Thursday, December 24, 2015


A review board of one of America's largest and most controversial foundations recently concluded a review of the performance of its CEO, a person acknowledged to be a "visionary, brilliant, farsighted." According to The New York Times, that review concluded that the CEO "...had shown 'disdain' for the...board, exhibited 'duplicitousness with management,' and displayed a 'lack of transparency' and 'dismissive behavior'…" I am curious as to (a) whether there is a written annual JFNA review of CEO Smilin' Jerry; (b) if so, who conducted the review; and (3) what the review said.

In JFNA and at many of our federations, we have such a terribly opaque bureaucracy and process that no light shines in and where there is no transparency whatsoever. Smilin' Jerry's performance, so clearly terrible, somehow results in his employment contact's extension; JFNA's performance, so clearly an annual set of failure upon failure, somehow results in Jerry's employment contract being extended. And, there is a continuing disdain for any criticism, any suggestion that JFNA could be better, could do better.

Where there are no goals, no expectations, no accountability, organizations fail. How many times have we heard Silverman state that "this year" we will monitor our programs and report back to the Board on how we have met our goals, only to "rebrand" "this year" as "next year" and then the year after that -- because rebranding failure as success is what Smilin' Jerry does best. In fact, looking at the abysmal record, it's about then only thing JFNA does at all.

Maybe you think, as I do, that the annual General Assembly would be a wonderful place to discuss/debate anything/everything in an open forum led by a Chair who can assure our civility. Of course, that debate never takes place, does it? The federation system, unfortunately, has become almost everywhere a place of precooked outcomes, intolerant of debate even as CEO/President Smilin' Jerry imagines that it is something else. One of the greatest failings of today's JFNA is that it has been allowed to become Fantasyland -- a place where great things are imagined but never, ever actualized. They imagine that debate is taking place; they imagine that at 25 Broadway FEDovations are taking place; JFNA is a place of vivid imagination and no action...a place of total disdain for reality.

Thus, the constant repetition of this year's GA tag line -- "Thinking Forward." How many times was it repeated in word, in print, everywhere. It was a good tag line, really. But, what does it mean at JFNA? It means don't look at the last year, the last 5 years, the last decade? Please just wipe the past out of your mind, because we have -- we are "thinking forward." Then, when this sorry year comes to its so predictable end, let's "Think Forward" again. We, at JFNA never look back because someone might be measuring our failures, someone may be holding us accountable.

And, we wouldn't want that, would we?



Anonymous said...

There is no Thinking going on at all and the lack of results show it.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to have to bring this reality to your attention, but surely we must assume that Jerry's contract will be renewed again in 4 years for the same reason it was renewed this time: The Compensation Committee is afraid/embarrassed to admit its failure in hiring Jerry in the first place, and in so doing, is now petrified about the prospect of having to again go 'outside the system' for a replacement (we all know that there isn't a single talented Federation CEO, or a 2nd in command, who would take the job.....Howard Rieger confirmed that).
So in essence, Jerry Silverman has become 'too big to fail.'

Anonymous said...

Since its inception, UJC/JFNA has shown a particular disdain for the past and for institutional memory. It refuses to learn from history, and continues to pay the price.