Monday, November 28, 2016


You, as I, have read in the past days of the horrific outbreak of literally hundreds of forest fires in Israel, destroying not alone 1000's of acres of forest lands, but the homes and workplaces of so many of our families; 60,000 Israelis have taken flight according to the report in The Times of Israel on our Thanksgiving Day. 60,000 Israelis: the equivalent of 2,400,000 Americans fleeing the most catastrophic forest fires, many apparently are the scourge of arsonists/terrorists, ever eager to strike Israel. 

It seems fair to ask whether there are still millions left in the JFNA Victims of Terror Fund created out of the donations to federations in the last Special Campaigns. If there are millions unspent, and inasmuch as terrorists appear to have set many of these fires, then those funds should be immediately allocated to the victims of this eco-terrorism. The Times of Israel has reported that countries unfriendly to Israel -- among them Russia and Turkey,  -- and those among Israel's friends -- France, Egypt and Jordan -- have sent physical assistance -- firefighting equipment and personnel, among other things -- to Israel. A private U.S. company dispatched a 747 Supertanker to aid in fighting these fires. Even the PA assisted. The New York Times reported that while the fires burned, Israel was asking for more assistance.  But our Continental organization appeared to be...well, fiddling. 

Now it appears that the major fires may have been contained, but the devastation left behind represents a continuing tragedy for Israel's citizens; for our extended mishpacha. As the Prime Minister explained to Israel's citizens, the fires will not " out today; and not tomorrow." And, as always, JFNA under what passes for its "leadership" remains more cautious than it has been for domestic weather emergencies. We all know what UJA would have done under these dire circumstances, don't we? It would have reached for a playbook, it would have mobilized and it would have acted.  JFNA opened a Mailbox five days after the fire began.**

Was 25 Broadway waiting for an on the scene report from its bloated Israel Office? Has 25 Broadway recruited and mobilized a lay-led Solidarity Mission? Is JFNA demanding, at this time of Draconian declining core allocations -- reaching the lowest levels in history -- that JAFI and JDC reallocate resources to meet these emergency needs? Maybe someday we will  find out. Or is 25 Broadway waiting, waiting, waiting, for some form of green light from its largest Dues payers? JFNA opened a Mailbox and published a report from David Brown, Chair, Israel and Overseas, restating what others were/are doing.*

But, really, there is nothing that explains the delay in doing something beyond another Mailbox...nothing.

One day after this destruction began, the JNF announced a Special Campaign offering a dollar for dollar match. And JFNA you ask? It was able to rouse itself to do what it always does...JFNA opened a Mailbox

We hang our heads in shame.


* The Chicago Federation has already advanced $500,000 to JFNA "...for immediate distribution to JAFI and JDC." No doubt many, many federations are doing their share. NB, were Chicago's $500,000 part of a fair share effort, of which Chicago's share would be about $500,000, that would yield a national total of $5 million -- but that goal would be (a) non-binding and (b) require a real campaign leadership effort from JFNA. The evidence suggests that most communities will be seeking contributions rather than advancing funds.

** ...and a Web Page


Anonymous said...

The CEO is busy trying to figure out the appropriate photo op in Israel. Maybe he'll take the board chair with him.

paul jeser said...

Sorry to write this, especially since back in my Fed days, @ 2/3 of all funds raised went to national UJA for distribution overseas...



Anonymous said...

JFNA's tag line today, "Silverman and Sandler - going nowhere together"

Anonymous said...

I noticed in David Brown's recent update on the fires in Israel that the Israel Trauma Coaltion (ITC) is now considered a "partner" along with JDC and the Jewish Agency. Where, when and by who was that I&O decision made?

Anonymous said...

In addition to the question posed in the last Comment, you may have noticed that "Mailbox" has now been "rebranded" as a "Fund." Rather than raising money to meet these critical emergency needs, JFNA leaders spent their time deciding how to camouflage doing nothing as "creating a Fund." The leaders ought to be chased from the isolated Tower in which they sit with pitchforks.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry folks. The JFNA "mailbox" link promises us that "100% of your donation will go to" JFNA's "Israel Fire Emetgency Fund".
I wonder how much they will allocate to their own I&O staff and ovehead - within the "Fund" of course.
Nothing like an emergency situation in Israel to keep feeding fire that is burning up our resources and our entire collective system.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 10:26: Get over living in the past when I/OS allocations were significantly higher. Israel and the Federation culture & leadership were all in different places when you were in a leadership position. We are living in a different reality in 2016 and therefore we need to adapt, and come up with solutions to 2016 challenges with 21st century thinking; not 20th century thinking.

RWEX said...

To 8:27 -- what would you suggest as "solutions with 21st century thinking"? Have you any?

Anonymous said...

Well, to begin with, the idea of 'Core' allocations needs to be looked at through a different lens: When the unrestricted UJA Campaign was the only way a donor could support the Federation (particularly if the donor's primary passion was Israel),'Core was King', and the 'only game in town' for such a donor.
That's certainly not the case today, and it shouldn't be surprising that core allocations have been plummeting for the last 10 years (the 2008 Tsunami notwithstanding): Generational change in leadership, with more emphasis on 'local' needs was predictable.
I would be interested in the statistics of the Total revenues (Core plus Supplemental Giving to projects) for both JDC and JAFI and World ORT for the last 10 years, and the breakout of each category.
I would venture a guess that although Core is down, Supplemental Giving is dramatically up, whether by Federation efforts or those of JDC, JAFI, and World ORT.
But Richard, your question is precisely the type that JFNA should have been asking and discussing years ago in order to formulate FRD strategies for the system.

RWEX said...

Thanks, Your analysis is of great interest. A couple of points:

1. The core allocations began their precipitous fall during the UJA era. Immediately after the Exodus Campaign ended in 1994-1995, federations began to withdraw more and more from the collective.

2. The federations agreed unanimously to freeze allocations for two years at the birth of JFNA -- that promise held for one year; Boston reduced its allocation in Year 2 and the flood followed.

3. Federations "turning inward" reduced allocations using the core overseas allocation as an ATM for local needs. JFNA abandoned advocacy for Overseas needs; and declining annual campaigns contributed in large measure to the fall-off.

4. While it would be great if Supplemental/Designated giving were making up for the fall-off in core, that in fact has not been the case.

JFNA doesn't ask this (or any other for that matter) question; has had no FRD staff for a few years and, therefore, no strategies. If you read the FRD Plan circulated by JFNA a few months ago, JFNA will continue to ignore the formulation of "FRD strategies for the system," focusing, sort of, on assisting a few federations with their own FRD work.

We are, of course, in very bad shape.

Anonymous said...

So if JFNA has abandoned the collective and is not really advocating for our partner organizations in Israel anymore (maybe even advocating against them?), maybe the time has come to create an organization or an alliance of organizations that will do the job.
If I am not mistaken, the merger was supposed to further the goals and functions of all three of the organizations that entered into it. If that is not happening then it seems to me that those whose mission is not being addressed should be finding other vehicles to achieve their goals.
Are we really expecting things to get better without drastic measures, by avoiding conflict and "unpleasantness" etc?
"What were we thinking?" is now being replaced by "What are we thinking?"
From everything I read here and from everything I see happening, it seems to be that the time has come to say "enough!" and to act on our principles and beliefs.
This is not what we signed up for - at least not what we intended to sign up for!

Anonymous said...

If the federations don't rise up and demand that JFNA show some leadership, it's time to find another vehicle to express our solidarity especially in times of crisis. And if JFNA again shows no leadership at all once again, it's time to clean house of not just Silverman but the entire lay leadership.

Why do we continue to tolerate the constant failure that JFNA demonstrates?

Anonymous said...

And the meek and the anonymous shall inherit the world...