Tuesday, May 19, 2015


1. Let's begin this Post with examples of what Federations have done in the face of the broad assault by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions extremists on things we hold sacred. And please excuse my pride that one of these federations in question is my own. Yesterday, the State of Illinois House of Representatives, responding to an initiative of Illinois' new Governor, Bruce Rauner, and the Jewish United Fund of Chicago, assured by a vote of 102-0, that Illinois will immediately become the first State "...to adopt legislation countering the BDS movement." The legislation, previously passed unanimously by the Illinois Senate and now pending our Governor's signature, will require five State pension funds to divest from companies that boycott Israel. Here we have an example of how to turn the BDS effort on its proverbial head -- it's simple, it's a small step, but it's a major beginning to turn momentum to the pro-Israel community.*

And then there is Tennessee where at the initiative of the Nashville Federation, anti-BDS legislation was passed on April 24: "With strong bi-partisan support, the Tennessee General Assembly has passed a resolution condemning the boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and the worldwide increase in anti-Semitism." Even earlier this year a similar Resolution was enacted in Nevada.

For those of you who would ask what role our JFNA played in the efforts here -- none.  Nothing --  JFNA, beyond its constant references to aid to Nepal, did manage to publish a sentence on the the JUF initiative (!!) in its brand spanking new waste of time FedWorld on May 15. Meanwhile this JUF-Chicago effort and those in Tennessee and Nevada must...must...become part of a national federation movement and, certainly, with the expertise at the Israel Action Network, that's where the action will take place. State-by-state, federations, through their CRC network or through their legislative offices, will use the Illinois, Nevada and Tennessee examples as  best practices and, ultimately, at the Congressional level as well where anti-BDS legislation is pending adoption as well.

The Playbook, including a grass roots letter-writing and phone calling effort, is right there for the doing...but not by JFNA.

2. Then there's the always stupefying CEO who on his travels continues to dissemble unlike anyone in his position anywhere/anytime. Clearly he will say anything to get him through the meeting in which he finds himself. Most recently, with the data set forth in our Post The End of the Collective fresh at hand, CEO Jerry I-Can't-Count-But-Watch-Me-Make-Stuff-Up has been telling audiences that "the range" of overseas allocations is from 10%-40% with a national average of 30% "on a campaign of $900 million." Not one...that's nary a one -- of those statistics is correct (unless one...that's ONE...federation allocating almost 38% including designated gifts creates a "range") and the national average allocation according to the most recent data available, sadly, is just over 20% rather than 30% -- the average allocation hasn't approached 30% since Jerry Silverman joined the disaster to which he has contributed so much. Specifically, and again according to the most recent figures provided by JFNA itself, core allocations for Large Cities average was 21.8% and for Large Intermediates, 21.2%.** 

At one meeting, in response to a question about the sharp decline in donors during Jerry's 5+ years, he had the chutzpa to assert that "federations in the 1990s made a conscious decision that it was more expensive to focus on small donors rather than on major donors" as if (a) that were true (it wasn't/isn't) and (b) this would excuse the huge percentage decrease in donors during Silverman's years of negative leadership. All this answer evidences is how little Jerry Silverman, awarded a new CEO contract for no apparent reason other than convenience, knows about our system, its history or its present.

These misrepresentations are bad enough in the abstract; in context, they are even worse because Silverman probably believes them.

Everything about this most recent series of misstatements reminds me of what Cousin Vinnie said after cross-examining a particularly stupid witness in the classic My Cousin Vinnie: "I'm done wit' dis guy." Shouldn't we all be?

3. Then...there is this. The following is the complete statement of Michael Siegal and Dede Feinberg on May 13:
"Dear Colleagues,

Today, Vatican and Palestinian leaders met to advance a discussion that began in 2000 to produce a treaty that refers to a Palestinian state. The meeting, which has been reported by news outlets including The Washington Post and The New York Times, was met with “disappointment” by the Israeli government. “This move does not advance the peace process,” they said, “and further distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct and bilateral negotiations.” 

At this time, the Obama Administration has not commented on the discussions. If a statement becomes available, we will distribute it.

Remember -- this was the complete JFNA statement. Or, as some might ask: WTF? Was there supposed to be an opinion paragraph that was lost in translation? Or was this just like a newspaper story -- telling us something we already knew. As Tablet pointed out, before the JFNA WTF?: this "recognition" first took place in 2012.


* For an insightful and full discussion of the Illinois effort, read Jay Tcath's, Jewish Federation of Chicago's Executive Vice-President and one of the point persons on this effort, op-ed in today's Chicago Tribune at http://eeditionmobile.chicagotribune.com/Olive/Tablet/ChicagoTribune/Default.aspx

** These are the results at year-end 2013 only because JFNA has released only 2013 allocations by community data. Trust me, the year-end 2014 results will only be worse given that total allocations to JAFI, JDC and World ORT reduced significantly once again in 2014.


Anonymous said...

JFNA is worthless to me as a federation Chair and to my community. The "Statement" from Siegal and Feinberg is as worthless as is this FedWorld -- absolutely without added value. Now, under its new Budget -- has anyone read that thing -- JFNA wants an additional $700,000 in Dues. I will recommend to my Board that we end our membership in JFNA if the organization does not immediately downsize to reflect its value to my federation and all others.

Anonymous said...

Go to the upcoming Board meeting and be bold and announce it there!!!!

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, it is also the Federations' job to get Israel to stop alienating itself from a growing number of American Jews.

I am fine with these anti-BDS moves but as a stand-alone these are self-defeating moves that will further cause Israel to entrench itself. They must be accompanied by pressure from American Jewish organizations such as JFNA on Israel that its current policies cannot continue ad nauseum without severe consequences.

paul jeser said...

Anonymous 6:50pm shows he has no clue. Feds do not support Israel (the country, the gov't). They support institutions. Thus they may have influence on those institutions, but not on the government.

Anonymous 6:50pm shows he has no clue - Israel is a democracy and the government is elected by the people. The Feds have no say in that decision - as they should not have.

Anonymous 6:50pn shows he has no clue - The alienation of American Jews has more to do with American Jewish Leadership than with Israel decision making. As long as the Reform movement elects as its head a JStreet supporter and most JSteeters are Reform/Conservative Jews (mostly Reform) then the alienation will continue (i.e., the co-Chair of the JStreet Rabbinical Council, a Reform Rabbi from LA, recently compared Israel with an "addicted drunk"). There is NO alienation from within the traditional and REAL pro-Israel communities because, partly, their leadership does not constantly criticize Israel.

If Anonymous 6:50 thinks the democratically elected government of Israel is making mistakes, then the only course he has to fix those mistakes is to make aliyah, pay taxes, serve in the IDF. Then he will have the right (and obligation) to influence government decision making.