2. It is rumored that the dedicated and caring philanthropist who has Chaired JAFI's MASA effort in America for years has tendered her resignation. I think all of you who read this Blog understand at least some of the reasons -- many of which start with the name Alan....How does losing the leadership of one of our greatest philanthropists help JAFI, help our People? Does anything cause leadership to ask "why?"
3. Isn't it about time that CEO Never-Met-A-Consultant-I-Didn't-Like provided the JFNA Board with a list of all of the JFNA consultants and their compensation? (That's a rhetorical question.) The list would include not just the $308,000 consultant hired by The Alliance, but all consultants paid for their work on the Global Planning Table and, of course, the contract with Debra Smith, including the work (?) she does for CEO Jerry. I would like to see a list year-by-year of all consultants, as I am sure would you. Why not send the list to every JFNA Board member for a little peek behind the black curtain that has been drawn down to shield that which should be, must be transparent.
When I served on the JFNA Executive Committee, I remember well when Joe Kanfer brought in a consulting firm in for what was to be an "interview" in what proved to be a pre-cooked huge deal. (That firm had the chutzpah to bring a token Jew in to the interview who appeared [to me] to not even know why he was there -- ala a Mad Men Season 1 episode.) I asked a few questions as it became more and more obvious that the deal had already been made -- the questions were not appreciated. The Committee did set a limit to that Consultant contract -- a limit that was later totally ignored as JFNA poured $100s of thousands more into the consultant with no process. Today? There is no longer even an Executive Committee in existence but for years since the mess I just described, to my knowledge not one consultant contract had been vetted with the JFNA Executive Committee. The opportunities for abuse and self-dealing are self-evident.
4. I was reflecting on the horrific and threatening language being used in the last weeks by the President of the United States and his Chief of Staff (and unnamed "sources close to the White House") -- what The Wall Street Journal characterized as "Obama's Israel Tantrum" -- in condemnation of the policies and statements of the Israeli Prime Minister (ignoring the reality that the PM has apologized for or backed away from them) -- reflecting back to the moments before Obama's terms began. You remember, it was a time when two critical organizations -- critical to Israel-American relations -- the Conference of Presidents and AIPAC elected Chairs who had significant ties to the new President. And just how'd that work out? These two men had other leadership qualities to be sure, but...really. From the mouths of those now ex-Chairs have you heard a discouraging word about this President's attacks on Netanyahu and Israel -- then or now? I am certain, if you asked, you would be told that the two organizations believed that "quiet diplomacy" works best and that "Obama has Israel's back". The only problem with "quiet diplomacy?" We don't even know whether it's taking place, do we? Where are leaders like Shoshana Cardin today -- those who know they are in office to represent us not to curry favor with the sitting President? And, in the wake of the silence on their watch there came the rise of J-Street. Merely a coincidence that out of the void created by the then silence of two vital leadership organizations emerged a "pro-peace pro-Israel" organization that is, in reality, neither, but to which the Obama White House could begin to tether itself so as to, among other things, weaken the very organizations upon which the organized Jewish community relied.
Of course, the silence from JFNA could be expected...and that's exactly what we got. More on our, or what was once our, Continental organization's silence in my next Post.
Words have consequences; so does silence.
5. Five days ago, Michael Siegal wrote a passionate summary of the circumstances facing the Jews of the Ukraine. It was a good and brief summary albeit, as friends have pointed out to me, replete with errors, and, as events have continued to cascade, the circumstances facing Jewish communities across Ukraine have grown even more precarious than when Siegal wrote his missive. It spoke to the $2.5 million raised by the Federations to date as if that were (1) a success and (2) the funds were raised by JFNA . Neither is true. (As I recall, $625,000 [or more] of that paltry amount was raised right here in Chicago. JFNA raised nothing...nada...zero.) Michael closed his letter with the following:
"We are making a difference." Sorry, Michael, we're not. There should have been a major effort to raise at least $10 million dollars, instead there no effort to raise a thing...JFNA opened a Mailbox, a stinking Mailbox, and sent out some letters, put it on the Website and, apparently, hoped this "problem" would just disappear. The "problem" has just gotten worse and worse and worse. There was no leadership here, there is no leadership here -- not on the professional side, certainly none by the CEO; and, unless Michael believes "letters=leadership," none on the lay side either. Our Board Chair actually believes that if he writes it, it actually happened.
"This crisis speaks to the most fundamental reasons that Jewish Federations are so critical. We will not turn away. We are making a difference."
Instead of JFNA "making a difference," JFNA made no difference at all, it just turned away.
6. JFNA is now 15 years old and counting. The two main predecessor organizations -- the Council of Jewish Federations and the United Jewish Appeal -- were distinguished over their eras with great achievements. Tell me this, what have the federations done with JFNA other than owning it? Seriously. Can you name a single achievement? In 15 years? (And trying to wipe out all institutional memory is not an achievement.) And over the last decade? Can you name a single Financial Resource Development effort that even met the lowest possible bar that JFNA's leaders have set? Just look at 5. above. This history is catastrophic. And no one in leadership appears to give a damn.
I do. Many of you do.