Friday, April 3, 2015


Friends, one of you offered an Anonymous response to my pre-Pesach Post. Its insights are worthy of repetition here:
"Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "THE PATHETIC NOW":

1. The JFNA has no voice on the Iranian deal because the federations it serves have no voice and no role. Federations have zero political clout (70 Daroff WH visits + Silverman's 12 that have achieved ?? are but samples of this), and zero political advocacy mechanisms or expertise. JFNA can issue all the statements it wants. Zero influence.

1a. What's with Daroff banging his own chest on Facebook about being the #1 Jewish White House visitor? His modesty is such that he explains that two Jews that had more visits (Saperstein and Diament) didn't count as they serve on an Obama's faith-based council.
All self promotional, Potomac fever perception building with little to show that's commensurate with the expenditure + visit frequency.
I don't see any chest banging from AIPAC, which actually can demonstrate what it does with the legislative and executive branches.

2. Regarding Max Kleinman. Exceptional professional who's served with distinction. But even Max can't sell that which has no market. This isn't about how good of a salesperson we have. The GPT may or may not have been a good idea. But the concept wasn't developed with genuine buy-in and commitment from federations. So it stands to reason that proposals emanating from the GPT (after years of tortuous deliberations) would land poorly. Tranquility Bay to Houston -- the federations aren't bought in. Time to move on.

3. Our system is without a focus and apparently incapable of developing one and pursuing it relentlessly. European Jewry is smoldering if not on fire (in a few countries, it's a five-alarm). Holocaust survivors are hungry and living in squalor (even in Israel!). And the Jewish future? How's that looking? These are three major opportunity areas that are begging for focus and collective action.

Let's hope our federation system finds the afikomen this year. We won't find it unless we actively look.

Zissen Pesach to all."

Well and sadly said.



Sam said...

AIPAC has influence? Not with this White House - and given the 70+ who walked out on Bibi, I'd say they don't have as much influence with Congress as they used to either! At least Daroff has the sway and access to get JFNA into the discussions at the top of the Washington game. Whether you are a right winger or a left winger in Washington, you know him and respect him. He's exactly what we need to cut through the partisan BS that paralyzes our country, and frankly, have made AIPAC into a stalking horse for the GOP and the Likud. Give me Darroff's smart and saavy 'post-partisanship' any day of the year!

Anonymous said...

Surprised that the writer takes aim at the one part of JFNA that pays dividends to the federation system. When our federation discusses our annual dues, the fact that we receive more money back from Washington than we pay in, makes all the difference in the world. The Washington Action Office has brought us homeland security money, NORC money, and money to help our holocaust survivors. To do that at a time when no Jewish organizations are finding new government money is a miracle. While the rest of 25 Broadway is doing I don't know what, at least we know William Daroff is doing something, including making sure my federation is heard in the White House and in Congress.

RWEX said...

Normally, I might offer a snarky "Thanks, Mrs. Daroff," for the Comment above but (a) I like and respect William and (b) it's a holiday so I am in, at least for me, a positive mood. But, come on, what did those 51 or 70 or whatever the number of White House visits contribute to the advancement of the federation cause or any program thereof? (And, to say that without these visits, "things would have been worse" is not an answer.) And the phrase "post-partisanship" in the context of Washington D.C. today is as oxymoronic as "airplane food."

As much as any organization, we need successes. Let's be specific with our praise -- or our criticism.

RWEX said...

The second Anon offers a good start at substance. Thanks

Anonymous said...

1. AIPAC is first and foremost a congressional lobbying and grassroots organizing organization. And they are among the best (NRA, AARP etc) at their core mission. Influencing a lame duck administration is a challenge under the best of circumstances. I bet many of the 70 who walked out are looking for ways to show their support.

Sure you can poke holes here or there in AIPAC and no question AIPAC at times has been diverted (if not hijacked) by Republicans and Likudniks in its leadership (lest we forget AIPAC's lack of support for Labor Govt. peace initiatives.) From an organizational strength perspective, take a look at AIPAC versus the federation system over the past decade or two. Yes, a single issue is easier. Yes, AIPAC is still tiny compared to the entire federation system (although if you looked at cost-to-dollars delivered, AIPAC blows us away). Fair enough. But AIPAC has brought focus and relentless determination. We need to do that within the context of our broader agenda. AIPAC membership, fundraising and activism have been growing, not shrinking like the federation system. The other organizations that seem to be (or recently were) on growth trajectories are JDC and JNF. Let's ask ourselves, what are they doing that we aren't? What about their structure/governance allows them to achieve focus and determined execution while we are stuck for over a decade?

I'm sure we can argue over this or that. But anybody who'd take the WAO and the non existent federation grassroots and political network over AIPAC is either shamefully protecting a favorite institutions or delusional.

1a. I wasn't taking aim at the WAO. I did perhaps overreact to Daroff's unseemly chest thumping -- which is the opposite of how smart and successful political/policy operatives conduct themselves. Daroff and his team are good people. Yes, they do a lot of good. Yes it's important. Can we still ask questions? Can we still demand value each year? That's not being personal is it?
Take nothing away from norcs (wasn't that a decade ago and under a prior WAO regime anyway?) and homeland security funds. The social services funds flowing through the federal/state/local social services system would flow with our without the WAO (it's at the state or local level where the allocation of dollars takes place). Do we really know what the WAO delivers that wouldn't happen otherwise? I wasn't suggesting doing away with the WAO. Again, my strong reaction is to the unadulterated "me, me, me" of WH visit narishkeit that lacks smart DC sensibilities. Post partisan? What? Sounds clever but what does it really mean? Absolutely gornischt in a city that is hyper partisan. I have no doubt that Daroff and his team are well liked and personally respected and deservedly so. But as a political advocacy voice and force? The political respect isn't there (mostly because the capacity to reward and punish aren't there). And I don't mean that as a slight. The WAO isn't set up for that. It's probably most important for WAO and associated layleaders to get their WH invites and take their pictures. At least that gives the impression of DC presence and access. Game-changing advocacy and the political clout to enforce it? That's AIPAC.

2. Anyway, the WAO is not the core challenge facing us. Lack of focus and critical mass to deliver on our focus is the challenge. Lack of total commitment to a concise and action-oriented definition of JFNA's mission is the challenge.

Anonymous said...

Watching this from afar. Not sure why the writer has issues with Daroff about the verbiage about Saperstein and Diament. That's in the original article in the Jewish Journal. If there's an issue with the fact that the article states he's the top Jewish activist being invited to the White House who is not an Obama Administration appointee, seems like the writer should take it up with the Jewish Journal, or with the White House. See: