communities of the Ukraine worsen, especially in East Ukraine where war is raging...and JFNA's silence is deafening. Having raised ("raised" is really the wrong word -- JFNA "raised" nothing) less than $3 million, this woeful leadership has turned its back on Jews in the worst distress imaginable. Lives are at risk and JFNA is busy asking for donations to assist French Jewry (on its website). Sounds just like JFNA.

And, while on the subject, last week  the NCSEJ organized meetings in D.C. for the President and Executive Director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee. Jerry was somewhere else -- touring cities in the South East -- and no one at JFNA participated -- just like no one at JFNA seems very interested at all in doing anything about the fate of the Jews of the Ukraine.

4. I have written on these pages of the corruption affecting a number of New York Jewish agencies, a number of them affiliated with the UJA-Federation of New York. Now, another has been revealed to be impacted with the resignation of the well-regarded Yis Schulman from the leadership of the New York Legal Assistance Group. One looks at the Board of this NYLAG, a roster of the best and brightest from almost every major New York law firm and you have to wonder -- don't these leaders, of all possible leaders, understand Board responsibilities? Is New York UJA-Federation ready to step into this unholy mess in its midst or is it trying its damnedest to distance itself from the collateral and real damages? We have written frequently that absent trust our non-profits are doomed to failure -- what is being done to restore trust in New York City?

5. My granddaughter participated in a massive BBYO/BBG-NFTY Teen Conference in Atlanta. The attendance was conservatively estimated at 3,000. That being the case, CEO I-Can't-Count-That-High, who was rumored to be on a southern "tour" at that time, was heard to report that "there were 6,000 people there."

6. Beyond these subjects there is the omnipresent low comedy of JFNA's stretches at relevancy -- especially in social media. Here's a recent entry of JFNA's Facebook page:
"Today, on National Bagel Day, check out the parallel timelines of how bagels have grown as North America's favorite food and the Jewish Federations have grown as North America's largest Jewish philanthropic engines."
"Philanthropic engine" -- sure. Sounds just like nothin'...JFNA.



Dan Brown said...

As a so-called tarnisher, I believe Natan needs some help with his English reading skills. In eJP's case, I praised the employees of the Agency (as I have done for many years). It's the C-suite management I take issue with. Perhaps if HIS office spent the time WORKING with the media rather than the efforts they put into denigrating journalists, we would all be better served.

Anonymous said...

Natan is a great man and perhaps a flawed executive. However sometimes our concerns must go beyond individual moral stature or leadership style. It can reflect a profound disagreement on Jewish history. mission and organizational role. Do we really believe with Natan that the history of Western European Jewry is over requiring massive flight and aliyah? Is Jewish identity and peoplehood (as opposed to Israeli nation building) the beginnings and end of our collective purpose? Is the decade old rethink of JAFI's strategic plan worthy of the trash can? Do Federation boards have the connections, knowledge and tools to reflect and act on some of these questions? Where is the forum or room for such discussions?

But ok that not's fun and ideas give us headaches which are not good for card carrying machers. I get it. So I offer the following opening gambit:

"Misha, Jerry, Richard and Kathy walk into a bar..."

Anonymous said...

You see, Richard, all that's wrong at JAFI (and at JFNA) is your fault, you and other critics who are just out to blacken the name and work of JAFI (and JFNA). Yeah, sure, blame the critics and don't for one second engage in any self-examination. Because everything is just fine with our management, our leadership and our governance.

Of course it is. So you and all of the others who raise questions or suggest alternate solutions, JUST SHUT UP AND LEAVE US ALONE. We're doing just fine; just ask us.

Anonymous said...

I was at the Teen Summit in Atlanta that preceded the BBYO/NFTY/USY/Young Judea conferences. I also attended the opening ceremony/plenary session of the teen groups. I'm not sure how old your granddaughter is but it is clear to me that she definitely counts better than Jerry (or perhaps Jerry just forgot that when you count the feet you need to divide by two to determine how many people that represents. By the way, for the record each organization has actual names of people present and in your granddaughters estimation I suspect the actual list totals less than a rounding error different than her estimation. The only reason she may be off slightly is that there also were some adults from Atlanta Jewish federation present. By the way it would be informative to know what, if anything, Jerry actually contributed to the Summit or the convention since I only saw him in passing and really don't recall any time that he spoke. Oh,I know, he was there to shmooze up the major philanthropists and also learn how to improve the pathetic GA's that now occur under his leadership.

Anonymous said...

Let's see, what did Jerry contribute to the Teen Summit? Ummm, what he contributes to each and, everything he touches? Nothing?

Anonymous said...

The whole numbers game reminds of how when "Rev" Farrakhan held the Million Man March in DC. He said that the goal was achieved, but the US Park Service disputed the claim based upon satellite photos etc. Perhaps they can be of assistance to the next time a JFNA event needs numbers. It may be far more effective and on target.

Anonymous said...

you may mean well (I hope you do) but this resulting publicity is certainly not helping anything...

RWEX said...

To the last Anonymous:

What, in your opinion, would be "helpful" to the Jewish Agency at this point? Continued silence? Pretending all is well?

Anonymous said...

Misha in exile...Elba on the Gowanus. Or, as Leonard Cohen wrote, "he's just some Joseph looking for a manger"...

Lou Feldstein said...

Richard, Multiple professionals with both BBYO and NFTY affirmed the numbers your granddaughter reported. I had the pleasure of teaching on Saturday afternoon when the BBYO and NFTY teens came together for joint learning. True collaboration and amazing impact seeing teens from different movements coming together. Imagine if all the rabbinic movements actually held their conferences in the same city, on the same days, or even better if the GA and he JCC conferences were held jointly. Not only would the numbers be actually higher, but the discussions of real value.