Thursday, October 1, 2015


Using the Mandel Center for something good, JFNA initiated a lay leadership development program called Yesod. (Or, more likely, Mandel is using JFNA for something of potential value to the federation system.) With a curriculum designed for the Melton School by Dr. Erica Brown, whom people in whom I have the greatest confidence tell me is "fantastic," Yesod already has "rules" for any federation seeking to participate:
"Communities must agree to full participation in the program as described below.
  • A minimum of 20 participants is required.
  • For smaller communities, there may be an option of doing a regional program with other nearby Federations; please contact Julia Malkin at or
    (212) 284-6636 for more information.
  • Qualified faculty from the community must be identified to teach. Faculty must be approved by Melton, our partners in this project, and they must be knowledgeable about the Federation and able to facilitate high-level discussions about Federation leadership. 
  • A local Federation staff person must be assigned to oversee the program.
  • Training for Yesod coordinators and faculty will take place Monday, October 26th in Washington, D.C."
Remember, the participating federations pay JFNA Dues as we review the costs:
  • There's something called the "Curriculum Fee" of $2500 that JFNA is "absorbing." This may sound generous but for the reality that JFNA (that's you, of course, but JFNA may not remember) pays the Mandel Center $100s of $1000s annually for just this kind of creative programming;
  • The Federation participants choose (and, apparently, pay for the "[Q]ualified faculty" (who must be "approved by Melton"). The "qualifications" are significant, the costs could be high. For a program this creative and important, JFNA should be absorbing these costs from its bloated Budget.
JFNA should be applauded for a program of this significance, duplicative though it seems to be of the now 30 year old Wexner Heritage Program...duplicative in its entirety, by the way. Already, in its constant need of overstatement, JFNA has written:
"Yesod has empowered new members to assume leadership roles, rejuvenated lay leaders and re-attracted inactive members..." 
"Reattracted" is good even if it isn't a word. 

If JFNA had a professional staff -- you know, the kind of staff a $30 million Dues budget should provide but doesn't -- wouldn't you think that Yesod would not have to be delegated away. In fact, just a few years ago, JFNA had an Executive Development Program developed by...Mandel!! Recruitment then was led by JFNA's own excellent staff members at the time, but this Program was deconstructed by the Federation CEOs demands that the program be populated by those of their choosing pro rata according to the federations' financial contributions. (More on that in a future Post.) Today, without staff, farm it out.

Would it be great if Yesod were to succeed? Absolutely. Will it? Well, I subscribe to Santayana: "Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon."

If JFNA and Mandel want Yesod to be the success that Wexner has been and is and hopefully will be, then JFNA and Mandel should absorb the totality of the costs of Yesod as Les Wexner, through his incredible philanthropy, has done...certainly there is room in a $30 million (+/-) JFNA budget for a program of actual importance, isn't there?

Isn't there?



Anonymous said...

I think you have many facts incorrect. As someone who comes from a Federation that participated in the pilot year, I want to first let you know that this is a good and solid program. The reviews from our community and the others who participated was extremely positive last year.

This is not a replacement for Wexner. Wexner is fabulous. And Les Wexner has helped to make it possible, but it costs each community $350,000 to do it! That's a big amount for most communities (probably not Chicago). Yesod is an opportunity to make an investment in leadership development at a very modest cost because it is templated and conducted locally. One is not a replacement for the other, although, I know that several Yesod communities also run Wexner.

I applaud JFNA for helping many communities that don't have the bandwith to run their own high level leadership development program nor the resources to fund a Wexner program with something that seems to work. Success for all organizations comes when there is quality leadership.

RWEX said...

Thank you for the clarifications and corrections. I did not know that Wexner carried such a major cost -- when Rabbi Herb Friedman, z'l, offered Wexner to Chicago when I was Chicago's Chair (three decades ago), its cost was minimal.

Anonymous said...

Technically, "reattracted" is a word (but I defer to you on its goodness)