Tuesday, April 7, 2015


Among JFNA's favorite things are "Initiatives" -- usually with Initials. They seem to birth one after another  but never to success. Sometimes they are "created" and then sent off into the vapor of "partnerships" -- almost none of them are ever accountable to the federations which are providing most if not all of the funds. And, then there is at least one that is non-existent. Let's look at some of these and try to measure the "results" to date:

  • The JFNA Campus Initiative. I don't know what to call it. It appears not even to exist. You might recall last Summer, JFNA was busy proclaiming how it was somehow a/the "conveyor" of multiple organizations to somehow prepare for what would be a most difficult year on college campuses across the Continent. The reality is that this "effort" -- which was more of a Briefing subject than a real action item for JFNA -- had no impact. In fact, the recent front page NYT article on the outrageous anti-semitic actions of UCLA's student government didn't even merit any public reaction or statement by the usually loquacious buddies -- Siegal/Silverman (who did have time to charm us with their so-called "analysis" of the Netanyahu address to Congress, which, BTW, they attended). If this Initiative does exist, it has either disappeared or failed; probably both.
  • The Israel Action Network (a/k/a the IAN). On a related note, our system created and then poured, and continues to pour, millions into the IAN to fight the continuing and growing invidious boycott, divestment and sanctions activities of those whose hatred for Israel pounds away on campuses, academic organizations, church groups and the like. At its creation, cooked up by the largest of federations' CEOs, it looked to me like a backdoor means of boosting the budget of the historically impotent JCPA by those millions -- the results sure have not matched the investment. Here is how the IAN describes itself: "The Israel Action Network (IAN) is a strategic initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America, in partnership with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, created to counter assaults made on Israel’s legitimacy. Israel today faces an intensive and increasingly sophisticated assault on its right to exist as a sovereign democratic Jewish state." The IAN website is filled with a self-congratulatory set of "accomplishments" that I would sum up as "without us it could have been/would have been worse." How can one respond to that? JCPA "contributes" staff led by long, long, too-long-time Senior V-P Martin Raffel; we contribute money (and, apparently, creative writing). What is your sense of how this "Initiative" is going? My sense is that the IAN and the challenges faced across the Continent require: (a) a total reorganization eliminating JPAC as the "operating partner," and bringing in a pro-active, relevant set of new partners, enhancing the lay cadre (the IAN has a superb lay leader as its Chair but that's it); and (b) providing funding equal to or exceeding the challenges we as a Jewish polity face. 
  • United Against a Nuclear Iran (a/k/a UANI). This "Initiative" was also a brainchild of the creativity of Large City federations -- create an organization to fight for sanctions against Iran in the struggle against a nuclear Iran, keep Jewish organizational leadership out of sight, create a strong international board, a great staff and push hard. So, the CEO is Mark Wallace, a Bush appointee to the UN and probably best known as one of the "handlers" in Sarah Palin's pursuit of the Vice-Presidency as described in Game Change; its President is an impressively credentialed leader. The Board is impressive, the accomplishments not so much. I don't believe we know how much the federation system has quietly plowed into this "Initiative;" we do know that Prime Minister Netanyahu first warned the world about Iran's nuclear intentions in 1993; and UANI began its work in about 2013...and we can all read the papers, can't we? UANI became the first organization to be cited by the NYT within hours of the announcement of the deal to support it.
  • The Secure Communities Network (SCN). Heard a lot about the SCN; it appears to be doing excellent work both on the Continent and now, so we are told, in Western Europe (where the SCN appears to be superfluous given that organized European Jewry has long had a security apparatus in place and, in France, the Jewish Community Security Service [since 1980] the existence neither was JFNA apparently aware, of course). Go to the SCN website and it is clear that SCN is a vehicle either strongly affiliated with JFNA or another of those "partners." I challenge you, however, to go the SCN website (or anywhere else), and locate the lay Officers and Board of this affiliate. Is it possible that the SCN is the best example of the new normal -- a federation-owned, in whole or in part, non-profit that has no known lay leadership whatsoever? I looked further -- found the 2013 (yes, the 2013 990 -- a filing that JFNA has yet to find itself capable of) IRS Form 990, executed by one "Gerald Silverman, Director" and, there it was -- the Co-Chairs: Stephen Hoffman and Malcolm Hoenlein. They decide how the organization's funds are to be spent. No lay leaders. Enough said, I think.
  • The Global Planning Table (the GPT). Oh yeah, that one. Fully thought through? Of course not. Fully funded? Of course not. Best I can tell, the GPT decided to wrest control of the fund raising for its feeble three Initiatives from JFNA -- just a further example of  this tail wagging that dog. 
There are more, of course. All unsuccessful.



Anonymous said...

The Global Planning Table a failure? Well, these "leaders" haven't raised enough to jump start a single one of the "Initiatives," which themselves were't thought through. This is a leadership unworthy of their titles.

Anonymous said...

The SCN may not have the ideal operating model for a non-profit organization, but I can tell you that they are worth their weight in gold. I did a project with them a few years back where our lay people came out much better equipped to handle any type of security emergency that may come upon the community. Paul Goldenberg and Pat Daly were superior.

Anonymous said...

A shadowy larger than life character; not for profit and for profit entities with a dizzying dollar trail; the usual array of folks pulling the strings - one of them always named Steve; explanations that reek of secrecy and hubris. Just another pleasant JFNA Tuesday... And remember folks to change your passwords. Yes, even we paranoids have enemies.

Anonymous said...

We had the Israel Action Network come into our federation when we had a BDS crisis on our local college campus. Their team provided us with very helpful and timely intelligence and guidance, so we didn't need to start from scratch in the midst of a crisis. IAN was truly a life-saver for us -- and given the few thousands we pay to support them, worth every dollar.