Tuesday, December 15, 2015


1. Enough time has now passed since the 2015 GA for some perspective:

  • Watch Smilin' Jerry's GA Plenary address (oh for the days of Steve Hoffman when JFNA CEO's were seen but not heard -- and, actually, led us forward) and turn off the sound. Did JFNA pay for speech lessons for the Smilin' one -- if so JFNA should get its money back. (Have to spend that FRD budget on something?) The deployment of a broad range of irrelevant albeit sweeping, grandiose gestures is exceeded only by the banality when you turn the sound back on.
  • Insiders at 25 Broadway have provided me with the breakdown of GA attendance -- you may recall that pre-GA, JFNA was once again claiming 3,000 GA "registrants," in the midst of the GA the fabulous FedWorld was alleging 3,000 "attendees." In reality, the number of lay registrants was less than 1,000. (You, too, might have noticed how the pre-GA bloviation of 3,000 "registrants" morphed into 3,000 "in attendance.") The question: why the constant overstatement; why not just tell the truth? Can't handle´the truth? You think?
  • I was impressed with the number of young professionals on the program for brief acknowledgments, but I do wonder whether this was nothing more than patronizing of a group that represent our future. I was fortunate when I chaired UJA and, in partnership with our CEO, Bernie Moscovitz, put our young leaders on the UJA Executive Committee where they were our equals. Many of these same women and men are officers at JFNA today where they could influence change...but haven't. Let's watch and see how these young leaders of today are integrated into the real leadership of JFNA. I know that Richard Sandler is dedicated to doing so. Will he?
  • I was also impressed with the use of Plenaries to promote what JFNA now rebrands as FEDovations -- what all of us know as "best practices." A compendium of best practices -- er, FEDovations -- was the promise of GA 2014 -- guess Smilin' Jerry forgot as with so many other things. When will JFNA ever be held to any measure of accountability -- by the Board Chair, by the Federation CEOs, by a woebegone Board?  By anybody? Experience tells me...won't happen.
  • JFNA's lip service to a robust continental FRD effort remains about the only evidence of FRD at 25 Broadway. Harold Gernsbacher, the National Campaign Chair, could only hype some interesting Mission opportunities (rebranded as if they weren't thought of and run before) -- in fact, UJA was running exactly the same Missions in the 80s and 90s. Right now, Harold seems to be a one man band -- he led the Prime Minister's Mission, he will lead the Campaign Chairs/Campaign Directors Mission -- when he should be recruiting others to FRD leadership (Harold himself was parachuted in as National Chair) and giving them Mission leadership roles rather than he. Still no FRD staff, raising the question: what qualified professional would choose to work under Smilin' Jerry in JFNA's current staff structure? As a number have been asked and declined, I guess the answer is: no one.
  • Then there was this broadside from a reader:  "...talking about Jerry and his performance, check out the article in today's Forward about leadership with a few excerpts from Jerry's speech at the GA, along with one from 2011. Then look at JFNA and ask yourself how the lay leaders could have extended his contract: http://forward.com/news/324628/sweeping-generational-change-looms-as-communal-groups-face-flood-of-retirem/?utm_content=daily_Newsletter_TopSpot_Title_Position-1&utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=New%20Weekly%202015-11-13&utm_term=Weekly%20%2B%20Daily"  

2. Recently the European Union, pursuing (even though the EU denies it) a policy of BDS, decided to require the labeling of products exported from Israel but grown or manufactured  in whole or in part in Judea/Samaria, as such. I know of at least one federation -- and, surely, there are more, that went on record in calling this act for what it was:
"This is a politically motivated, discriminatory policy that unfairly targets Israel." 
From JFNA  -- silence. Our umbrella, as always, unfortunately, has nothing to say. There is just an institutional fear of offending -- in this case, who exactly? The statement I have referenced was issued by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Chicago. Ironically, its Chair, David Brown, also Chairs JFNA's Global Operations: Israel and Overseas Council, which has said nothing on the subject. 

3. Please reflect with me...at my Federation's Annual Meetings our CEO/President, Steve Nasatir, brilliantly and concisely reports on our communal achievements over the past year -- they are not fables or fanciful, they are real. When I have written negatively of a given federation, I have heard from the given federation's CEO every time not just to correct my errors but to factually present that Federation's real achievements. Compare these recitals of communal achievements with the annual droning of cliches from Smilin' Jerry at GA after GA including one month ago. No reference to achievements -- because there have been none. This year was no different unless you agree, as I know many of you do, with the Smilin' One that JFNA's singular achievement in 2015 was its aggressive silence on the Iran Deal. Yep, doing nothing -- quite the accomplishment.

4. OK, enough with the woebegone GA. Arguing that it was far better than last year doesn't cut it.

5. So let's move on. How about FRD at JFNA? You can read some of my sense above but I believe that all of you know the effort committed by budget to what JFNA perceived as "dramatic increases" in JFNA's heretofore non-existent FRD. Smilin' Jerry promised the incoming National Campaign Chair that these rather minimal goals (more mega-donors, more high-end donors in various categories) would be achieved in this fiscal year. Then...no FRD staff. Leaving National Campaign Chair Gernsbacher and Consultant Vicki Agron holding the bag. They are working hard, very hard. But it's not like Harold Gernsbacher wasnt warned that JFNA would promise the moon and the stars and deliver...zip. How many professional prospects to lead JFNA FRD have rejected the "feelers"? 5, 10...more? And, why aren't they interested? Not one? My friends, you and I probably would reach the identical conclusion. Has the new Board Chair inquired? He should.



Anonymous said...

Richard, it is clear that under this professional leader, this overpaid CEO, the best that JFNA can aspire to is the mediocrity it has become. It's shameful but no one will be doing anything about it. I have watched this up close for years: I started with hope, quietly offered suggestions for what I thought were positive changes, was told "I'll get back to you" and then, nothing. These failures just go on and on.

Where is your Steve Nasatir on this subject? I know that at one time he actually cared abut JFNA, even was recruited to lead it. Now it is clear he just doesn't give a damn, so why should anyone? Your federation probably has more lay people in leadership positions; they are silent, apparently happy with the continental mediocrity with which they are associated. I assume they don't talk to you, they certainly don't listen to you. Do Chicago's donors even know how much your community has thrown at JFNA over the decade and 1/2 as well as this year? What would they think or do if they knew?

Anonymous said...

who rejected the feelers?