Wednesday, June 24, 2015


1. Maybe I missed it. JFNA sent a leadership group on a Solidarity (or maybe it was just "fact-finding") Mission to the Ukraine staying (as JFNA put it on its recruiting link on its website) "near" the on-going hostilities "but not in them." Did you see the self-promotional videos as were produced on the recent one-time and no more "Solidarity Mission" to Paris or the daily bulletins? Did JFNA send a videographer with the Mission as they had done in Paris? Uh uh. JFNA just treated its Mission to the Ukraine as it had treated fund raising for our partners' vital work on the ground in the Ukraine -- as an afterthought of no real importance. If you merely compare the number of pleas for assistance for those in need in Nepal with those for those Jews in need in the Ukraine, that says all about JFNA neglect and lack of purpose. 

When I listened to the report at the recent JFNA Board meeting on the allocations to the JDC and JAFI for their urgent work in Ukraine -- $4.3 million (with another $700,000 "in the pipeline payable over [I think I heard this right] three years!!!") I felt only a sense of shame while JFNA leaders felt like this was "a job well done." Then, the editors of FedWorld -- with no apparent sense of irony - link to a Jerusalem Post article about a "U.S. Jewish aid group calls for more aid for Ukraine refugees" (that's the JDC) while JFNA does nothing.

My skin crawls.

2. Houston. We all are pleased that JFNA granted $250,000 from its Emergency Fund for Houston's Fund Relief effort -- this on top of the initial $25,000 grant. Certainly millions are and will be needed of which $275,000 is but a trickle, but it is the "trickle," at least as I understand it, that the Houston Federation requested from JFNA. In addition, contributions to the Houston Relief Fund at the Houston Federation have been generous but more, so much more, are needed. If you have not done so,

There is approximately $1.655 in the JFNA Emergency Fund after the distributions to Houston. This Fund, created by federation contributions, is dedicated to a specific purpose -- it is the ultimate "rainy day fund." If Houston requires more than the funds heretofore granted from the JFNA Emergency Fund, send it to the community. And do it now -- before someone decides those Funds should be diverted to a Negev Vitality Initiative or the JFNA Budget or a bonus for CEO Jerry.

3. Do These Clowns Do Anything? Or -- "you won't read about this in FedWorld." As reported in ejewishphilanthropy:
"BBYO, Hillel International and Moishe House are teaming up in launching a unique, pioneering global partnership to recruit, train and retain top professionals throughout their organizations. Called the Talent Alliance, this novel collaboration will link 780 Jewish communal professionals in 37 countries together in a global ecosystem designed to promote rising stars in these Jewish nonprofits."
Got that? BBYO, Hillel International and Moishe House are engaged in what should be, used to be, once was the work of the federations' national (now continental) organization. Friends, it's reached beyond the status of farce, beyond the state of tragedy into the state of the surreal. Beyond the Washington Office (which continues to produce incredible results for our system), these people are doing nothing, accomplishing nothing for our donors or our communities.

Let's just hand them Dues and more Dues and close our eyes to the reality of a do nothing organization wasting our precious funds. That's us.

4. Which Is Most Feckless Now? So I spoke too soon. I condemned the New York Knicks as the most feckless organization of all a few weeks ago for hiring Isaiah Thomas, found liable for sexual harassment in his previous role with the organization, as President of the New York Liberty, the Knicks'-owned team in the Women's NBA. Then, just this week, the Knicks' management suspended Thomas's hiring. This leaves...trumpets, please...JFNA once again the most feckless -- yes, the fecklessest -- organization in the world.

5. Do These Clowns Do Anything?...continued. Here's the kind of narishkeit you will find in a typical edition of FedWorld (which, as it turns out, not surprisingly as so little to do with what federations do):

Fed News

A new study finds that wealthy donors have given more than $4 billion to nonprofit organizations so far in 2015, a $700 million increase from the first five months of 2014. Actor Michael Douglas arrives in Israel to accept the Genesis Prize honoring his work in the Jewish community.
Meanwhile, Federations are featured in New York, Orlando, Orange County and Birmingham.
25 years after the renewal of diplomatic relations between Poland and Israel, the country’s Jewish community is thriving. Canadian Jewish community leaders and a group of Holocaust survivors meet with representatives from Eastern European countries to discuss restitution of war-era property. George Galloway, the former British MK who declared his town an “Israel-free zone,” announces he will run for mayor of London.
I am not sure, being an "avid" reader of this thing, that the anonymous authors even know what federations do. A link to a JFNA fav -- Birmingham's long-time CEO, Richard Friedman -- in an op-ed tribute to Birmingham's young staffers by their boss, is great...but certainly isn't enough. FedWorld is another JFNA in microcosm -- irrelevant, without apparent purpose (other than to promote JFNA, the brand), and worthless.

A correspondent recently suggested: 
"Richard you should look at the powerful work the NY and LA Feds are doing in Israel to help heal the people independent of JFNA."

Of course that's exactly what FedWorld should be doing -- telling us what the Federations are doing.
Our JFNA, wasting your money on itself.



Anonymous said...

I cannot think of another communal organization that wastes more professional time and our money on less than does JFNA. It is remarkable that there is never a cry of outrage except on these pages. Is this because Federation CEOs secretly wish their Boards would let them waste money like JFNA; is this because the lay leadership has blinders on? Why? Why? Why?

Anonymous said...

I would be curious to know how much the organization spends on travel, etc for staff. In addition, where are the outcomes from such travel when it comes to meeting the mission of the organization and actually facilitating mitzvot?

Anonymous said...

Please stop doing these Updates. Each time you do one you illustrate the absurdities and futilities of wasted Dues on a wasting organization. e ought to do something about it of course but we're just too busy in our communities (including yours) to be bothered. We need a cntinental organization and we just don't care how terrible it is. So stop reminding us.

Anonymous said...

You have cited some of the patheticisms that JFNA produces in abundance. Doesn't it seem to be a basic truth that JFNA senior professionals produce almost nothing of value because the lay leadership holds them to no standards, requires of them nothing. That may create an environment at JFNA HQ where nothing is made into something -- where raising $4.3 million for Ukraine Jewry when, probably, $25 million is needed at a minimum can be cited as an accomplishment; where a FedWorld can be viewed as an important contribution to the system; where a Jerry Silverman can be a CEO; and on and on.

Makes you want to scream.

Anonymous said...

To Anon #2 and the question about the amount spent on JFNA Staff travel and the measurable outcomes from such travel: Jerry's credo has always been accountability and strategic measurable outcomes for any travel (expense) outside of 25 Broadway.
So, starting with Jerry, how about someone on the JFNA Board (preferably):
1. Asking if accountability is still an operating priority at JFNA, and
2. What were the measurable outcomes of Jerry's trips over the last 2 years (I think it would be too painful to go back 6 years)?
I would like to think that every time Jerry returned from a federation (since Day 1 of his employment), he debriefed the senior staff on what he learned and what that particular federation was expecting from JFNA, based on Jerry's visit.......and that the information was immediately entered into Raiser's Edge.

Anonymous said...

To the 10:44 pm anonymous: thanks for giving me a great pre-weekend laugh! I especially liked the last phrase.