Monday, February 13, 2017


As I've written -- too often, I'm sure -- JFNA is operated (if one may call it that) with an over-abundance of consultants. It is a place where in one area alone -- FRD -- part-time consultants appear to outnumber full-time  professional staff. Perhaps, as a means to ameliorate criticism on this score, Jerry and his crony (a consultant, no less), Deborah K. Smith, have now created a new, new thing -- calling those who live and work away from HQ "non-resident employees." Well, in truth, nobody calls them that but me.

What do I mean? Well, and this is purely speculative, why would a bright and accomplished professional leave her position as President and CEO of a Jewish college -- in this case, Gratz College -- to assume the title of Associate Vice-President for Planning and Research at JFNA. Then, in JFNA COO Mark Gurvis' announcement of Joy Goldstein's hiring, in almost a footnote, he recited that Ms. Goldstein will be working from Philadelphia, where she lives. 

OK, then...

...When Brian Abrahams was hired as Senior Vice-President, FRD last year, that engagement was clearly made contingent on Brian  working from Chicago, where he and his family reside. Perhaps, had JFNA Jerry agreed to compensate Brian at a level commensurate with the responsibility of the position, Brian would have been able have afforded to move his family -- but we all know that Silverman is all about taking care of Number One, and only Numero Uno.

So, here's that new, new normal -- senior professionals now can work from wherever they may live. The concept of building a cohesive professional staff has been lost somewhere along the way; probably lost along with that sense of purpose, mission and vision. To me, there is but a little difference, if any, between part-time consultants and "home work" senior professionals. Are they reporting to Jerry, to Mark? Is Brian reporting to Vicki Agron, a part-time consultant herself? Is this nuts? Just look through the JFNA "employment roster" and you will find consultant after consultant after consultant.

Back in the UJA days, the United Jewish Appeal leadership hired Rabbi Brian Lurie away from the San Francisco Federation. Brian was a brilliant CEO, a constant font of ideas, a spectacular speaker, fund raiser and an inspiration to me and so many others. He still is. Brian was a weekly commuter from his home in SF to UJA's New York offices and, often, very often, to Jerusalem. He was indefatigable but it became clear that over the years of his UJA service he grew worn travel, by being away from his family. And Brian Lurie was full-time. It seemed to me that any fair analysis of Lurie's service to the United Jewish Appeal would lead to the conclusion that senior non-profit managers must live where they work; not where they would rather that Chicago or Philadelphia or Jerusalem. And, to live in the New York City Metropolitan area, they need to be compensated so as to be abe to do so.

Clearly there are instances where being at HQ isn't a prerequisite. William Daroff's JFNA effort is focused on behalf of our communities in Washington where he works, directs a D.C.-focused staff and where he lives. That works. Yet, Becky Caspi's residence and leadership of JFNA Israel and Overseas from Jerusalem does not...except for her air mileage account.

As one of those Commenting on the Sad, Sad State of Now Post observed "...there is no sense of community and purpose" at 25 Broadway. A real CEO, not the faux CEO ensconced there today and for the past 7+ years, would insist that the organization's senior staff be in residence with him/her, building that "community" of professionals within 25 Broadway. You cannot have "a sense of community and purpose" when your CEO has none. That is just one of the sad realities that absentee lay leadership has permitted,

And so it is at JFNA Camp Worbegone.



Anonymous said...

If there was anything close to professional management going on at JFNA, someone would realize that there is a need for basic staff oversight and supervision. Having senior staff be visitors in their own organization's main office will never work.
Allowing senior staff to work remotely on a regular basis is bad business unless their work itself is remotely located.
The Washington Office being located in Washington makes sense but all the rest is nonsense.
The real role of Israel and Overseas is advocay in North Anerica where our Federations are - not in Israel. Allowing this inflated operation to continue to be run beneath the radar, far away from any serious supervision or oversight, is simply bad business and also perpetuates the mistaken ideology that "we know better" and "we are better" than those Israelis and those Israeli institutions. We are both throwing away valuable resources and being counterproductive at the same time.
Great business model!

Anonymous said...

And, after numerous Federations around the country, large and small, issued statements in response to the executive orders on immigration and refugees....

"Sandler told the Journal he supported the L.A. Federation’s decision to refrain from issuing a statement on the executive order.

"'Federations really should not get involved in making statements one way or another, because they need not get distracted from the work Federations are supposed to do,' he said, adding that political statements inevitably upset some Federation donors."

Wondering your thoughts on this.

RWEX said...

Oh G-d. Sandler's statement of approval on LA's silence mirrors his lengthy advice in a mailing to the JFNA Board today. I will comment on these admonitions in an upcoming Post.

Thanks for alerting me.