Friday, December 16, 2016


Nothing that happens at 25 Broadway should ever surprise...and never does. So it was nothing unusual when the "new" FRD Department send out this missive one month ago:

"From: From the Desk of Brian Abrahams []
Sent: Tuesday, November 08, 2016 3:57 PM
Cc: Maier, Elissa; Gordon, Gail; Gross, Steve
Subject: JFNA Staff Transition

We want you to be aware that Joshua Karlin has left his position as Associate Vice President of Planned Giving and Endowments.  During his tenure, Joshua began ground-breaking work on an “e-prospecting” model which identifies and tracks prospective planned giving donors as a means of developing the pool of potential donors.  We appreciate the leadership he provided and wish him well in his future.

The department continues with Gail Gordon and Steve Gross as Senior Directors, supported by Cheryl Phillip as Associate Director and Anna Allen as Manager.  During this period of transition, the department and its direction will be supervised by Elissa Maier.  Extra support to this area will be provided through the consulting services of Stephen E Rose, who has spent a career in Jewish Foundation work and will assist with the overall strategic direction of P.G.&E.   Stephen will be in the office today and will participate in the GA.

If you have any questions about this change or work that might currently be in progress, please feel free to reach out to either of us.

Thank you,

Brian Abrahams and Elissa Maier"
(I didn't receive this directly from JFNA; I did receive it from 18 of my friends in Jewish communal life.) Some of you may recall my comment on these pages in March 2016 at about the time of this professional's engagement -- his placement of a lengthy ad when working in Rhode Island identifying himself as "the best fund raiser in Rhode Island" and his lawsuit following his very short-term engagement by another employer. After that, I heard from those at JFNA who might know his work there that he was "great." less eight months?

I've also heard from many what a great job Elissa Maier is doing. Her title -- "Vice President, FRD Operations and Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence, Jewish Federations of North America" -- confuses me -- does she work for both? Has she any FRD/Endowment-Planned Giving experience? "...[T]he department and its direction will be supervised by Elissa Maier." How does that work? And, with Joshua Karlin clearly already gone, another consultant is brought on? 

C'mon man...I guess we will find out whether FRD can be rebuilt upon a foundation of a Senior Consultant, two excellent part-time community consultants and, now, a  part-time PG & E Consultant -- all great pros but...really? And, Brian Abrahams, as good as might be, working out of Chicago? Does Smilin' Jerry even understand this? Does anyone care?

I mean, really folks, is this any way to run a circus? Or, not run it? 


* March 7, 2016 -- The Best Fund Raiser in Rhode Island -- Uh Huh.


Anonymous said...

Why don't you ask the outgoing and incoming national campaign chairs?
This is the department that supposedly supports their efforts.
Where are they on the situation that you describe?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Richard, why don't you ask any of the "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" crowd of JFNA leaders who can't see what's right in front of them? They are the happiest cheerleaders in North America. Seriously, we need some of that cheerleading but not to the extent of blinding leaders to what is really happening and that's the deepening chasm between the loud cheers and the horrible reality of growing disengagement between 25 Broadway and the federations.

Those cheerleaders? They could care less.

paul jeser said...

Monthly question...

We all seem to know what the problems are.

So, what are 'we' going to do to fix this mess?

Anonymous said...

We could ask them but they are lay leaders whose only job is to say "aye" when asked to do so. We wouldn't want to get them involved is such potentially "uncomfortable" issues.
They are, after all, only lay leaders, i.e. window dressing.

Anonymous said...

Since when should we be worrying about FRD? Our job is to promote ourselves so that the federations will be pleased with us and not realize that we are actually much ado about nothing.
Us being involved in fundraising for our People is as passe as UJA (which we got rid of a long time ago).

Anonymous said...

Vicki Agron strikes again.

Anonymous said...

I think Agron was up against a CEO who clearly failed and fails to understand the value of a Continental FRD effort to the federations. He knows absolutely nothing about building a staff and appears to have Agron with no choice but to hire consultants, almost all part-time non-exclusive to fill positions she and every other responsible professional knows should be full-time staff members because Silverman refused to pay what is necessary to attract the best and, clearly, wouldn't know how to manage them were they on staff. It's amazing that she was able to attract a competent Department leader (even though there are many at AIPAC who would tell you in the last couple or few years Brian Abrahams seemed to be just going through the motions) under these circumstances -- and then she obviously couldn't swing a salary sufficient to move Brian to 25 Broadway. Serious question: hw long will Abrahams be at JFNA?

If there were any responsible lay leaders at JFNA, they would not tolerate the mess that Silverman has wrought. But of course they are happy perpetuating the mess because it would take hard work to change the circumstances.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:59: Wow!
I hope that you aren't an employee at 25 Broadway and typed your comment on your JFNA Computer. It wouldn't surprise me if Jerry Silverman has software embedded in the system to detect non-believers. Perhaps that's why SCN (not sure of the name) is on the 18th floor?
And I recently read that the over-under in Vegas for Abrahams leaving is August 1st.

Anonymous said...

Any word on finally revealing the names of those two heavily paid JFNA consultants, Richard?

Anonymous said...

Wexler may feel constrained but this secrecy is ridiculous. I am a JFNA professional and have never experienced anything like this anywhere in my experience. These fine consultants haven't even been introduced to the staff after months of work. The two are Rachel Sternberg the immediate past SVP Campaign in Chicago and David Saginaw a former JFNA FRD pro. Both excellent, both part-time, both "non-exclusive" just like Vicki Agron who hired them.

Anonymous said...

This whole mess-- from no FRD to speak of to a whole roster of part/time consultants arguably led by a Senior staffer who works out of Chicago and reports to another part/time consultant -- tells you more about Silverman's stupidity than almost anything and everything.

Anonymous said...

David's a good guy. I've worked with him in the past. Glad to hear he is back at JFNA in whatever role.