Tuesday, April 12, 2016


                 "It's always darkest before...it becomes completely black"

Each time I believe that JFNA has reached as low a point as possible, it always just gets worse. Today the hallways at 25 Broadway are silent, the vacant offices multiply; the vacancies at the senior management level have never been greater; the services to the communities have never been less. And the band plays on.

We all remember the incredible history as related by Doris Kearns Goodwin in Team of Rivals;  at JFNA under Admiral Jerry, there is No Team At All. And it's only gotten worse year-by-year and month-by-month.

Even now, I remember back to my freshman year at the University of Michigan where the football program reached such a low state that we used to go the games just to watch the marching band at half-time. And, today, JFNA has become the Jewish organizational equivalent of that year at Michigan, instead of waiting for the band to take the field, we wait for the daily dose of disasters that emanate from the hallowed halls at 25 Broadway. I have written before of JFNA as a Potemkin Village; never has the analogy been more true. And, yet, and, yet, those Federations with the highest annual Dues continue to pay as they are getting any return on the annual "investment." 

Here is how low JFNA has fallen:

  • There is not now nor has there been, for months a senior professional leader of financial resource development, Philanthropic Resources, the silo at JFNA that eats more than 50% of the Budget;
  • For over six months JFNA's Consulting Services Department has had no chief professional;
  • JFNA Global Services: Israel and Overseas ("IO" according to JFNA "jargon") employs over 25 in Jerusalem and has since Rebecca Caspi built her impenetrable silo, been without a single accomplishment;
  • The Young Leadership Cabinet has been a revolving door for its professional leaders as has been...
  • The Network;
  • The National Agencies Alliance is allocating less to the National Agencies it was created to nurture and sustain than at any point since it was created; and
  • ...worse and worse
The federations are getting no service worth near the $30 million dollars annually thrown at JFNA in the hopes something will happen each year that might justify the expense. More and more federations are following the lead of many of our largest communities, hiding JFNA Dues within their annual overseas allocations numbers because they are ashamed/embarrassed at the annual waste those Dues represent. It is an absolute certainty that if and when the Jewish polity saw the Dues number in federation annual budgets, first there would be shock, then serious questions, then, without doubt, either a demand for evidence of return on investment or/and significantly reduced Dues and/or a withdrawal from JFNA. In fact, that's happening all over; hidden from public view, of course.

Rather than anticipating the ultimate catastrophe for our continental organization -- one that it has brought upon itself -- and effecting change from within, starting with the absolutely necessary change at the top, our lay leaders elect to do...nothing. And "nothing" is the new normal for failing Jewish organizations. It's not the blind leading the blind, my friends, it's the impotent leading the impotent.

JFNA's main failing -- the failing of too many Jewish organizations -- is that it is a top-down organization. An organization where change only occurs when the "top" determines it must. However, when the "top" neither listens nor sees, there has been/will be no action. Can/will the "bottom" rise up? There were moment last year when CEOs at various City-sizes began to seriously questions the top heavy flailing and failing bloated organization they were funding. 

Those questions were only the beginning.



Anonymous said...

This just keeps on repeating itself:
> too little FRD, actually none at all
> too much Global I&O, almost all of it a total waste
> no professional leadership
> no lay leadership, oversight or control
> nobody that cares enough or has the courage to do something about it

Anonymous said...

A subset of our big 19 execs are evidently pulling all of the strings and actually making the management decisions at the top or causing them to be made based upon their own narrow vested interests.
If they wanted things to change they could cause things to change instantly.
I guess they like the color black!

paul jeser said...

Isn't it time for 'that' meeting?

Anonymous said...

identify the real professional who has the respect, knowledge, skill, political acumen and the chutzpah to get the job done. Recruit that person. And, lets move on. This is getting a bit boring.