Monday, August 29, 2016


I remain a JFNA  Board Member. In that capacity, following JFNA's refusal to share with me the "agreement" with SS+K (See, Post, Shepardson Stern and
Kaminski, LLC -- Who Are These Guys?), I requested a copy of a Consultant Contract from Pam Zaltsman, JFNA CFO. Her response to the request was terse: "...JFNA doesn't share its contracts." Hmmm, yes, friends, JFNA locks away "its" (aren't those Contracts, "ours"?) contracts just as Donald Trump locks away his tax returns. 

It would be easy to just dismiss this denial to a non-profit Board Member of a basic right; but this is too important. A Board Member's duty of inquiry is vital to the success of any and every non-profit, not just JFNA. But JFNA doesn't recognize that duty, in fact it resents it and it rejects it absolutely and in every way.

I recognize that JFNA and others need to place reasonable restrictions on the potential distraction that inquiries might create. That would be fair. But, inasmuch as  the CFO's announcement of a "policy" appears to be nothing more than an ad hoc fiat created at the whim of the CEO, not an adopted "access" policy of the entity, it is but another pathetic example of misguided professional action that has come to typify JFNA. And, from all indications, the CEO is doing so with the implicit if not explicit approval of the JFNA Board Chair.

I, and others, have over time, asked for full disclosure of the number, extent and amounts of JFNA's consultant contracts -- while the number of undisclosed consultancies in excess of $100,000 increased with non-disclosure from the five in 2013-14 to 15 in 2014-15 -- an increase of 300%. And not one of those agreements has ever been reviewed and/or approved by the JFNA Board. We are talking about $6,528,000 for unidentified "Outside and Professional Services" in the 2016-2017 Budget -- the second largest expense category; almost more than JFNA invests in Program. That "Outside and Professional Services" Expense line is up 8.3% over the prior fiscal year and makes up 12.3% of total expenses and Board Members (at least this one) are told: "...JFNA doesn't share its contracts."

Several years ago we observed the impropriety of JFNA delegating (how or why we never learned) to the Marketing Committee the determination of how to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars with no approval by the Board or the Executive Committee. That request for information was just ignored. That's how JFNA conducts its business..and it's wrong and it's pathetic...and it's dangerous.

We see $6.5 million unaccounted for and unsupervised...and, now, we have come to understand that there is no accountability for these expenditures. If JAFI had a $6.5 million line item with no back-up, no lay review, no approval process and no disclosure, is there any doubt that JFNA lay leaders on the JAFI Board would be ballistic, demanding accountability? If our federation budgets had a line equivalent to $6.5 million for which there was no accountability and no disclosure and an inquiring Board member were told "...we don't share our contracts," I guarantee that change (in every way) would be immediate.

But, of course, this is JFNA...and not one cares. 


Friday, August 26, 2016

JFNA'S 2014 990

As is annually the case, JFNA waited to the last possible moment permitted by regulation to file its annual 990 -- this one for FY2014-2015.  And, as usual, it discloses many things and doesn't disclose so much. Let's examine just some of the disclosures:

  • In the covered fiscal year, JFNA paid the New Orleans Sheraton $648,949 for "meeting space and services for TribeFest." Yes, that totally failed Festivus for None of Us created a remarkable cost. No doubt there was some off-setting income but I would wager it nowhere approached $649,000.
  • Jerry Silverman continues to smile while earning $724,000 in FY2014-2015 for exactly what then...and now? This compensation remains the most incredible in Jewish organizational life if one equates compensation with success.
  • Then there's Becky Caspi -- earned $341,000 in FY2014-2015.It should be noted that Prime Minister Netanyahu earned $141,000 (true his benefits are incalculable) and England's Prime Minister earned $215,000 but, of course, Caspi was responsible for...?
  • In the fiscal year 12 JFNA professionals earned over $150,000 each, 5 of whom are no longer longer there by their choice not that of the Smilin' One;
  • Another matter of great interest to all of us who believe  in equal work for equal pay should be that one senior professional is being paid in the 2014-2015 Fiscal Year far, far less -- almost 50% less -- than was paid her male predecessor for the same position in 2011-2012. Just another example of JFNA being an exemplar of "do as we say, not as we do;"
  • We have already written of the strange case of the "confidentiality" attached to a $1,000,000 conduit through JFNA to the SS+K firm, identified on the 990 as an "Independent Contractor," in Shepardson Stern and Kaminsky LLC -- Who Are These Guys? The question remains after JFNA asserted "confidentiality" as to the contract between a secret donor and SS+K for a secret project. And JFNA lay leadership has apparently supported the claimed confidentiality.
  • The 990 disclosed that 15...that's right 15... consultants earned in excess of $100,000 each in 2014-2015 -- we know little if anything about any of them. Compare and contrast with the 5 consultants earning over that minimum contract amount in the prior year.
  • I am certain it can be easily explained, though it never is, why JFNA had a net Accounts Receivable balance at fiscal year-end 2015 of $54,825,185. Unpaid Dues, perhaps?
  • Then there's the claimed expenditures of $8.4 million on "Fundraising" and another $3 million on the "Power of the Collective" (Class, define and discuss, please) Really. Lots of flexibility in how the Budget was spent, wasn't/isn't there?
There's never any shame or accountability when it comes to JFNA.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016


It was May 2011 when the grand experiment was announced:
"Ramat HaSharon has joined the American and international philanthropic world by creating Israel's first community Federation.

Takdim” – the Ramat HaSharon Community Foundation will be led by local civic leaders, similar to the way Jewish Federations are led in the United States.
Funds for the organization will be raised from local business and community residents for projects to be carried out in the same area.

The chairman of the new organization is David Ivry, president of Boeing Israel and former Israeli Ambassador to the United States. Ramat HaSharon Mayor Yitzchak Rochberger has been named honorary president.

Included on the board of directors are singer Yehoram Gaon, former IDF spokesperson Col. Miri Eisen (ret.), ad agency CEO Rami Shalmor, IAF Commander-in-Chief (ret.) Herzl Bodinger and Shlomo Nechama, chairman of the board of directors of Bank HaPoalim.
 “By establishing Takdim we are setting a precedent and we hope this will start a movement in other Israeli communities,” said Ivry. “We believe it's our responsibility to work toward improving society and this starts at home,” he continued, quoting the halakhic injunction positing that charity begins at home." 
And six years later, the experiment quietly died and no one seemed to notice.  We thought the birth and death of this dream at least deserved a proper burial.

The Takdim effort was a noble example of both hope for a new model of Israeli philanthropy and the mistaken paternalistic belief of many in North America that what our communities have built in North America is immediately transportable. This patronizing did not find a welcoming home in Ramat HaSharon. I kinda knew this experiment was doomed when I learned that the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund of San Francisco, etc., saw itself as the "model" for Takdim, essentially taking the Israeli "federation" under its own broken wing. When I read in that community's Blog Post on the subject, authored by the then CEO, Jennifer Gorovitz, that "[T]he JCF's reputation in Israel as a leading innovator in strategic philanthropy is what led the leadership of Takdim to reach out..." to San Francisco, I broke out in laughter.

Leaders from Ramat HaSharon visited San Francisco but what might be learned there? How to build the strongest of Community Foundations -- yes, but would any community start-uo begin with building endowment? Governance? Maybe? Support of its historic partners? Not at all. Building a strong FRD base? Hah!! "Strategic philanthropy?" HaHaHa. Great restaurants? Yes. A beautiful JCC? Sure.The community was floundering to such an extent at the time that it had been through multiple CEOs over multiple years -- that Federation should not have had the time to spare with the Takdim folks when it should have been focusing all of its time on itself. But it was very gracious of them.

And San Francisco wasn't alone. My own federation, offering itself as a model, jumped in with our collective feet, even forming a "partnership" that may still be in place -- albeit without a partner. The noble underpinning of Chicago's effort can be found in 2013 in

San Francisco and Chicago weren't alone -- community lay and professional leaders of great good will and, though they would never realize it, a sense of noblesse oblige, were running into each other, crossing each others paths in their honest desire and belief that the North American communal experience was somehow transferrable to Israel. How many federation CEOs showed up with their Israel reps in tow ready to unpackage their communal building experiences to help Takdim - - many the self-same chief professional officers who haven't the time or interest to focus on the absolute ineptitude of their own continental organization. 

And, in its ineptitude, JFNA, which should have been the focus of these efforts or at least managing them, if they were have a chance of success, could not offer anything. Not from the woeful JFNA-Israel office where the bloated staff is lacking an intensive federation experience; not out of 25 Broadway, where Silverman still hadn't learned the most basic ethos of federation qua federation -- so lacking in the basics of organizational roles that it didn't/couldn't/wouldn't  coordinate the North American communal "invasion" of Ramat HaSharon.

Certainly the seeds of a federation still-birth were there from the beginning given the demand by local politicians that they have a leadership role that politicized the Takdim "federation" construct externally before it even had the chance to politicize itself internally. The JDC, which had invested significantly in building indigenous communal and philanthropic leadership in Israel, was strangely detached. And, as any of us who had been exposed to the Israel brand of philanthropy could have advised, it was and is something totally different from the American communal experience where our communities have been built upon women and men of great wealth trust in the communal leadership and the communal entity -- a trust, of course, that has been breaking down; a breakdown to which JFNA has contributed mightily and about which its leaders have been, of course, oblivious.

Someone, some organization, might take a serious look at the brief life and death of Takdim as a case study -- because this experiment was noble and serious and we and our Israeli mishpacha have so much to learn from it.


Saturday, August 20, 2016


As you read what follows, please bear in mind the following:

  • In the FY 2013-2014 JFNA 990 the organization disclosed that it had 5 consultants earning more than $100,000 each; in the FY 2014-2015 990 JFNA disclosed that the organization had 15...yes, you read it correctly, 15...consultants who received more than $100,000, only the "5 largest" are disclosed -- and those without detail
  • In the 2016-2017 Budget, the second highest expense category -- second only to "Payroll and Benefits" -- was "Outside and Professional Services" at $6,528,000, 12.3% of the Budget with no disclosure of whom or for what
And, now...

I have always felt that one builds a professional organization by hiring the best and brightest, creating a professional staff of excellence and, thereby, moving the organization forward and upward -- whether it's a law firm, a for-profit or a non-profit. As one of our correspondents' noted, no matter how spectacular a consultant may be, there is not the institutional accountability or continuity that comes with one who is on your staff. Because Jerry Silverman doesn't have a clue how to build an organization, building a staff for the present and future is no longer the path forward at JFNA. No, friends, JFNA has become the feeding trough for the consultant class -- case in point, the "new FRD" at 25 Broadway, but there is so much more...or less. 

Obviously, FRD is just the newest and latest part of JFNA to join the consultants parade that JFNA had already begun -- mystery consultant, Deborah K. Smith, and, then, Paul Kane, Karen Barth, Max Kleinman and G-d knows how many more right on up to the esteemed Sr. FRD Consultant, Vicki Agron. Add to the list the totality of the Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence; consultant after consultant after consultant. From the now dead Global Planning Table to community searches to FRD, one consultant after another, their contracts hidden from view; often, too often, their purposes unknown. (See, e.g., Post "Where's Waldo") In fact, the recently filed 2014 990 disclosed that there were 15 consultants (11 of them unnamed) paid in excess of $100,000 in FY 2014-2015; note that the consultant headcount disclosed on the 2013-2014 990 was 5. Who were they; what did they do; who approved the contracts? Will we ever know? Is it none of our business?

And, now, JFNA Financial Resource Development. Vicki Agron, about whom we have written with pride and a high degree of optimism, has brought (or will bring) two of the best and brightest into the organization  to lead what will no doubt be a strong and focused community consulting FRD effort...for a time. Great people; professionals whom any community, any organization, would be proud to have on its professional staff. But in the the bizzaro-world that is JFNA, these two top, proven professional leaders have signed on as part-time consultants -- and, taking this to its weird extreme, until the recently named Senior Vice-President FRD at JFNA -- until Brian Abraham joins the "team"  -- these two consultants (and G-d knows how many more) will report to Agron. So there you have it -- building an FRD function from scratch where two consultants and perhaps more will report to a third consultant who, maybe, reports to Jerry Silverman, at least for a while.

I am certain the two new consultants cited will do invaluable work and will be a real and significant resource for the federations -- maybe even supplanting the FedCentral web mailbox that JFNA has substituted for doing anything itself. But they will be, as we consultants always are (and I am a proud consultant myself -- just [and this will not surprise you] not to JFNA) -- transients where permanence and continuity are desirable, even necessary. And, to the extent that these consultant contracts are not exclusive, prioritizing the work with the federations over the consultants' work for others, who assures that this structure will even work? Will it be Vicki Agron, herself on a non-exclusive consulting agreement with JFNA, Brian Abrahams, or someone else? 

We all know that the National Campaign Chair, Harold Gernsbacher, has signed on to the Consultant plan -- he just wants FRD to work, as we all do. But what is vital and missing from this consultants' dream is the building of a real full-time professional cadre -- and, now, having attracted a Senior V-P FRD will saddle that person with consultant contracts he/she did not negotiate until those contracts end. 

But, it's not just FRD, friends, there remains the mysterious $1 million contract/conduit with the strategic marketing and branding firm, Shepardson Stern and Kaminsky which raised the question, at least for me: where are these consultant contracts negotiated, who approved them, who monitors them? We'll leave that question too a future Post.

Bottom line, friends, as with most things Jerry, this is another idea, structure, program not fully thought through. Not close. This is another band-aid affixed to the gaping wound that is staffing at JFNA. And I had heard that the Board Chair believed that he had put an end to the seemingly endless stream of consultants to JFNA. 

Guess I had heard wrong. As usual


Wednesday, August 17, 2016


For several years, as faithful readers know, I have been on the search for Deborah K. Smith, JFNA's highly compensated "mystery consultant." Still haven't pinned down what she does for all of that money she's paid but I have learned some important things. 

For instance:

  • Smith was working with Mandel on Executive searches in 2010. I know and reported on these pages of her efforts completed this year in engaging a new CEO for the Rochester New York Federation. In the announcement of the Search in 2015, the Rochester Federation wrote that : "Deborah K. Smith, Consulting Partner and Senior Executive Advisor for Human Resource Development" at JFNA would conduct the Search. This is a job title of which I admit I was unaware.
  • Then, on the other hand, on a visit to the Louisville Federation with the ubiquitous Smilin' Jerry in 2012, Deborah K. Smith did a staff consultation to improve their communication skills and: "Smith told the (Louisville) board that times have changed and fundraising has changed, too. It is essential that Campaigns cultivate younger donors, and younger donors don’t approach philanthropic giving the way their parents did. They want to know what their dollars are doing and often want to have direct involvement beyond their monetary donation." At least we now know that Deborah is a master/mistress of the obvious.
  • So, I was confused -- understandably I think -- is Ms. Smith working on FRD training or is she doing search work or both, if the two can be combined. And, based on personal experience, the two disciplines generally don't work well together. Or, is she working on other things altogether?
So, Deborah K. Smith* remains a "mystery woman," at least to me. Her roles at JFNA appear to be...well, confused. What did you expect? And. G-d forbid anyone manages her -- I think she has a direct reporting line to CEO Jerry whereas most everyone else now reports to COO (?) Mark Gurvis...but, maybe not. And, this is the professional who was among the two or three highest paid on the JFNA payroll -- as a consultant. It is possible that her compensation is now hidden in JFNA's most recent 990 where she appears to be lumped into the "15 other consultants" (up from 5 in the previous 990) earning more than $100,000 never named. 

So, let's see what we do know: there's Smith...there's Agron...there's Kleinman... there's SS+K (which is named as an "independent contractor" but is now revealed not to work for JFNA at all for the $1,000,000 it was paid), there was (and may still be) Paul Kane...there was Karen Barth...all consultants, all supping at the JFNA trough. And I'm sure I'm missing many hidden in the "other 10 of 15.". Friends, this is no way to build an organization, no way to build an organizational culture. 

BUT, then again, take a gander at the Executive Office and a peek into CEO Jerry's. Can there be a singular search more unrewarding than the search for Jerry's areas of competency -- is it as a manager, a planner, a visionary, a marketer, a rabbinic scholar...a font of not thought through ideas or bad sermons? A...what, exactly? What do Richard Sandler and a core group of acolytes see that I and a large group of us sinners don't. Someone...anyone...tell us. Help us understand.

Deborah K. Smith, Jerry Silverman...woman and man of mystery. Nobody knows what either one does. And, apparently, we shouldn't.


* An FOB with a great memory reminded me that this is not the first time I have questioned what DKS (yes, she apparently is remembered by her initials, like "JFK") does. Five years ago I wrote: Still don't know the answer.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


So, the recently filed JFNA 990 Return disclosed a FY 2014-2015 $1,000,000 contract to the Consulting Firm, Shepardson, Stern + Kaminsky, "SS+K" if you will. I don't know what SS+K did for JFNA, and neither do you, but here is how that Firm described itself:
"Shepardson Stern + Kaminsky LLC operates as a creative agency. It offers research services in the areas of competitive analysis, experience architecture, analytics, and brand positioning aspects; social services, such as engagement, channel and content planning, community management, and blogger outreach programs; brand services, including mobilization and activation services; marketing services, such as online and offline advertising, original content, and brand experience services; and visual services, including design, identity, and brand architecture services."
These are big-time players, with an amazing client list, and they describe themselves as follows: "creatively driven, truth inspired and mission based." They're clearly great. And, a plus, the SS+K offices are just 12 minutes by foot from 25 Broadway. (Oh, if only JFNA were "creatively driven, truth inspired and mission based.")

OK, now we know whom SS+K is. The question: what the hell did they do for JFNA, for the federations, for $1,000,000? Huh? A small box on the 990 describes their work as the "Project Connect Production." Ever hear of it? Was there an RFP? Was there competitive bidding for this $1,000,000 contract? Did the JFNA Board approve this $1 million consultant contract; did the JFNA Executive Committee? What the hell was/is it? I have found no evidence that this Contract -- this $1 million dollar deal -- was ever approved by any JFNA governance vehicle. It just happened, apparently. 

But, then there was this:

I emailed Pam Zaltsman and requested a copy of the SS+K/JFNA Contract:
"Dear Pam,

I hope all is well.

Pam, could you please email a copy of the SS+K (Shepardson Stern + Kaminski) contract executed by or for JFNA sometime in 2014?

Many thanks,


That request was made on August 6. and Pam's immediate response took my breath away. Here''s what she wrote::
"Hi Richard,

SS+K worked on an Israel Advocacy project which was funded by an anonymous donor.  Due to the confidential nature of the agreement and the project I am not at liberty to share the contract with you. 

Pam" (emphasis added)
Friends, I have known Pam as a wonderful professional, first at UJA and, then, JFNA -- but her response opens an entire new can of worms. Is JFNA laundering funds for special donors? Doesn't JFNA have to assure that funds flowing through it (as is the case with allocations to JAFI/JDC/ORT) are applied for qualifying charitable purposes? Why would an "anonymous donor" not fund an "Advocacy project" directly with SS+K? And, as a 501(c)(3) how does JFNA execute "confidential agreements?" How many more  "confidential agreements" for "anonymous donors" are there? 

Friends with greater knowledge of non-profit law than I have advised me that JFNA's service to a donor as a conduit is illegal. Further, JFNA's response ignores the legal reality that the donor's demands notwithstanding, his/her donation when made became the absolute property, perhaps with conditions -- conditions that would have to have been approved pursuant to JFNA's codified Gift Approval Policy -- was it?  The then expenditure of the donor's gift was strictly and solely a JFNA expenditure for which JFNA was and is responsible. 

Here's one apt analysis:
"But what if the fiscal sponsor is really just a pass-through? What if it automatically turns the money over to the non-exempt entity without exercising any discretion or control? Will the arrangement still hold up? Will the contributions still be tax-deductible?
As it turns out, for almost sixty years, the IRS has said that fiscal sponsorships are acceptable unless the tax-exempt group is a “mere conduit” for the distribution of the money. If it is a “mere conduit”, meaning it has no discretion or control over the funds, the arrangement fails and the transaction is treated by the IRS as one directly between the donor and the non-exempt entity, and therefore it is not tax-deductible. (See Rev. Rul. 62-113 1962-1 C.B. 10. See also IRS 1996 CPE Text ”Conduit Organizations – Charitable Deductibility and Exemption Issues” by  Ruth Rivera Huetter and Bill Brockner"
This stinks.*

It's possible that the CEO, good old Smilin' Jerry, felt/feels so enabled, that he would authorize a $1,000,000 conduit with no lay approval process? In all events, just who at JFNA authorized this "arrangement?" Board Chair Michael Siegal? CEO Silverman? Renee Rothstein? Mark Gurvis? Kathy Manning (just because)? You? Nobody? questions asked. When I asked Pam where the offsetting income appeared in the 990, she pointed to a "Program Services" income entry -- yet it really wasn't that was it? 

If you ask: "Do you really believe that that Budget approval authorized the execution of a $1,000,000 contract by JFNA with a third party on behalf of an undisclosed donor without Executive Committee or Board action, you will be told: "We'll get back to you." 

The potential for abuse in this "process" is so notorious that one wold expect, in a "normal" non-profit, that heads would roll. But, this is, of course, JFNA. Who was aware of this, who approved it, who monitored the application of $1,000,000? Were any questions asked?

This has to be explained...and, then, it has to stop.


* I later asked Pam Zalzman, JFNA CFO, for a copy of Deborah K. Smith's Consulting Contracts. The response:: "JFNA does not distribute its contracts" 

Thursday, August 11, 2016


                If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there.

With it's usual fanfare and self-congratulations, a few months ago, JFNA rolled out FedCentral, the latest in a line of FedCentric, FedWeb, FedOvation, FedWorld, FedExchange, etc., stuff -- as if attaching a "Fed" to anything and everything gives that operation relevance and importance.. Now, JFNA recently announced that this FedCentral "thing" has 2,500 "users." For the past weeks I have had the benefit of looking at just what's going on on this web-based vehicle for federation folk to interact with one another through a JFNA-enabled vehicle. Here's how JFNA described this latest "innovation:"
"New FedCentral is here! A Wikipedia of shared Federation knowledge, the new FedCentral puts the best resources of the Federation movement at your fingertips."
And maybe it's true -- so long as one has no expectation that "best resources" has anything to do with JFNA itself -- because FedCentral removes JFNA from the picture as anything other than a website -- more about that later.

Not to demean the requests that one may read weekly on FedCentral but they are often pedestrian -- does anyone have a Campaign Plan, how about Campaign Launch materials, anyone have a list of local and overseas endowment opportunities, can anyone send me their campaign film, an example of an annual marketing plan, and the like -- and exemplify with each question how little JFNA itself offers the federations for $30 million in Dues. And this is not to minimize the value of a vehicle for federation leaders, lay and professional, to communicate directly with each other. Yet, clearly, FedCentral is at heart a vehicle that evidences just how perfectly JFNA has distanced itself from that which were presumed to be its responsibilities. Is this just another example of "JFNA as convener?" Set it up and walk away?

For years this Blog and others have been ignored when we demanded that JFNA collect and disseminate federation "best practices." Then JFNA began to spout FedOvation as some kind of innovation when it was nothing more than some new-some old wine in a new bottle -- doing what should have been done but, for reasons known only to Silverman and his claque, never was. But even those "best practices" seem not to be making a dent, if one looks at the requests for help being made on FedCentral. 

To me all that FedCentral has done, beside the commendable "hooking up" of federation professionals and some lay leaders, is evidence all of the failures of JFNA in a single location. From reading the litany of requests on the FedCentral vehicle, it's hard to conclude anything other than (a) JFNA has neither the professional capacity nor the will, if that capacity exists, to assist the federations in anything other than Washington grants, some Missions, and a sad GA; and (b) there is a flood of new professionals entering the system who have no or limited experience and no training in the field and JFNA ain't there to help. Wouldn't it have made a difference for JFNA as an institution if it had that capacity and will to respond to the most simple of requests from federation professionals? Instead, JFNA makes itself ever more irrelevant to the federations.

It's really quite pathetic. All jargon, no substance. What's the value added that JFNA provides for a $53 million Budget?

Rhetorical question.


Monday, August 8, 2016


With absolute and total insouciance, Board Chair Richard Sandler sent out a Memo to the JFNA Board in advance of a Board teleconference that detailed the Calendar year-end estimated unrestricted allocations to JAFI, World ORT and the Joint. The Memo announced the results of a "Partnership Committee" chaired by the immediate Past JFNA Board Chair, Michael Siegal. This was just another of a continuing set of presentations of failures as successes.

So what is this "Partnership Committee" (given the results, one of JFNA's most notorious oxymorons to date, maybe it should be rebranded as  the "Anti-Partnership Committee")? It is the surviving remnant of JFNA's most significant failure, the Global Planning Table, z'l. If you recall, without even discussion with the Israel and Overseas Department Committee, Chairperson Mao Manning merely declared that allocations determinations would be made by her the then GPT. Then, in some ex parte proceeding, the Chairs of the GPT, Israel and Overseas and UIA carved up functions and upon the demise of the GPT, voila, allocations determinations would henceforth be made by this self-styled "Partnership Committee." The result, the lowest unrestricted allocations to JAFI and JDC and WorldORT...ever.

Here is the Memo:

"To: Richard Sandler, Chair, JFNA Board of Trustees
From: Michael D. Siegal, Chair, Partnership Committee
CC: Harold Gernsbacher, Jodi Schwartz; Jerry Silverman
Date: July 28, 2016
Allocation of Unrestricted Dollars to JFNA Partners for 2016

It is estimated that for 2016, $121.9 million* will be available to allocate to our Partners as unrestricted funding. As Chair of JFNA’s Partnership Committee, I hereby request that the Board approve the following proposed allocation to our partners based on JFNA management’s estimates.
          Estimated Unrestricted 2016 In millions

                            JAFI -- $88.5
                            JDC   --  31
                            ORT  --    2.4

            TOTAL $121.9
This recommendation was developed in consultation with the senior professional leadership of our major Federations and is consistent with the Partnership Committee’s recommendation to the Board for 2015 allocations which was to maintain the same percentage of unrestricted funds to the Jewish Agency, JDC and ORT as was allocated in previous years. This 2015 recommendation was ratified by the Board of JFNA."
Was this draconian result discussed with the leadership for JAFI/JDC/ORT? Of course not. Never discussed at a time that JFNA leaders are claiming that "relationships with JAFI and JDC have never been better" without proof but with plenty of examples of things just like this. All of you who read this know that if you have a private conversation with those "partners'" leaders, you will hear the reality of how JFNA is perceived by them today.

"To set the stage for more closely linking unrestricted funding with the programs and their impact, the Partnership Committee also recommended a shift to a dollar allocation instead of a percentage split.

          This estimate reflects a 1.77% decrease from 2015 allocations. JFNA/Federations will        pursue all possible avenues to increase the available amount." (emphasis added)

Yes, do be assured that "JFNA/Federations will pursue all possible avenues to increase the available amount." Just as JFNA has for so many, many years...sure.  Yes, this is the same JFNA whose CEO on one of his many visits to federations, this one in the SouthWest, pandering to federation leadership there, assured them that JFNA would never ask them to increase their overseas allocation. Yes, this is the same JFNA whose own leaders acquiesced in the failed "Signature Initiatives" of the failed Global Planning Table to the preaching of a message driving the system away from collective responsibility to one of "Coalitions of the Willing" that 25 Broadway and the GPT leadership couldn't recruit. Yes, this is the same JFNA that permitted the "carve-up" referenced above among the leaders of the now-dead GPT, UIA and Israel and Overseas in which UIA, with no discussion with its own Board, gave up its embryonic direct advocacy program (approved by the JFNA Board) which would have deployed the most knowledgeable lay advocates for overseas needs, coopted by Israel and Overseas for reasons yet to be explained. 

Yet, with Israel and Overseas deploying trained (or "semi-trained") lay "envoys" to 17 communities in the coming months to advocate for overseas, maybe there is some, albeit little, hope. If so, it would mean that JFNA has reversed history -- history that evidences that once a federation heads down the path of reduced allocations such reduction is never reversed. It will be an uphill battle but one, I believe (a) mandatory in fulfilling JFNA's moral obligation to our partners and (b) worth fighting.

Perhaps, JFNA leaders in addition would want to reflect on the Partnership Committee's simple math errors -- the decreases in allocations ("estimated," of course) are, at least in one instance double the 1.77% decrease described in the Siegal Memo. But, who's counting?

And, how does one fight for greater allocations with one institutional arm tied behind JFNA's back -- tied that way by the organizational chaos within JFNA itself. Follow the current path:

    1. The Partnership Committee, independent of Campaign and Israel and Overseas, self-determines the allocation
    2. Israel and Overseas, independent of Campaign, is engaged in advocacy that should be a program of FRD, I and O and a functioning, serious Financial Relations Committee (which, to the best of this writer's knowledge, no longer exists and if one exists is engaged in no advocacy whatsoever)
    3. The lack of trust by the federations in JFNA is reflected in pleas from 25 Broadway for campaign achievement (and cash collection) data -- data that have not been forthcoming even after the federations became owners of the system at the merger. You can intuit why there has been a breakdown in trust as well as I.
The lack of credibility will hopefully be overcome if and when a new and credible CEO is engaged.

And, there is a further hole in the current structure. There used to be a serious cash collections effort initiated by the Financial Relations staff professionals who engaged with Financial Relations lay leadership. Lacking such an effort, relying, apparently on Smilin' Jerry and the Finance Department, since the departure of CFO Sam Astrof and Cheryl Lefland, both of whom took the cash effort most seriously, and both of whom are gone, the end-of-the-year collection results seem to effect an annual shock as cash (which as you know follows allocations) results appear to be annual December 31 surprise to those at 25 Broadway..

All I can see from all of this is the vital need for a total reorganization of the JFNA Management structure...and now. Bring on McKinsey. I know...everything's great.


Friday, August 5, 2016


Stuff that just makes you scratch your head:

  1. The Board Chair sends out a Notice that Susie Stern (it was "a privilege" for him to work with her) had to vacate her position as the organization's only remaining Vice-Chair because she has joined the campaign of "one of the presidential candidates." For reasons known only to him, Richard Sandler found it impossible to state that that candidate is Hillary Clinton (Oh, wait, is it a secret??). Is that because Richard thought mentioning Clinton at all violates some unknown JFNA policy? Or was it because Sandler did not wish to "speak her name" out of fear of generating some imagined controversy?
  2. Silverman publishes one of the "From the Desk of..." sermons on "can't we all be respectful of everyone" but never, ever suggests that JFNA -- you know, the organization, not Jerry -- adopt a Resolution on the topic. Is it Silverman's expectation that his exhortations like this one have "the force of law" absent a resolution adopted by the Board? Is there no longer a JFNA Resolutions process?
  3. Have you a clue as to what JFNA's purposes and priorities are? Are they set by the Budget Committee; are they set by the JFNA "silos" -- you know, Israel and Overseas, Washington, JFNA Israel (which appears to exist independent of the  Global: Israel and Overseas Department), FRD (which now appears to be in overlap/duplication with that which once was Community Services and with Israel and Overseas)? Are there any priorities at all? Or are they coopted by whichever Department wants to do so?Who's the ringmaster at this circus? 
  4. The Answer: Scott Baio, Marcus Lattrell, the "Duck Dynasty" Guy and Rudy Giuliani. The Question: Who are on the exciting new lineup of speakers for this November's GA?
  5. When the afore-mentioned Susie Stern resigned for higher purpose, I advised some friends of the person I thought would emerge as the successor Vice-Chair. That name was also placed on a small piece of paper and placed in a safe-deposit box. It's almost a certainty that Lori Klinghoffer (the Nominating Committee Chair for life, apparently) was inundated with "candidates" themselves or by their supporters for this position that John Garner, or was it Alben Barkley, described as "not worth a bucket of warm spit." (Yeah, I know, it's a springboard to the Chairmanship. Although not for Susie Stern.) Sure enough, I was prescient. No one should have to ask how this happened. Congrats to her.
  6. New York UJA, after years of threatening to do so, abandoned its funding of the woeful Federation-National Agency Alliance -- the Alliance is on life-support and the National Agencies are forced to go back, federation-by-federation, to evermore-intensive fund raising. How will JFNA fund its "New Education and Planning Unit" if it can't extort  (if there is a better descriptive term, please advise) the hundreds of thousands it "needs" from a near-defunct Alliance?
  7. The Answer: "Mired in Mediocrity." The Question: "How did the GM of the baseball team for which I and my colleagues own Season Tickets, describe the Chicago White Sox?" Not: Though Jewish, that GM is unaware of JFNA or Smilin' Jerry. 
Yes, it's a mess,


Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Apparently not having much else to do, a couple of months ago a the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee (quite a combination) brought together Knesset members and Israeli government representatives and our North American leaders on the topic "What Is the Future of American Jewry?"* This is a critical question -- and we'll get to what this group tackling this subject might mean to American Jewry and Israeli Jewry in a moment -- and you can read all about this meeting in Jerusalem at -- for a moment we should first reflect on the message delivered to the group as reported in Arutz Sheva

I know how proud Richard Sandler, JFNA's Board Chair, was to present to this group:
"Our parents and grandparents in Israel was just a dream come true not long ago, and Israel gave us a lot and gave us pride, despite all the obstacles in its path.

Time and demographic variables have changed, and there are enormous challenges, and, yet, we have more in common, the same set of values. Regardless of demographic changes, we assure that the community will continue to mobilize our brothers and sisters in Israel, when you're at risk."
I was probably missing something, like syntax, and wished we could all see the totality of Richard's statement -- I knew there had to be more. 

As have been our questions of JFNA for at least the last six years -- "what is our communities' vision for itself and for our relationship to Israel" -- clearly weren't answered in Sandler's three sentences above. And so I was looking for the rest of Richard's statement.   And, if there was more, was Richard speaking for himself or for JFNA? I ask because at no time has JFNA ever...ever...discussed these questions let alone reaching out for answers through open debate. And, it's not only that we are incapable of answering these questions -- and others -- it's that we are incapable even of framing the questions.

Then the Times of Israel printed an Op-Ed authored by Richard that was a full, personal and beautifulstatementofcommitment.
Kal ha'kavod to Richard. That Op-Ed had to have been the essence of Richard's address to the quesKnesset members...but the question remains unanswered and never debated: "what is our communities' vision for itself and for our relationship to Israel?"

On the Israeli side I am always bemused, even troubled, that Israeli leaders who neither know our communities nor have made any attempt to know us -- how we pray, how we educate, how we care -- have strong opinions about how we should go about strengthening our sense of Jewish Peoplehood. It's one thing for MK. Nachman Shai or Amb. Michael Oren to offer insights -- they have lived with us and our mishagas and know us in all ways -- as opposed to Committee Chair Tzachi Hangegbi who framed the focus of the hearing as "American Jewry as a strategic asset to Israel's security." Hanegbi, a lifelong politician, has some serious issues on his resume:  "As president of the Hebrew University Student Union in 1980, he received a six-month suspended sentence for leading an attack on Arab students. Despite this incident, he became president of the National Union of Israeli Students later that year, holding that title until 1982." Later, charged with political bribery, Hanegbi was found not guilty while being convicted of perjury. Not the sort of politician to be giving advice to American Jewry methinks.

And then there were the remarks of former Mossad chief and Israel statesman, Efraim Halevy, whose positions on issues of security and Israeli-US relations have been consistently insightful but that's not what he offered:
"The problem in our relations with American Jewry is that we are losing many young people who want to be active parts [of the global Jewish community] because of the fact that we do not consider them Jews according to Halacha [Jewish law - ed.]," he opined. "This is a strategic issue, and it is also common to American Jews and actually Israeli Jews as well."
Halevy warned that the shrinking rate of "true" Jews poses a threat to sovereignty in Israel, as well as to the American Jewish community. 
"Solutions must come from Jerusalem - because 'from Zion comes Torah'."
I'm sure that most of us would agree that "solutions" to the issues that confront Ameerican Jewry will not "come from Jerusalem" until Israel confronts and deals with and "solves" the issues that divide Israeli Jewry, the issues of civil society and tolerance that threaten Israel from within -- and those solutions must come from Jerusalem. 

Maybe Richard Sandler's remarks dealt with those issues. Maybe not. Certainly not Richard's purpose in being there.

Then, as if this "event" weren't enough, on May 25, the Knesset organized a "Stars, Stripes and the Magen David" tribute to the historic contribution of America Jewry at which the Prime Minister, Knesset Members, the American Ambassador where Richard Sandler delivered Greetings. The Invitation made clear that it was non-transferable and "weapons are not permitted."  It was probably a great event. 


* It should be noted that the "official" title of this thing was "A Special Day in the Knesset Dedicated to the American Jewish Community." So there you have it. Or perhaps not inasmuch as Chair Hanegbi offered another focus altogether.