Wednesday, May 4, 2016


OK, I admit that I have devoted a great deal of ink and thought to the waste at JFNA -- waste that is most evident in the aimless wanderings of JFNA--Global Affairs, Israel and Overseas ("JFNA-Israel" hereafter). Admittedly, it's been an easy target -- a silo without accomplishment or accountability always is -- but why is that so? And why does it continue  in the fashion to which we have grown accustomed over the years. Why is the adult supervision it so obviously needs so lacking? And why has JFNA-Israel become JFNA in microcosm?

I have asked those that I trust whether JFNA-Israel is but a kind of Ponzi scheme laundering 10s of millions of dollars every year without an achievement to show for it. They assure me that not all of the dollars allocated to the silo are wasted; just most of them. The silo grows through budget games eating up not just the millions allocated to the JFNA-Israel entity but also a substantial amount of the FRD Budget inasmuch as there is no FRD on-going at JFNA at all.

To those who would ask whether the same waste would have occurred at UJA back in the day, I can only answer that it could not have. There we had a legitimate budget process that began, as it does at JFNA, with a staff effort, but culminated with (1) a two-day hands-on lay driven set of budget hearings where Department staff and lay Chairs were challenged on their accomplishments, explained their failures and defended the Budget requests; (2) the Budget and Finance Committee then met and recommended the Budget; and (3) that Budget then was approved (or rejected or modified) by the UJA Board. Compare that to the JFNA Budget and Finance "process" where, for at least the last decade, the Budget is prepared by and vetted by and through staff; and, even questions on the Budget are frowned upon or rejected; a single meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee for a few hours (including lunch and snacks) is found to suffice and that Budget then proceeds to an annual pro forma JFNA Board rubber stamp.

It is in this way that JFNA continues to run amok and will continue to do so unless and until lay leadership steps in -- at the Departmental/silo level, or at the Budget and Finance Committee level, or at the Executive and Board level. And, even with wonderful, sometimes ambitious, lay leaders at each level, there appears to be a continuing desire to do nothing, to exercise no leadership, to "JFNA business as usual." It's as if the powers that be when assessing the next version of leadership look around and state: "there's _____ _____, h/she's safe, no trouble, no push back...perfect." And we get the leadership we deserve.

This lack of accountability is shameful; yet JFNA has become an organization characterized by unaccountability (look up the definition at your leisure) from top to bottom and bottom to top. It's certainly not just JFNA-Israel that has not been held accountable for a lack of achievement, It's a place where financial resource development, designed to be one of JFNA's strengths has been permitted to wither and disappear without professional leadership, without a lay Campaign Cabinet, incapable, as we have pointed out on these pages, of assisting federations in need as FRD once did with strength. And, on and on and on. It's a veritable consultants' paradise.

We are now well along in the JFNA Budget cycle for 2016-2017. This will be the test of responsibility for Jodi Schwartz and Richard Sandler, leaders for whom I have had the highest regard. We expect a lot of them. 

We'll be watching.



Anonymous said...

Don't hold you breath!
The ability of lay leadership to have even minimal influence is non-existent in today's organization.
The "professionals" will decide what can be changed or cut back and what items are "untouchable" based upon their own vested interests and personal preferences.
Things will continue to be that way for as long as we allow it.
So don't hold your breath!

Anonymous said...

The budget of any organization is the only real indication of its policy.
The budget of this organization is determined by staff. They will decide what our prioritiez are and then present their budget proposals for a vote. All in favor are expected to say "aye" or just shut up.
And you thought that lay leadership were supposed to be setting policy for professionals to implement.
Silly you!

RWEX said...

I agree that I should not hold my breath and with the admonition -- "silly me."

Anonymous said...

Just appoint silo chiefs and let them create their own self inflating, ever expanding "operations" that waste more and more of our limited resources on whatever they think is important and makes them feel good.
They should feel good. After all, look at what a great deal that they have going for themselves. They are overpaid and protected by the dysfunctional system of oversight and control that we have allowed to become the norm.
But the real tragedy with all of this is that we also feel good about it. We must be seriously delusional. We should be feeling pretty bad because for us - and for the Jewish People - this is a really bad deal.

Anonymous said...

Sort of like having to choose between Clinton or Trump to lead this country....nobody wins except the candidates.
As has been written so many times, no lay leadership cares enough to question anything.