Friday, April 15, 2016


I was reminded by a recent article in the Forward authored by Josh Nathan-Kazis -- Troubled JCC Association in Fresh Disarray with Surprise Departure of CEO -- of a moment in time back in the 1990s at my own Federation. We had just adopted a new budgeting format that imposed on our local agencies the need to prioritize their annual budget requests of the community, listing their funding priorities from highest to lowest. This process lasted for a while and each and every year our Jewish Community Centers local agency listed its annual membership dues to the JCC Association as among its lowest priorities. Nathan-Kazis' article now, decades later, helped me to understand just why.

For years the JCCA has appeared to this writer to have been an agency without real purpose, and though an umbrella organization for them it was perceived as such by its local JCC Chapter leaders. The national organization's leaders would plot to substitute the organization for the inept JFNA and its lay leaders would use their position as a springboard to loftier positions at, e.g., the Conference of Presidents, and, at all times, its most senior professionals were supping at its financial trough for the highest possible salaries without apparent lay concern, let alone oversight. As the author pointed out in the Forward article: Allan Finkelstein, the immediate past senior professional for two decades, earned $536,000 in 2014 while 11 other employees earned in excess of $196,000 each. It leaves one scratching one's head as to whether the lay leadership was paying any attention whatsoever.

And, perhaps, it left the new JCC Association CEO, Stephen Hazan Arnoff, scratching his head as he resigned in mid-March after only 14 months on the job "...raising questions about the future of the troubled group." Of course, one might ask the shriveled body that is the JFNA Federation Agency Alliance how it has vetted this organization year-in and year-out and approved large allocations to it. What questions has The Alliance lay and professional leadership raised about, well, compensation patterns, maybe? Or, maybe, what the hell the organization is doing with its $13 million budget for the JCCs -- it's pretty evident what it's doing for the JCC Association, isn't it? But, then again, expecting anything responsible from The Alliance leadership would be expecting way too much...and, if it started raising questions about National Agency professionals' compensation, well, by G-d, someone might start asking questions about JFNA's staff compensation...and we wouldn't want that, would we? Wouldn't we?

Putting the gross nature of the JCC Association's compensation pattern in context, the author compared it with the parallel compensation pattern at JFNA itself where "...nearly a dozen executives earned in excess of $196,000." In better times, comparing JFNA with JCC Association would be odious in the extreme. Today, they are both sclerotic organizations who have confused mere existence with purpose; where the member organizations are pulling away from organizations controlled by insiders, where even constructive dissent is deemed out of order.

Out of order is the order of the day.




Anonymous said...

Thanks. Do we need some form of "super organization" to weed out the JCCA's of the Jewish World? Or, if we had one, would its leaders just start paying themselves the way JFNA and JCCA have?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the well documented failures of organizations like JFNA, JCCA, JCPA, URJ, USCJ, and others should teach us that national umbrella organizations are either no longer needed or need to be massively restructured in both firm and function? Or we can just hope the 1980s come back...