Wednesday, September 6, 2017


Just when you think that JFNA has hit bottom under Sandler/Silverman, it just gets worse. And all of it the result of incompetence and a lack of accountability visible to all. A few examples:

  • While the Envoys Program of JFNA-Israel continues to flounder, it operates in some sort of bubble without regard for the new reality -- New York UJA-Federation plans to/is planning to cut its overseas allocations to the core budgets of JFNA's historical partners while JFNA fiddles. Not only will New York's abandonment of its historic collective responsibilities be catastrophic in the absolute; that unilateral act will set the dominoes tumbling as federation after federation will be stating "if New York did it, so will we." I am reminded that a decade ago the Detroit Federation stated that JFNA's Dues being unconscionable, that federation would no longer pay them. JFNA under its then lay and professional leaders organized a meeting with Detroit's leaders face-to-face and, while contentious, the end result was that Detroit remained a member in good standing, a leadership community. And, today? There are few if any Continental leaders of stature to sit with New York-UJA's leaders; no doubt, there will be letters and tearful pleas.
  • Then, there is the Young Leadership Cabinet, once a diamond now a zircon; a mere shadow of what it once was and what it was intended to be. Two years ago the line of leaders objecting to a Cabinet restructuring plan preferred by, what else, consultants, stretched out the door of the room in which the draft document was discussed. No one stood in support. The articulated "we are going back to the drawing board" offered hope. And, then, two years later, with the blessing of JFNA leadership (actually it was far more than a blessing, it was kumbaya and hosannas as if the Cabinet had delivered Torah), the plan that emerged was, but for word-smithing, the same plan so strongly rejected when first presented. (NB, the exact same thing happened in the development of the ultimately failed Global Planning Table -- an almost unanimous rejection of a draft GPT "Plan" reappeared at the end of the "planning process" essentially unchanged...and the disaster that some of us predicted would be.)
  • Consulting Services, once the  JFNA "hub" from which all spokes emanated, is now a consultant-driven FRD effort thoughtlessly expanded to be the system's outreach to all communities because...well because it was "there." FRD consultants, even the talented part-timers JFNA is now deploying, can't offer comprehensive advice and counsel to the federations beyond FRD any more than superb litigators can offer real estate law advice. So federation professionals will still be force-fed into FedCentral for advice from each other while JFNA will term this failure as "victory."
  • JFNA-Israel continues to be totally ineffective -- whether it be as the failed canary in the mineshaft when it came to Netanyahu's abandonment of the Diaspora, the struggle to fund and to make of I-Rep a meaningful effort on the ground in the hope to have a meaningful impact on Israel's civil society let alone to dramatically increase the resources available from a small group of participating federations -- the so-called "coalition of the willing" -- and a small, ambitious group of philanthropists who wish to control the entire "Initiative." 
And, we could go on in detail with the failure that The Network became after Silverman and a Board Chair dismissed the indigenous leadership from these small communities and substituted their "judgment;" FRD where an ambitious "Senior Consultant" (who is now identified at FRD events as the "Philanthropic Scholar") appears to be dictating all FRD activities; where national Missions have fallen on such hard times that even those most effective in the past have been canceled; the General Assemblies where, if trend lines continue, may soon be held for professionals only or in a phone booth; and on and on.

In Casey Stengel's immortal words: "Doesn't anyone here know how to play this game?"

We all know the answer.



Anonymous said...

Can you please clarify your claim that "New York UJA-Federation plans to/is planning to cut its overseas allocations to the core budgets of JFNA's historical partners"?

As a New Yorker, I am unaware of this.

Do you know the magnitude of the cut or the reason?
Is is strictly that the new regime doesn't believe in international allocations, or that they have some problem with the "historical partners"?

Will they simply be moving funds from core to projects? Or just cutting?

Anonymous said...

I don't know if NY even knows as yet what it plans to do, the extent of what if will do or whether it will do anything at all. Yet, the fact that our leaders are actually talking about the kinds of cuts to core overseas budgets of agencies doing our work for us, portends all that Richard has predicted.

Anonymous said...

Do you really believe that Eric and Jeff don't know what they want to do?

If you think bad things are portended, they are likely already ordained.

Hasn't Jeff belittled international allocations for years?

Don't the staff pick sides and play politics between JAFI and JDC?

Isn't Alisha Kurshan and Deborah Joselow extraordinarily hostile to one - you guess which?

Judy Samuels is just not that astute that someone isn't pulling all of her strings and dictating the results of her vaunted "iPad" committee.

So, kudos Richard for at least making sure this isn't a surprise to anyone.