Tuesday, March 1, 2016


Yes, I have written about the failures of what is called The JFNA Federation-Agency Alliance more times than I (or you, no doubt) would like. There have been times when I have actually thought that the time had finally come when JFNA's leaders would perform the appropriate Kevorkian on the farce that they have enabled The Alliance to become and put it out of its misery. But, no...and it only gets worse. Let me count the ways...

The Alliance was created as a self-funding mechanism to support, financially and by advocacy, and enhance the support for those national agencies created by the system itself.  The Alliance leadership was mandated to increase funding for the national agencies whose work and budgets it vetted and to increase its own voluntary membership and financial support. Instead, the funding pool has been reduced, and while support for the original "partners" -- those national agencies for whom the Alliance was created -- has reduced and reduced again and again, rather than rally the federation system for greater support for the Alliance, its leadership has solicited additional agencies (for whom there will be little if any support, as well): adding, in the last two years, American Jewish World Service and BBYO. Watch out for NewOrg, the brand new national day school organization chaired by none other than Kathy Manning, to seek membership and a grant in 2016-2017. Come one, come all.

These are The Alliance's self-styled "Strategic Directions:"

"'The Alliance has developed a set of Strategic Directions to guide its work.   These Strategic Directions will help the Alliance determine its agenda and partners moving forward.  They will serve as major substantive criteria as the Alliance makes planning and allocation decisions.  The Strategic Directions currently include the following five topic areas:   

1. Build an American Jewish community that provides quality, accessible and timely support for human needs and a safety net for chronically and temporarily vulnerable community members and others.  

2. Support and encourage current and future generations to identify with Jewish life and learning and to contribute to society by drawing on Jewish values as a source of inspiration, motivation, purpose and meaning.  Foster an inclusive spirit of participation, engagement and volunteerism for all members of our community.  

3. Promote the concept of collective responsibility among Jews regardless of where they live and advocate in support of Jews and Jewish communities throughout the world.

4. Affirm the vital role of Israel in Jewish life in North America and take an active role on key challenges facing Israel. 

5. Strengthen institutions within the Alliance, Federations, and affiliated agencies as vehicles for serving the Jewish community."
 Friends, support for the National Agencies has been cut over and over by the "coalition of 28 Federations" since 2001 --from a high of $8,600,000 in 2002 to the low of $4,100,000 last year. Yet, in the face of The "Funding Pool" being at an historic low, at the apparent demand of JFNA (as opposed to Alliance) leadership, "[F]unding through the Alliance has also been used to establish a new Jewish Education and Engagement Unit at JFNA." Yes, in JFNA's perverse version of "fund-raising," it just grabbed $550,000 (13.4 % of the total Alliance funding pool) from the National Agencies for which the Alliance was created and transferred those funds to itself.  And, it is JFNA's "plan" to do so annually for three years. Yet, that "Unit's" purposes as defined by the Alliance have already been totally scrapped by JFNA and reassigned to other purposes never contemplated by or, apparently, discussed with The Alliance. Oh, there's also $100,000 that appears to have been set aside by Alliance leadership to support another, unidentified, unnamed "Initiative." (Guess they're waiting for word to come down from on high directing the Alliance as to where to allocate those funds which would help the totality of the underfunded national Agencies most of which are operating on fumes,

The Alliance lay and professional leadership may be unaware that one of the basic purposes of the creation of the Alliance was to fund these National Agencies to the maximum extent possible so as to ameliorate the need for those agencies to fund raise within the federations. Or, if unaware, these leaders just didn't care. And the reality is that, just as our local agencies have been compelled to do so the National Agencies are all out there, of necessity, raising dollars so that they may meet the needs on our behalf.

But, that's not all. The Alliance "staff" of one professional operating out of JFNA-Washington appears dedicated to a "vetting" process designed to detrimentally impact on those less-favored national agencies so as to benefit the more-favored. One of the original national agencies is listed under its former venerated name "The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)" in Alliance materials. We all remember HIAS; in my own community, some of our greatest philanthropists have recognized the critical role that HIAS played in bringing them to America; my own grandparents, and, no doubt, many of yours, were beneficiaries of HIAS great service. But the HIAS then is not the HIAS of today. Most of us know that...clearly not JFNA, but apparently not the Alliance. 

No, this is the HIAS of today as described on its own web pages. Its CEO "...has led HIAS' transformation from an organization focused on Jewish immigrants to a global agency assisting refugees of all faiths and ethnicities." In fact, HIAS is no longer the "Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society" at all -- it has been rebranded as just plain "HIAS." Worse, if one reads the less vituperative facts in an otherwise slanted article -- Pro-Hamas Activist Heads Up J Street Allied HIAS Muslim Refugee Campaign http://www.frontpagemag.com/point/261763/pro-hamas-activist-heads-hias-muslim-refugee-daniel-greenfield#.Vri6rRBTx8k.facebook -- a senior HIAS staffer, among other things, has publicly called for "'engagement' with Hamas." This is the now secular non-Jewish HIAS which received an allocation of more than six figures --  $192,600 of federations' donors' money -- from the Alliance last year. Was HIAS vetted as all other National Agencies? How does HIAS advance the system's Strategic Directions (above)? Are we now allocating significant funds to an organization whose bent seems clearly to have turned away from our cause?* You tell me.

Above, I characterized the Alliance as "the farce that knows no end." Serious Federation/JFNA leaders, lay and pro, created the Alliance only to see its purposes ignored, its funds converted to JFNA's own use, and funds now flowing to secular organizations without regard to agencies' purposes or role in the constellation of a Jewish organizational spectrum. There is no one managing our Continental organization; there's no one home.


* Some would argue that the AJWS has nothing to do with our cause either; I start from the premise that there is no reason for the Alliance to have added further agencies when it continuously underfunds its intended beneficiaries.


Anonymous said...

Very well stated. And what I notice in much of this...those organizations that have major backing from the "mega-philanthropists" (like BBYO and HIllel) seem to get their share to keep them happy (you now, Jerry loves those folks from his camp days).

Anonymous said...

Richard, I agree with your points that the Alliance has lost its effectiveness. With that said, I find the article you linked to on HIAS to be very troubling, especially the image at the end that shows the HIAS logo with the outline of a terrorist over the "A", along with the phrase: Welcome a Jihadist, Burn Down a Synagogue. This article seems to be full of rhetoric and short on facts. None of us has proof that HIAS is resettling terrorists. I encourage you to call or email Mark Hetfield and ask him for a response.

I read your blog regularly and appreciate your passion. And I know it's your blog, but I encourage you be careful of articles you post. It can damage your credibility. Thank you for your consideration.

Anonymous said...

I believe that you have understated the reality that this so-called Alliance (which is and has been nothing more than a Dictatorship) is nothing more than JFNA in microcosm -- failing in its purposes, failing in its fund-raising and failing, really, in every way. There is something terribly rotten at the core here and the lay leadership -- of JFNA and of the Alliance, either know it and have chosen to ignore it or, worse, fail to see it. Either way, those who rely upon us are the losers.

Anonymous said...

Why should 2016 start off any differently than any other year?
I believe that there was a JFNA Board meeting a few weeks ago in L.A. with Richard Sandler presiding.
I have to believe that The Alliance was a topic on the agenda, as part of a review of JFNA Departments/Partnerships. Did any JFNA Board member ask a question about what is happening at the Alliance?
Oh, and you can probably count on Ms. Manning's New Org receiving that $100,000.
"It's the Leadership, stupid"