If collective responsibility is not dead, its mortality is on full view at JFNA. Dues, allocations, The National Agencies-Federation Alliance, you name it, so many federations have lost their way by going their own ways. But, if further evidence were needed, one need look no further than JFNA's emergency response effort. Once the gold standard, JFNA emergency response has fallen on the hardest of times. Maybe, somewhere, a conscious decision (were JFNA capable of conscious decisions) was made to just default our institutional disaster response to NECHAMA; Jewish Response to Disaster, leaving it to NECHAMA to do what we once did (sound familiar?).
I was sensitized to this failure by the careening destruction of October's Hurricane Matthew which carried with it significant losses to major Jewish population centers on the Florida, Georgia and South Carolina Coasts. An organization with a real emergency response effort would have been prepared to assist those communities from the moment the Hurricane left its path of destruction; all JFNA was prepared to do (and did, immediately, before the Hurricane rained its havoc on Savannah and Charleston) was open a Mailbox, create a Fund, send a plea to the Federations..
From a staffing standpoint, once the JFNA emergency staff so responsive in earlier emergencies was eliminated (by whom? why?) and efforts were transferred to JFNA-Washington, William Daroff has been on the scene doing everything that the continental organization could do side-by-side with a committed laity. But JFNA can only do so much with the financial resources it has available and, that's exactly where the effort lags.
My recollection is that into the early years of this decade (or toward the end of the last), JFNA maintained an emergency fund in excess of $1 million enabling it to engage in rapid response to national emergencies impacting Jewish communities; replenishing that fund as it was spent down. Since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, however, and I may be wrong, it appears as if that fund, spent down as it was, was never replenished. Sure enough, someone(s) decided that emergencies, however severe, could be met with (1) a solicitation letter to the communities and (2) a...mailbox, of course; and (3) a Fund awaiting deposits.
Thus, JFNA only offers financial assistance today to today's catastrophic emergency as funds dribble in. Why, one should ask, I think, hasn't JFNA established a multi-million dollar revolving Emergency Fund enabling the immediate financial assistance often necessary when a catastrophe strikes? It's great that in at least one recent weather-driven disaster Daroff was on-site offering both human assistance and embodying JFNA's concern (Of course one might ask: where might the CEO's physical presence be more needed -- at the Shimon Peres funeral in Jerusalem or physically at the site of the devastation in Baton Rouge or in Florida and South Carolina in the wake of Hurricane Matthew?) but what ever happened to the body of experience brought to bear a decade ago in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina -- oh, wait, all of those great professionals have left JFNA.
Let's face facts. JFNA, nothing more than a shadow of its predecessor organizations, UJA and CJF, has been led in a downward spiral to its present sad state as a second-rate trade association. It could have been so much more; it should have been so much more. For $30 million per year it has/had to be so much more. But it's not.
My friend, Lee Twersky, the UJA CFO of such incredible integrity, as he and I led the merger process and confronted what we perceived to be CJF slow-walking every issue, outlined what might be the budget and the assignment of tasks -- FRD to UJA and trade association responsibilities to CJF -- in the event the merger failed. We came up with a total budget of $12 million. Instead we watch as the merged entity wastes so much of $30 million each and every year
JFNA is what its owners have allowed it to become.