Saturday, April 29, 2017


Almost always, you have offered Comments that have been far more insightful than my Posts themselves. I am never surprised by your insights and only wish that circumstances permitted you to attach your names to what you have written.

Some examples:

~ In response to the Post questioning both the consultant cadre amassed by JFNA Jerry along with the growing number of off-site offices, No Way to Run A Business, you wrote: 
"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!"
"Bad business," indeed!

~ Then, in response to an observation about JCCA's work, came this:
"JCCA has long ago started "eating Federation's lunch" in many ways. Their consulting services are part of the dues structure--they are onsite, effective, and bring their expertise to the field.

Their Mission department does a great job, and in many cases, coordinates P2K and Sister City programming into their missions.

JCCs get a call from their consultant on a regular basis...even if nothing is wrong...just a "how are you doing? What's new? Attaboy! Is there anything we can do for you."

With the continued national trend of combining both organizations under one CEO and one board (there are 30 different iterations of this across the country), one wouldn't be surprised at a casual discussion amongst EDs at a national JCC gathering,"I can see the day, not so long in the future, where WE run the JCC with a community campaign."

I used to think this was "JCC talk." Not so much any more."
~ Reacting to our Post Hiding Behind "Civility" one of you wrote:
"It's a shame, as Masha Gessen wrote today in the New YorkTimes, that the Chairman of Board of Trustees of OUR national organization is urging all of us not "to act in accordance with moral values" but to shrink from them in the face of any dissent. My community is proud to join those who have spoken out. We didn't take a political position but one consistent with the values that have made federations great. Sandler by his demand for silence is contributing to the diminishment of the federations values he was elected to protect and enhance. #Sad"
~ Then there was this insightful Comment to our "Insanity" Post:
"Special emergency campaigns for Israel are an important source of extra income for JFNA's I&O operations, providing funding for additional staff and for pet projects to enhace its own ongoing direct operations portfolio.
The "emergency" label enables them to take large amounts off the top for their own "emergency" use, whether that is what the donors intended or what the funds were supposed to be used for or not - mostly not.
Some would say that this is fine, althogh others might call it misuse of funds or highway robbery.
At the very least it is disregard of donor intent."
~ Although not on the subject of JFNA's abandonment of its responsibility to Jewish professional development, the subject of the Post, one of you wrote this insightful analysis:

Community is still a core of Jewish life. But federation isn't the only community. There are many communities. I'd go further and suggest there is no such thing as THE Jewish community. Each Jewish Community consists of multiple Jewish communities within it. To the degree one conflates Jewish organization with Jewish community, many Jews any don't belong to any. Some belong to several. 

When there is a singular concern that is sufficiently compelling, perhaps Jews will speak with a singular voice. When there are obvious and consensus existential threats to Jews, perhaps notions of Jews en mass caring for Jews will rewaken. But for now most folks know the real deal. They know American Jewry is not under existential threat. They know that while there are threats facing European Jewry, it mostly exists in relative comfort. And they know that the state of Israel is strong and if anything being pulled apart by internal squabbling.

Simply put, the condition that united jewish communities generations ago and compelled joint fundraising and joint action are not present. And while I get the sentimentality attached to those important decades of a relatively united front, these conditions can't be contrived. 

All this is not to excuse horrible organizational governance, management, leadership. If we want to run top notch organizations competing and winning in a world in which time and money are more competitive than ever, we need to invest in exceptional professional and lay recruitment, onboarding, professional development and working conditions.
JFNA is lost because we still don't know what we want from it. Without precision and clarity around its role and what its role means programmatically, its effectiveness is and will be elusive. Frankly, the conditions I describe above are present within the so-called collective organizations -- federations and JFNA. No consensus and therefore no direction and no collective action. Everybody doing their own thing. And that's within the system! 

~ And this amazing, ridiculous truth:

Hypocrisy alert! Sandler endorses Friedman nomination while claiming JFNA is apolitical."
~ Finally, a great communal professional, now the CEO of the Dallas Jewish Community Foundation wrote this:

There is a line from the famous work “Man of la Mancha”, that goes “If life itself seems lunatic who knows where madness really lies.” That quote keeps running through my head as I read the news. 
*According to the latest FBI tracking, there were more Jewish hate crime victims than victims of all other religious groups combined.
*“...On college campuses, anti-Semitism is spiking at an alarming rate coast to coast,” said Kenneth L. Marcus, president of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law.
*We are watching a fifth wave of bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers across the country along with Jewish schools and institutions. At least seventy bomb threats have been received in the past few weeks.
*Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated with hundreds of gravestones being toppled and broken.
*Swastikas being carved into cars and painted on walls of homes and institutions.
*Yad Vashem, the international memorial to the Holocaust in Israel, has asked Amazon to stop selling books denying the Holocaust.
Our mentor, Elie Wiesel, taught us that the opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is INDIFFERENCE. Where is the outcry from our friends and neighbors? Where is the response from our elected leaders? Where is the religious outrage from faith leaders? Unfortunately, we have seen this all before and the lessons seem to be forgotten.
The Jewish Community has a long and proud record of standing up for human rights for all. When a mosque was burned down in Texas it was the Jewish leadership that gave the keys of the synagogue to the Muslim community to share.  That’s what makes this all the more difficult. Where is the outcry from our friends and neighbors? Where is the demand from our nation’s leadership for action?
We watched with painful joy, the isolated example of the Muslim community in St.Louis, helping to repair a Jewish cemetery that was vandalized, and their good work will never be forgotten. But that example is the exception. 
The Jewish Community will not be scared and bullied ever again. Our JCCs will remain open, our schools will not close, and we will not be silent, but it sure would be nice to see others standing with us. Let the haters know they have no place in our society. Show them they have no support. Let the voices of hatred be shouted out by the voices of freedom and democracy.
Abraham Lincoln admonished us, “to sin by silence... makes cowards of men.” Now we will see who the cowards are."
And, JFNA? Its leaders can comment on political appointees, the President himself, but on these vial matters, not only are they silent, they urge us to "sha, sha" as well.

~ And, finally, the brilliant President and CEO of the Jewish Funders Network, Anders Spokoiny, addressed that vibrant organization's International Conference, and challenged all of us. His theme -- El Silence es Salud -- Silence is Health. The speech deserves to be read in full; and the great ejewishphilanthropy has made it possible to do so.  

A brief, very brief excerpt:
"Federation leaders have to go to work every day worrying about who will get offended today; who will call them to threaten withdrawing donations for the position they take, or the position they don’t take. The less they say altogether, the fewer donors will be offended. El silencio es salud.
But silence is not actually healthy. Silence is what cemeteries are known for. Silence is what the generals wanted; silence is what the Soviet Union wanted.
A silent Jewish community is not a vibrant one. The Jews were never a silent people, and the Jewish communities that we remember from history, and that we see today, as our models for thriving and lively communities are those in which speaking up is seen as healthy, and, most importantly, in which listening is seen as healthy. Speaking up, and listening, are now more important than ever."
Please read the speech in its entirety -- it is a challenge worthy of a CEO of a vibrant organization. and contrast.


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