Friday, May 26, 2017


Is there no end to it? Will there ever be?

Through an accident of history, absent any reason, any rationale, Jerry Silverman continues as JFNA CEO-President. This continued service is one of life's great mysteries -- like the appendix, Adam Sandler movies, Sean Spicer. There's no explaining them; there is no ex-plaining Jerry's service. He continues as CEO because...well, because he is the CEO. It makes no sense. 

JFNA today is at a Kelvin Scale of fail. JFNA lay leaders, top down, are in denial of every observable reality. These well-meaning leaders have engaged in that which can only be termed, as in the brilliant Fargo 2017:  unfathomable pinheadery. JFNA under Jerry is and has been since his unquestioning endorsement of the Global Planning Table right through today , an organization that has sped right through the intersection of indifference and irrelevance without once anyone in power considering how bad it has gotten.

Friends, as a great Cleveland leader, Richard Bogomolny, said in the beautiful documentary, Violins of Hope: we are charged " know what is morally right and the strength to do something about it." There is no one in lay leadership of JFNA who doesn't know that they have a fiduciary responsibility to assure that the organization is led in the best interests of the federations -- not in their own best interests, in the interests of  the communities which they represent -- and, yet, they do nothing. 

Let's say you serve on JFNA from a federation that raises 1/2 what it did 5 years ago but pays (and continues to pay) $495,000 in JFNA Dues. And for that half a million dollar annual payment your community gets almost nothing in return from 25 Broadway. How do you explain that to your community; how do you explain that to yourself? The questions that should be asked seem so simple; yet what questions are you asking? How do you permit this situation to continue? Oh, sure, it's simple and simplistic to look around and see that the leaders of the largest federations, whose Dues are proportionately even more egregious, saying nothing, does that excuse you from sitting silent?

The fact is that these JFNA lay leaders have forgotten or ignored the reality that they serve on JFNA's Board as representatives of their communities. Yet, they ask nothing of the JFNA Chief Professional Officer; and that's exactly what they have  received in return...nothing. 

We have reported on these pages ad nauseam the daily inanities of JFNA, under CEO Jerry an organization seemingly leaping from one shiny object to another shiny object without either plan or purpose. At no other time in Jewish organizational life has another institution embodied the maxim: If you don't know where you're going any road will get you there. (Although in JFNA's case it's "no road will get you there.") The latest road taken:  In 9 long pages in Chabad Lubavitch World -- Jewish Federations & Chabad Find a New Way Forward -- the ideal working relationship ships between federations and the Chabad Movement are detailed highlighting the Toledo Jewish community and the JFNA-operated Network among others. 

Having seen its work on the ground in the Republics of the Former Soviet Union, I have developed admiration for Chabad's work, for th3e dedication of their Rabbis on the ground; the JDC has developed a long-term relationship with Chabad country and community leaders there, though one not infrequently fraught with difficulties. If federated communities are now partnering with Chabad, if the JFNA Network is doing so, would it not be fair to expect some guidance from JFNA on best practices, how to do so? Well, of course, were there a JFNA. But in 2017, it's every community for itself. Send an insipid email to FedCentral; work it out on your own.

And continue to pay Dues to JFNA -- though not all are doing so -- as if you are getting back something in return.

And pray no one asks any questions.



Anonymous said...

Hampsters need a modicum of intelligence to move forward and thereby keep the wheel in perpetual motion. You give the CEO, and also the board chair, undeserved credit.

Anonymous said...

Same s**t...different day! JFNA is useless...helpless...and leadership less! My Federation is tired of paying $200k+ in dues for nothing in return. In fact, outside of FedCentral inane questions and FedWorld emails, my Federation Exec says he never hears from JFNA. A waste of $30 million+ and a waste for our hard locally raised philanthropic dollars.

Anonymous said...

You are right, the hamster wheel keeps going and there appears to be no way to get off until the first Large City Federation says "no more," "stop, we're getting off." Inertia compounded by total laziness keeps JFNA going. There's no service, there is no consultation, and the only time we here from JFNA is when and if we suggest that we will not pay our Dues, then they are all over us, seemingly unaware how transparent their sudden attention is.

They may be fools, but we are worse. And all of us know what a waste of communal resources JFNA is.

Anonymous said...

does anyone consider that most Chabads have no lay board oversight a critical problem when receiving fed dollars?

Anonymous said...

IF JFNA is partnering with Chabad then why not with Reform and
Conservative rabbis and synagogues? This is not right!

RWEX said...

Each of you has made an excellent point. The point is simply this: JFNA does not have a clue. There is no on-going thought process to anything that it does (other than in Washington) -- whether it's an $18 million Special Campaign, the collapse of the Federation-National Agency Alliance, the abandonment of the communal professionals, the collapse of communal Consulting, the embrace and then the abandonment of Israel's civil society, the embrace of Chabad, and on and on and o -- there is no plan, no purpose...nothing but futility.

Anonymous said...

And as anon at 8:09 correctly pointed up, it will continue until NY, Chicago or Cleveland says enough. And that's about as likely to happen as Sheldon supporting a Democrat in the 2020 presidential election.