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.


Anonymous said...

Houston, Ukraine, name the place, it will be one where JFNA either has failed in its responsibilities or doesn't even know that it has any. There was a time when federations -- from the largest to the smallest -- demanded accountability even of the UJA which they did not own. Today, even though feds own JFNA, they have demonstrated a complete abandonment of any interest in non-performance. Bang for the buck, return on investment, don't be silly.

Anonymous said...

As the eJP affair indicates (900+ facebook likes, 31 tweets and over 20,000 reads) the issue is not JFNA but the federation movement as a whole that had lost touch with the Jew on the street. We need to do some serious listening and engage in some honest conversations on many fronts. Better Together and We are One is no longer the answer to every question.

Speaking of solidarity,, it was reported yesterday in YNet that Bibi told his cabinet that the Iran deal is done, Israel must put up only restrained opposition and let the American Jews and Republicans do the heavy lifting while the Israelis repair their relationship with the administration. The reported cabinet reaction did not indicate great admiration for American Jewry. So before we tear American Jewry apart in support not of Israel but of Adelson's 2016 agenda let's think carefully .,7340,L-4681142,00.html

Anonymous said...

Organizationally, the federations have lost touch with everyone. Lost touch with their donors, lost touch with foundations (including their own), lost touch with their agencies, local, national and overseas. One could question whether this was done with malice aforethought but the answer would be "No," these are the results of a leadership so inept as to be totally out of touch.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone seen a statement from the Conference of Presidents?

Anonymous said...

It appears as though JUF's statement is modeled after the JCPA's reasoned and relatively moderate statement, as it ought to be.

The sturm und drang coming out of some other Jewish organizational quarters is, frankly, embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

The Iran nuclear deal will provide the backdrop that exposes the enormity of Jewish communal political fragmentation over the last decade plus.

Most Federations and JCRCs, excluding Boston CJP and Miami (and perhaps others) feel they cannot take a decisive stand without a communal process. Is there a decisive communal process that will yield an actionable consensss? And what if, as it seems, our community is divided? Does that mean Jewish communal organizations sit out an issue of this magnitude for lack of communal consensus? (of course, advocates of either side of the deal have organizations in which to participate, namely Aipac and Jstreet.) I'm not sure the Jewish people are worse off because of this -- not that it matters since it is what it is. I am sure that Jewish institutions are worse off, and perhaps that's why thy can't seem to devolve from "central address" and "Jewish voice" claims. Hold on to what you can as long as you can -- it beats the fear and uncertainty of change. But only for the short term....

Folks, claims like "central address" and "voice of the Jewish community" are statements of a bygone era. There is no central address -- we are, literally and figuratively, too spread out for this statement to have meaning. And there is no singular Jewish voice that represents the Jewish community.

Dan Brown said...

Yehuda Kurtzer writes, "The consequence ... is not that the central communal organizations are inherently or inevitably weaker, but rather that they are forced to compete differently in the marketplace of ideas and institutions than an earlier era of Jewish history, when their importance and their centrality was more taken for granted."

Anonymous said...

Good points. Central organizations claiming representative status can do so via actionable consensus or majority rule. The former is increasingly difficult to process and determine as diverse viewpoints are held. The latter risks undermining the communal grounding on which communal representation is claimed.
One might argue that centrality is not taken for granted but rather in a decentralized and safe American Jewish communities (geographically, spiritually, etc) centrality is elusive and/or irrelevant. When American Jews only had each other to live next to, marry, work with etc, they needed a "union." Aspirations and grievances were widely shared and conveyed by communal leaders to the outside world.

Seems to me "communal" organizations with broad agendas are having a tough time of it. And it doesn't help that by and large the are not following Yehuda Kurtzer's to compete differently.