Monday, January 18, 2016


We have had some excellent discussions among the Commentators to these Posts. And, then, there are those that just make you scratch your head in wonder. Like this one:
"Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "CAMOUFLAGE FOR FAILURE":

What is this "collective" to which you refer and genuflect reflexively?

Is it a 50-year-old formula to split dollars with the recipient agencies spending it as they please (in service of Jews)? Is it a shared mission, vision, programatic execution and evaluation?

Seems to me Seattle is going the way of SF, Boston, Philly and others and choosing on its own how to spend its dollars. These funds will still be spent in service of Jews. Isn't that supporting the collective?

The collective you worship is winding down. New collectives are forming. They're driven by different perspectives and shaped by different needs -- and largely guided by the same values.

Will Seattle's approach work? Who knows? But the establishment has been sliding for a quarter of a century. Let's try something new in service of Jews."
Forget the internal inconsistencies (asking what is this "Collective" thing? And, then proving not to understand what it is while presuming to tell us?), I certainly don't doubt the writer's sincerity or the need to find new ways to express the collective actions that distinguish the Jewish federations from all other charities. 

As another Commentator responded:
"The "collective" is not any formula - old or new. It is deciding together and not having everyone decide on their own. It is collectively setting a shared agenda, strategy and workplan - locally, nationally and internationslly.
The "collective" is the glue that will hold us together and keep us together. Without it we are lost as a unified community and as one people. Without it we are just a bunch of Jews - not a Jewish Community.
If we do not operate "collectively" our days are numbered.
Friends, if we, as a Jewish polity, do not understand the primacy of the collective concept to the Federations, I agree that "our days are numbered." But, as I have written -- far too often -- JFNA's leaders don't get it, don't understand it, and, worst of all, fail to transmit its meaning. 

Community after community makes Shabbos for itself with no consequences for the community, just for our partners, our beneficiaries. As a collective we become more and more and more diminished with no one from our Continental organization saying a word. Thus, we have become our own worst enemy -- you know the maxim: "We have met the enemy and it is us."



Anonymous said...

Consequences to communities making Shabbat for themselves are not just limited to "our partners, our beneficiaries." The consequences are also borne by those who remain committed to the collective. It is sad that JFNA and those Federations who choose their own policies and parameters (for engaging with JFNA and our international partners) are not open and honest with all the other Federations. We can't protect or strengthen the collective by lack of transparency. To the contrary, such dishonesty is weakening the collective.

Anonymous said...

No need to scratch your head. I'm the writer of the first mystery comment. Somehow you've misread it. The definitions you refer to as my suggestions actually end in question marks. I'm asking you, what is the collective? Is it the only collective?

You despair that communities are making shobbos for themselves. Really? Most of the federations that are in this category are not programming on their own. They're simply deciding when and where they will engage with or bypass your beloved (and impotent!) national system. They're still allocating their dollars to other organizations the execute programs.

To use your shobbos metaphor, I'd respectfully suggest that the national system isn't making shobbos at all. It doesn't have the organizational functionality, process or buy in to do much of anything!

There is tremendous opportunity in the Jewish community that is unfolding. Our federations and their national system are paralyzed in a navel gazing stupor. Scared of change, challenged by the status quo and time marches. Boards don't do their jobs in providing strategic direction, aligned resource allocation and performance oversight. Professionals keep the big donors close and save themselves, while the system circles the drain.

If there is something to the collective that is worthwhile, show it. The market place isn't stupid.

Anonymous said...

How fortunate we are that the vast majority do not see the Tikun Olam the same way as Anon 10:29. Collective responsibility doesn't apply only to federations. It applies to every voluntary organization. People who donate blood to the Red Cross as an example are doing that "collectively" as opposed to each person drawing a pint of blood and going to seek out the beneficiary. The Red Cross provides the resources to collect (the root word of "collective") the blood, to sustain it until it is needed etc. I am hard pressed to think of a not for profit organization that does not rely on some level of "collective" buy in. If an individual as a donor does not want to be part of the "collective" he or she can opt out. What the federation system has failed to do, for this JFNA holds much of the blame, is to clearly define to federations why it is important to opt in to the federation as a local Jewish "collective". Many federations have succeeded in doing that as demonstrated by their strong local agencies that they collectively support and by their continued strong support for the needs of Jews overseas. Where JFNA has failed the system is to clearly define where the "collective" funds raised are being used and in carrying that message to the federations making a case for why their needs to be "collective" support for the beneficiary agencies - JDC, JAFI and World ORT and how a strong federation supports the collective needs of its own local Jewish community.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 2:51, you have reinforced my point. I said that the federation system (Jfna) isn't the only way to act collectively. I've written that federations aren't the only way to act collectively. I still don't see what you could have inferred about my perspective on Tikkun Olam, but please start with getting right what I have said and not making up what I haven't.

The blame you place on Jfna may be valid, although the notion of federations being unable to state the case for their worthiness is sad. But who is Jfna? If Jfna's owners want what you say Jfna should provide, why isn't that being demanded by the Jfna board? The members own Jfna. What on earth are they voting for when they vote for the budget?

JDC, JAFI and ORT have terrific PR departments. They can tell you how their funds are spent. They don't need Jfna to reinvent their PR wheel.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:51 here. I don't intend to make this a two party debate. This is Richard's blog. Based on the comments, however, I don't appear to be the only person who misread or misunderstood the points of Anon 10:29. I read it to mean that he/she saw no harm in going it alone as far as federations and JFNA are concerned. The last line of the comment says "If there is something to the collective that is worthwhile, show it. The market place isn't stupid." To me he/she seems to be denying that there is anything worthwhile to a "collective" by using the word "If".

RWEX said...

OK, I have enjoyed the sincerity and thought sof the debate/discussion, though I feel like that famous New Yorker cartoon of a bunch of hockey player sitting in the stands watching the ice where the "fans" are fighting each other.

Anonymous said...

By all means jump in! I certainly don't pretend to have the answers; in fact I'll confess I struggle with these topics and love nothing more than learning from others.

I don't see anything wrong with a federation opting out of Jfna. I don't see anything wrong with a donor opting out of giving to a federation. In neither example have they opted out of a collective -- just out of two specific collectives. As I previously wrote, and Anon 2:51 also approvingly pointed out, one can give to an organization (I suggested like a JFS or CRC and he/she suggested Red Cross) and that is also a form of a collective (please correct me if I've misunderstood you).

I can see how my remarks are not as precise as they could be. I do think that the collective must demonstrate its value and not assume it is deserving merely by virtue of its legacy, declarations of its value or that the mere pooling of resources creates that value. That aside, the bigger point is that with federations losing market share, it would seem that there is a gap between how valuable we think the collective is and how valuable donors we lose or never reach think it is. Hence my suggestion that if we think there's compelling value to it, show it.

Anonymous said...

For too many, the "collective" means core funding under the old math to JDC and JAFI dictated by a few and not grappled with by the many.

Anonymous said...

Just read the thread of this conversation, and Anon 1:18 made me think that one of our (the system's) issues revolves around the words that we are using.
The 'Collective' is '20th Century UJA/Federation-Speak'.......clearly is does not resonate with the yearly-changing demographic (not necessarily defined by age) that occupies the leadership positions in both the individual federations and JFNA.
And here is where JFNA has dropped the ball: It is JFNA's job to understand the environment in 2016 and 'lead' the system accordingly; and this includes deciding the correct words that are used to communicate missions, visions, strategies, etc.
'Collective', 'Israel/Overseas', 'Solicitation' are but a few 20th Century terms that defined the federation system then..............It is JFNA's responsibility to give the system the words that will resonate in 2016.
If only JFNA had a robust Marketing and PR Department........

Anonymous said...

The problem isn't the lack of a robust marketing and PR department at JFNA. They have one. Wasn't JS hired because of his marketing background)? The problem is that they market JS and JFNA, not the federations and not the overseas partners.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 4:13 wrote something that at first glance I thought was right. But then I thought about it a little more and realized that it's as ludicrous as Richard's demand for an enforced continental system, all following Chicago's lead. We're not all the same. Don't try to force us all to march to the beat of the same drum. We don't need a national system telling us/ forcing us / cajoling us to do our marketing one way only.

RWEX said...

To my dear Anonymous Friend (7:16): As I have written before, each Commentator is entitled to his/her own opinion but not to his/her own facts. I have never been a proponent of an "enforced" continental system (or an imposed one). I have always favored a system that recognized the moral force of the collective advocated by those who understand it and practice it. Read future or past Posts.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:16 here again.
You may not see yourself as a proponent of an enforced continental system, but let's be honest here, that's the practical effect of what you're proposing.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 4:13 from 2:39: Sorry that my cynicism wasn't so subtle regarding JFNA's Marketing Department: It is a behemoth! And, it is misdirected, as you stated.

Regarding an 'enforced continental system', all organizations that are 'continental' with 'local' chapters, etc. have some degree of 'enforcement'. Don't think for a minute that the local branches of JNF, United Way, JCCA can just go and do their own thing.

RWEX said...

To Anonymous at 3:51: I am about to delete your 2 line "Comment" as you ar guilty of making no sense whatsoever. Sorry.