One of my great friends, a brilliant critic of this Blog, a most generous philanthropist, and, from years of leadership service, a keen analyst of our system -- local, national and international, recently wrote to me off-line: "The management issues at JAFI are virtually and completely analogous to those of JFNA, i.e. driving away great professionals while co-opting deeply committed lay leadership." So true.
And, yet, there are major differences between the two: the Jewish Agency still performs functions of incredible importance to our system, even if the Jewish Agency might perform those functions and operate those programs far better and do a far better job as well of prioritizing, managing and selling them. JFNA, on the other hand, is lost, unable to articulate its purpose(s) or goals and unable to execute the responsibilities that have been assigned to it by our federations and donors.
And their leaders share a common rejection of any and all criticism in the smug, self-serving belief that "all is really going well." Yet, using any fair standard, friends, at 25 Broadway, nothing at all is going right except the delusional belief that all's well. You might have read of a mysterious tunnel discovered in a Toronto park last month -- 33 feet long, fully fitted out with lights, walls, etc. -- and no one knew its purpose, who built it or why. For me this was the "perfect" description of JFNA, fully fitted out with neither beginning nor end and with no evident purpose. Quite the accomplishment.
There are a number of examples of effective, creative and successful professional leadership -- past and present -- at JAFI, at JFNA and most certainly, within our federations where successes can be found, in diminishing numbers, across the Continent. From increased annual campaigns to brilliant new programs -- in lay and professional leadership development, fund-raising Missions, Jewish education, synagogue-federation relations, outreach to intermarrieds, and on and on. The list is a long one. But, at the Continental level it appears that absolutely nothing new is going on -- sure there are excellent conference calls on current events, some nice Seminars for, e.g., planned giving and endowments -- all of which were going on 20 years ago under the banners of CJF, UJA or both -- and we might get a travelogue on some event attended by our Chair and/or CEO without real insight or analysis.
But there is no one at JFNA who even understands that if a new program is exposed on a City-size group call on, say, CEO succession (I'll explain what that is later off-line as I know it is a new and unheard of concept!!), there is no understanding that maybe...just maybe...the program could be "Continentalized!" It's a sad reality that even federation "best practices" which JFNA publicly announced would be promoted broadly from 25 Broadway -- nothing...nada...zero.
Yep, it's business as usual at our Continental organization, at JAFI. And that's a bad thing. Don't expect it to get any better.