Monday, March 23, 2015


I read with interest the impassioned defense of a Jewish Education and Engagement Planning Unit  within and of JFNA in ejewishphilanthropy.
This piece of fiction was written over the by-line of Marcie Orley, the current Chair of the National Federation/Agency Alliance, and, somehow, in its arguments for creating such a Unit within JFNA, to be operated by JFNA, the following claims were made:

  1. Federations are clamoring for just what JFNA proposed here
  2. JFNA is perfectly positioned as the organization of and for the federations to go operational in this area and "...provide direction, guidance and resources to local federations..."
  3. It will operate with " active lay advisory committee" and
  4. The Alliance has committed three years of funding at $510,000 per year
Nowhere in Marcie Orley's defense of this indefensible "plan" and the financing thereof is there any mention made of JFNA's woeful support of the now liquidated JESNA -- in fact, it's as if JESNA never existed -- which is exactly how JFNA and the Alliance treated JESNA during JESNA's years of existence. Let's examine the reality of numbered paragraphs 1-4, above:
  1. The Orley article ignores the reality that the Alliance paid $308,000* to an unidentified consultant** to "study" and "report" on the need for this endeavor. Does your federation want the Continental system to pay $510,000 per year of your donors' funds for a Unit of such ambiguity? For a paper Unit lacking any relevant detail? Of course not. But neither JFNA nor the Alliance have much else to do (or, apparently, fund);
  2. JFNA, which has never operated anything, and has succeeded at nothing, apparently has been cloaked with magic powers sufficient to convince the Alliance leadership that it is capable of leading both an educational and an "engagement" effort. If you believe in magic, raise your hand. (The only "magic" I have seen JFNA capable of is their leaders ability to make $30 million disappear each year into thin air.);
  3. JESNA could not operate with an esteemed lay Board with a great educator at the helm, now this Unit won't even have that; it will be strictly a professional-driven effort (I know, lay people just get in the way, they always want information and input). JFNA will be furthering the distance between itself and those who fund it;
  4. The Alliance was created to plan and increase funding for National Agencies. Now it will divert funding from the very National Agencies it was created to Fund to provide significant (but inadequate -- look at JESNA's annual funding requirements [which proved inadequate]) funding away from its so-called "partners" to nothing more than a professional group within JFNA itself. 
Being the cynic I am, and looking at this "effort" from experience, I view the creation of a Unit within JFNA as nothing more than another effort by certain federations to "control" continental Jewish education efforts just as they succeeded in gaining "control" of the Continental organization -- and look how well that has gone. JESNA never received the support it needed because of its very independence from the federations. After all the federations are the smartest guys in the room, aren't they...aren't they?

If JFNA -- not the feeble Alliance, the most feeble JFNA  -- were sincere about the need for a continental approach to Jewish education, I would suggest, with all due respect, that it immediately convene a national discussion on the Jewish Future of Jewish Education in North America, bringing together Jewish educators at all levels, leaders of The Foundation for Jewish Camp, the Harold Grinspoon Foundation and leaders of the PJ Library effort, the leaders of the Jim Joseph Foundation and the Lippman Kanfer Family Foundation (and others), Jonathan Woocher and other thought leaders in Jewish education, and see what recommendations flow from such a conclave -- I seriously doubt that a recommendation will emerge that JFNA operate a Unit. 

Friends, there are ways to do these things; it's just that JFNA always chooses the wrong one.


* That's $308,000 that could/should have been allocated to a National Agency, the supposed and once the "partners" in the "National Agencies Alliance" but which have now become merely witnesses to the kidnapping of the Alliance by JFNA.

** Just who was this Consultant and why won't the Alliance release his/her name?


Anonymous said...

"Grinspoon" not "Greenspoon"

Anonymous said...

How about including the "partners" of JFNA that are already providing Jewish education around the world. If I'm not mistaken JAFI is involved in the Diaspora and certainly World ORT,

Anonymous said...

Based on previous experience, If the Alliance had agreed to allocate the same $510,000 to JESNA, it would have been leveraged by at least an equal and probably double that amount in contributions from JESNA Board members, foundation grants, and earned income. Will the unit at JFNA get that support? From whom?

Anonymous said...

Who defined Jewish identity as the number one priority of the Federation system? Why is not the study prepared by a consultant shared with Federations and if it has been why Richard can you not secure a copy of it? There was a well attended day long consultation during the consulting process. Woocher was there and many foundations were present. On the spot written feedback was solicited. What came out of that day and does it jive with the final decision?

Anonymous said...

These so-called leaders should take the $510,000 and the wasted $308,000 thrown at a consultant and send it to the Joint and JAFI to assist the Jews of the Ukraine -- for whom JFNA has done absolutely nothing.