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.



Anonymous said...

You can count on a plea at the GA from Richard Sandler for cash collections between the GA and December 31st.....I'm sure that someone in the Marketing Department will write a passionate appeal.
Regarding bringing in the outside consultants, count on Debbie Smith throwing her hat into the ring for that 'allocation', which will be approved by some double-secret committee.

Anonymous said...

I'm not generally a math whiz, but I thought JAFI and JD split the pot 3:1 after World ORT was carved off of the top. If JDC is getting $31m, shouldn't JAFI get closer to $93m? Or did Mao (sorry, Manning) arbitrarily make her own re-calculation?

Anonymous said...

Re Anon 10:07
I think the split was always closer to 75%/25%.

This appears to be
73.0 JAFI
25.0 JDC
2.0 ORT

Anonymous said...

I believe Anon 10:07 is correct. JAFI is supposed to get 3 times what JDC gets (75:25). JDC got $31m so normal math would imply that JAFI gets $93 mil not $88m. Seems like someone fudged up on JDC a little at the expense of JAFI.