Sunday, April 23, 2017


"A supplemental $18M campaign for ENP (not envisioned when the budget was written) is underway. There is a Chair, an initial plan is being drafted, and almost $600,000 has been committed to date." (JFNA Mid-Year Report on Implementation of Budget Objectives)

I don't know how or where it happened but sometime last fall, JFNA began an "effort" to raise $18,000,000 to aid the Ethiopian National Project. Be assured, I am a strong believer in the ENP; I served on its Board (curiously, the ENP website indicates that I am still on its Board) at Braishit; but $18 million dollars? For what? Where was this "campaign" hatched? How did it become an effort of JFNA? How was it processed (the quote above indicates that at no point was it"planned") and how is it being implemented? There must be someone at 25 Broadway or in Santa Monica who knows the answers -- and they're not talking.

I think I've tracked down the genesis (I know) of this "campaign:" a letter dated May 1, 2016 from Naftali Bennett in his capacity as Education Minister of the Government of Israel, to Bobby Goldberg in his role as Chair of the ENP.  Here's that letter:  You will notice that among the copy recipients were: Richard Sandler, and the then JFNA Vice Chair, Susie Stern, David Brown, Chair, JFNA-Israel, and Jerry Silverman. I assume that the ENP and the Minister Bennett just assumed that JFNA would raise the $21,000,000( +/-) matching funds* requested. After all, the purposes to be served, the population to be served desperately need the services those dollars would provide. And, somehow, like some form of sleight of hand, that request morphed into a JFNA "Special Campaign" as if this FRD had been approved by the federations. 

On a hunch, I asked JFNA for a copy of any formal action taken by a governance body that authorized this "campaign." And, sure enough, the Executive Committee, responded to a Memo last October 6. In pertinent part, that Memo provided:
"The JFNA Executive Committee is being asked to authorize the launch of a supplemental funding campaign in support of the Ethiopian National Project’s SPACE (School Performance and Community Empowerment) campaign. The Ethiopian National Project’s (ENP) goal is to raise $18M to support the SPACE program over a four-year period. JFNA’s support will be limited, focused and largely targeted at major donors identified by Federations as well as those who have previously demonstrated a particular interest in Ethiopian Jewry.
This will be a best faith* effort. No Federation will be responsible for any share or specific amount, but all are asked to undertake a best-faith effort to raise or allocate what they can." (emphasis added)
In other words, this would be not only a stealth effort but would be one with a goal -- $18 million over four years. A goal non-binding on anybody. The JFNA Board was never asked to ratify this effort but it was approved by the Executive Committee at a time that JFNA had no FRD staff; it was approved without any plan;  and, it was approved at a time when federations had no appetite for another designated campaign, certainly not one like this -- an effort that the federations never approved through the Board or in any other way. 

And there is a Chair for this "Special Campaign" -- but your guess is as good as mine whom it is. 

Some history of FRD for the ENP might have been in order: 

In the third year of what is now JFNA, the then Overseas Needs and Assessment Department Committee (then "ONAD" of blessed memory), resolved that federations consider maintaining their overseas allocations at the prior year's level and provide an additional 5% of that allocation to the Ethiopian National Project, which was operating on fumes, its budget from the strapped Jewish Agency inadequate to meet the needs of the Israeli-Ethiopian community. In response, two federations -- Chicago and Houston -- stepped forward, not one other community met the call -- one that had been vetted through JFNA's governance. All the federations, but those two, were sympathetic to the plight of the Ethiopian community in Israel, none was prepared to increase allocations to meet the identified needs the ENP served. (I believe that over the intervening 15 years individual federations have directly and quietly funded the ENP with some designated dollars.)

What's the point? What can be gleaned from the history of the fund raising community's relationship to the ENP: simply that there is very little appetite for a collective effort to raise any significant dollars to aid the Israeli-Ethiopian community let alone an embrace of an $18 million dollar special campaign. But at JFNA there is no longer any appreciation of history; its leaders can't be said to have ignored Santayana's admonition because they have neither any interest in that history nor, apparently, in governance or process. 

A succession of JFNA leaders, lay and pro, right through today's, have totally destroyed the institutional memory that is truly so vital to continuity. And this has been a set of deliberate acts dating from the earliest days of the organization -- in the first weeks Joel Tauber, then the Chair of the Executive, removed his "best friend," Marvin Lender, from his role in leadership of the entity's Israel matters right through the day that Danny Allen was pushed out of his professional leadership of UIA. Thus, there is no one really left to remind JFNA's leaders (other than the silent few CEOs who appear quite satisfied with the way things are) of the lessons offered by our history with regard to process and governance...and everything else...and that's just the way they like it.

Forgive the apparent digression but this discussion's relevance is evident in the emergence of this $18 million "special campaign" made up out of whole cloth without any apparent internal planning, without engaging federation leadership and, best I can tell, without any real hope of success. 

And it is the emergence of  this "campaign" literally out of the blue that should have all of us concerned. As I've concluded and written, one of the catalysts for the federations', and, in the main, the Large City Executives, demand (for that's what it was) for merger of UJA/CJF/UIA was to assure that never again would a group of laypersons -- viz, UJA -- be able to mount a campaign like Operation Exodus ever again; that would forevermore be the sole prerogative of the federations -- viz, the LCE. No more, in their vision of history, would there be a top-down dictation of any campaign. So, the mystery of this ENP "campaign" -- one which went through the following steps: (1) on May 1, 2016, the Israeli Minister of Education requests that the federations match a GOI grant to the Ethiopian National Project; (2) nothing appears to happen for 5 months -- no processing through the JFNA-Israel Department Committee, no lay process whatsoever; (3) the JFNA Executive Committee approves an $18M over 4 year stealth "Campaign" -- uh, make that a "non-campaign." 

I can only guess that at some meeting, ENP leaders pled with the JFNA Board Chair, with Silverman and some select group, for assistance to the Project as Minister Bennett had requested. Somehow, seized with fervor, they acquiesced without a plan, in consultation with their Executive Committee and went forward in this totally opaque manner. Hopefully there has been a major lead gift from the Board Chair. (I recall, back in the day...way back...another "Campaign" was kicked off after Board action with a gift from the then Board Chair who was challenged by the then CEO to dramatically increase it -- which he did; it's undeniable that Silverman would not know how to do such a thing, and wouldn't even if he knew); perhaps that gift will inspire others when we all find out how much it was (assuming there was/is one); maybe aspirants to succeed Sandler will step forward as has been the case in other JFNA "projects;" maybe federations, including my own, will be asked to once again step up. 

Please reread the quote with which I began this Post. Friends, this is an $18,000,000 non-campaign. It is not a collective effort; in fact, it is a campaign in name only antithetical to the very definition of "collective." Sadly, because the needs are great, it is doomed to failure.

And, most likely, this will become just another JFNA "ask" that will be added to the pile...and forgotten like so many others. The ENP will be left with hopes dashed; the Government of Israel abashed. At this point, my friends, JFNA and its leaders are truly beyond embarrassment.

Beyond embarrassment. Haven't we had enough?


* Somehow a $21,000,000 ask became $18,000,000. I can only guess that either (1) the GOI request was reduced; or (2) the arms of JAFI and JDC were twisted to provide the "difference" or (3) JFNA forgot that is was to be $3,000,000 more.


Anonymous said...

JFNA would not know a campaign, it it stumbled on a pledge card.

But we need to stop all this negativity.

It is all bad karma

We need positive direction that will result in positive results.

So, let's start by cutting JFNA's budget by 10% and divert it to the ENP.

It's a win win formula!

Anonymous said...

ENP is a worthy project that has demonstrated results and impact - much more than most of the things that are part of JFNA's so-called Global Operations.

I wonder what would be the result if activities such as Fedworld, the GA, Global Operations and many more had to rely on a "mailbox" to be funded.

Perhaps if that was the way things worked, the ENP and many other solid JDC,JAFI and World ORT would be able to recieve the funding they need and deserve from our system - what's left of it.

Anonymous said...

Forgetting about Sandler's lead gift for this campaign; what is Silverma's?

Anonymous said...

Anyone who knows how to campaign understands that first dollars in are generally the largest gifts. If true, that would mean this thing is, doomed as you've written, to fail badly. And you know that JFNA will tell Bennett, "it's the federations fault."

Anonymous said...

When a "campaign" is no more than a "mailbox" it is a waste of time anyway so it really doesn't matter how the decision to do it was made.
Imagine how successful Operation Exodus would have been if it was handled this way.
Let's hope there aren't ever going to be any mega needs down the road because we have destroyed all hope of a communal response that could ever meet them.