Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Think of it this way: #ish and the TribeFestivii were the short cons; the Global Planning Table and the JFNA Budget were/are the long cons. But, there are and have been more...many more:

  • While writing a Post on a different subject entirely, I looked for the current whereabouts of a long-time CJF and, then, JFNA staffer -- good guy, excellent player of the bureaucracy, who maneuvered within JFNA from community consulting and leading disaster relief efforts (in both of which he excelled) before falling victim to an idiotic reorganization engineered by the then CEO which put him "in charge" of FRD. Forget that he had no experience in or leadership of FRD -- some saw the reengineering as merely a means of forcing out some excellent, creative FRD senior professionals -- that "worked" as only "worked" is defined within JFNA. so, I found this pro's CV at his new position and found that he has now taken credit for the very innovative FRD efforts of others, among other things, That's the way it sometimes works for JFNA alumni.
  • Back in Fall 2013, when some thought there was a chance that Jerry Silverman might actually emerge from the miserable cocoon he had been in as a full-fledged butterfly, he proved the hopeful wrong with the publication of a White Paper -- The Jewish Federations of North America Serving the Federation Movement. Even a cursory reading of the Long Con Paper revealed that JFNA had not a single new Initiative since the UJA/CJF years. But, some viewed those as "progress."
  • At almost the same time -- October 2013 -- the then Board Chair announced the Long Con "implementation of the Strategic Initiatives." JFNA announced it would now be the "convener of information and ideas." Uh huh -- even appointed a senior professional to the role of Vice President, Institutional Advancement, Thought Leadership. Great title -- in 2-1/2 years I haven't really seen much in the way of either Institutional Advancement or Thought Leadership -- but that's just me. 
  • There was the announcement in 2014 of the Volunteer Leadership Development Program -- which JFNA rolled out as Yasod only, apparently, to have been apprised, probably by the Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence which was to run the program, that it should have been Yesod, which is a Hebrew word which actually has some meaning. But, a rose is a rose, is a rose. So, a curriculum was developed for these volunteer leaders as if the Wexner Program or the Young Leadership Cabinets or local federation-driven leadership development programs didn't exist. The Yesod curriculum for one community was described as follows: "used the national Yesod curriculum, which combined Jewish texts with modern resources such as TED Talks and Harvard Business Review articles, and customized it for local leaders." At last count, JFNA budgeted $3.3 million -- that's $3,300,000!! -- for Mandel to do JFNA's work.
  • You may have noticed, perhaps in your own communities, that the public celebrations of Yom Ha'Atzmaut, once a highlight of the Jewish communal calendar, were either wholly abandoned this year or were no longer considered a federation responsibility as they had been for so long. Never has Israel needed our public support more than in this era of BDS and anti-Israel protests seemingly everywhere. But, quietly...shhh...the federation movement in too many places has abandoned the celebration of Israel's birthday. A real self-confident continental organization would have understood that rallying the federations in support of Israel is one of its sacred responsibilities -- for JFNA...never mind. Sure, many federations would ignore a continental initiative, but that should never be an excuse for doing nothing.
  • And, the longest con of all -- the Global Planning Table and its preposterous top-down sub-parts -- the Signature Initiatives -- you surely remember the unlamented passing of JQuest, The Israel Children's Zone, The Israel Religious Expression Platform (which continues in some form as the "volunteer" iRep). And one should add to these chapters in failure and lack of leadership and no Federation FRD the Government of Israel/World Jewry Initiative frustrated by a lack of leadership at every level and cooption by the Government of Israel and the immediate past Chair of UIA (who some tell me is now pursuing this illusive goal under the claimed aegis of the Minister of  Diaspora Affairs, Naftali Bennet, who engineered the cooption of "World Jewry to begin with.
  • And, of course, the so-called "JFNA Budget."
Oh, there's more, so much more. At JFNA we have a professional and lay leadership that has mastered the art of embellishment, the art of self-promotion and self-congratulations (for almost nothing) and the art of the con -- conning themselves and us at one and the same time. I sometimes think that Sandler and Silverman ought to be out on the street in front of 25 Broadway, with a card table and Three-Card Monte.

Someone once said that you should study the past to divine the future. Uh huh.



Anonymous said...

The current culture at 25 Broadway is "fear of failure" - yet, that's what they do, day in and day out. When will those responsible for JFNA's oversight wake up and do something about it?

Comment dedicated to the Board Chair, Cleveland and NY's CEOs, among others.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you also remember the GA's in New New Orleans, Cincinatti, Indianapolis, and so many other wonderful locations that engaged people in the community, engaged the participants in significant thought, challenged the thousands of participants to reach even greater accomplishments. Now we have the long con of JFNA passing off meaningless sessions in DC without local participation to about 700 people as a General Assembly. They are so good at this con that the reported number of participants is in excess of 3,000.

Anonymous said...

The longest con was the one Manning played on all of us - hiring the current CEO!

Anonymous said...

no problem identifying the big cons:
* GPT - even after killing it the con remains as some staff were simply reassigned to other con work.
* GA - it used to be important and now the con is to make folks think that it still is.
* Israel & Overseas - the mission should be to advocate for Israel - the con is locating it in Israel where nobody can see it or supervise it and where it cannot possibly fulfill its mission beyond some meaningless feel good relationships and making us feel important.
* Global "Operations" - illusions of grandeur - the con is to claim that our role should be to be big intetnational operators. It is not.
* Marketing - when there is no product to market the con becomes marketing ourselves and our own supposed greatness.
* the budget - the con is making folks believe that there is a workplan behind it - making ourselves believe it.
In a nutshell, the whole thing is a big bluff and the con is getting ourselves to believe that it is all real. It isn't!
Kind of makes you wonder how easy it evidently is to con so many lay leaders into sitting silently by and allowing this con show to go on and on.

Anonymous said...

Kind of like the presumptive nominee of one of our illustrious parties. There's no "there" there; it's a big fraud with slogans that only serve to enrich him and serve his narcissism while failing to act on commitments, making stakeholders feel ripped off and showing absolutely no long range planning or wisdom.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Wexler I am a new reader and an intermediate Fed exec. I have now read through your posts and the comments for the past year.
Although, I share many of your concerns. I really wonder how many responders are actual lay leaders, pros or donors.
I'm doubtful there are many.

Anonymous said...

There have been an few silly comments over the years on this blog - no more no less than other places on the web. However, none more rediculous than that of the ICE at 9:22. If the majority of commentators are not laity, donors or pros who are they? Disgruntled Bears fans? Bored twelve year olds? BDS trolls? Donald Trump? The only logical "other" category might be ex-donors, alienated laity or former pros. Yet if that is the case it is a truly damning piece of information, not in regard to Richard's blog, but in explanation of a struggling Federation system whose real value fundraising has declined precipitously over the past two decades.

Anonymous said...

Richard, Richard, Richard.

You left off one of the most colorful cons.

Gerard, "The Grifter in Chief" (Jerry) Silverman told many donors that if the GPT did not succeed, that JFNA itself would fail.

So did he deliver? No. JFNA continues to waste our money like me a leaky faucet set on gush.

It is useful to keep in perspective, that we are wasting more money every year at JFNA than we are giving in total to the JDC.

Shame on us.

Anonymous said...

Good point, Anon 1:55.
But then we shouldn't be surprised that nobody on the JFNA Board has brought up that issue about the GPT's abject failure and Jerry's pitch a few years back for supporting it.
Nobody cares.

Anonymous said...

From: Kline, Stephan
Sent: Friday, June 17, 2016 11:26 AM
Subject: Alliance Funding Announcement

The National Federation/Agency Alliance (Alliance) is a coalition of 30 federations that provide core (undesignated) financial support to the national agencies listed below. Many of these national agencies have been long-time historic partners of the Jewish Federations and engage in extremely important work on behalf of the federation system and the national Jewish community.
For a number of years, UJA-Federation of New York has been the largest sustaining member of the Alliance and currently allocates almost $1.6 million or 38% of the overall funding pool. Yesterday, UJA-Federation informed us that it will discontinue its support to the Alliance, effective June 30, 2017, given the long-standing challenges in broadening financial support across the Federation system for the Alliance funding process.
We recognize that New York’s departure from the Alliance will have significant implications for the Alliance process. Over the next few months the Alliance will be working with you to explore next steps.
Shabbat shalom,
Marcie Orley, Chair, National Federation/Agency Alliance
Stephan Kline, Coordinator, National Federation/Agency Alliance

The Alliance national agencies:
· American Jewish World Service
· Association of Jewish Families and Children’s Agencies
· Hillel International
· JCC Association
· Jewish Council for Public Affairs
· National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry
· Seventy Faces Media (formerly JTA)

Anonymous said...

In the immortal words of Sally Bowles:

Farewell mein Lieber Herr,
It was a fine affair,
But now its over...

Anonymous said...

The real question is "What is the "it" that is over? I would be very surprised if NY stops funding the listed agencies at the level they are currently funding. If the "it" refers to the dissolution of the National Funding Council (or whatever it is called) I suspect that the NFC will fall apart as other especially large supporters (Cleveland, Chicago, LA are you reading this) will probably also start going their own way. There is a actually a potential upside - JFNA can now fire whoever was responsible for the NFC and the funding sources could actually give more money directly to the beneficiary agencies.

RWEX said...

I love your optimism -- just a reminder, this is JFNA!! (But I think you were kidding.)