Wednesday, November 15, 2017


We have heard and read so much over the past months about Trump "playing to his base." If you think about it, that's the same game that JFNA's leaders have been playing -- a shrinking "base" of insiders along with a few LCE -- and nobody else matters, nobody else is engaged, no one else's voice is sought or, G-d forbid, considered. In fact, in a New York Times report (on October 23, 2017) on the Soviet-style show trial of the once powerful Russian Economics Minister, quoting a keen observer of the Putin era: “We have a tsarist system. You cannot (in the sense of "you are not allowed to...") upset (leadership) by saying ‘Your plans are leading to disaster.'” I know, comparing JFNA to "a tsarist system" is odious but...there you are. 

John McCain's recent observations could easily be applied to JFNA as well. For example:

“To abandon the ideals we have advanced to build the federation system, to refuse the obligations of leadership for the sake of some half-baked, spurious support of the unsupportable cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems,”
Those of us (and, trust me, friends, I am not and have not been alone in criticism) who have raised issues of substance and issues of process (and substance and process are often the same at JFNA) have not just been ignored, we have been chastised and, ultimately, sent to azazel never to return. Surely I have earned my banishment and ostracism; others have not but  they, too, no matter how quietly they have raised their concerns, they have faced the "evil decree." On the other side of this equation are those who have demonstrated the value of sha sha, of playing the game, the kissing up, the tuches leckers as we called them in the old country -- they have been rewarded as they had hoped. (I have observed some even back to the CJF days and they have stayed true to form.) Congratulations to them.

Friends, a succession of JFNA leaders have been avatars of the Know-Nothings -- or, perhaps, it's the "Refuse to Know" or the "Don't Tell Me What I Don't Want to Know" crowd. It makes these leaders lives so much easier to know nothing and, thus, do nothing even as right in front of them is the stark reality that the organization they have been elected or selected to lead is going right down the drain. This leadership has been treating JFNA as if it were the Jenga game — removing the building blocks one at a time but clearly not realizing or ignoring the fact that at some point the entire building collapses.

This is the "hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil" leadership redefining "evil" to mean "criticism of any kind." Sure, if we ignore it, it doesn't exist does it? The millions wasted on the Global Planning Table? Ignore it. The collapse of the GA as the compelling annual event on the Jewish calendar? Ignore it. The disconnect from the federation owners? Forget it, ignore it, it doesn't exist.

Today's reality is that the connective tissue between the national organization — a strong fibre with CJF and, to the surprise of some back in the day, a strong sinew between UJA and the federations — that connective tissue just doesn’t exist any more. I would wager that no one in leadership of today's JFNA even knows what the hell I am talking about (or, in the unlikely event that they do know, they don't give a damn).

Bad...and getting worse day-by-day-by-day. That's JFNA.



Anonymous said...

Richard, do you think there is a chance that late in the evening in the Board Chair's suite at the GA, with JFNA's lay leaders sitting around that they ever decided to have a sderious conversation about how to rouse JFNA from its disastrous lethargy? Or are they too busy congratulating each other for: damned if I know. Does anybody?

Anonymous said...

Another GA, another opportunity for effecting change at the top wasted. Not a word, other than Sandler's fine words, about anything relevant at any Plenary to our work beyond the meaningless exercise of approving a Resolution that will be wsent to the PM. An opportunity to do so much wasted.