Thursday, January 12, 2017


1. The JFNA Executive Committee continues to meet monthly or bi-monthly or periodically, I'm not sure which; and that should be a good thing. These are JFNA's leaders; and the agenda might include discussion of, e.g., the continuing decline in annual campaigns and number of donors (matters that should be of concern to anyone and everyone who cares about the federation system); the potential impacts of the Trump Administration on grants critical to the federations; or how about whether to schedule a Cabinet Tel Aviv 2 (or would that be 2A) even though JFNA is already offering it (at least on the daily rag, er, FedCentral) -- does anyone on the Executive remember the discussions and conclusions reached years ago? If not, call me; the ever-expanding challenges faced by federations today; and other things of importance. All good topics, right? And, then, everybody goes home and not a damn thing happens. Is this normal? Are the senior professionals directed to prepare a set of actions on any matter? Name a single new, substantive initiative in the past 12 months...just one. (See 3. below) Guess at JFNA, our leaders just like the chat. 

2.Recently a cross-section of North American Jewish organizations declined to attend a Chanukah Party convened by the event's co-hosts: the Conference of Presidents of Jewish Organizations (used to be "of Major Jewish Organizations" but now, not so much...) and the Government of Azerbaijan at the brand spanking new Trump Hotel in Washington D.C. The organizations which chose not to be present ranged from left to center on the presumed liberal-conservative spectrum and their absence totally enraged those organizations whose leaders attended.

Some of the attendees were outraged, especially the most easily enrage-able, Morton Klein the overly well-paid apparent Chair for Life of the ZOA, who through his public utterances takes umbrage at every apparent sleight, real or imagined, to the new Administration. His fulminations will not surprise anyone. 

There were those organizations which publicly discussed their reasons for non-attendance in stark terms; and there were those, like our JFNA, which mumbled idiotic excuses -- "all our leaders were away," "couldn't find a leader to attend on such short notice" and the like.  The press characterized the non-attendance as a  "boycott" But that is an extreme 
characterization of the non-attendance isn't it? If one accepts the definition of "boycott" this
wasn't that:
"To abstain from or act together in abstaining from using, buying, dealing with, or participating in as an expression of protest or disfavor or as a means of coercion:"
The only "coercion" going on here was the Conference's attempt to "coerce" attendance by blaming its co-host, Azerbaijan, for...well, almost everything.

3. It truly befuddles me that there are elected leaders at JFNA who sincerely believe that the organization made "steady progress" in 2016, or believe that during this past calendar year there were "serious accomplishments." (None of them they can name.) Oh, you can express skepticism but, trust me, you will be met with a symbolic pat on the head and sent on your way. Ask for an enumeration of accomplishments and you might hear: 

  • Relations with JAFI and JDC "have never been better" -- laughable, of course, for if you ask any...any...leader of either organization in private they will dismiss JFNA as "totally irrelevant in our work" or worse;
  • Engagement with the federations "is better than ever" -- when in truth there is less engagement than at any time since the merger -- or before. In fact, with no Consulting Services Department, JFNA has been relegated to operating the pathetic FedCentral where federation pros go begging for answers to the most rudimentary of question;
  • The GAs are now "great...and better than ever" -- notwithstanding the continuing stasis in lay registrants to the point that once was the major national Jewish conference, it is today an expensive minor attraction, if that;
  • We have a great group of lay leaders "more engaged with JFNA than ever before" -- tell that to those who aren't on the Executive Committee, who don't Chair a Committee, who haven't participated in a Board meeting, who cry out for substantive engagement and get, in return, a pat on the head and a "we hear you."

4. Congratulations to Richard Sandler and Jerry Silverman for the strong statement they published on January 10:  "We Must Fight Hate and Use Our Own Words Carefully." But reading it "carefully," "we" must assume that the multiplicity of "We" in the statement is the 
application of the "Royal 'We'" and it really's what you have to do
5. And let's conclude with three more winning questions appearing on that "invaluable resource" (see above) FedCentral where federation professionals ask each other the most critical questions of the day. Here's are recent ones:
 "Did your community focus your campaign around the Beatles?
  "We are thinking about sending out birthday cards to community members who donate $5,000+. Does any other federations do this/what is an example of a birthday card you send out to the community?" 
"Does your Federation publish a community newsletter? If so, what is it called? We are launching a monthly e-newsletter with news from our partners and are searching for a name that's Jewish but not too Jewish."

 I'll omit the federation professionals who posed the question to protect the innocent.  Yep, the Beatles, birthday cards and "Jewish but not too Jewish." Anyone wishing to despair for our federations' future needs, read this FedCentral whenever possible.


No comments: