Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Over the last couple of years, the JFNA Board Chair and alleged CEO have been making statements and publishing dire warnings against JFNA and the federations making any public statements on anything. That is anything outside of what they call our "Mission" even as they are unable to define with any specificity what the "Mission" is. They have been wrong -- totally wrong. Most of what they had written and said was nothing more than what one brilliant editorialist in another context called "mindless twaddle." But Sandler/Silverman apparently had little else to do; and give it to them, they were consistent and persistent.

Then this happened...

Sandler, in Israel for the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meetings, agreed to an interview with Haaretz. And, therein, this paragon of "shhhhh" decided to take a position on a purely political issue. As one of you noted: "Hypocrisy alert! Sandler endorses Friedman nomination while claiming JFNA is apolitical" citing:http://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-1.773985  Jewish Federation Head Voices Support for Friedman as U.S.Envoy. 

Now, as we have written on these pages more than once, Richard Sandler is a smart and caring man; he must have known that when one is an officer of a federation or JFNA, let alone the chief volunteer officer, one cannot, must not offer opinions on political matters while in office, associating those comments with one's office. After all, the Haaretz reporter didn't seek out Richard's comments on David Friedman's nomination because he is a lawyer from Los Angeles. And, equally clear, the questions asked had nothing...nothing...at all to do with JFNA or JFNA's "Mission," if there is such a thing.

So here was Sandler, the chief architect with that other guy, of JFNA's policy of "never comment" on anything of real or imagined controversy, commenting in his official capacity on a matter of controversy. Shameful, ridiculous, sad. Especially so inasmuch as Richard could have responded: "I can't comment on Mr. Friedman, but we should be focused on Israel's civil society (the next day, ultra-Orthodox attempted to intimidate Women of the Wall from praying at the Kotel), and on the desecration of Jewish cemeteries in the United States and the threats to Jewish institutions, and so on." Instead, Sandler chose to respond to a politicized question on a political matter. You'd think that Sandler hasn't even read what he himself has written or what he said in the Los Angeles Jewish Journal just weeks ago.*

And, then Sandler doubled down.

In a letter to his Colleagues just one day after the Haaretz article, Richard "explained:"
"I have received some questions about comments I made as part of a panel discussion yesterday at the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting.

During that discussion, I expressed my concern about divisions within our community,  and noted that we need to listen to people we disagree with and give them a chance. This is something I believe and have written and spoken about over the past several weeks.  Different perspectives within the American Jewish community are not new. I have respected the various perspectives expressed by members of the American Jewish community in the past, and I respect them now. I am hopeful that we can learn to listen to one another and learn from one another. I believe we can disagree without being disagreeable.

The comments reported in the press were in response to a question directed to me about David Friedman and reflected my personal view, based upon my analysis of the situation and my personal contact with Mr. Friedman. They were not meant to offend anyone, but rather encourage discussion."**
Apparently no one bothered to explain to Sandler why his statement as the chief volunteer officer of our organization was one he could not make. The entire scenario is just another example of an organization in chaos, of leadership out of control.

Shameful, ridiculous, sad.


* In a contemporaneous set of interviews in The Jerusalem Post, Silverman and Sandler's predecessor and Sandler himself, commented on anti-semitism in America. Yet, Sandler added his own opinion of Donald Trump in one of the more incredible and hysterical quotes: "“I think he is probably more knowledgeable than some people think on a number of topics..." If anything more need be said about the need for leaders to restrain themselves from commenting on politics and/or political leaders, Sandler has just said it.

** And, as Sandler has said in his Statements to the Jewish Journal and his From the Desk of...to the JFNA community: there will be no such "discussions." 


Anonymous said...

Judy Maltz

(Haaretz) -- The head of one of the most prominent Jewish-American organizations expressed support on Sunday for U.S. President Donald Trump’s controversial choice for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
“I believe he’s a very intelligent individual, and I think he’ll be a good representative if he is confirmed,” said Richard Sandler, chair of the board of trustees of the Jewish Federations of North America. “My expectations of him are very positive.”
Although various progressive Jewish organizations have been campaigning to block Friedman’s appointment, Sandler is the latest Jewish-American establishment figure to endorse him.
Last week, Stephen Greenberg, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations also expressed confidence in Friedman’s capabilities but stopped short of an official endorsement.
Speaking in Tel Aviv during the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting, Sandler said he had met Friedman several times in the past and was impressed with his knowledge of Israel and of U.S.-Israel relations.
“Obviously he made certain comments before he knew he was going to be vetted for the position of ambassador, but I thought he explained himself very well during the Senate hearings,” he said.
The Senate Foreign Relations committee held its confirmation hearings on Friedman’s appointment less than two weeks ago. Its members have yet to vote, however.
A staunch supporter of the West Bank settlement movement, Friedman had in the past rejected the notion of a two-state solution. During the confirmation hearings, however, he changed his position, expressing his support for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel. Friedman has come under considerable criticism for his vicious attacks against liberal Jews, in particular his likening of members of J Street, the pro-Israel anti-occupation organization, to kapos – a reference to Jews who collaborated with Nazis during the Holocaust. During the confirmation hearings, he expressed regret for these attacks.
Sandler said he believed there was a tendency among liberal Jewish-Americans to underestimate Trump. “I think he is probably more knowledgeable than some people think on a number of topics,” he said, “and I think he’s serious about wanting to find a solution here. I’m sure that whatever policies he and those around him decide are the right ones, Mr. Friedman will reflect when he is here.”
Sandler expressed concerns about deepening divides within the Jewish-American community ever since the election. “At the federations, we see that as part of our responsibility now – bringing the community together,” he said. “We don’t have a problem attacking one another, but we have a problem talking to one another.”
At the same time, he said, he drew hope that relations between Israel and the United States would improve under the new administration. “There is no question that relationships mean a lot to Mr. Trump and he clearly has good chemistry with the prime minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] right now,” he said. “I would not underestimate the importance of that personal relationship.”

Dan Brown said...

Sandler should speak with William Daroff who during the Occupy Wall Street protests clearly explained how visible Jewish communal professionals can never speak as individuals. Same rationale applies to the Board Chair.

Anonymous said...

Dan Brown undoubtedly knows by now that in the 21st Century consistency and principles are the hobgoblin of organizational Jewish minds. And, when it comes to senior voluntary and even professional leaders, rules and norms are kept in inverse proportion to the fanciness of their titles.

Dan Brown said...

I long ago learned that rules and accepted norms don't belong in the same sentence if we're discussing certain organizations.

Anonymous said...

At least Dan is honest about his animous which clearly impacts his words and his choices.

Anonymous said...

That is a legitimate critique of Daroff and has been ever since he started working at UJC/JFNA. His political leanings were no secret coming in and at times those biases have crept into his professional communications.

Anonymous said...

At the top of JFNA's leadership, lay and professional, you have two persons who demonstrate, this time by word but often by deed, that they don't have a real sense of communal and/or leadership values whatsoever. There are no checks and balances there whatsoever and those further down the period who do know better are either lay persons who believe that their aspirations for higher office will be frustrated if they speak up or professionals who believe that they will be fired or discarded if they point out that Silverman has no clothes so to speak.

The end result is exactly what Wexler has pointed to on these many, many pages: an organization not only in total disarray but totally out of step with its own constituency, its owners. They are lucky that no one gives a damn about anything.

Dan Brown said...

To be clear about about 1:05 pm's comment - someone who clearly lacks the "betzim" to speak under his/her own name: as I have written, and spoken about on numerous occasions, the Jewish federations IN North America should generally be commended for the work they do on the ground. The Jewish Federations of North American aka JFNA, is a whole other story.

Anonymous said...

While this post speaks to JFNA taking/not taking a position on an issue the current 100 bomb hoaxes and vandalism of the two Jewish cemetaries (so far) should be something that everyone agrees JFNA should take the lead in addressing. This morning JFNA through JCPA did send out a statement outlining several steps and calling on the government to take action. Here is an excerpt of the statement.

In addition to issuing clear public statements, there is much more work to be done. We urge the President, the Attorney General, and the FBI to spare no resources to investigate these new threats and bring the culprits to justice.

We also call for implementation of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) anti-hate recommendations:
• Convene a federal inter-agency task force on Fighting Hate that brings together all the relevant agencies
• Appoint a White House coordinator for Fighting Hate
• Support federal and state-level legislation to protect students from increasing religious harassment and discrimination on college campuses
• Train state and local law enforcement agencies led by the Department of Justice on how to handle hate crimes, including detection and response
We urge Jewish community institutions to reinforce a sense of safety and not allow these highly disruptive threats to deter participation in Jewish life.

But it seems to me that there are other things that JFNS could and should do. I imagine it would take very little effort to put together a reward of several hundreds of thousands of dollars to catch the perpetrators. Secondly, from prior correspondence it seems that JFNA has some significant funds in their emergency fund to help communities that face disasters like hurricanes or flooding. Shouldn't some of this money be used to help repair the cemetaries. The Muslim community raised over $100k. What an incredible message that would be to have JFNA match the amount raised and pool all of the funds for restoration and to offer the reward.

paul jeser said...

This issue (the growth of anti-Semitism) is much bigger than JFNA, ADL, etc. We need to stop talking and start acting.

My ToI blog: It is time to stop talking! It is time to start acting! http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/it-is-time-to-stop-talking-it-is-time-to-start-acting/

Anonymous said...

Sandler's idiotic quotes in the Israeli press on political matters while remaining silent on everything else (other than cautioning all of us to reman silent) are a clear indication to one and all how lacking JFNA has been and is in real leadership, leadership with any understanding of federations' purposes. Sandler writes nicely about Jewish values but can't seem to connect the dots between those values and JFNA actions. And he's got Silverman who knows even less.

They both should go but I'll settle for Jerry's immediate retirement

Anonymous said...

Richard, simply stated, Richard Sandler has betrayed his office and, in doing so, has made a significant group of federation supporters even more distrusting of the federation system. Can you can anyone explain what his motivation might possibly have been? Has associating with Silverman reduced Sandler to the same level of lack of awareness and lack of self-awareness? Sandler should resign and take Silverman with him.