Our discussion was respectful and impassioned, many expressed the conflict they felt; it went on for hours. Finally, Chicago's Corky Goodman said, simply: "We have to trust the federations." These are words I will never forget. Never. In what and whom did we trust?
- Obviously we trusted that the federations (and, specifically, the Large City Executives and their lay leadership) were committed to the two foundational principles of the merger critical to the UJA: the commitment to raise "more donors and more dollars" and to allocate from those increased dollars greater funding for the work of the Jewish Agency and the JDC.
- We trusted that the federations (and, specifically, the LCE) were committed to the principle embodied in the mantra: "With ownership comes responsibility."
And, what did we learn?
- That the federations (and, specifically, the LCE) were only interested in the "control" that came with ownership and not at all with the "responsibilities" that were thought to be concomitant with ownership.
- Examples abound: when the federations could not control the "Trust" created within the FRD function of the new entity, they abandoned it; when the ONAD "process" ranged beyond the federations' control, it was abandoned; when the Global Planning Table grew out of control, the federations walked away.
- That the federations (and, specifically, the LCE) were never committed to increasing the annual campaign or the number of donors with a reciprocal increase in resources to JAFI/JDC or, for that matter, World ORT. In fact, allocations to those "partners" from the aggregate annual campaigns have dropped by in excess of $200,000,000 since the merger, an unbelievable, even horrific amount..
- The federations (and, specifically, the LCE) were interested in assuring through their ownership of the merged entity that never would there be another Operation Exodus -- the ultimate expression of collective responsibility in our lifetimes; one created by a group of lay leaders (UJA) and implemented by them, would never ever take place again absent their creation and control. The end result: since the merger, not one special campaign for which JFNA had leadership responsibility met either the goals or the needs...that's not a single one.
There are clearly many at fault here: those of us in leadership of UJA who placed our trust that those who would lead the merged entity would share our values; those who would lead JFNA from the merger forward without regard for the mission and purpose ascribed to the merged entity by both UJA and CJF (to its credit, the leaders of UIA presciently saw the potential for the disaster that JFNA has become; they were the only ones other than Jerry Bubis, z'l, and Steve Windmueller who, after exhaustive research, post-merger, determined, inter alia, that JFNA's leaders did not share a common commitment that promised any success).
So what? Exactly. Can this patient be saved? While any fair prognosis would suggest not, I remain with a constant albeit fading optimism that federation and JFNA leaders will recognize that drastic surgery is required and fast. Change will have to originate from inside JFNA's senior leadership and from within the Federations themselves -- and that will only happen if New York UJA, in its evaluation of how its millions in JFNA Dues are being misspent annually says, in the words of a great philanthropist -- "Enough."