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.


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