Monday, March 27, 2017


At my favorite organization there are, as all of you know, at least one matter that is consistent: secrecy. We have learned what happens to opaque organizations -- say FEGS, or the 92nd Street Y, or Yeshiva University, or.... -- scandals emerge, trust, that most critical element upon which successful organizations are built, is lost and a death spiral begins. Sometimes Board members step forward and demand change from the top down; most times we just blame others for our own malfeasance or nonfeasance and go on, diminished  and diminishing.

At JFNA secrets -- secret consultant contracts, secret conduit deals, the secret application of budgeted dollars to unintended unapproved matters, secret after secret -- are the stock in trade. I've written about them but apparently not often enough. So let's examine some information I find interesting; hoe you do as well;

  • There's the office of JFNA - Israel, apparently a silo so impenetrable that it cannot be managed from 7,000 miles away. Are you aware that from the Dues your federations pay $10,000,000 is budgeted to the work of Israel-Overseas? And, what's the return on that investment? Seriously, what return? Any return? Well, Missions are going well -- underpopulated but good substance, great ruach. And a couple of staff members monitor the Knesset; to what end? An 8 figure "investment" on which the return is negligible. Did I mention Missions? $10,000,000.
  • Then there is one of Jerry's most important senior professionals. She was promoted about seven years ago, morphing into a new role as Vice-President for (something called) "Institutional Advancement." I never understood the title or purpose or, for that matter, the "advancement." Was is TribeFest? Something else. Anything? Is this really a job? And, then, I learned that the title had changed; now its rebranded to Vice-President, Institutional Leadership/Thought Leadership. (I guess "advancement" is out the window; maybe JFNA was successful at it.) Seeing as we never knew what the hell this was, we certainly couldn't possible know what "advanced"...or didn't. Anyone seen the job description? Where the position is located in the JFNA Budget? Anyway, this professional is among the 10 highest paid on the JFNA staff. Does anyone...any one...know what the position requires, what it does?
  • There are so many consultants feeding at the JFNA trough that I picture them running into each other in hallways at 25 Broadway while figuring out new ways to wring dollars from the JFNA ATM. There's one Department -- the reviving FRD -- where the number or consultants on the payroll far outnumber the few excellent professionals (and there would be one more were Max Kleinman, who appears only to be raising money for the match of Fed Funds for aid to the Survivor community, counted within FRD. On second thought, he probably is.) This should be an embarrassment to one and isn't. And the number of consultants keeps growing. One thing about this is not a mystery: JFNA is totally mismanaged if managed at al.
  • There remains the mystery, hidden behind JFNA's leaders' claims of "confidentiality," of the $1,000,000 Klarman Family Foundation's "gift" funneled through the JFNA conduit to a public relations firm. We are not to know the purpose; we are to take it on faith that it's kosher. JFNA's relationship to this -- we don't know; we aren't to know. The secrecy underlying this thing raises a further question: how many more of these are out there. This is a dangerous game with the truth, with transparency, that JFNA is playing.
Now, we can't solve these mysteries; they can only be solved through transparency and a laity willing to demand answers. To date, however, all the lay leadership has done is to assure that the curtains remain shut.

No light is shining in. And today JFNA  is another FEGS waiting to explode.



Anonymous said...

The "Israel & Overseas" Office in Jerusalem now calls itself "Global Operations" and covers the WHOLE WIDE WRLD (except for North America of course). When you look at it from that perspective, everything is fine - such a relatively small budget and staff to cover such a vast geographical area! So what if nothing is accomplished? Just look at our perceived wide-reaching global "presence" and be proud!
Having two or three JFNA staffers monitor the Knesset is very important - worthless but sounds good when you toot your horn.
Return on this neverending investment in the Glonbal Operations Empire is not negligible - it is negative but should be looked at from a positive perspective - the waste may be great but the damage on the ground is relativey small. Things could be worse - no? Well, then again, maybe not!
The Missions people are good pros but dwindling utilization and importance in the marketplace make this area relatively irrelevant as well.
What would we do without institurional advancement? Where would we be today without it? Where we are anyway - in institutionsl retreat - no?
Lots of consultant's is good business policy - allowing the organization to function without measurable goals, with no clear management structure and with no accountability. No way to establish criteria for success means you can't be accused of failure.
Why follow a budget when it is so easy to get away with ignoring it?
Why exercise any degree of trancparency when you can keep on geting away with operating in the dark so that even you can't see how bad things are?
I guess there is a lot of merit in our professional leadership's guiding mission statement:
"What they don't know can't hurt me!"

Anonymous said...

You have ignored the biggest mystery -- how can the egregious amounts paid Jerry Silverman be justified or rationalized or ignored? What does he do to earn close to $800,000 per year (and photo ops or just showing up don't count)? The fact that he has kept his job for seven years is the biggest mystery of all.