Monday, August 28, 2017


Where to begin?

1. JTA recently reported that an Orthodox Rabbi threatened to bolt Naftali Bennett's HaBayit Ha'Yehudi party because the party employs a lesbian as an aide. Where and when do these nefarious acts stop? Bennett who, when in America, has articulated a real grasp of the meaning and impact of pluralism and the civil society could do those causes a great service by simply throwing this Rabbi out of his party -- immediately. Any bets?

2. Let's continue with a now former Federation CEO who, with a private sector background, parachuted into a Federation leadership position and, over what I think was a 15 year run, tried numerous times to parlay what appeared at first glance to be impressive revenue ("campaign") growth into a CEO position with a larger community. But, on a little (very little) further inquiry, it was always evident that this so-called "growth" was really nothing more than counting funds for which the federation was nothing more than a conduit of donors' designated gifts to agencies, synagogues, even secular charities as if those had been raised by federation/for federation. This CEO had the time to attend JFNA meetings, JAFI meetings and to interview for multiple positions.The Forward found him to be "...willing to go further than your traditional federation CEO...he took on the ice bucket challenge. His suit soaking wet, he added the 'hummus not Hamas' challenge, spreading chickpea paste all over his head as a sign of solidarity with Israel’s fight against Hamas." With this "creativity" there was no doubt that his perseverance would ultimately pay off; he is now heading one of the most successful "Friends of..." entities...we wish them all continued success.

3. The counting of funds for which the institution is merely a conduit as "revenue" is also evident at JFNA. Just read the IRS 990 filings and you discover that federation allocations and the proceeds of special campaigns, as examples, for which JFNA is nothing but a pass-through to the intended destinations, are counted as "Revenue." This, of course, makes JFNA's "Expenses" look a whole lot better...a whole lot. This accounting prestidigitation, all the worse as JFNA is an organization which, as we know, itself raises almost no money whatsoever, fools not just GuideStar and others, sadly seems to have convinced some in JFNA leadership that all is just fine. They are comforted by this claptrap. Results, accountability; they don't matter -- look at all the money that flows to us; we're great. Nobody knows; nobody cares.

4. Then there's the woebegone JFNA-Israel. The CEO of JFNA-Israel has reported to the JFNA Israel and Overseas Department that she is working "quietly and intensively" with members of the Knesset on overturning the Prime Minister's support of the Conversion legislation now on "suspension" in the Knesset. Apparently still developing a "plan." It's clear that under the Silverman mal-administration lay leaders are to be kept out at all times; and I think I understand the reason. If lay leaders are directly engaged in anything but, in particular in direct lobbying the Knesset and Prime Minister, they will soon learn that JFNA lacks the professional capacity necessary to achieve the goals that have been set for it...or even those set for themselves, if any. 


It's so often a shell game, so often Three Card Monte. Truth and transparency just aren't there in too may places, and those who should be demanding accountability are often "too busy," too detached, too willing to just accept what they are told if they inquire at all. These are wonderful leaders unwilling to ask the hard questions -- questions they should not even have to ask.



Anonymous said...

"Quietly and intensively" for sure but effectively and impactfully not so sure - actually for sure not!

Does anybody have any idea how much this misguided lobbying effort is costing us per day, per month, per year? Does anybody bother to ask or to even care?

Who developed and who approved the planning, if any, and who is supervising this "quiet and "intensive" Knesset lobbying effort?

Who is steering this spaceship?

Anonymous said...

There is no steering. Caspi is out of her element AND out of control. As for the CEO, he's busy looking for photo ops and hasn't time to supervise anyone. Besides, he has a long history - going back to FJC - of being a less than adequate manager.

Anonymous said...

Meanwhile, it isn't too early to declare the huge success of the Hurricane Harvey Mailbox. Like every campaign of late, if there are no goals set any amount raised can be considered a great success. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:02 is being ridiculous. Houston can't set goals yet--they are still in the middle of this storm. So what would you do? Wait for a few weeks until goals are finalized and clear? Or do what Federations and JFNA are actually doing, which is raising money and mobilizing in the best way possible, and the goals will catch up.

Anonymous said...

Was 1:19 a message from FedWorld?
Raising money is raising money - not opening a mailbox and hoping folks will respond. It is never ridiculous to set goals for a campaign.

Anonymous said...

1:19 here. Not a JFNA pro but someone who loves Federations and thinks that it's silly to attack the opening of a mailbox right at the start of the disaster.

You KNOW that Houston can't set goals yet. So what are you talking about? What goals, exactly, would you set right now? Not next week. Now. Because failing to set up a mailbox now would undoubtedly lead to (justified) complaints that Federations/JFNA was not quickly responding.

RWEX said...

OK. We've read the point/counterpoint on goal-setting in the midst of a natural disaster. Let's move the discussion forward to other issues.


Anonymous said...

What's really the difference between the unnamed CEO who parachuted in to afederation and conjured up a scheme that made the communal leadership happy with his work and "achievements" even though they were few if any and Jerry Silverman who seems to hold on to his position for no apparent rational reason? I don't see any real difference. And nobody has foled more people for a longer [eriod of time than has Jerry.

Bob Hyfler said...

There is an important difference between being a populist and a reformer. One sees problems as the result of corrupt or incompetent persons, while the latter understands the broader systemic forces at play. What ails some, not all, federations is a result of well meaning but ultimately self-defeating decisions and processes long time in the making. Confronting our past present and future thoughtfully and openly would be a good opening gambit.

Anonymous said...

Why not write something positive like how NY and LA immediately sent their top program pros to Houston and they are leading the way.? LA's stepped into to help run their JFS and NY's is moving mountains to get help in. A real sign that the collective is stronger than you think.

RWEX said...

Great news!! Great to hear. These are wonderful examples. But not examples of collective action. Kal ha'kavod to these federations and to those who will join them

Anonymous said...

That's not true. There are three pros on the ground working together - from LA, NY and JFNA. Their whole work is organized by JFNA, which has been updating us daily on the system's response and more. That's pretty much the definition of collective action. How do you think federations have raised several million dollars so far? By individual actiom? Be serious.

(Not a JFNA rep. Rather an intermediate fed Exec who has seen value this week in the system and our response, and frankly could do with a little more cheerleading and a little less poisoned meanness).

Anonymous said...

Richard, why do you print b.s. like this from an Anonymous who claims to be a Federation Exec who accuses you of "poisoned meanness?" It's clear that no Federation Exec would actually believe that JFNA has raised a dime from its creation of a Mailbox -- I know that my community -- New York -- did not respond to this crisis by allocation $100,000 in emergency funding because of anything JFNA did or will do; I would wager your federation's initial allocation of a like amount wasn't made in response to any request by JFNA. The work of all federation reps in helping in this emergency has been organized by the Houston federation and its Jewish Family Service, not jFNA. Merely "updating us daily on the system's response and more" (whatever "more" means?) is not "collective action;" it is "doing its job."

No, I won't believe that that the last correspondent could possibly be the professional leader of a federation and I and your readers won't until he or she attach their name to their screed. (I apologize for my own hypocrisy.)

Anonymous said...

The last writer couldn't be more wrong and I challenge him to call Eric Goldstein to actually find out how wrong he is. I'd use other words but I want Richard to print this.

Dan Brown said...

To anon 7:50: They've raised several million dollars? From where? Must be a whole lot of anonymous gifts! If there was any accuracy to that statement JFNA would be contacting every media outlet tooting their own horn.

Anonymous said...

It is obvious and shameful that your Anonymous 7:50 p.m. hiding behind that anonymity claims to be a federation executive. That writer spewing a series of misstatements to elevate JFNA can only bea JFNA staffer, nothing else. Only someone at 25 Broadway could or would so misstate JFNA's role while hiding their identity

Anonymous said...

Are we really impressed that three professionals visited Houston? Wow! Be still my heart!

I am more impressed that a community like Houston that is flooded regularly and has had three major floods in three years felt they required JFNA and UJA-NY's extraordinary experience in dealing with disasters to parachute in and supplement their meager capabilities.

Can someone get a Houston Fed Exec to validate their call for professional help? Or is this just professional hubris?

Contrast that with Chabad of Houston and Texas which has mobilized dozens of young (and old) volunteers, the local JCC which serves as a distribution depot, and JFS which is helping to deploy people to aid with debris removal.

My UJA-NY friends tell me that their professional staffers are spreading fake news like: the airports are closed (fake! Bush International opened on Wed and has seven United non-stops today with lots of seats from NYC), there are no hotels (fake! downtown hotels like the Four Seasons never shut during the storm and has plenty of rooms at under $200/night, not to mention all the many suite hotels in the northwest suburbs; or that they allocated $100,000 (you decide: allocated is not the same as disbursed, and my friends were told that the money will go to JFNA, to which readers of this blog will only marvel?)

Would you trust JFNA to efficiently, expeditiously, honestly and judiciously disburse relief funds?

Do any readers have suggestions for deserving places to send money directly as I no longer trust my own Federation professionals to manage this staff if they will delegate this important task to JFNA?

In lieu of the many excellent national disaster relief organizations, I have already donated to: Chabad of Texas, Jewish Family Services of Houston, and some of the heavily damaged synagogues.

Anonymous said...

Let's add to Chabad that ISRAAID is on the ground helping with debris removal and cleaning out homes destroyed by the floods. They are also working with local partners to providing psycho-social support for those evacuated to shelters.

Also, URJ Greene Family Camp in Bruceville, and Camp Young Judaea Texas have opened providing beds, food, etc.

All 4 organizations are doing superb work on the ground and didn't 't wait for cash to come in to begin.

And, if I had to guess, none of the 4 will receive even a dollar from JFNA's mailbox.

Anonymous said...

You're preaching to the choir. My runs a charity with his wife called HOT or Hands on Tzedakah. They pay 100% of all expenses. They then go to friends and fund projects around the world but mostly in Israel, and mostly Jewish. All are projects that major NGO's can't fund or can't find. On the web you can see the many projects and pick and choose those that might interest you.

My point is that they have already disseminated $150,000 of hard goods in Houston. We helped arrange payment directly through Costco in Boca and Costco's in Houston had the products ready and available. Various Community services, mostly Jewish synagogues, picked up the items and directed them to where they were needed.

JFNA etc is still "trying to figure it out".


Anonymous said...

From a concerned friend:
You have not posted anything on the flood efforts.

I happened to read a few of your readers comments this afternoon and share their concern.

I would very much like to donate. I would prefer to donate to a Jewish charity, rather than the Red Cross.

I certainly don't trust my local Federation as they are just handing over the money to JFNA and then sending out false information about the situation on the ground (we have all been recipients of an email from the Executive Director of UJA on the ground claiming that it is too early for volunteers, the airports are closed and they don't need any specific supplies (which is belied by the last posting on your site of a very entrepreneurial charity providing funded access to Costco).

Could you please try to crowd source some good suggestions by soliciting suggestions from your readership?

... I second a reader's suggestion that you ask the Houston Federation if they really begged UJA-NY and JFNA to help support its staff

Anonymous said...

The Federation is organizing groups to help with muck work starting today.

To sign up to have volunteers help in your home, fill out this form.

If you are able to help clean up after the storm, please fill out this form. We will need volunteers beginning today. Let us know your availability on the form.

If you need items to repair your home, please visit the JCC Tennis Complex from September 1-3 from 9 am-5 pm.

Please note, there is high need in our community. If we run out of supplies, we will work quickly to restock.

Donations - especially of cleaning supplies, brooms, mops, Target gift cards, adult underwear, adult and children socks - are needed and can be dropped off during that time as well.

If you have questions about intake or volunteering, contact Sara Sandhaus at
If you want to make a monetary donation, fill out our online form or contact Suzanne Jacobson at
If you want to make a in-kind donation, contact Meredith Segal at
If you want to share your flood story or pictures with us, contact Taryn Baranowski at


Anonymous said...

Hurricane Relief Updates

How You Can Help
The J along with Jewish Family Services of Houston will distribute digital gift cards directly to people in need. Here's how you can help. We are also accepting donations for the Hurricane Relief Fund.

Important Supply Drive Updates for Sunday, Sept 3 and Monday, Sept 4

Please make note of the following information:
Drop off and pick up of supplies will only be available from 9:00 AM-11:00 AM Sunday, Sept. 3.

From 12:00 PM-2:30 PM supplies will be distributed on a "drive thru" basis. Cars will be able to enter the J parking lot only off of Atwell and drive to the Tennis Center.

The supply distribution on Sunday is being made possible through the generosity of a local foundation and will be distributed by members of the Houston Texans football team. Everyone will be required to remain in their cars when supplies are placed into cars.

The distribution and collection of supplies will end on Sunday, Sept 3 at 2:30 PM.

Important Information for Volunteers
Please park in front of the J and not along the wooden fence. Parking will not be available near the Tennis Center.

We will need volunteers beginning at 8:00 AM to unload trucks and continue through the day to assist in the Tennis Center and the coordination and distribution of supplies for the "drive thru" from 12:00 PM-2:30 PM and from 2:30 PM-4:00 PM to unload two trucks.

Please note that supply distribution on Monday, Sept 4 will be limited to individuals that are participating in the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston in-home clean up efforts.

If Your Home Has Been Damaged, Help is Available
The Federation is organizing volunteers who are available to help with cleaning through Monday. To sign up to have volunteers help in your home, fill out this form.

Volunteers Needed to Help Clean Homes
If you are able to volunteer, please fill out this form. We will need volunteers through at least Monday.

Below is a list of supplies we will be collecting:

bottled water
work gloves
packing supplies (boxes and tape)
plastic storage bins
heavy trash bags
heavy duty razor blades to rip out carpet
sheetrock cutters
cleaning supplies, including old towels, mops, buckets, bleach and Lysol
gift cards from home repair stores and grocery stores
Immediate needs:
Cleaning and packing supplies. We are currently not accepting donations of clothing or shoes.

Contact Us
Need to reach us with a comment or question? Please complete our online form and we will be in touch.