Monday, October 30, 2017


Yeah, the "past" is "in my eyes" as well -- not to return to it but to build upon the best of it. Santayana's warning -- "those who don't learn from the past, are doomed to repeat it" -- is today treated as nothing more than a cliche, so easily ignored. Ignored as well are the directives derived from James Collins in Good to Great, whose warnings about the rejection of core intitutional values were once relevant enough to have been delivered by Collins to a rapt and overflowing audience at a post-merger GA...and, then, promptly ignored.

Here's the implicit rejection of the values and lessons that might have been derived from the passion and purpose of the United Jewish Appeal and the dedication to federations and the professional movement of the CJF -- "we're not interested," "that was then and this is now," "you're a dinosaur," and "that's so last century." 

To avoid being reminded of what was once great, the leaders of JFNA made the decision, unconsciously but not always so, to reject the past in every way, and to push away --sometimes gently, most times aggressively -- those who might remind the leaders of today that past practice might still be best practice. That inquiry would require debate and discussion, an airing of issues and alternative "solutions" and today's leadership has proved over the past 8+ years that they would rather deal with everything ad hoc, remaking the wheel (and not well, not well at all) every damn time.

Examples abound:

  • How about Disaster Relief? After Katrina terrific JFNA professionals created a Protocol for future dire emergencies. Has that Protocol been followed this year? Is anyone remaining at JFNA even familiar with it? Should there not be a full-time professional charged with its responsibility?
  • How about Special Campaigns? JFNA leaders seem to believe it more important to emphasize that the effort will always be non-binding, "best efforts" than to create goals and lead these campaigns. In the main the effort has been: (1) open a Mailbox;(2) wait for the money; (3) send letters asking for more money; (4) beg individual federations to step up; and (5) walk away.
  • Community Consulting? Having deconstructed the federation consulting efforts that created real engagement between JFNA and the communities in the early years -- deconstructed it to nothing -- Silverman latched on to a 4 person part-time FRD Consulting effort, branded it JFNA's "CCT Team," added a few more part-time consultants, the whole "Team" led by a Senior part-time consultant, and claimed this as a real comprehensive community consultant effort.
  • Advocacy for the Overseas partners? National Agencies Alliance? Egalitarian Prayer Space at the Kotel? General Assemblies? Global Planning Table? #ish? TribeFests? Community Heroes? CEO Searches?  On and on and on, one failure after the other; one disastrous failure after another.
Where is accountability? Searching for accountability at JFNA would be the modern equivalent of Diogenes searching for one honest person. At JFNA the proof of disinterest in accountability can be found in the continuing payment of Dues -- for if there were accountability at JFNA there would be no Dues payments across the Board.

And, so it goes...repeating failure is now the institutional norm at JFNA. And "I got the past in my eyes."



Anonymous said...

Can't wait for your commentary on Haaretz and the flurry of Federation denials, analysis, and alternative rendition of the facts

Anonymous said...

The only problem with the Haaretz stuff is that they make it seem like working for a Federation or at JFNA is living in luxury.

The vast majority of Federation and JFNA workers do not make a decent salary. Simply put, the Federation world could not exist without those lower tier professionals and administrative assistants. But the top administrators most certainly do, as well as enjoy the perks as mentioned. The huge discrepancy between those two groups of workers was a missing piece to the Haaretz investigative focus.

Anonymous said...

Richard, thanks for the reminder that are better ways -- but that JFNA refuses to follow any of them, refuses to acknowledge that better ways even exist. When Silverman was hired he thought he knew everything just as he does today, and yet he proves how little he knows every day.

Anonymous said...

JFNA is a joke. The Haaretz articles should have focused on the continuing waste of $30 million in Dues annually at 25 Broadway while the federations that were covered in such relative detail struggle wirth theirown relevance getting no help from JFNA

Anonymous said...

If anyone has any Intel on the matter, would be interested in whatever (not so) secret memo and talking points are going out from JFNA in response to the Haaretz report.

Anonymous said...

JFNA knew in advance about the Ha’aretz article and hired a Crisis Management PR firm. 60 some Federations received questionnaires from the journalist.

There isn’t a big response because the article is a relatively accurate rendition of the facts.

One thing it left out is that US Philanthropy directed to Israel has been on a constant upward trajectory, just not from Federations.

Ponzi had nothing on Madoff.

Slowly but surely, the Federations are becoming a virtual Madoff scheme.