Sunday, April 2, 2017


No organization of which I am aware has mastered the ability to present "alternative facts" -- black is white, failure is success, and the like -- better than our JFNA. I sense now what one of the problems is: more about that below.

The sad examples of JFNA alternative facts are many; here are but a few:

  • The "success" of iRep -- The Israeli Religious Expression Platform. When the Global Planning Table was laid to rest, finally and only after the waste of millions in unaccounted for costs, the sole "survivor" was the unfortunately named iRep born with the unfortunate acronym.. When the thing was unveiled in 2014 as one of the GPT "Signature Initiatives" it appeared to me to be a sop to a few JFNA-associated philanthropists to "...serve to impact a range of issues related to increasing religious diversity in Israel." A noble purpose presupposing "[S] Federations throughout the system." Well, not so much. From what the Board Chair has recently written, the intent is still to "...create a pooled allocations process through which iRep members will support organizations..." dedicated to religious diversity. There would be two staff members supported from $2 million to be raised by JFNA for the first two years Budget. That goal was established in 2014;  to date JFNA has raised less than $700,000. The JFNA Board has received no information on the makeup of the iRep Board, or even if there is one; no information on how the funds raised have been spent or whether any funds have been spent at all; who are the iRep staff members, or whether there are any. 
  • Engaging younger Jews. The "older" JFNA lay leadership sees "engagement" emerging "through a reexamination of our National Young Leadership Cabinet." I, like many of you, have read the "reexamination" that took over one year of study (and consultants, of course) and, trust me, sadly, what "emerged" was just more of the same. Over the 17 years (!!) of JFNA the YLC has attempted time and again to reinvent itself...each attempt has been noble and well-meaning, and, ultimately, resulted in what has become business as usual. So, I have a suggestion, why not try reverting to the "elitist" era of by-gone days when one was recruited to join the Cabinet from recommendations from the federations themselves based on demonstrated leadership and potential and annual campaign gift capacity as well as current commitment. I know, I know, that's no longer what the Cabinet experience is all about; but, among the aging current "leader class" of federations of our communities, our National Women's Philanthropy, our overseas partners, are the graduates (often long ago) of a Cabinet experience far different from that today. And, there's a reason for that reality. 
  • "[W]orking directly with the Government of Israel." Someone apparently told the Board Chair that JFNA is "working directly" with the GOI on "prayer at the Kotel." Of course that's true --but only if you believe that (1) sending a periodic letter to the Prime Minister constitutes "working directly;" or (2) that he believes that Natan Sharansky works for JFNA. Neither, of course, is true. JFNA has done excellent work with MK Nachman Shai in support of Nachman's efforts to bring Members of Knesset on visits to the Federations (continuing Shai's work in that regard that he began as the effective Director of the system's Israel Office).
  • Credit where credit isn't due. JFNA, which two years ago presented itself as the "convenor" of Jewish advocacy on college campuses, has no role there, though the Board Chair thinks it does; the leadership of the Continental fight against BDS isn't at JFNA or the Israel Action Network though the latter could be that leader had it the funding and lay support for its critical work -- but, beyond an excellent Chair, it has neither.
It saddens me to read stuff from the Board Chair, as in his "Reflections on Bringing Back Civility" Statement of February 14, that states unequivocally that JFNA is actually at the forefront of all of these efforts. His true belief that fiction is fact suggests to me that Richard Sandler may be another victim of the Stockholm Syndrome -- there is just no other explanation for the irrationality of a very rational and honest man. Sandler has become a hostage to the myth of JFNA, of what all of us would want JFNA to be rather than its reality. I think every leader who reads this Blog understands full well that the only way for JFNA to meet the Mission that is supposed to drive it, is to recreate JFNA. And that would require new

Friends, the Stockholm Syndrome has been well defined:

    Stockholm syndrome is a condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity...These feelings, resulting from a bond formed between captor and captives during intimate time spent together, are generally considered irrational..."
I have the strongest sense that if the Syndrome can be broken, JFNA can and will be fixed; at the same time deprogramming does not appear to be on the horizon.

More's the pity.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Richard, until JFNA lay leadership comes to understand the depths to which they have allowed the organization to reach under Jerry Silverman, there is no real hope that there will be any change. As you point out these leaders have opted to drink the Kool-Aid so thoroughly that they believe the lies they have been spoonfed by those dedicated to either self-preservation or self-promotion.

Do you really believe that Richard Sandler is suddenly going to shed the blinders he so obviously wears and see the light? It's not going to happen. He's very happy in his delusional state and those who see themselves as his successor are only too happy to feed those delusions. Consequently JFNA is doomed to continue down its path toward total disengagement from the federations.

Thanks for trying.