Thursday, September 21, 2017


Maybe it's just apparent to a few of us on the outside looking in although it should be clear to even the most inside of insiders...JFNA is so deep in failure that one can only conclude that it is in the midst of an existential crisis. Sadly, no one in the ever more restricted JFNA "circle of trust" believes anything at all is wrong. Nothing at all; all unicorns and rainbows. Just swell.

Meanwhile JFNA's institutional relevance fades like an old photograph; it has now reached the "yellowing" stage, the corners curling up, the captions faded. Kind of makes the days of UJA and CJF shine probably more brightly than the reality of what once was, doesn't it?
Sure, JFNA-Washington is a lonely outlier of success shining on this dismal landscape but nowhere has JFNA under this leadership been able to build upon the successes that William Daroff and his staff and lay partners have achieved. In fact, because of those successes the failures of JFNA everywhere else stick out even further.

Who could have envisioned the Continental organization arising out of the merger 18 years ago would have us longing all these years post-merger for the things that UJA and CJF brought to the table and left there -- a passion among not just their leaders but their lay leadership, their constituencies; the sense among all that we were as one in pursuit of collective purpose, mission and vision; the common dedication to the highest needs of the federations, federation professionals and lay leadership and to those they support All things that have faded into memory by a JFNA that for the past decade appears to be only about itself and even pursuing its self-adulation poorly. For JFNA does nothing well...nothing...nothing at all.

Think back to a time at CJF with professional leaders of the stature of Phil Bernstein to Marty Kraar, with great professionals like CFO Harold Cohen, Director of Research and Planning Norbert Fruehauf, Planned Giving pro Don Kent; Israel Department leaders of the excellence and brilliance of Menachem Revivi; wonderful communal consulting pros like Howard Feinberg and Barry Swartz and so many more; think back to UJA with leaders like CEOs Rabbi Herb Friedman and Irving Bernstein and Stanley Horowitz; the best of Campaign/FRD pros Bob Pearlman, Mel Bloom, Russell Robinson, Harold Cohen, Mo Sherman, Shimon Pepper, Vicki Agron, Gail Reiss -- a list that goes on and on, these men and women set the gold standard; great allocation advocates from David Agronin to Cheryl Lefland; and the pros pro of CFOs, Lee Twersky and the great Communications and Marketing professional, Gail Hyman...And, at the United Israel Appeal -- Danny Allen, Jay Yoskowitz and Yitzchak Shavit. A roster of tremendous leaders, too, too many now deceased, whose service to Jewish communities and People inspired them and inspired their lay partners and continue to inspire those of us who worked with them even today/. 

At the outset, JFNA succeeded to so many great professionals from the UJA and CJF staffs adding to them with great professionals Doron Krakow, Israel & Overseas, MK Nachman Shai, Director General of JFNA-Israel; the leader of JFNA's incredibly successful Washington grant effort, William Daroff; and a CFO of impeccable integrity and commitment, Sam Astrof.

These were and are selfless professionals of a unique dedication who contributed so much (and so many of them still do but almost all of them...elsewhere) to our communities, to Israel, to the Jewish People. I was so fortunate, so blessed to have served with almost all of them, I was inspired by them, I fought with them l'shem shamayim and venerated those whom I knew only by reputation. 

And, today, other than Daroff and Agron, the latter a part-time consultant, all are gone. Those who conceived of and implemented programs and campaigns ranging from Project Renewal to Operation Exodus, who actually raised millions and inspired millions more, succeeded by those who proffered TribeFest and #ish and the Global Planning Table and raised no money.

So, why this atrophy, this fading into nothingness from past glory? Because lay leaders who should know better are oblivious to the disaster that is JFNA today; because the coterie of federation CEOs fail to implement that which they know to be true -- that with ownership came/comes responsibility. Because there is an epidemic of laziness, of "we'll leave this to someone else" when there is no "someone else."

And the end result of decade of disinterest, of leaving it to others, of neglect, of disdain is...Jerry Silverman...for 8+ years. 



Anonymous said...

The "good old days" may not have been as "good" as you remember them but they sure as hell were far, far better than the Dystopian today. The problem today is a lay leadership that has figuratively thrown in the towel when it comes to their responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

The problem today is there is no shared mission. Federations aren't in agreement in what they want from a central organization and certainly there is no agreement on what to invest in order to accomplish what they want. Absent strategic cohesion, there's no programmatic alignment.

In this vacuum, JFNA is a playground for more active (and likely wealthier and/or bigger local federation donors). It's an option for locally active folks who want to rub elbows with mates on a national/international level and play in a larger sandbox where they can feel like they're navigating a bigger ship in major waters.

I don't know about the old days, be they good or bad. My sense is there was more of a shared purpose.