Wednesday, May 13, 2015


On May 6, JFNA's epic publication FedWorld announced a major allocations decision as follows:
 "THE OPERATION PROTECTIVE EDGE COMMITTEE made its final $6.1 million allocation of the funds raised by Federations to help Israelis cope with and recover from last summer’s conflict. The committee will continue to provide oversight and evaluation of funded programs. Heartfelt thanks to outgoing co-chairs Susie Stern, of New York, and Heschel Raskas, of St. Louis."
Perhaps only coincidentally, shortly thereafter, an Anonymous Commentator wrote the following: 
"Did a JFNA Committee or some group within JFNA make a decision to divert millions pledged during Operation Protective Edge from aid to the victims of terror to be used in the Negev for undefined purposes. Did they do so without any JFNA governance action and without communicating this diversion to the federations or federation donors who had dedicated these millions for another purpose entirely? Who authorized these acts and under what authority?
If these actions are true, what trust can we have in JFNA whatsoever?"
 If the allegations of the Anonymous Commentator above are true -- and I honestly hope they are not -- then JFNA would have enabled a process that corrupts our system. No one has the right to divert donors' funds intended for one purpose to another without the consent of the donor. Our organizations' sacred responsibility is to the donor -- though I wouldn't expect most of the current crop of professionals to understand that, I would expect that Susie Stern and Heschel Raskes would have.

$6.1 million is a major allocation -- too major to be merely "announced" without any detail whatsoever, and without any review and ratification by a governance body -- in fact it would be a perfect function for an Executive Committee but, sadly and of course, JFNA has decided in its wisdom to do away with its Executive Committee.

With all of that as preamble, I decided to inquire of the JFNA Board Chair and the Chair of Israel and Overseas -- and I learned that while there was some controversy in the allocations process, leadership engaged in what has been characterized as "robust debate" within an open process in which the major funding communities of Operation Protective Edge FRD participated along with other federation leadership. Apparently there was dissent but the allocations decisions were consensual and the Committee Co-Chairs assured a fair result. (Board Chair Siegal, in an email response to me on which, CEO Jerry was copied, promised me that I wold receive a print-out breaking down the allocations of the $6.1 million. Here it is, one week later, and I have received...nothing!! Unfortunately, this is typical.)

Sure, there are legitimate questions that can be raised about the flip of millions of dollars from terror relief by JFNA essentially to itself through its dormant Negev Work Group and Negev Funding Coalition; whether these millions might not be better held in a Terror Relief Fund escrow for future emergencies and, thereby, remain true to the donors' intent especially when the fund raising for Operation Protective Shield fell far below any reasonable goal and, as reported last week from Gaza in Tablet, actions there are "creeping toward another explosion;" and whether JFNA is merely attempting through this reallocation to revivify the futile, bloated silo of its Israel Office. I hope, but do not know that those issues were part of the Committee's debate. 

But we as a Continental Jewish polity should be satisfied that the allocations decisions were fairly arrived at with the right leaders in on the decision. If only all of JFNA's decisions were arrived at in similar fashion.



Anonymous said...

Richard, How can you so blithely dismiss the absolute certainty that Terror Relief funds will be vital in what will certainly be another war. One only need the New York Times article today, May 13, on Hezbollah preparations for war in Southern Lebanon, to know that diverting funds intended for Terror Relief to an underfunded, non-funded Negev Hub is just JFNA funding itself. Is this how we treat our donors intent?

Anonymous said...

i guess it was hard to make a decision so staff suggested they give $2.5 Million to themselves and the JFNA committee went along with them - donors gave to an emergency fund and ended up contributing to an ongoing project and continued empire-building...

Anonymous said...

Is it appropriate or right that the incoming Board Chair's community owed millions in unpaid JFNA dues as recently as 4 years ago much of which were written off in a secret deal as their annual dues payments were significantly reduced without disclosure, let alone explanation?

Anonymous said...

Richard, why would Michael, the Board Chair, direct Silverman to send you the allocations breakdown and then Jerry just ignores him? Where in any organization does a professional ignore the chief volunteer officer? It's petty, it's stupid, it's unacceptable.

RWEX said...

I am advised by those in Los Angeles who would know that not only did the Sandler/Sanderson lay-professional partnership in Los Angeles put the community on a path to success in so many areas, but past and present Dues are current and there have been no "secret deals" with JFNA.