Sunday, December 3, 2017


David Butler has now succeeded David Brown and JFNA's Chair of Israeli-Overseas. Perhaps there is now some informal succession plan where first one superb lawyer is appointed Chair of JFNA-Washington, and after success in that role, moves up/sideways/down to Chair of the JFNA Israel/Israel operation.

To David Brown's credit, he attempted to institute an advocacy effort for increasing the core budgets of the overseas partners through the still-born Envoys program. At least he tried...tried hard, in fact. And David Butler moves into a role for which he has had some training -- mainly as the articulate frontman for Kathy Manning's embarrassing and wasteful and, now, dead, Global Planning Table. Hopefully, Butler will have greater success without Manning's demands (or even presence) in leading JFNA-Israel forward than he had with the GPT.

Suffice it to say that David Butler has been dealt a bad hand -- first, as the GPT Chair, and now with an over-staffed under-performing JFNA-Israel office in Jerusalem. He confronts federation core budget allocations to JAFI/JDC/WorldORT estimated to reach the lowest levels yet, surpassing the nadir we thought reached last year; while, perhaps, trying to leverage these sad allocations (down more than $200,000,000 [yes, you read it right] from those in the first years of JFNA) to effect some influence over decisions of the Netanyahu Governmant on the Kotel and Conversion Laws that impact directly on a super-majority of North American Jews.

Now, David will be assisted by a small core group of excellent federation leaders appointed by Richard Sandler. My suggestion: starting with Butler himself, each of these leaders should ask themselves: what is my own Federation's allocation to overseas needs and how will I work to influence a dramatic increase -- and if they can't (or won't) do so, each will resign from this JFNA-Israel effort. 

In addition, perhaps Butler will take a serious look at the work of JFNA's Israel Office -- if "work" is really the right word for that feckless operation. (It isn't.) I would urge David, as I urged his predecessor, to read the Israel and Overseas Task Force Report authored by Bob Aronson, then the terrific professional leader of the Detroit Federation. (If JFNA can't provide David with a copy, I may still have one. Give me a call.) Its recommendations if followed would have enhanced the role of JFNA, and included, as its most salient direction that JFNA locate its Israel operation in the New York HQ with a senior, Federation-experienced professional at its helm. 

Let's leave this chapter on a very sad note. In his transmission of the sorry Calendar Year allocations results, the Board Chair offered a note:

"JFNA/Federations will pursue all possible avenues to increase the available amount."
Of course it it always does.



Anonymous said...

The key to the Israel office is not what functions are managed from Jerusalem or NY, but rather:

1. A clear definition of what they should be doing / where they should be focusing staff time;
2. Competent leadership.

While there may be some agreement on #1, until they replace the SR VP Israel - and perhaps others - incompetency and ineffectiveness will continue to reign.

The new chair is a tough, seasoned litigator. But will his higher ambitions in JFNA lay leadership have him leave JFNA Israel to continue to accomplish nothing? Probably.

JProactivists said...

The one. Missing is that there seems to be no new lay leadership at JFna People just keep seem to trade seats is it possible that there was no one available to be the new lay leader and examining Israel office Functions? The small Kabul professional and lay leaders needs to change.

Anonymous said...

> Israel advocacy should be located in the New York office - not in Jerusalem.
> Advocacy for Israel should be directed to the Federations and donors, not to the Knesset and Israeli politicians.
> The Israel office should be a small, minimally staffed back office support operation.
> JFNA should stop trying to be a direct service provider in Israel. There is no need, no core competency, no added value and certainly no efficiency in continuing to attempt to compete with our partners under the guise of "global operations."
Everyone knows all of this this but will anyone be willing to make the required changes?
Is there a leader in the house?