I have to admit that they are pretty clever at 25 Broadway, those so superb leaders of JFNA. Yes, indeed, they can even make the worst of just a few years ago look better in comparison with the pathetic state of today. How. you ask?
Well, back in January 2012, the ever obedient then National Campaign Chair presented a report -- Philanthropic Resources Support Services to Federations -- so preposterous that it was astounding that it could have been presented with a straight face. The fact was back then that the report was copied almost entirely from one that had been drafted five years earlier which, in turn, had been cut and pasted from one prepared at UJA some 15 years earlier, when I was National Campaign Chair. Listed in the JFNA piece were a preposterous 97 programs in which the Philanthropic Resources Department was "engaged." The puffery was so preposterous that the "programs" included such as "NYL Cabinet Shabbaton at the GA" or the then failed TribeFest, or Boutique Missions (of which there had been none) and similar.
That was then...and this is the now -- Philanthropic Resources has a National Chair, a Consultant, a staff of 45 newly managed, a large budget (50% of the $30 million Dues Budget is a lot of money)...and nothing else. We have reached such a sorry state at JFNA that the fictions in that 2012 Report now becomes the halcyon day of yore. The leadership, such as it is, the Board, such as they are, could care less about what is not happening with our donors' dollars any more than they care about what is happening.
But, on these pages you have written haven't you, they ask, that Richard Sandler does care, a lot; and has verbalized the need for a strong JFNA? Yeah, I have. I know that Richard doesn't suffer fools and, like his predecessors, he is motivated by Jewish values and, in Richard's case, by his vision of what JFNA can/should be. You note that Sandler must see what a failure JFNA has become -- no FRD, no Consulting Services to federations, an uncontrolled/unmanaged silo in Jerusalem producing nothing, a JFNA producing nothing beyond some programs run by highly compensated Consultants and the brilliant grant work of JFNA-Washington.
So, you have asked: why doesn't Sandler do what surely he knows must be done? Well, we all like shalom, don't we? On a personal basis I know that Richard likes Jerry, and, were there some weighing the pros and cons of Jerry's leadership, like might be a make-weight in a judgment of his leadership. But, with a record like that of JFNA under this CEO, how could like make a bit of difference? Then, there are among the JFNA's highest non-governance body -- its Advisory Council -- some who participated in hiring the Smilin' One and who, since that moment in time, have been unable to see anything wrong in how JFNA has been mis-managed, hard as that may be to believe -- how could they see it with their heads in the sand? And, then there is inertia -- it is so much easier to do nothing, to take no action. After all, other than the malcontents, does anyone really give a damn -- and why should Sandler pay any attention to those, to us?
Seven months into Richard's first year as Board Chair and he is already approaching the same paralysis that afflicted his predecessor for Michael Siegal's three years. Like Michael, Sandler knows what must be done, what should be done. His refusal to act on what he knows will doom his years as Chair as it did Siegal's leaving Richard, at the end, as history left Michael -- trying to conjure up a few winning moments from three years of institutional failure.
I know that Michael Siegal cared; I know that Richard Sandler cares. But the gap between caring and acting is too wide to overcome. As Nike said: "just do it."