1. What the hell has happened to UIA? The United Israel Appeal continues to perform the monitoring, allocating and oversight functions assigned to it by the merger, but, otherwise..? As one of you Commented, now UIA merely reprints the works of others in its weekly recitation of something called: UIA Presents -- as in UIA Presents Natan Sharansky...and then reprints Natan's Tablet plea for the affirmation of the compromise deal on the Wall; or UIA Presents...David Brown's award of Chicago's highest communal honor. When it comes to substance, however, UIA Presents: Nothing...5 (or was it 6) years ago, the JFNA Board ratified a UIA advocacy initiative that offered great hope for overseas advocacy and, then, it just disappeared; less than two years ago, UIA's Board Chair (it was never brought to UIA's Board and, by then, the UIA Executive Committee had been disbanded by its own Board Chair's fiat) meekly acquiesced to the demand by JFNA leaders that all advocacy vest within JFNA-Israel -- how has that been going for UIA, for JAFI (or JDC or World ORT) or, for the matter, JFNA? In fact every single initiative already put in motion two years ago has never moved forward. Why not? By whose orders?
In fact, it appears that not a single UIA initiative on the table two years ago has moved forward at all. An Action Plan approved by UIA's Board and JFNA's, has been ignored as if it never existed. The UIA of today seems to be nothing more than a Chair, an Executive and an Israel staff with the Board nothing more than a rubber stamp, if that. Sound familiar? Yep, it has become UIA Presents...Nothing. When we preserved UIA at the time of the merger it was because we recognized the important, limited role under IRS Revenue Rulings it continued to play and the importance of its Board as a means of offering significant lay leadership roles for Israel overseas advocates. As it now exists, if at all, as nothing more than a Chair and a staff; and a group of lay leaders able and ready to lead -- perhaps it's time to fold all of its work into JFNA.
Allow me to Update this Post with one of the first Comments received:
"UIA has the potential to fulfill its role and more, except that it has been almost completely coopted by the JFNA culture and bureaucracy.
UIA still has a great group of lay leaders but JFNA has taken over the supervision of the operation and sets the agenda as to what UIA is "allowed" to do (and what not) and to keep it in its place. UIA was always a lay driven organization - the exact opposite of JFNA in its current form.
By getting rid of anyone that thinks that UIA should be doing something more than filling its most basic technical roles and making sure that those in charge are loyal to JFNA's view of the world, they are indeed slowly but surely making UIA irrelevant.
And just as the JFNA lay leadership are allowing the organization to go down the drain, so the UIA lay leafership are alowing their own organization to be coopted into becoming a meaningless remnant of its once glorious past.
2. Marketing Rules: Substance is Nothing and JFNA in Management Chaos. I have observed on these pages that for almost a year now, JFNA's Consulting Services efforts have been devoid of senior professional leadership. In fact, though I cannot be certain, there may no longer even be a JFNA Consulting Services function even though I think there remains a Chair and a Committee (but, then again, maybe not). Now, one of you has sent me the Job Description for a lead Consulting Services professional and that description tells you all you need to know about JFNA under the Smilin' One.
The Search is on for a Vice-President Federation Relations. The Job Description is an elaborate one that promises so much:
There's more, of course, promising so much. Bottom line it is an important position that could rebuild the Consulting Services operation if it works...maybe, but, of course, as this is JFNA, it must be rebranded. But..it's downhill from the hyperbole above.
Will this new VP report to Jerry? Oh no, Jerry can't be bothered with reporting functions. As with everything else he most likely will not even know what's going on. Will this new VP report to COO Mark Gurvis? No, even though Mark is supposed to have the management function over all JFNA staff portfolio holders... but not this one. No, this potentially most critical federation relationship manager who will coordinate the organization's federation relationships will report to...Renee Rothstein. Yes, Renee Rothstein who runs JFNA's Strategic Marketing and Communications operation will supervise JFNA's embryonic "Federation Relations" (ah, the rebrand) function. This only makes sense if one accepts as a given that in the Silverman "regime" everything is about marketing and p.r. -- nothing is really about substance. Yes: Reports to: "Senior Vice President, Strategic Marketing and Communications." Yep: WTF???
Then there's Mark Gurvis. I don't know Mark at all but I have heard good things about him in this otherwise dystopian operating environment. He is the COO; the operating department leaders were to report to him, at least that was Michael Siegal's plan -- obviously no longer. This inane reassignment of reporting responsibilities from the COO to the SVP-PR could only happen in the administration "led" by a CEO who couldn't manage his way out of a Sketchers shoe box. So, now you have it: Federation Relations will report to PR; Israel-Overseas apparently reports to no one; FRD it appears will continue to report through a brilliant new Senior VP-FRD to a Consultant, maybe not, who the hell knows?
How long will JFNA be the "WTF" capital of Jewish organizational life? Your guess is as good as mine; probably better. But I would hazard a guess: this will last so long as Board Chairs continue to ignore what is right in front of them, satisfied in the belief that everything is just swell.