Thursday, March 5, 2015


As we celebrate Purim, it is critical that I preface the clickbait below with a caution: these brief "shpiels" are all true:

1. When communal leaders speak of the "tension" between federations and their agencies, they might wish to ponder a recent event in Los Angeles. As reported in the LA Jewish Journal, last fall the LA Federation CEO, Jay Sanderson, attended a Board meeting with a JCC -- called Hillel 818 -- with a $300,000 budget of which Federation provided $215,000. Jay reportedly told the assembled leadership:
"Fire yourselves and allow Federation and Hillel International to help select new board members and a new director or Federation won't fund Hillel 818 for the upcoming...year."
Earlier last year, when the LA Federation "disapproved" of the promotion of a Hillel 818 professional, it withheld all funds until that leader, elected by the JCC Board, was gone.

Ultimately, this change of leadership at a Hillel serving 8,000 students may turn out to be for the best. Short term, it is clear that the broader community anywhere is ill-served where Federation plays the heavy, the Goliath to the agency David. In this case, Federation leverage trumped Federation judgment. Was there a better way? We'll never know.

2. Speaking of "judgment" (or the lack thereof)...It was recently reported that the Milwaukee Jewish Federation's CEO, who seems bound and determined to turn that Federation from its core purposes, joined a " of US activists offering to take 100 lashes each in place of a Saudi blogger punished for criticizing his country's clerics..." as reported in The Algeminer. That federation's fund raising is down the tubes, its allocations for Israel and overseas needs reduced in a Draconian matter (as I have written about before) -- the community needs a professional leader committed to the communal values inherent in federation qua federation. Maybe this CEO, so dedicated to liberal values could better serve Milwaukee by switching roles and becoming the Milwaukee Community Relations Council Director. (Perhaps it was in that guise that this person found the time to travel to Paris on the recent JFNA Solidarity Mission.)

3. In a Post a few weeks ago, on the sad, sad state of JFNA/federation cash efforts in 2014, I footnoted that JFNA itself footnoted its own data: 'Unrestricted for (JAFI/JDC included in electives" and asked for some help in understanding this JFNA-speak. Here is how this was explained to me:
"Many federations are fed up with the lack of (JFNA) willingness to adjust the split. Instead of sending the organizations 'designated' elective funds they are sending portions of their reduced core funds as 'designated' to the agencies of their choice and calling (those) elective funds."
Strange, isn't it, that one of the basic themes of federation ownership of the totality of the continental system was "trust" -- that with ownership would come trust. Now, we are finding that with this leadership, trust has so eroded that federations are finding their own way -- with allocations, with cash, with everything.

4. In its Search for a new CEO in Buffalo, JFNA cited the benefits, among them: "Known for more than just its wings, Buffalo today is at the center of innovation and entrepreneurship." The promotion piece concluded "And here in Buffalo, traffic simply doesn't exist." Yep, come to traffic/great wings.

5. While raising no money for Jews most in need, JFNA has time to fiddle. A FOB sent me a JFNA Facebook entry:
A lively moment in the halls of Jewish Federations of North America; today, a small film crew has descended on our area to set up for a Passover video. Rumor has it that there will lots of cute kids in the video, and riffs on the Passover Four Questions to highlight the flavor of the holiday and the importance of generosity, both of spirit and in supporting Federation so it can support Jewish needs around the world."
[update] Adorable kids are here. And you know it's been a long time since last Passover, since they're genuinely excited to nibble on matzah."
I am not making this stuff up. Wish I were.

6. ... and, also, not so "silly." If you were at or on the phone for the recent JFNA Board meeting, you heard serious questions being raised about the implications of reducing the number of Vice Chairs  to one -- the implications for leadership engagement, representation, etc. As it became clear that this move to further delimit leadership had not been fully thought through, JFNA's leaders essentially told the Board to cease its questioning because. and this was dumb, not silly, the JFNA Executive Committee had approved this change. This is how this leadership thinks. This is why federations, even those paying their full Dues, are going their own way more and more and more.

7. And, in closing...according to the Chinese calendar, 700 million Chinese have caught up with the JFNA Board... for on the Chinese Calendar, the Year of the Sheep has just begun. At JFNA that's this and every Year.

Stay tuned.


To those of you who have asked offline and on the phone whether you have ever heard back from either Siegal or Silverman after my open invitations to each, the answer on this Purim holiday is...nope.


paul jeser said...

From eJewish Philanthropy:

Jewish Federations of North America to Hold 2015 GA in Sin City; Registration Fees Waived
Posted on March 4, 2015

Mikveh to be used by GA guests; Kashrut certified by Queen Sara – who instructed the planning team to have bottle return stations available through-out the hotel

By Mordechai Shushan

The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) announced today that the 2015 GA will be held at Las Vegas’s Dr Miriam Hotel and Casino this coming November. As a special incentive to assist JFNA in reaching their long-claimed – but never achieved – GA attendance numbers, Daddy Sheldon Warbucks (DSW) said he will comp the registration cost of any attendee who commits to voting for the candidate of [DSW’s] choice in 2016.

Featured speakers include the Who’s Who of the Wanna-Bees headlined by @It’sMyTurnJeb.

Reached in Shushan for his reaction to this influential gathering, King Bibi whined, “I wanna speak. I’ll have my boy Ronnie arrange it with Johnny B.”

(In response to a query from pJM about the upcoming GA, JFNA’s CEO Keds Docker thanked DSW for his generosity and reminded us “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”)

Anonymous said...

I was not on the JFNA Board call, but you are telling me that the response from leadership was to stop discussing the issue because the Executive Committee had already approved the change?
And nobody on the phone (Board members all) objected?
If so, 'getting what we deserve' has never been so appropriate.