Saturday, May 20, 2017


...and failure begets failure.

Lest we forget:

  1. The Western Wall Initiative. There was what has turned out to be the ephemeral  commitment to the creation of an equitable prayer space at the  (or better description: "near the") Kotel. Letters (oh, yeah, JFNA has letters, lots of them) to the Prime Minister, even a "March" (a couple of 100 attendees at the last Jerusalem GA with nothing better to do) in support of Women of the Wall and some cheerleading for the real work in the trenches by Natan Sharansky. JFNA, as always, not getting its hands dirty. 
  2. The Government of Israel-Jewish Agency - JFNA "World Jewry Initiative." We sure remember that one. JAFI did a brilliant job of framing a significant Initiative in which the Jewish Agency would partner with the GOI and JFNA would be the implementing entity on North America. Then the Diaspora Ministry pulled the plug after an ugly public and personal battle with JAFI. Of course, JFNA might still have been in the fray as the Government's partner in North America For reasons we will never know -- was Naftali Bennett aware of JFNA's total weakness, total lacking in staff -- JFNA was out and the Government chose as its partner an organization none had ever heard of -- Mosaic United.                                                                                        I think it's a fair question to ask: what the hell is Mosaic United? It appears to have been formed by the former President of Jerusalem University who was also the co-founder of the Party City chain. Its "Steering Committee" includes as its Chair a Vice-President of the Detroit Jewish Federation as well as Pittsburgh philanthropist (and recent GA Co-Chair) David Shapira. And there is also an Advisory Board comprised of an eclectic group of Foundation and communal professionals. How or why Bennett and his political cronies chose to partner with this ambitious but tiny start-up is as fair to ask as why JFNA wasn't even in the mix. At least Mosaic United had an expressed "Vision:" "To galvanize participation in Jewish life and strengthen ties to Israel by fueling, scaling and connecting the most impactful innovators, programs and philanthropists." Of course there is no indication of how that organization might accomplish the Vision with a set of strategies they seem ill-equipped to implement. But we wish them well. 
  3. The failed Global Planing Table and the Abandonment of the Collective. There was so much wrong with the GPT from its onset to its death three+ years and millions wasted that it's hard to pick the worst part of that hot mess. I would point to the reality that because there was no one in a leadership -- lay or, worse, professional -- who even understood what was proposed, JFNA stood at the forefront of the GPT as the spearhead for the total abandonment of collective responsibility. In structuring its so-called "Signature Initiatives" -- doomed to fail only because the JFNA lay leaders actually thought that Jerry Silverman could raise the funds necessary -- as "coalitions of the willing" rather than as a total system effort, there was an intentional walk-away from the collective, from the very system-wide approach that had distinguished federations from every other charity. It astounded me then as much as it does today 6 years later that not one elected lay leader and not one federation chief professional officer stood up and said loudly "NO." 
Friends, there are more examples. A JFNA personified by ineptitude completes nothing and suffers from an institutional attention deficit disorder. Yet its lay leaders continue to let it die the death of a thousand cuts. And the death throes all start at the top.

We all know what must be done. 

And we all know that nothing will.



Bob Hyfler said...

There talent and good will not withstanding, Mosaic United and similar coalitions represent an ambiguous and ultimately disturbing trend in Jewish life - the privatization of Jewish works in the hands of foundations and the mega wealthy. For all its faults, the Federation movement aspired to be a public bridge between organized Jewish life and amcha. In its day even the most wealthy were want to defer to collective decision making and the community conversation. JFNA did not create this new dynamic or even significantly enable it. Like the rest of us they applauded the infusion of new resources while ignoring the downsides of the new equation.

Dan Brown said...

Mosaic United [MU] should not be grouped with other coalitions. Rather, MU [to date] is a rather ill-thought-out and badly executed "arrangement" with one of Israel's most politicized ministries (one for whom any type of collective decision making and management is considered heresy).

Bob Hyfler said...

Dan,your point in regard to Bennett is, of course, well taken.

However there is a larger issue here. Whether their name is Adelson or Soros or
Bronfman, whether one approves or disapproves of their funding priorities, mechanisms for public accountability in the philanthropic arena are today lacking and most warranted.

Anonymous said...

Bennet wants to be or thinks that he is "King of the Jews". Those supporting his "Mosaic" should know better but Bob is right in pointing out that there are bigger and more important issues involved here.

Anonymous said...

Two interesting articles:

The second article discusses the Jewish Women's Renaissance Project. The article is a bit dated. I believe JWRP is migrating from Ministry-direct funding to Mosaic United funding. Our local Federation has been partnering with JWRP. They are not easy to work with. And it is a bit awkward for our Federation to partner with an organization that openly targets non-Orthodox women with young children with the express purpose of introducing them to more traditional (Orthodox) expressions of Jewish living. But for Federations, it is important to partner with them so as not to loose connections with these young women.

And in the end, Mosaic is not a 501c3. It incorporated in the US as a Public Benefit Corporation. Different reporting requirements. No contributions are charitable. Notwithstanding its impressive advisory board/committee, this is a bit unsettling.

Anonymous said...

The politicization and extremist religious and political positions that Bennet represents and includes in his "educational" projects in Israel and abroad are something that should be avoided at all cost. Cooperation and partnerships built around his initiatives are not worth the money that he is throwing around to promote them.