Thursday, July 30, 2015


It just gets worse.

You may recall that when Jerry-being-Jerry was still unaware of what JFNA would be, his predecessor, demanding absolute fealty, began constructively terminating the entire Financial Resource Development professional staff. One after another, superb professionals were forced out -- each of whom landed on her/his feet, thank G-d, and each has proved their professional brilliance in other venues. To demonstrate how totally removed JFNA distanced itself from its  core responsibilities to "raise more dollars/more donors," that CEO, before his contract was not renewed, placed FRD in the hands of the professional leader of what was then "UJC Consulting."

And...then came Silverman.

Jerry Silverman continued the emasculation of continental fund raising, rebranding it as "Philanthropic Resources," assuring that the organization was only in charge of cheer leading, and leaving the professional void to fester and grow. Then, as if there had been some message from on high, JFNA announced the hiring of, first, Matt Freedman, an experienced campaigner from the Baltimore federation, and Dr. Rueben Romirowsky, from the New York UJA-Federation. Yet, these two pros had to make it up as they went along -- there was no leadership to offer them guidance or support their efforts. Last year, Freedman left and, now...

...on two weeks notice, after professionally leading the JFNA 2015 Campaign Chairs/Campaign Directors Mission, Dr. Rueben Romirowsky, Senior Vice-President, Philanthropic Resources, appeared to have been summarily terminated, told to vacate his office two weeks later. Now, I don't know if Rueben was doing a great or competent or terrible job -- I do know that he never had a chance with a CEO who viewed FRD as an after-thought in a system that desperately needs a vital continental FRD effort. And, then, two weeks to vacate his office? How about two weeks for "Jerry-being-Jerry" vacating his?

Silverman, in announcing Romirowsky's departure,* endorsed the engagement of Vicki Agron, once the Continental system's professional leader of Financial Resource Development, to ostensibly lead a consulting effort to try to make sense out of the moribund JFNA FRD effort:
"A consultant to or having advised scores of local, national and international Jewish non-profits, Vicki comes well prepared for this consulting assignment.  We look forward to her help in building a top notch team and aligning JFNA’s fundraising support services to meet Federation needs that will serve us well into the future.  She will begin on August 3."**
I wish Vicki every success just as I predicted on these pages the disaster her departure from JFNA in 2008 meant for FRD in the organization. But will she be able to " in building a top notch team and aligning JFNA's fundraising support services to meet federation needs" when those she may try to attract realize that they will be reporting, ultimately, to Jerry "We-Don't-Raise-No-Money-and-Never-Will" Silverman?

Upon discovering this latest example of dysfunction at 25 Broadway, one clever Blog Commentator wrote:
"FedWorld July 28 2015 NewsFlash

"JFNA's roadmap to fundraising has been paved. Agron is Back! Yes, Vicki Agron is back on the team and disco is en vogue. Agron will be flanked by Max Kleinman, retired CEO of MetroWest and Bob Aronson, the same from Detroit. What a team!! Jerry, you got vision! It's been heard that Jeronamoe is in the process of bringing back Elton Kerness and David Agronin. Stanley Horowitz was unavailable. What's old is new. Now that's a Fedovation! Hashem help us."
These names brought back many memories. Then...I thought, how cynical it is that Silverman, knowing that now that there is no one populating FRD at JFNA, reaches out to Vicki Agron so that he can claim that he has "a plan;" when, of course, he, as always, has none. Absolutely none. And, you, Michael Siegal, do you have even a clue at how you continue to be played? Do you read what's on the Memos/Briefings you sign?

 When JFNA reached out to Fort Worth's Harold Gernsbacher, a truly good man, as National Campaign Chair, I don't know what Harold was promised, but, whatever it was, here's what he's got -- a totally defenestrated FRD/Philanthropic Resources Department with, allegedly, a huge budget...and no staff. The JFNA 2015-2016 Budget allocated $17,718,000 to "FRD Impact Program Expenses." With no staff. "Inspiring Major Gifts" alone would double under that Budget to $7,000,000. With no staff.*** A joke. It appeared to this writer that all JFNA did was take a Financial Resource Development "Business Plan" drafted by a National Campaign Chair with no evident engagement in National Campaign planning or execution (he was not even on the JFNA Campaign Cabinet) and incorporated it into the JFNA Budget as if it were real...that may have made the National Campaign Chair feel great; but it...meant...nothing. is where JFNA stands: it has no senior professionals in Financial Resource Development; the Senior professional at the Network...gone; the long-serving Senior professional of Planned Giving and Endowment...gone -- there is nobody home...nobody. It is as if Rieger and Silverman (the latter with the connivance of Paul Kane -- finally we know what Kane was doing there) decided to destroy the Continental FRD effort -- one, Rieger, with intent; the other, Silverman, through willful negligence. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall....Never have so few done so so much damage to so many.

Based on the evidence that the worse Jerry Silverman does, the more he deserves, let's give "Jerry-being-Jerry" another contract extension.


* For reasons unclear, both Silverman and Michael Siegal sent out the identical letter over their respective signatures to apparently different constituencies. 
** It is unbelievable but Silverman/Siegal announced that Vicki Agron will begin her consulting role on August 3 -- Reuben Romirowsky vacates his office on August 2. I guess to the master mismanager this is "continuity."
*** There is one senior campaign staffer remaining at 25 Broadway -- Beverly Woznica, who leads the "Recognition Societies" effort, a superb professional,

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


One Anonymous correspondent accurately captured my own sense of the decline in our system when he explained an earlier Comment:
"I didn't say the system didn't have the best and brightest. I said the best and brightest aren't coming. Perhaps there was a time when top notch Jews came to work for federations. Today, it's not the case -- and in many communities it's not just that top notch professional aren't interested, in many community with smaller Jewish populations, it's very difficult to find a pool of candidates for a federation job. It is common knowledge that federations are lousy places to work. 
Professional development? No. Salary to afford Israel trip, Jewish day school or even camp for multiple kids? Yeah, right. Mutual respect with lay leaders and volunteers with shared understanding of roles? No way.
Are federation pros dedicated to mission? Yes. They'd give anything for sustained inspiration -- the confidence that goals are attainable and that when accomplished actually demonstrate progress. It's not the pros. It's their professional and lay leadership that is failing."
 And we heard from others with a counter-point as well, including: 
"Like many of my colleagues, I have on occasion worn rose-colored glasses when discussing the past glories of our federation movement. But it's true. There is real talent coming up in the ranks and we shouldn't be afraid to say so. Those of us who are already in senior positions should be raising the bar for mentorships, better salaries and better working conditions. Now there's a task for a national system."
Could a real (as opposed to faux) national organization dedicated to its intended core purposes make a difference here? Of course...just not the JFNA we have now. Why would JFNA as presently led be focused on federation recruitment, education and retention at all levels when its CEO and its Sr. V.P. Global came not out of the federation experience? They don't believe one needs it -- after all, look at them. Yes...please look at them.

And, after all. JFNA has outsourced almost the totality of its professional development, CPE and recruitment to that Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence, not because Mandel gives any evidence that it can do it better, but because JFNA has provided every evidence that it, JFNA, can't do it at all, as presently staffed, and, worse, has no interest in what was once a core value of both of the predecessor organizations -- UJA for those in the Campaign and CJF for federation professionals.

Friends, how do we make federations the best places to work? I recall a young lawyer with wonderful skills, a great personality and eagerness to leave the practice of law to work at a major federation. At every point, he was discouraged by a bureaucracy that passed him along wit comments like these "you're over-qualified," "you would be bored silly in an entry level position" and the like. Try as he would, he could not convince those who could have used a person just like this and who insisted he would begin at the bottom just to learn and prove himself. I was so disappointed for him. And this year, JFNA and Mandel "decided" that these two organizations would now only offer search services for CEO positions -- as if they are doing such a great job with those.

JFNA is so bereft of campaign talent that for its now annual Fund Raising University, the numbers "admitted" are maintained at an artificial maximum and the entire "University" is essentially run by consultants -- because at JFNA, there's no one home. 

And, on the subject of the lay-professional partnership that ennobled our system for decades, who resides in the vicinity of 25 Broadway or in Cleveland at Mandel, who could even claim to understand this "partnership" so critical to Jewish organizational success? It appears that the answer is no one. (Certainly the incoming Board Chair doesn't -- just read his recent interview in ejewishphilanthropy...and weep.) The CEO clearly doesn't as any number of his Senior Management team can attest (but won't if they're smart) to the amount of time spent listening to Jerry complain about lay leaders and CEOs who push back.

Chevre, none of this is going to change unless you force change to occur. The observations of the Commentator cited in the first paragraph will remain in place and our system will further decline unless you demand more. Carpe diem.


Monday, July 27, 2015


Sheldon Adelson with the ubiquitous, as described by The Forward "celebrity Rabbi" Shmuely Boteach at his side, and Adam Milstein, a co-founder of the Israel-American Council, gathered a bunch of organization leaders to Las Vegas a some weeks ago with the promise of a rain of tens of millions to lead the fight against BDS on campus "if they are unified." A number of organizations did not rush to Vegas to hear how Boteach would lead such an effort through a newly-formed Campus Maccabees. Pretty soon the number of anti-BDS on-campus efforts will be running into one another on campuses around the Continent -- maybe the agents of the Campus Maccabees will outnumber the students they seek to aid. 

The question must be asked, are these the right people, are these right groups to lead possibly the most important effort, combating the most invidious attack on Israel's economic existence and Israel's position among the family of nations? And, while among the organizations that did not attend the Adelson-Boteach Vegas "Summit" -- the system's own Israel Action Network, the system's Hillel, and the always silent JFNA (if any possible controversy might attach to any position it might take, it stands mute, as you may have observed), among others -- will the federation system, if it even exists anymore, have any role? And, if not, why not?

Of course, any activity in which mega-donor Sheldon Adelson decides to put his substantial economic weight behind is shadowed by his political views -- domestic or with regard to Israel -- right or wrong (or more right), whether one agrees with them or not. I can think of no "contribution" that Adelson has made -- political or charitable -- in which he has not demanded "control." This has been true with his annual Republican "summit" demanding fealty to his positions on Israel; true with his incredible contributions to Taglit-Israel, he demanded the termination of the then CEO and installed his "man" (a terrific leader); true in his home community where the community has sacrificed two excellent federation CEOs to Adelson's demands -- and probably true elsewhere as well. Or will Adelson use the BDS issue to further strengthen the involvement of his (yes, I chose the possessive intentionally) Israeli American Council in domestic Jewish affairs? The announcement last week that the professional leader of the Campus Maccabees will be the head of Christians United for Israel seems to answer the question of whether this campus effort will somehow reflect its founder's/funder's political views -- not in a good way, no matter this chosen professional's leadership skills.

Who knows who attended this Adelson "summit?" What we do know is that the recipe for on-campus chaos has been brewed while our central organizations...who knows where the hell they are. Then there's the Jewish National Fund chewing up yardage on the federations' side of the field wherever one looks. As The Jewish Week reported:
"The Jewish National Fund (JNF), better known for planting trees in Israel, announced Monday the creation of a $100 million Israel advocacy center intended to help Jewish high school and college students advocate for Israel and fight BDS. The center was launched through an estate gift by the late John and Dora Boruchin, California real-estate developers and Holocaust survivors."
JNF will not be standing on the sidelines...but how will they coordinate their $100 million program with the Adelson effort, if at all? Don't know do we?

And, JFNA. You remember as I do that late last Summer, Jerry "We-Are-All-Over-This-BDS-Thing" Silverman was patting himself on the back once again (does his arm ever tire??) this time as JFNA, we were told, was the convener of all of the players in the campus anti-BDS effort. Then, as usual, as the applause died out, it turned out that JFNA actually did and was doing nothing. Maybe they meant that the IAN was doing so but the IAN is woefully underfunded given the challenges it faces 24/7. And the Jewish Agency is dispatching twice the number of its Israel Fellows to campuses across the country. Soon, I can picture a campus scenario where the Adelson Maccabees are recruiting JAFI Fellows who are recruiting JNF staffers to join the anti-BDS efforts while Jewish students watch in amazement at the confusion these efforts can create.

Meanwhile, once again, and as usual, our organization (which is hardly ours) is caught with its head in the sand while others fall all over each other funding and doing what we should be. Oh, that Adelson-Boteach Campus Maccabee "Initiative" by invitation only event? IAN and the Israel on Campus Coalition "decided not to attend." 

Will anyone at JFNA's IAN even attempt to coordinate with JNF's new incredibly well-funded effort or the Adelson Initiative the funding for which is far less, for example, than the tens of millions Sheldon and Miriam Adelson contributed to keep Newt Gingrich in the Presidential race in 2011? Or will our system's efforts,  so woefully underfunded as to be potentially meaningless, become just another non-event for the federation system? It's chaos.

Our shame never stops.


Friday, July 24, 2015


When I wrote the immediately preceding Post -- Our Own Court Jews -- I thought I was pretty careful. In the first paragraph, I wrote the following:
"(Lee) Smith's definition was then applied to the Jews in the Obama Administration. In Jewish communal life, we have got our own...and we all know whom they are, don't we?"
Thus, I distinguished between my criticism of the Court Jews in Jewish communal life -- about whom I was writing -- and any criticism of those Jews in Obama's realm. Apparently I wasn't clear enough. For I received the following screed...Anonymously, of course.
"This is shameless. You attack Jewish leaders who may support the Administration. Are they traitors, in your mind? You seem to think so. Calling people names isn't going to help our federations. Are you sure you want to go down this path of sinat chinam?"
I have been fortunate in the writing of this Blog -- I have presumed and treasured the intelligence of all of you who are regular readers of these Posts. I enjoy the frequent give and take and appreciate the substantive criticism that so many of you have provided (reread the heat, passion and intelligence embodied in the Comments to Speaking Out as examples). In many instances -- well, some, anyway -- you have convinced me that I need to reexamine my own convictions.

Then, I get accused of being on the "path of sinat chaim" by some Anon. who I would direct to an immediate on-line reading comprehension course. You want to criticize me for what I have written about the Court Jews in Jewish communal life, go for it. But do not accuse me of sinat chaim for what I have not least not yet. 

The rest of you guys...I love you.

Shabbat shalom,



In a recent opinion piece in Tablet Magazine, commentator Lee Smith offered an excellent definition of the "Court Jew:"
"The term refers to a particular class of Jews who’ve existed throughout modern history, people who obtain privilege with the ruling authorities and who then take on a dual role: to convince the Jewish community of the beneficence of the ruling authorities, and also to intercede with those authorities on behalf of the community." (emphasis added)
Smith's definition was then applied to the Jews in the Obama Administration. In Jewish communal life, we have got our own...and we all know whom they are, don't we? They probably helped to write that feeble response to the Administration's Iran "deal,"...and...

...and here is what our own Court Jews do -- they "kiss up" to those who are in power at our communal, Continental and international institutions, ignore the values they have been taught through their own experiences and believe that only by their acquiescence to the powers in place, will they achieve higher office. Then having convinced themselves that all is well, they believe that it is their duty, their obligation, to convince others that black is white and that the fiction they have bought into lock, stock and barrel is truth. 

One affect of all of this is the ostracizing of anyone and everyone who pushes back -- it makes no difference whether they are lay persons or federation CEOs. All of us know lay leaders who have been pushed away from the table because they spoke out against some inane act at their own federation or at JFNA. Many of us are aware of federation professionals seeking new positions who have been, for lack of a better descriptive word, "blackballed" by a JFNA CEO because they may have legitimately questioned a judgment or ten, pushing back in some way. (The fact that any federation would be influenced by [or even seek] the opinion of a proven know-nothing is further commentary on the state of the federation system.)

At other places in other times, dissent was tolerated, often even honored. There was value placed on real debate and discourse in the public arena. Even before this Blog began (was there ever such a time?), after privately offering what I believed to be constructive criticism of an inane JFNA restructuring I was told by the then "powers that be" to "get on the team" or be pushed aside. Later, a once good friend told me that my criticism was unwelcome and that if I persisted not only would I be "punished" but that I should "immediately resign" any and all positions I held at JFNA. Just a Court Jew doing the "job" -- and, no doubt, immediately running to those above him in the food chain to report on the great job he had done.

We have been warned in our Pirke Avot " wary of those in power." This admonition would serve us well, it is at the very heart of full disclosure, of transparency and open debate -- three things that we are denied by a succession of leaders, lay and professional, at JFNA and elsewhere. Those who seek higher office and know better...those who know that speaking truth to power will disqualify them from those higher positions...still set their/our values aside in pursuit of the holy grail of a committee chair, or a subsidiary chair, or...praise the Lord...Board Chair. That's why there were such high hopes for change when Michael Siegal took that position -- he parachuted in in a coup of sorts (Cleveland gets Board Chair, NY gets JA Chair, Chicago gets Chair of the Executive [and would have but for one small problem -- an actual Nominating Committee revolt]) without owing anyone but his federation CEO for the office, then deferred to any pushback he received from the Court Jews whose support he believed he "needed" to accomplish his/the organization's goals. One can only hope that Michael's successor will have the strength that Michael lacked.

Sure, our own Court Jews also appear in the public political realm. Have you heard a word from JFNA or JCPA "leaders" -- such frequent visitors to the White House over the past 7 years -- in opposition to the Administration's attacks on Israel, or urging the Administration to oppose the invidious BDS efforts? No, we're not going to risk those West Wing invites by taking any position, are we? We'll leave that to others.

Just as we leave everything to others.


Tuesday, July 21, 2015


I know it's difficult, in the community consensual environment in which federations live, or in the totally risk averse world of JFNA, to speak out in opposition to the Administration's "Iran Deal" when there might be a division within the community that might cost the community donors. So, even on an issue of conscience like this one, the political wisdom seems to dictate the sha sha of generations past. But this did not silence the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, just as it did not silence AIPAC, it should not silence any of us, regardless of party or politics. 

The JFGLA issued the following call to action:
"Dear  _________,

As you know, this summer Congress will be reviewing the Iran nuclear agreement and it is imperative that our elected officials hear our voice. Below is our statement on this matter of national security. Please contact your member of Congress<> today — the time is now.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles joins with Jewish communities across the country in urging Congress to oppose the joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s Nuclear Program, signed on July 14, 2015.

The proposed agreement with Iran is not a partisan issue; it impacts the security of the United States, the stability of the Middle East, the future of the State of Israel and the safety of every Jewish family and community around the world. This Iran deal threatens the mission of our Federation as we exist to assure the continuity of the Jewish people, support a secure State of Israel, care for Jews in need here and abroad and mobilize on issues of concern.

Our Federation wants a diplomatic solution that ends Iran’s nuclear program. We recognize the efforts of the Administration to reach such an agreement. We regret and are gravely concerned that the proposed agreement allows Iran to remain a threshold nuclear state, does not allow for “anytime, anywhere” inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities, and offers immediate rather than gradual sanctions relief without requiring Iran to address the military dimensions of its nuclear program.

The proposed agreement releases Iran from arms embargos in five years and ballistic missile sanctions in eight years. Iran’s past behavior gives us reason to be concerned that these deadly weapons will be shared with terrorists including Hamas and Hezbollah and will hasten the creation of an Iranian hegemony in the Middle East.

As Americans and Jews who yearn for peace and are invested in the future of our children and grandchildren, we must voice our concerns about an agreement that will destabilize a fragile region. We encourage members of our community to raise their voices in opposition to this agreement by contacting their elected representatives to urge them to oppose this deal.

Congress has until September 18th to review the agreement. That means that by acting promptly, you can start the Jewish New Year knowing you made your voice heard when it counted.

Thank you,

Leslie E. Bider
Chairman of the Board   
          Jay Sanderson, President & CEO"

To Leslie and Jay and the leadership of the Jewish Federationof Greater Los Angeles, kal ha'kavod.

And...add another kal ha'kavod to the leaders of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and its JCRC for their clear expression in the following Statement on the Iran "deal":

The Greater Miami Jewish Federation and its Jewish Community Relations Council are deeply disappointed with the details of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s Nuclear Program, signed on July 14, 2015. Regretfully, we have no choice but to oppose it and we urge others to join us.

"Painful lessons of history have taught the Jewish people that reliance upon the good will of others for our well-being is not a plan. This agreement, the success of which is dependent on willing Iranian cooperation, puts Israel and others in harm’s way against a sworn and evil enemy in the world’s most volatile region. Therefore, the details truly matter.
While we sincerely respect the intent and effort of the United States Administration to prevent Iran, through negotiation, from obtaining a nuclear weapon, this agreement falls short in several key areas that we believe are critical to the safety and security of all people around the globe. There is simply too much at stake, not only for Israel, but also for the United States and indeed the entire world, to remain silent on any concerns.
We recognize that we are not nuclear experts, but we must heed the large, diverse and growing number of independent and nonpartisan experts and organizations who have raised serious concerns since the release of the text of the agreement. 
In particular, critical issues have been raised relating to inspections and verification, weaponization activity, infrastructure dismantlement of nuclear facilities, and the duration of some of the most sensitive components in the agreement.
These issues, and the resulting vulnerabilities, are sufficient reasons to let our elected officials know that a nuclear Iran is of concern, and compromise on any of these areas is not an option. Therefore, it is critical that we urge their disapproval of this agreement.
Given the escalating instability in the Middle East and Iran’s long-standing commitment to encourage and fund violent terrorist groups sworn to the destruction of Israel and every democratic value we share as Americans, it is impossible to separate this deal from the context of life in this region or from Iran’s constant hateful rhetoric toward the United States.
Trust must be earned over time. With very little evidence of long-term compliance, the agreement allows for the release of up to $150 billion in funds to Iran, much of which will be coming in the earliest stages of implementation. This large influx of cash will serve to strengthen that country’s role in destabilizing the region. It will enable Iran to continue its proven record of supporting terrorism at anyone’s doorstep – a profound concern for all people of good will worldwide. Consequently, this deal impacts all of us – our children, our grandchildren, and generations yet to come.
We acknowledge that there are diverse views within our community, but ultimately this issue must remain above politics and reflect our collective determination to ensure moral clarity and absolute resolve in dealing with one of the world’s most dangerous regimes.



There were so many moments in our institutional history that elevated us, elevated amcha, through the actions of our leaders. At the end of the first week of June, one of the storied professional leaders of our system, Bob Hiller, passed away. His memory is for a blessing. One of his great contributions came in his service as Executive Vice-President of the Council of Jewish Federations 1979-1981.

Bob's death reminded me of one his actions in support of our system, of the Federation Movement. I went back in my own files and located a paper that Bob authored with his CJF professional colleagues, Carmi Schwartz, Darrell Friedman and Charlie Zibbell, Implications for the Profession of the Review of the Council of Jewish Federations. That Paper, presented to the Annual Meeting of the Conference of Jewish Communal Service, had many important lessons for a profession that has, of late, gone moribund.

The recommendations on CJF "functions" are critical inasmuch as they are as relevant today as they were 36 years ago. 
"1. Help Federations enlarge their financial resources.
2. Help Federations develop more efficient, economical and effective community services.
3. Define standards.
4. Assist Federations to develop highest quality leadership.
5. Recruit, train, provide highest quality professional staffing for Federations.
6. Intensify involvement of Community Federations in Council's decision-making, with improved, ongoing two-way communica­ tion.
7. Where there is broad consensus, and where it is appropriate, speak and act in behalf of Federations on their national and inter­national concerns and responsibilities.
8. Cooperate with appropriate organizations to help strengthen Jewish communities and Israel.
9. Help achieve greater collaboration among national Jewish organizations on Federation- related responsibilities.
10. Take leadership nationally, and through Federations locally, in advancing the general welfare of total community.

11. Develop long-range planning capabilities, locally in communities and nationally in CJF , to anticipate changes and to define basic goals and program."
Friends, is there one of us who doesn't believe that (a) the federations and JFNA of today would be best served were JFNA capable of focusing on these 11 functions; (b) JFNA is failing in each and every one of these 11 at this time; and (c) JFNA as presently staffed is incapable of achieving these functions? 

Clearly, JFNA excels in only one thing today -- promoting itself. Its leadership is either devoid of ideas for our system or, if they have any, lack the will or ability to implement them. Where are the Hillers, the Schwartzes, the Friedmans and Zibbells of today? Where are the women and men of ideas, of courage, of the willingness to invest their time, their overtime in not just making their communities better but our continental organization a shining City on the Hill rather than a mediocrity?

Bob Hiller, z'l, and his generation of professional leaders would never tolerate the circus we call JFNA; they would demand change, they would work for change. Today, our most system's most senior professionals look away from the disaster they have perpetuated. 

The leaders of JFNA are so far behind the parade that they can no longer hear the music, if they ever did. Shame on them; shame on us.



Saturday, July 18, 2015


To me, perhaps to you, nothing better evidences the futility...the absolute futility...of what should be, was designed to be, our federations' continental umbrella, the JFNA, than when the organization goes into its defensive posture. Yes, rather than responding to either world events impacting on the Jewish People (e.g., the "Iran Deal," or Greek Jewry) or criticism (e.g., "The Ugly Side of Jewish Federations," an anonymous critique in ejewishphilanthropy that inspired an incredible debate on that great web site's pages), JFNA, under its current pathetic leadership can't or is unable to respond. There is a saying (that applies as well to this Blog, I know...I know) "the law abhors exercises in futility." Apparently the federations don't mind throwing money at an organization that embodies "futility" without demanding more -- ever.

Let's look at a few examples, shall we?

1. On July 6, JTA's Gavin Rabinowitz reported from Athens with an excellent analysis of the suffering of Greek Jewry in the midst of the economic crisis there: Amid their country's financial crisis, Greek Jews struggle and brace for more turmoil. from its slumber, JFNA's David Brown, Chair, Israel & Overseas Council, and Rebecca Caspi, JFNA Sr. V-P, responded to the crisis reported in JTA one week earlier, with a pathetic (what else??) "Update About Greece" that reflected on a Mission one year earlier, told us what JDC and the Jewish Agency are doing on the ground, offered no guidance as to what the federations/JFNA might be doing to assist and closed with the following: "Jewish Federations continue to monitor the situation and liaise with our partners; and will report on any new developments." As they used to say on Saturday Night Live, with appropriate sarcasm: "Isn't that special." For the 5,000 Jews of Greece it must be reassuring that while they suffer the worst crisis in Greek economic history -- probably worse than that confronted by Argentine Jewry 15+ years ago when the organization responded as it should have -- JFNA is "monitoring." In other words, friends, JFNA is doing nothing; less, even, than it did for the non-Jewish victims in Nepal.*

2. Then there was the devastating dissection of the condition of the federation system in the Anonymous (OK, whoever it was used the nom de plume "Uzi ben Gibor") piece on the pages of ejewishphilanthropy -- a piece that produced a high volume of quality Comments pro and con many from those claiming affiliation -- past or present -- with the federations. Here's how JFNA "responded" -- it used its captive "publication" -- you know, the worthless FedWorld -- to publish positive comments from federation professionals about the federations themselves. As usual JFNA receives an "F" in reading comprehension, as any fair reading of the article and comments in ejewishphilanthropy would lead one to the inevitable conclusion that the support void at 25 Broadway has been a (or "the") major contributor to the conclusions in "The Ugly Side..." JFNA has been unable or unwilling to respond; indeed, JFNA's leaders, lay and pro alike, have been unable or unwilling to respond.

3. Finally, we have already written of the inanity of JFNA's announced "monitoring" of the "Iran deal." Well, after the "deal" was announced, here is what JFNA issued as its "statement" on the subject. Read it, and weep in awe at the meaningless text:
" we feel it is so important to speak out on today’s agreement with Iran.
We are hopeful that diplomatic efforts will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and we appreciate the hard work President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry and Under Secretary of State Sherman have put into crafting this agreement.

At the same time, we are concerned. Iran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas, its human rights violations and its aggressive threats toward neighboring countries—including Israel—make the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran untenable.

President Obama and his administration have repeatedly said that any deal with Iran must shut down Iran's uranium enrichment pathway to a weapon, cut off all four of Iran's potential pathways to a bomb, and track Iran's nuclear activities with unprecedented transparency and robust inspections throughout its nuclear supply chain. We agree.

We urge Congress to give this accord its utmost scrutiny."
I reprint this in its entirety as a public service, exposing JFNA for its ability to use so many words to say absolutely nothing.

This is what JFNA believes to be it response to a great "...need to speak out." This reminds me of the politically incorrect joke about Helen Keller's comment when attending her first Seder. The host saw Helen rubbing a piece of matzo with a look of disdain on her face. "What's wrong, Helen," the host asked? Helen replied: "Who writes this shit?" The JFNA "Statement" was written by weasels. No passion, no strength, no convictions. And, then, insult to injury, this piece of garbage was promoted as "something" in den?

Now, JFNA can scurry behind the "skirts" offered by AIPAC's strong statement of condemnation of the "deal" and hide back there.


It's all futility...all of the time. But keep paying those Dues. Expect nothing; demand nothing; say nothing.


* It should be noted that the Distribution List for this worthless piece bearing the signatures of Brown and Caspi is unknown. It appears not to have even been distributed to the JFNA Board.

** Compare this insipid JFNA "Statement" with that of the Chicago Federation/Jewish United Fund at or that issued by your federation.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Maybe there is something in the water down there:

1. Having written at length about the South Palm Beach Federation when it was most pathetic of federations over the years, after some investigation and a conversation with its CEO after the last Post that mentioned this community, I can honestly say that South Palm Beach is a Federation that recognizes its responsibilities to community and People and is on the rise. It is feckless no more.

And, here are the facts as I understand them:

  • Over two years ago, SPB hired a vigorous and enthusiastic young leader from Aipac as its CEO. Matt Levin clearly understands Community (with a capital "C") and his own Community. He joined SPB at what might have been its lowest point and he and his lay leadership are driving it forward and upward.
  • The annual campaign is still struggling but the increases over the last two years suggest that it is turning around. To go from $12.8 million to $14.9 million in two years is no small achievement with significant growth in $10,000 gifts and above.
  • The Federation has already begun to move its overseas allocations to core northward and expects to reach 20% (designated plus "free" dollars) quickly.
  • Matt made a brilliant hire when he brought Cathy Schwartz from her position as the Hartford Federation CEO to lead the Boca Endowment effort. It takes an excellent professional to bring a strong professional into his ranks and Matt has several of them working with him.
  • There is a healthy bank balance and I sense no fear of both operating a federation and multiple agencies.
There are major hurdles ahead and SPB gets no help from 25 Broadway, nor should it expect any.

South Palm Beach...feckless no more.

2. We also learned that the Executive Committee of the Palm Beach Federation, which hired its new CEO a little less than 3 years ago, voted not to renew his contract. This CEO had been the Director of a camp system serving 700 campers a year (and a large Retreat Center) for 11 years before being hired for his first CEO job (surely good old Jerry "Camp-Guy" recommended him); he had never, to my knowledge, worked for or in a federation. This Federation's Annual Campaign was going nowhere, and this CEO had an unfortunate conflict with his then sitting Chair further evidencing a lack of understanding of the lay-professional partnership (even though that lay Chair, a terrific, caring and generous philanthropist, was the one who resigned). 

One thing one can say about this Federation: when things went flat, unlike JFNA, the CEO went, didn't get the "automatic extension;" its lay leaders weren't concerned with the prospect of "another search" distracting them from other things. The "rigorous and lengthy search" that led to this hire was led by the ubiquitous Mandel Center for Leadership. The new search was led by...the Mandel Center for Leadership!!?? First, I thought, maybe there's another Camp Director out there "ready made" to professionally lead a Large City (or any-size City for that matter)...just ask Jerry I-Know-A-Guy-And-He'd-Be-Perfect. In fact the community had two superb finalists for this position; a community that appears to have a real future if it has real professional leadership. We shall see how their selection of a senior professional from Baltimore will go.

Good luck to them.

3. And, then there was the decision of the Federation just to the south of the Palm Beach Federation to part ways with its CEO. In this instance, the departing Executive was hired and walked into a mess not of his own making -- he found himself in a hole and, try as he did, as is usually the case, he could not dig his way out. Curiously, he had left a community that was in the midst of bailing itself out of the horrific Katrina disaster only to land in a federation truly under water. In Broward, you have a community that once received more national human investment than any other -- UJA and CJF worked to assist in the merger that created the Broward Federation, we worked to assure that one of the best and most generous lay families would lead the newly created federation. But poor professional leadership at the outset of the merger; significant under-giving by those with capacity (too often "corporate sponsorships" were a substitute for capacity giving -- that never works), resulted in stasis...not a good place to be; and there was no assistance available from the bereft JFNA when the professional leader and the community needed it the most. Dues were paid in full.

So, let's add it up: SouthPalm Beach on the rise; Palm Beach with a new CEO; Broward...oy.

At least the climate is good -- in Winter.


Sunday, July 12, 2015


Ambien is an incredibly popular drug for the "short-term treatment of insomnia."  It has been known to both work effectively to induce sleep but, as advised at there are severe side-effects:
"Ambien may impair your thinking or reactions. You may still feel sleepy the morning after taking this medicine, especially if you take the extended-release tablet, or if you are a woman. Wait at least 4 hours or until you are fully awake before you do anything that requires you to be awake and alert.
Some people using this medicine have engaged in activity such as driving, eating, walking, making phone calls, or having sex and later having no memory of the activity."
Yes, quite clearly, JFNA is the institutional version of Ambien. Sleep has been induced, memory has been wiped out and JFNA leaders have waited some 16 years now "to do anything" whatsoever.

The latest exercise in sleep-walking, finger in the wind decision making can be found in the announcement in FedWorld, that epic JFNA publication, which trumpeted "JFNA reacts to comments by the Israeli Religious Affairs minister regarding Reform Jews" on July 8. And, reading the Times of Israel lengthy piece, here's what JFNA had to say on a Israeli Cabinet action impacting on the vast majority of Jews in North America: “'I do believe that there is a lack of real understanding of what Reform and Conservative Judaism actually mean, especially as it pertains to the Diaspora,' (Jerry) Silverman said Tuesday." Ahh, the courage, the strength, the passion, the anger...the...nothing. Let's just excuse the rejection of Reform Jews as non-Jews to "a lack of real understanding."

I don't exactly know what has induced the deep sleep in which JFNA has found itself -- I think it has been a combination of things:

  • A series of ineffectual now inept professional leaders (almost continuously from the birth of the organization);
  • An organization that put all of its eggs in the single basket of the Global Planning Table forgetting that the top down dictation of policies never works when the funding required must come from the bottom up -- literally four years and at least $4,000,000 wasted on this thing. And this is not 20/20 hindsight. This Blog was not the only place of criticism of this wasted effort from the get-go; but no one in power at JFNA was listening -- this Empress had no clothes and, even today, she fights to preserve her position (Chair of the GPT decision-making Committee) with neither funding nor professional support. Silverman into last year was pleading with his colleagues that "if the GPT fails it will be the end of JFNA." And, in fact, it should be the end for him;
  • Many lay persons -- well-intentioned (in the main) leaders who pursued personal agendas, took steps, often not consciously, to erase institutional memory -- who lacked the vision, the strength and the will to chart a course for JFNA'S success; and
  • Always...always...a small group of CEOs, certainly believing they were dictating orders to the JFNA CEO that were in the best interests of the system (in the sense of l'etat c'est moi), proving absolutely that even the "brightest bulbs in the box" can't micro-manage or macro-manage a complex organization from hundreds, even thousands of miles away. They have watched as the system that many of them have helped to build with such dedication erode away and it must bring them the same pain that we all feel...but, they sense the kind of hands-on effort it would take to effectuate change and they believe that they can just mitigate the damage that JFNA in its current condition can wreak...and that that is enough. They are so wrong.
So the institution sleeps, rousing itself to exercises in futility -- a "Solidarity Mission" to Paris with no follow-up, a "Solidarity Mission to Kiev" as if a single Mission will inspire non-existent fund-raising, FedWorld, yada yada yada. 

So the institution sleeps. Shhhhhh.


Thursday, July 9, 2015


As Michael Siegal continued into the third and last year of his Terms as JFNA Board Chair, he "...explained why he agreed to be Chair of the Board and shared his personal goals as Chair" as follows:
"Mr. Siegal noted that some fifty-plus years ago the federation leadership of the American Jewish community focused on the challenge of building the State of Israel and its collective agreement to focus on Israel’s nation-building. And, while charitably supporting the State of Israel is still an important commitment, Mr. Siegal noted that the American Jewish community faces the challenge of ensuring a vibrant American Jewish future, pointing to, among other things, the affordability of Jewish engagement. Mr. Siegal concluded his remarks by stating that his personal goal is to “make sure that we focus on building the vibrant narrative, the Jewish narrative, connected to the global Jewish community, one which leads to the answer that yes, I have created the environment that gives my grandchildren the ability to be safe and can be or will be Jewish.” 
I leave it to you, my friends, to conclude for yourselves -- in fact, I leave it to Michael -- whether over three years of his Chairmanship, Michael has moved JFNA forward in any way toward "...ensuring a vibrant American Jewish future" or anything at all on "the affordability of Jewish engagement." I see nothing...absolutely JFNA's budget or on its "planning table" that would move our continental polity toward Michael Siegal's noble goals...or any goals at all. 

Michael Siegal is a mensch -- a great communal leader in Cleveland, a major philanthropist in so many areas of Jewish and communal life, once the International Chair of Israel Bonds. I can't profess that I know Michael well but every interaction any of us have had with him reflected his engagement, his generosity and his love of the Jewish People. I know what Michael's practical goals were for his Chairmanship and, while most were related to me in confidence, I can candidly report that they were goals in the best interests of JFNA and our communities, they were goals that all of us, every one of us, would share  -- and my own conclusion is that none of them were fact, few were even pursued. It appeared that if Michael once had that "get up and go," somewhere along the line it "got up and went." Sad. So damn sad.

To his credit, Michael did make Board Meetings, like trains, run on time. While he rarely offered a personal opinion, when he did it was most like the advice he offered for integrating Young Leadership Cabinet members into our communities: "...invite them over to your home for dinner." Maybe he made JFNA more efficient. That was good, just not near good enough.

Then there was the last Chair of the Executive, Dede Feinberg. I have known Dede for a long, long time. I had the greatest respect for her as a leader since I first sat down with her when she chaired the Washington Annual Campaign a long, long time ago. While I was thrilled when she was elected Executive Chair, in recognition of her decades of leadership in the Washington D.C. Federation, at UJA, UIA, JAFI and JFNA, I also recalled, in the midst of one major institutional brouhaha, when I asked Dede to engage, her response was at its essence: "I don't like to fight and I won't." So, I didn't expect much in the way of Dede moving JFNA forward if she encountered any resistance to anything and, sadly, my expectations were realized. 

Dede, and some of her predecessors proved, at least to JFNA's current leadership, that a Chair of the Executive was no longer needed and could be replaced with one Vice Chair whose sole purpose, apparently, is to Chair any meeting at which the Board Chair is not present. QED. 

Both of these fine people, from whom so much could have been  and was, expected in their critical roles to turn JFNA around, essentially did not succeed in doing so. Worse, at no point did they even try, at least not hard enough.


Monday, July 6, 2015


Bret Stephens was comparing the Clinton Foundation with FIFA when he wrote those words in the WSJ  but I saw spot-on comparisons with the JFNA of today. "Unaccountable...opaque...mercenary...shameless" -- all apply to the woebegone JFNA. And we ought to be asking, we ought to have been asking ourselves why we have continued to endure the waste of our donors' funds on an entity that believes its "success" is the promotion of its brand and that the failure of everything else -- fund raising, donor numbers, GA's, Missions, the GPT...everything -- oh, those, they are our failures, not theirs. 

This is an organization so pitiful that when the Houston Federation confronts an unheard of disaster, one that conservative estimates place the community's needs at well in excess of $1,000,000, and Houston, which has no doubt paid JFNA Dues in amounts well, well, well in excess of that amount, makes its ask for less than the real needs, JFNA summons up the "courage" to allocate $275,000 and accepts kudos for its "generosity." Why don't some JFNA leaders ask the seminal question -- how much is in the Emergency Fund? And, what are we saving it for? Hasn't Houston suffered the very definition of "emergency?"

Why have we permitted this farce to continue after continuing and continuous terrible performance? In part, because of laziness. In retrospect, examining the record, to federation CEOs the very creation of JFNA was all they really wanted -- for they would now own all in their domain and control was everything. Ownership was the outcome they wanted -- now they (and, let's admit it, "they" were and are our Large City Executives) would control not just the totality of resources spent by the national system, the bulk of which were expended up to that time by the United Jewish Appeal, the organization they did not own, did not control. Hell, the UJA ran off on its own and led that $960,000,000 Operation Exodus campaign, solicited multi-million dollar mega-gifts from those the CEOs viewed as theirs, as untouchable by "outsiders." That would never happen again; they would see to that. So it was that shortly after Operation Exodus campaign ended, the CEOs began to agitate for merger -- their first effort failed after four years of effort, but their second...success. I have admitted my complicity and shame at my role in what has become the deconstruction of a once-mighty system. Our dear friend and mentor, Shoshana Cardin, never afraid of speaking truth to power, had the foresight to predict that the merger would be a disaster for our partners in Israel and for our donors and for our communities. We should have listened; I have apologized not for the intent but for the results.

And, then, these guys simply snatched defeat from the jaws of their "victory." They installed their "guys" as one JFNA CEO after another -- one, Steve Hoffman, would show what could be done, but the first and third left a disastrous legacy...and, then, came Jerry Silverman. The LCE had no one left to "step up" or none left that would "step in" and the JFNA Board Chair wanted a CEO from "out of the box" -- someone who would know less about the federations than she. Well, she got what she wanted and the CEOs got what they wanted -- someone so beholding to each and all of them (to Kathy Manning for the job and to the CEOs for direction). It was the true "perfect storm." Make that the perfect shitstorm. And we ended up with what we have today -- a chaos so overwhelming that no one wants to touch it. It's too much trouble. Just leave it alone and close your eyes to the damage it has created for what was once a glorious Movement.

So the CEOs required Jerry Silverman to get their "permission" before embarking on anything, or nothing would happen. Maybe "nothing" would have been better. The results, however, were even worse than one would have expected. As someone observed recently: "(they displayed) the kind of hubris that orders the pilot to set a course for the sun itself and then they look surprised, shocked, when the wax bolts on their Icarus wings begin to melt and, ultimately, crash." Last January, speaking to a group of CEOs, Jerry, as if in a moment of self-awareness, announced that, henceforth, "Jerry's going to be Jerry." Reading this, it sounds like a line from Seinfeld -- "let Kramer be Kramer." (I am told that a small group of playful CEOs even had tee-shirts printed in bold letters "LET JERRY BE JERRY." Don't know that they ever wore them.)

Yes, friends, we have evolved from an era of exceptionalism to one of patheticism in just over a decade and one-half and with the expenditure, the waste, of close to $800 million...that's $800,000,000. And over those years:

  • Allocations to our treasured overseas partners have dropped by over $200,000,000 to levels so minimal as to be unheard of;
  • The bottom fell out of our donor numbers which dropped like a stone, by over 60%;
  • One national special campaign after another failed to reach vital levels of support -- even those to relieve our Israeli mishpacha from the terror of wars;
  • An office in Jerusalem that went from a lean operation supporting both the continental system and federation professionals housed in Israel to a bloated silo offering little but spending so much (most of it narishkeit);
  • More and more federations were/are reaching out to consultants (many of them previously treasured professionals committed to their work at JFNA who left or were forced to leave) for everything from campaign planning, solicitor training, disaster relief and so much more that could have/should have been expected to come from a top-notch staff;
  • GAs became an annual exercise in frustration as the numbers of paid lay registrants dropped to 700 lay leaders while costs spiraled upwards;
  • And, failing in any and every effort to raise money for itself, JFNA, this year, just took money donated for other purposes and converted those funds to itself
All the while, JFNA was doing what, exactly? There were the TribeFests and #ish, four years and millions "invested" in the Global Planning Table, its Rube Goldbergian structures and failed "Initiatives" and "ask" after "ask," and hundreds of millions, wasted. JFNA evolved from an organization, owned by the federations, with an assigned set of narrow but achievable purposes at the time of the merger that would have propelled our system forward to a purposeless, priority-less, leaderless organization that even fails when it is only engaged in constant self-aggrandizement over...nothing.

So, what to do? First, nothing will happen if the current and emerging leadership continue to ignore the realities of the sinking ship on which they are both crew and passengers. Instead, they must summon the energy and the courage...yes, it will take storm the bridge and take the helm. Place in power a single LCE as interim CEO. Then convene that continental leadership meeting that has been recommended on these pages, in the works of Steven Windmueller, and in the Comments to this Blog -- a meeting like that in 1998 on the McDonald's Campus in Oak Brook, Illinois -- one including federation lay and professional leaders, Foundation and rabbinic leadership, academics and mega-donors. Bring new life, enthusiasm, and passion to and chart the course for the continental system for the next decade. 

One idea that has been floated in conversations I have had with a number of you and with some CEOs as well: dissolve the current JFNA Board and terminate the CEOs contract. Appoint an interim CEO. Then, create a JFNA "holding company" owned by the federations with two subsidiaries -- (1) a Dues-funded trade association with its own Board and professional staff to advocate for federations (not for itself) and provide counseling on matters ranging from professional and lay education, national agencies, community planning, JFNA-Israel, federation mergers and the like; and (2) a fund-raising and advocacy organization with its own Board and professional staff with an annual Budget funded by JAFI, JDC and World ORT pro rata to their shares of core allocations and which would engage in FRD, solicitor training, donor acquisition and retention, Women's Philanthropy, Young Leadership Cabinets, Missions and overseas allocations advocacy. Special campaigns would originate within -- oh, let's call it "the United North America" or something like that -- subject to the approval of the holding company.

Or do something else. But do something. We can't go on like this. But, I am pretty certain, if you are looking for something positive...anything positive...from this group of "leaders," you will need the Hubble Telescope.


Friday, July 3, 2015


A friend sent me the Better Business Bureau's criteria that organization applies in judging business performance. Here are some extremely relevant to JFNA and among the missing there:

  • "A board of directors that provides adequate oversight of the charity's operations and its staff. Indication of adequate oversight includes, but is not limited to, regularly scheduled appraisals of the CEO's performance...board approval of the budget, fund raising practices;
  • "Effectiveness Policy -- Have a board policy of assessing, no less than every 2 years, the organization's performance and effectiveness and determining future actions required to achieve its mission.
  • "Effectiveness Report -- Submit to the organization's governing body, for its approval, a written report that outlines the results of the aforementioned performance and effectiveness assessment and recommendations for future actions"
At JFNA all of the appropriate structures are in place -- Ethics and Conflict of Interest policies (I drafted them pro bono many years ago), an Audit Committee chaired by lay leaders with expertise, and, at the outset, a governance intended to monitor operations and staff under the leadership of the Chair of the Executive, ignored from Day 1. But "structures" as we have come to learn do not assure performance. Based on the three BBB criteria above, standing alone, JFNA would fail to meet any objective review of JFNA performance against these Standards.

We used to insist on organizational exceptionalism -- that day has long since past. When JFNA promotes to its ultimate lay leadership position another  exceptional individual -- but one who emerges from a community whose federation allocates , according to the last available JFNA data (2013), 10.4% from its annual campaign to the core budgets of JA/JDC/ORT, what can JFNA's chief volunteer officer say to inspire higher levels of allocations? And when JFNA hires as its chief professional officer one who has no understanding of the federation system he is to lead, and, then, over 5 years, can't seem to even learn it, doesn't that reflect the umbrella organization's actual disdain for the system and the Movement themselves? 

Leaders have just sat on the sidelines while the current administration has gone from the tragicomedy of multiple TribeFests and the Global Planning Table to the futility of FedWorld and demanded nothing in return for the Dues our communities pay -- Dues that will now reflect a $700,000 increase in the 2015-2016 Dues Budget, such as it is; Dues in the aggregate of $800,000,000 over the "life," if one can call it that, of JFNA.

The JFNA Young Leadership Cabinet, which from its onset into the merger, is now a shadow of itself, abandoning the requirement of capacity giving that was expected of us back then to a first year "minimum gift" of $1800. I had to laugh when I heard a YLC Co-Chair suggest that Cabinet members be invited to our communities to lead solicitations -- yes, by all means, send us a couple of $1800 contributors. And, now its leaders are engaged in planning a "Tel Aviv 2" apparently with no understanding that this was attempted and dropped over a decade ago. No doubt Rabbi Herb Friedman, z'l, is looking down upon us in tears. 

But the YLC is merely evidentiary of JFNA leadership's walk back from its core purposes (which are mandated to include fund raising leadership) as it becomes no more that a bad planning operation and a responsible funnel for whatever funds are raised in our communities without JFNA leadership or participation. There is so much self-congratulation going on at 25 Broadway that there seems to be no room for real self-awareness or self-examination -- perquisites to real evaluation. When everyone at JFNA is telling each other and themselves that "we're doing great" when any objective evaluation would respond "you're failing everywhere," there is no chance for transformational change -- none.

And what about advocacy on the seminal crisis that Israel has identified for us and for the Western World -- the nuclear bomb that Iran is determined to build in pursuit of its declared policy to destroy Israel. As the Obama Administration backs off again and again from the President's own "red lines" in pursuit of any deal, have you heard a peep from 25 Broadway, or from Cleveland or Chicago or wherever JFNA's decisions are made? Of course not. This institutional silence is but further evidence of this organization's lack of purpose and will. It refuses to speak for us -- it leaves that role and so many more, to others.

When I began to kvetch about the abandonment of purpose that I observed only three years (and, maybe, earlier) post-Merger, one of my partners in that Merger process offered me a calming perspective. He said: "Richard, this effort is not a sprint, it's a marathon." And, now? Even that partner has agreed that for the past decade we have seen a disaster of epic proportions arise from the joke that JFNA has been allowed to become. Even those with blind faith would agree that by any standard -- the Better Business Bureau's or the subjective measure of any of us -- we have permitted JFNA to abandon all communal principles. We have evolved into an organization that can speak of "collective responsibility" constantly, demonstrate none in practice and not even understand the meaning of the term.

To date, changes in lay leadership have effected no changes whatsoever in JFNA practices or policies. On and on JFNA spins toward the drain.

As Jon Stewart has said: "Learning curves are for pussies." These tools have learned absolutely nothing.