Saturday, November 21, 2015


We have written before about JFNA's institutional inability to concentrate on any...any...subject for very long with the resultant failure to achieve any ephemeral goal that it may have articulated, then abandoned. So when a FOB sent me a Jerusalem Post article of a session that President Ruby Rivlin convened with a small Prime Minister's Mission group last month, I was intrigued with the article's tagline and Rivlin's theme: "One of the greatest challenges today is strengthening the relationship between Israel and diaspora Jewish communities." 

We have all watched as JFNA is blinded by bright, shiny objects, flitting from thing to thing, goal to goal, with neither plan nor purpose. And while the immediate past Chair imagined that JFNA actually had brought the North American federation system closer to its overseas partners, the exact opposite had occurred on his and his Smilin' Jerry's watch as core allocations from the North American communities have cratered as never before -- reaching a new low each and every year of Michael Siegal's Terms and a further low will be reached at the end of this calendar year. Delegating the Israel-Diaspora relationship to a futile, bloated JFNA:Global Operations - Israel/Overseas Office and Council has had the affect of abandonment. And no one at 25 Broadway has proved capable of managing its own Jerusalem office.

It's failure on every front. There is no focus, no identification of a single issue upon which JFNA-Israel and the federations agree would coalesce real action and momentum. JFNA-Israel embodies the broader failure of JFNA itself. We rightfully brag on the positive results of JFNA-Washington's focus on grant assistance on behalf of the federations (when federations assert that they can no longer pay full Dues, one of the JFNA threats is "do you want our help with federal funding any more?")* while ignoring the abysmal lack of focus everywhere else at 25 Broadway and in Jerusalem. 

The cause is simple: a woeful lack of professional leadership providing organizational focus. And why? Because the current leadership has no idea of how to focus and is being given no direction by a lay leadership that appears itself more focused on smiling and grabbing the microphone. Part of the failure has been the multi-year distraction and waste that was the Global Planning Table coupled to a CEO/President totally lost in space -- a GPT to which the the CEO attached himself as his savior as well as JFNA's. And look at 'em now.

Were Jerry Silverman a visionary, perhaps his lack of any evident management skills after 5+ years could be ignored, but he clearly lacks vision; were Jerry a skilled manager, his lack of organizational vision might be excused by some, but he isn't.Until there is change at the top, JFNA will continue to wander aimlessly, talking big ideas but not even accomplishing small ones.


* While the JFNA Washington Office deserves all the praise its has received for its lobbying efforts and grantsmanship, in other areas -- Emergency Management, the National Agency Alliance -- JFNA-Washington has been almost as deficient as every other effort of JFNA itself.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Religious freedom in Israel is an issue where local community federations must be the starting point for debate. They are as capable of raising the issue, exploring nuances, educating their communities and drafting substantive resolutions on this as many claimed to be on the Iran deal. Indeed more so- they have greater experience and practical expertise on issues of religion and state than they had on the intricacies of arms control and geo-political machinations. In addition, given the importance of this issue to both stability and justice within Israeli society, not to mention Jewish unity and inclusion and the philosophical challenges it poses to constituents on both sides of the issue, conversations should start at the local level. This is one more issue where mobilization at the grass roots can force action up the ladder but we will all learn and benefit by starting with the robust interplay of multiple voices in many communities.