Sunday, December 24, 2017


1. An almost miraculous suggestion recently appeared on FedCentral in response to a more or less universal question:
...but since almost all Federations deal with this could JFNA give us some guidance?
Oh, if only it were so. As we have noted, FedCentral was created by the Silverman maladministration to effectively remove JFNA from the Federation-assistance business, leaving federation professionals to just plain fend for themselves.

2. The gross advocacy failure on behalf of the overseas beneficiaries who were once our system's true partners is this maladministration's most egregious failings. Year after year after year JFNA has delivered fewer core dollars to JAFI/JDC/WorldORT than over the prior annum. We weren't terriby successful in the UJA era in gaining increased overseas commitments from the federations but, at the least, we were there recognizing a moral obligation to advocate. 

Then, at the outset of JFNA we obtained a two-year "commitment" from the federations to freeze the allocations (as an express condition of the merger) -- a two-year commitment first abandoned by Boston after year one and then by a large number of communities. (I traveled to Boston with Steve Solender, JFNA's first CEO in an attempt to make an allocations agreement. We were unsuccessful and as I left for the airport, I remember telling Solender, "we can't agree to Boston's proposal, it abandons the overseas beneficiaries." I talked with Steve the next day: "How did it end up, Steve." "Richard, I made that deal." "What deal?" I asked. "You know, the one they put on the table.")  The die was cast. Instead of using the two year freeze to develop an allocations strategy, JFNA's leaders did nothing; just watched the allocations evaporate under the aegis of the infamous ONAD "process." 

At least within ONAD (for those fortunate enough not to remember it, that was the Overseas Needs and Distribution "process" that brought the federations, JAFI and JDC to the "table" --ostensibly together, but, in reality...not so much.) there was substantive discussion and focus on the "Needs." It failed within JFNA's first 4 years. Since, with intermittent failed advocacy attempts (first, one chaired by Jane Sherman and staffed by Doron Krakow, that lasted barely one year; then the sad JFNA-Israel "Envoys Program"), the current maladministration has presided over the precipitous fall that brings us to today, at the end of Calendar Year 2017:

  • JAFI - $85 million
  • JDC - $31 million
  • WorldORT - $2.4 million (my error corrected)
Kind of makes a mockery of Richard Sandler's assertion that "never have relations with our overseas beneficiaries been better," doesn't it?

3. In an epic demonstration of maladministration, JFNA under Silverman has totally mismanaged the relationship between the federations and the legacy National Agencies -- from the demise of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture to that of JESNA to the imminent financial collapse of the Federations-National Agencies Alliance itself, JFNA has been there every step of the way looking out for...itself. Yes, no surprise, JFNA looking our for JFNA. How, you ask?

Well, as those of you who read this Blog with any regularity know, JFNA (make that Silverman himself) demanded over the past two years that over $1 Million from the National Agencies Funding Pool be reallocated away from the National Agencies to JFNA to ostensibly fund an "Education and Planning Unit" -- and the Alliance acquiesced thereby breaching its fiduciary duty to the National Agencies. In other words, after inducing the collapse of JESNA, JFNA took over $1 million to somehow create something like it (but within JFNA). 

And, how's that "Unit" doing? Yep. And what are the National Agencies doing? What you would expect them to -- though some don't have a clue how to do it -- they are out in the field raising money within the federations. 

It's tragic-comedy all the way.



Marley's Ghost said...

Your readers may be interested to know that there is an under the radar culture where current pro's and even lay leaders reach out to retired and semi-retired colleagues for insight and a wee bit of guidance.Current JFNA folks, lay and pro, have been known to be on the receiving end of such services. My guess is that Fed central could enhance their product by tapping in to this pool of volunteer talent. We have seen a lot, had our share of successes and noble failures and can give feedback on a question or 2 or three.

Anonymous said...

The Education unit funding is simply fraud. There is no such thing, no such unit, no such product. It was an interesting idea of those who did not want to let go of the idea of JESNA. But it never started, never produced, and never breathed. JFNA just took the money plain and simple.

Crooked Jerry go home.

I am not sure JFNA can survive but at least we will maintain the last vestige of dignity.

Anonymous said...

It seems that whatever the state of the organization may be, it has certainly proven to be a complete and gigantic failure in every aspect of assisting its partners in serving the overseas needs and goals of the Jewish People.
It also clearly continues to waste badly needed resources in order to pay for its own futile attempts to create an alternative to the very partners that it is supposed to be supporting and advocating for.
In short, with advocates and "Envoys" like these, who needs enemies?
If lay leadership is not willing or capable of putting a stop to this, the time has come for the three historical partner organizations to begin to realize that they are being sold out and to take their fate into their own hands - hopefully in a new joint effort but if not then even if it is each on its own behalf. If there are any true lay leaders left out there, this is the time for them to rise to the occasion nd lend a hand.

Anonymous said...

The strongest Federations make decisions for the good of their communities and the Jewish people based on a host of local and communal factors. The world has changed and local donors and Federations don't believe they exist to feed the international partners -- that change would have happened with or without a merger. Measuring JFNA based on international funding as a primary criteria is silly in 2017/18. Similarly, Federations don't think they should be funding a handful of national orgs because they used to get funding -- if they're adding true value to a Federation's mission they can get local money just like the now hundreds of other orgs operating across the country. Richard, we all love you, but you and your readers are too smart to keep pretending that the world hasn't changed with massive disruption in every sector, including Jewish life. All of this said, there is of course room for a real critique of the Silverman regime based on its weakness in meeting today's Federation challenges. Perhaps in the New Year you can focus there?