Monday, May 16, 2016


If JFNA were a hospital patient, it would be in the ICU and periodically appearing on the heart monitor to flatline, approaching the need for hospice care. We all know how it happened, how we got to this day -- we were there at the beginning and, now, we are close to the end. We have seen the patient decompose over the last six+ years into a sclerotic, semi-comatose invalid.

Sure, we know that periodically specialists -- let's call them LCE -- are called in to resuscitate the patient, applying the defibrillators time and time again, only to see the patient lapse back into the sorry state that brought them to the bedside in the first place. So here are the questions: can this patient be saved and, if so, how? It's costing us $30,000,000 +/- to keep it alive and all we have to show in return are some nice federal grants, a few worthless acronyms, a whole helluva lot of overpaid professionals and a mess of consultants -- in other words, almost nothing. And, we, in the main, sit idly by, pretending stuff is happening and ignoring the comatose, sclerotic body at our feet.

Some of you have questioned how this can be; how federation leaders -- in the main smart , knowledgeable and decisive elsewhere -- sit by and let what has happened happen without a peep. Let me respond with an example that might "explain." Years ago, in my community, we elected to the Federation Board an attorney whom I knew to be both brilliant and combative in both his law practice and  personal life. He was a generous philanthropist as well and had served earlier with distinction on at least one Agency Board. He had been to Israel on Missions and was well-acquainted with the issues facing the Jewish community. He agreed to serve on the Board and regularly attended meetings. For two years he sat at meetings month-after-month and said nothing...not a thing. On several occasions I asked him why and he just shrugged his was truly inexplicable. He had so much to offer and he said nothing at all.

Oh, in private he expressed his growing dissatisfaction to any who would listen but at meetings he merely smiled and voted. And after his two year term he left the Board. I still don't understand it; just as I will never understand where the voices of JFNA Board members have gone; you know, the voices they use at their own Federation Board meetings -- but, at JFNA, uh uh. As they have allowed the organization itself to go comatose, so they themselves are found in the same sorry state. 

JFNA, where everyone is comatose.



Anonymous said...

And yet here we are in the Midwest--with assistance and support from JFNA at every step for everything we need. Go figure.

RWEX said...

That is great news!! Please (without naming your community [as that would apparently embarrass you] tell us what services, "assistance and support" your federation has received.

paul jeser said...

No matter how much criticism is given, even if it is only 50% correct, change will not happen without some sort of outside intervention. There needs to be a gathering/meeting of those who really care about the future of a Federation system umbrella support organization to begin a discussion which could, hopefully, lead to changes.

Anonymous said...

Good question. My exec can probably answer this better than I, but I know that we receive a lot of missions support and VIP visit support, there is someone who advises our exec on problem-solving. We've had JFNA speakers come in to help with parlor meetings. We get help through the 'system' with Israel and Overseas updates and some of the training institutes. The daily emails, which you mock, are really helpful for us smaller communities with their ideas and best-practices. We're not all Chicago.

Anonymous said...

It isn't all bad news. I'm sure that there are some things that tbey are getting right and that some folks are even really happy and are receiving some support and assistance. That is not the point though.
The question is whether or not the organization is doing the best job possible with the resources that are available to it and putting those resources to work in the best possible way to achieve the best possible results.
That is how we run our businesses and most of the organizations that we are involved in and care about. What is it about this organization that makes us behave so differently - so irresponsibly?
Is there anyone alive that really believes that our national organization is anywhere near where it should be or could be by that standard?
Does the budget that we will soon be asked to approve reflect a reasonsble strategy and prioritization for doing what we should be doing well and not doing what we shouldn't be doing any more?
If not we should reject it and demand that it be changed drastically before we will be willing to let it pass.
Such action may not be pleasant but it is what is expected of us and it is about time that we start to speak out and demand real strategic change instead of more of the same.
Lets stop saying "aye" and bring this very sick entity back to life.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous at 1:44 - Almost everything you receive from JFNA is available al a carte and since you would pay for that on an as needed basis the ongoing overall cost to your federation would be much less. The real purpose of having these services centralized should be to have everything integrated, and to have the best and brightest resources available. While your federation is obviously much smaller you also pay a much smaller portion of the $30m budget than the larger cities pay. The point that Richard and many of us continue to make is that the collective services received by all of the federations doesn't even begin to come close to the collective cost. As one example take the function of executive recruitment. Some portion of JFNA budget goes to find top executives, yet many of the execs hired in recent years were recruited by outside firms all funded directly by the federation seeking the exec. Another example is missions which you noted as something that JFNA provides for your federation, yet a very large number of federations go directly to tour providers like Isram, Da'at tours, etc for their mission coordination and not to JFNA which maintains a huge mission department in Israel (probably the largest portion of the budget of JFNA). The reason for these kinds of examples of going outside the system is that the system is not qualified to provide the best possible resources. I doubt that the majority of the federations would object to a $30mil budget if that $30mil was doing what it is supposed to do and doing it in a quality fashion. I even bet that if this were the case Richard would retire his blog and join the bandwagon of supporters of JFNA as would I.

Anonymous said...

Very valid points, Anon 2:30.
Speaking about executive recruitment, the Mandel Center has gone from recruiting CEOs and CDOs to only CEOs. Even though the Mandel Family funds a (good) portion of the total cost, Mandel is still a line item in the JFNA budget. How many Federations are using Mandel for their CEO recruitment.....and for all we know, that function, which is so critical to the Federations, might go by the wayside, given the trajectory of JFNA and the services it provides.
I agree that it is not the $30 Million, but what it provides (or more to the point. doesn't provide) to the system.
To the Large City CEOs credit, they don't need the services that their share of the dues (both individually or collectively) represents (75%?); they have staffed their organizations exactly according to their needs. And yet, they continue to pay their share (with probably a few exceptions), knowing that the other 130 or so federations glean the benefit....that's their commitment to The Collective.
What I don't understand is, given that reality, why isn't there a groundswell from the LCEs to make JFNA the best it can be? JFNA being better would not have a negative affect on them at all.
Or what am I missing here?