"Richard, is the recommended action for Federations to act by saying "enough" and cutting back on dues support in an expression of discontent/dissatisfaction or complying and muddling through? It seems as if you are advocating both.....which is it? And, do your follow community leaders in Chicago feel satisfied with JFNA? Is your own community the problem or the answer? If what you say is correct (and I think it is) that change will not come from JFNA ranks, how do you propose our system moves beyond this point? Interested in your thoughts."These are questions filled with implications; questions which, of course, I have asked myself more than once. Thanks for asking; I am inadequate to the task of answering them. But I will try...
Many of you have written to assert that non-payment of Dues is today the only means by which federations can express objection to the manner in which JFNA is being run into the ground. Others of you have told me that quiet, private and direct discussions with JFNA's Board Chair are far more effective in achieving change than my continuing public "shaming" and screed -- though they will admit that they cannot point to a single change they have accomplished in their polite, quiet ways.
Friends, so long as the negative "leverage" that JFNA has for Dues non- or partial payment remains in place -- the denial of participation in JFNA constituencies, training, etc. -- there appears to be no path that a federation can travel to both object to JFNA's policies (or lack thereof), to JFNA's waste, etc. It's just too difficult to contemplate. Of course there are no positive benefits that JFNA in its current configuration can point to to retain engagement and generate any passion whatsoever. The result is the growing resentment and disengagement between JFNA and its owners, the latter stuck in stasis with nowhere to turn.
And, sure, my own community and yours are "stuck." But, "stuck" for reasons beyond the negative implications of a failure or refusal to pay Dues in whole or in part. I'm proud that leaders from Chicago have played and play important roles in JFNA -- today Past Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago Chairs serve as the Chair of the JFNA-Israel and Overseas Department, the Chair of the Israel Action Network and as titular JFNA corporate officers and, of course, Steve Nasatir, is the Dean of Federation CEOs. That leadership scenario plays out as well across a spectrum of federations -- New York, Cleveland and Los Angeles, to name just three -- whose leaders know exactly how dramatically JFNA has failed and continues to do so, but are unwilling to demand change, publicly or privately. (I believe that they are able to do so; just unwilling.)
Those among the JFNA lay leadership who should (and do) know better must fear that their criticism might cast them out to the farthest points on the Sandler/Silverman "circle of trust" and cost them both access and, for those who aspire to it, the chance of gaining higher office. Under this "leadership," JFNA has become about "them," not about fiduciary duty or the federations. But outside this tiny sample, this small cabal, are the many who see failure and waste for what they are -- I know that's the case because you have told me so, on these pages and offline.
For what has evolved at JFNA is a very strange symbiosis between CEO and the chief lay officer -- one that has served the CEO so well and the organization so poorly. Rather than an objective evaluation, measuring performance by goals and objectives, any evaluation of this CEO is wholly subjective. (And this is the case because Silverman has wisely not set forth any annual goals capable of measurement and accountability [and, "visited 50 federations" doesn't count]). But, given a Board Chair who has made clear that his vision of the lay-professional partnership is "get out of the professionals way and let them do their job," one should be able to assume that even a subjective evaluation would be based on how the CEO actually "does his job." Doesn't it? OK, you're right, probably not.
The evidence of JFNA failure is so rife one has to believe that even the most reluctant organizational leader would say "Enough. This has to stop. Now." That just hasn't happened. Now it's time for that ephemeral silent majority to stand up and demand change...not lip service, change.
Anyone expecting Jerry Silverman to, in the jargon of the day, "pivot" into a leader capable not only of changing himself but of leading JFNA through change, is barking up the wrong tree. That moment has passed, if it ever existed. If that was the compelling argument for extending Jerry's contract after the first 5 years of abysmal failure, it doesn't work any longer.