Friday, October 19, 2018


Some questions:

1. JFNA announced (in the ever-stranger rag, FedWorld) that it had "created" the Hurricane Relief Fund 2018, another Mailbox ' help victims (of Hurricane Florence) recover." This is a sacred purpose -- but:

  • It was only after the public announcement, the JFNA Emergency Committee learned of the Fund thereby contributing to the well-founded belief that to JFNA's professional leaders, lay leaders are an after-thought; and
  • Just how will the funds raised be spent?
2. In the same edition of FedWorld (and, please remember, I have been deleted from the world of FedWorld distribution list -- I am grateful that you send me a copy), the editors announced in a front page box that: "FedWorld is going on vacation for the holidays." Returning for the GA. Maybe, just maybe this is the end of FedWorld. Oy!!

3. Off-line, several of you have asked why Jerry remains on the bloated payroll of the bloated JFNA as it appears to all of us...that he is on some kind of hamster wheel farewell tour of the federations which will have him. "Why should the federations pay for this ego trip?" one of you wrote echoing the common sentiment. Another of you commented -- "Silverman has been on a farewell tour since he signed his first contract, he certainly hasn't been a CEO." So it continues...

4. In the "almost too sad to be believed category," the Reform Movement has been reported to "take unprecedented precautionary measure(s) after repeated instances of liberal Jewish visitors held for questioning by Israeli authorities" at Ben Gurion Airport. . #sadder

5. If, as Judy Maltz reported in Haaretz, Orthodox groups are organized to block access to even the modified "egalitarian prayer space" at the Kotel, where is the voice of the Prime Minister who offered this "space"as a compromise to that promised in his original agreement now just a distant memory? And, as is the usual question, where is our voice on the subject?

6. As reported in Haaretz, three top pros, including the CEO, at the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, have left...together. at the same time. No one seems to know why, and those leaving aren't saying. Yechiel Eckstein, the IFCJ Chair for Life, was dismissive -- he was quoted that he won't even bother to replace the three. What a guy!!

7. Finally, maybe you received this sequence of direct mail appeals from a national Jewish organization (which shall remain nameless here): first an appeal, offering few (none) compelling reasons to support the organization, over the signature of the entity's fund-raiser. Then came a "follow-up" from the entity's Board Chair "hoping" I/you received the fund-raiser's letter asking for a response. We've written enough about substituting direct mail solicitations for tachlis fund raising -- you know, like face-to-face FRD -- but organizations like this one, which suffered a high six figure reduction in financial support with the collapse of National Agency/Federation Alliance, are heading toward resource Armageddon. Best of luck to them.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Ronald Lauder, the great philanthropist recently wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times that began as follows:
"For many Israelis, Jews and supporters of Israel, the last year has been a challenging one. In the summer of 2017, Israel’s government withdrew from an agreement that would have created an egalitarian prayer area at the Western Wall and proposed a strict conversion law that impinges on the rights of non-Orthodox Jews. This summer the Knesset passed a law that denies equal rights to same-sex couples. A day later came the nation-state law, which correctly reaffirms that Israel is a Jewish state, but also damages the sense of equality and belonging of Israel’s Druze, Christian and Muslim citizens.
Last month, a Conservative rabbi was detained for the alleged crime of performing a non-Orthodox wedding ceremony in Israel. In several municipalities, attempts were made to disrupt secular life by closing convenience stores on the Sabbath. 
These events are creating the impression that the democratic and egalitarian dimensions of the Jewish democratic state are being tested."
This was Lauder's brilliant cri de coeur. From a Zionist leader whose love of Israel is reflected in his philanthropy, and in his leadership roles at the WJC and the Jewish National Fund-USA, among other organizations. And, of course, Lauder was attacked by too many in the American Diaspora who believe that there can never be uttered a discouraging word about Israel -- it is sha sha, "if you want to criticize Israel, go live there," and similar.

Sometimes the attacks on those in the Diaspora are just plain silly. For example, I distinctly recall the failed Israeli politician, Yossi Beilin, who, during the height of his support, even co-authorship of the "Oslo Accords" peace plan, explicitly and publicly demanded that American Jewry endorse the plan while at the same time admonishing us for complaints about certain actions of the Government. 

So, I applaud Ron Lauder's articulate pained plea for justice, for compassion, for civility -- a plea made out of love for Israel and its People as was that of Charles Bronfman on the same subject. These were not, as some claimed while condemning the authors, political statements (although they could have been); they were the passionate, heartfelt messages of those who love Israel.

I have no doubt that Ron Lauder knew that he would be attacked; it is a tribute to his courage and his passion that he did not care.


Saturday, October 13, 2018


One can almost always read a Caroline Glick column on any subject and discover a false premise leading her right down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole. She may have outdone herself this time -- in Column One: Jewish Federations, we need to talk -- you really must read it for yourself.

Here is all you need to know -- Ms. Glick, so far to the right  that she's almost left -- premised her screed on the following:
"At the end of the month, the Jewish Federations of North America will hold their annual General Assembly in Israel. And while the Federations’ decision to hold their annual conference in Israel rather than America seems at face value to be a statement of solidarity with Israel, in this case, it isn’t."
"Five months after US President Donald Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in an extraordinary act of friendship, the Jewish Federations of North America chose to hold their annual General Assembly in... Tel Aviv." (emphasis added)
Totally wrong. Does the Jerusalem Post lack a fact checker?

To make her point Glick has assumed that JFNA chose Tel Aviv as the venue for the GA because President Trump chose to declare Jerusalem Israel's capital and to move the U.S Embassy there. But, Glick once again builds her "case" on her totally false premise.

As a fairly constant critic of JFNA, I am a believer in fair criticism, but JFNA deserves no criticism for its choice of Tel Aviv as the venue for GA 2018. You see, the GA location choices are made years in advance, not weeks or days. Tel Aviv was selected as the site for this year's GA at least five years ago, maybe more.

Undeterred by these facts, Glick built her column without regard for them. For example, Ms. Glick's misplaced anger:

"Why did the Federations choose to insult Israelis by holding their conference in Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem five months after the US government finally moved the US embassy to Israel’s capital? And why are the Federations demanding that Israeli Jews give them an accounting for the longstanding disparities in the outlooks of the two communities?"
 The only possible response to this screed seems to be -- huh? What the hell is she talking about? 

And, it only gets worse. For from there, Glick spun off into a diatribe about opposition to the Kavanaugh nomination, which, apparently, she blames on the same American Jews who (she believes) moved the GA to Tel Aviv. They are also known as "Democrats." She also spins her web to include American Jews opposition to Donald Trump.

Caroline Glick returned again and again to her false premise -- that the federations chose Tel Aviv because of the Embassy relocation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But the truth is of no matter to Caroline Glick.

And a few days ago, JFNA Board Chair, Richard Sandler, sent the Board and others, a copy of Gil Troy's fine article, also in The Jerusalem Post (!) responding to Glick from the perspective of an Israeli presenting at the upcoming GA and enthusiastically embracing the GA theme.

I  assume that Richard's transmittal of Troy's piece has to stand as JFNA's response to Caroline Glick. As usual, JFNA doesn't have much to say for itself. "Let's talk," indeed.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018


I hope that all of you had  meaningful Days of Awe and that you and your families have been inscribed in the Book of Life for 5779 and beyond.

And, then...

...there they were again.The couple, aging as we are, sitting a couple of rows in front of us at Kol Nidre services. They aren't at services very often, even less often than we -- so, giving them the benefit of the doubt, I thought, hoped, that this time itwould be different.

You see, this couple, society folks BTW, in every prior year, came in, sat down, and began popping chewing gum as if gum were the staff of life -- he, a few pieces less than she. Five, six, maybe seven pieces each, their cheeks inflating like small balloons. We were annually transfixed and disgusted at this display, But it didn't end well.

He was a quiet chewer, his jaws moving imperceptibly; she, however, chewed her gum at a pace never before seen, lips open, the smacking noise continuous. I sensed that the echo from the "smack, smack, smack" was reverberating off the walls of the sanctuary. In our section, all eyes were on this grotesquerie. You couldn't help hearing the noise; soon the choir was looking around, then the Cantor,the Rabbi.

But no one did anything, no one said anything. God knows if one's kippah fell off unnoticed by the wearer, 15 men would be on you in a nano-second; smacking gum on Yom Kippur...we are embarrassed into silence for this couple. Finally, at my wife's urging -- "DO SOMETHING" -- tapped the fellow on the shoulder: "It's Yom Kippur, please?" He had not a clue what I was talking about. OK, good. "You can't chew gum in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur." His wife couldn't hear me over the sounds of her chomping.

And as a few minutes passed, the gum-chewing slowed to a crawl as the couple lapsed into deep sleep. Now the sounds of gum-smacking evolved into loud snoring. 

Can't wait 'til next year.


Sunday, October 7, 2018


Who hasn't heard the mantra: If JFNA didn't exist, we would have to recreate it? And maybe...just maybe...that mantra comes with its own solution -- JFNA is in need not of a $1,000,000 Consultant study; it is not in need of needs a real recreation. It needs to start anew. And, it needs to do so...yesterday.

There were many insightful albeit Anonymous Comments to our Post -- The Void. Here is one:
"The point is that there is no possible justification for $30 Million (Dues Budget)- probably not even for $10 Million. A $1.5 Million reduction is a joke. An organization that has stopped functioning and doing what it is mandated to do cannot expect to maintain the same level of funding as before. Why anyone in their right mind would be willing to keep the funds flowing is beyond comprehension. Either the organization gets back on track or it crashes. The way things look now, the latter will be the case." (emphasis added)
And, another:
"I...started this recent chain. Don't misunderstand. I fully agree that there is no justification for a $30 mil budget given the value (lack of) received for that $30 mil. As a person who previously served on the budget committee of UJC and CJF before that in various years I have little doubt that they present a balanced budget each year. My experience in those days was that each year the actuals were close to budget on the expense side and the income typically was less than budget based on the decisions made by individual federation to pay less than their "fair share". This is what caused future budget projections to be lowered which then again weren't met by federations on the income side. At the end of the year JFNA and predecessor organizations would "rob Peter to Pay Paul" such as taking money from Network communities for the budget instead of using it for the partners, etc. And unfortunately the board in recent years (and by implication the committees) allowed this process to proceed unabated. Richard has pointed out these tricks over the past many years all of which have gone unanswered by JFNA."
The growing Federation "resistance" (there is probably a better descriptive word) to JFNA's Dues demands is not going to be stemmed by an approach to JFNA's isolation from its owners that suggests a bandage when major surgery is the only answer.

And, so long as those who stood by and watched as JFNA just kept walking the organization backward from its responsibilities to the federations, walking backward and never seeing the precipice into which it was long as those lay and professional leaders remain in charge. the needed dramatic change isn't going to happen. For G-d's sake, it took these lay leaders almost a decade to realize that the organization had only a faux CEO, and, even now, that CEO remains in office while the times call out for an Interim CEO as we have suggested for months...years.

Time's a-wasting, friends. There is a rising call, from federations coast-to-coast, for deliverables, for actual proof that JFNA exists for more than its own self-interest but in the interests of the federations which own it. The organization is almost two decades old,20 years over which so much that could have been accomplished but hasn't. Millions wasted on an Israel Office of not a single accomplishment over at least a decade; millions wasted on what purports to be a financial resource development effort while annual campaigns are in stasis, where the numbers of donors have dropped by 100's of 1,000's...millions just plain wasted.

It's beyond the time where federations contemplating not paying Dues, or demanding that Dues be significantly reduced will be dissuaded by the argument: "you can't do it, because if you do, your federation will be responsible for the collapse of the system," or "if JFNA didn't exist, we'd have to recreate it." No, real change, a real recreation is the only chance JFNA has going forward.

The only chance.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018


I'm certain that if I Google "#MeToo +Jewish men" I would find multiple analysts who would attempt to explain this horrible phenomenon of so many Jewish men accused/guilty of assaulting (for there is no better word for it) women over whom they hold power -- sometimes over decades. As the names roll out weekly (if not more often) it seems Jewish men appear to, if not predominate, disproportionately appear in this terrible chapter. To paraphrase the title of an insightful MIchelle Goldberg Op-Ed in The New York Times (Sunday, September 16, 2018), it's "The Shame of the Jewish #MeToo Men."

When the Managing Partner of my Law Firm 25 years ago, I introduced sexual harassment training and a Zero Tolerance Policy, those actions were both scorned and necessary, never in my wildest nightmares would I have thought that we would see an avalanche; now, if any Jewish organization isn't doing both, they had better to do so...yesterday. 

On the cusp of Yom Kippur, the wonderful ejewishphilanthropy published:,+2018&utm_campaign=Tue+Sept+18&utm_medium=emailThis is an important read, a comprehensive analysis from Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman. Her insights are far better informed than mine.

We've seen Jewish politicians, academics, movie and television network moguls, among so many, self-immolate in the flames of their own assaults on women.

There have now surfaced women's complaints against Michael Steinhardt and an attendant Hillel investigation first reported in the Times of Israel and, then, more expansively, in the New York Jewish Week in, and in Sztokman's ejewishphilanthropy piece. If you have been engaged in Jewish philanthropy in the last decades, you know Michael Steinhardt as a brilliant visionary philanthropist, always outspoken, sarcastic, sardonic and, in a different age, he could be laughed at for his language and conduct. Michael always challenged those in his presence to truly think outside the boxes as he himself did; and, cited conversations, encounters and speeches, he lacked any filter. While we may live in a different age today; it doesn't appear that Michael Steinhardt does.

Based on the allegations of women who were affected and affronted by Steinhardt's sorry attempts at, can it be called "humor," often profane and scatological, sometimes bizarrely so, Hillel has taken his name off its Board list and is now "investigating" his behavior. Assuming Hillel determines that all or any of the allegations are true, what might Hillel's (as opposed Michael's accusers') remedies be? Steinhardt is, after all, a volunteer as well as a major donor. Will Hillel refund Steinhardt's contributions -- they are in the millions? Will he no longer be welcome on their dais? No longer invited to their events? And, is it ever appropriate in today's environment, to note that Michael Steinhardt's abusive language appears never to have gone beyond that?

This is a tough decision for any non-profit. Issues of lay leader harassment and worse have arisen in the past. Precedent exists. Clearly, Michael Steinhardt must enter counseling. Perhaps, Michael should fund a study of #MeToo in the Jewish community. And Hillel needs to assure that it has in place appropriate policies to protect its employees, if not already codified. 

And, we need some national organization to take the lead on this issue -- form a consortium, bring Rabbis into the conversation, engage in a serious introspection about ourselves...and answer the unasked questions of "why so many of us?" and what can be done about it?


Sunday, September 30, 2018


You may not recognize the name, but Josh Fogelson was hired to lead it international financial resource development for the Jewish Agency in November 2015 and began his work in January 2016. Less than three years later, Josh, once a Federation CEO, was gone precipitously, leaving behind some successes and the prospect of more, but, apparently, not enough to satisfy -- well, to satisfy whom exactly?

We won't learn the answer from Josh's cryptic note to his friends at JAFI and beyond:
"It’s been a pleasure, but it’s time for me to move on to the next chapter. I have enormous respect for each of you and I know that you will continue to do wonderful work at the Agency on behalf of the Jewish world...I will likely be pumping gas in New Jersey if you are passing through."
His departure on to the "next chapter" was precipitous...literally days after the decision was communicated. Judy Maltz, doing her usual superb reporting in Haaretz, Top Jewish Agency Executive Outside Israel Quits, suggested that Fogelson traveled to Jerusalem to surprise JAFI higher-ups of his decision to move on. Equally, if not more likely, he was summoned to Jerusalem to explain why The Jewish Agency International Development ("JAID") was producing lesser results than those in Jerusalem anticipated given its overhead and let go, forced out, whatever one wishes to call it. We, no doubt, will never know. 

One thing we do know -- after less than 3 years Josh Fogelson is no longer JAID"s professional leader and JAFI's financial resource development must be in disarray and needs a reexamination. Yet, the only "reexamination" that appears to be on-going is Alan Hoffmann, the Jewish Agency Director General who has only months to go as CEO, is determined to assert JAFI Jerusalem's hegemony over JAID. And, to assert his authority, even as the lamest of lame ducks, Alan was in New York two weeks ago, between Rosh Ha'Shana and Yom Kippur, interviewing Search firms to identify a new JAID CEO acceptable to...him? (If this "process" makes sense to anyone, or if you believe Hoffmann should be leading it, please explain.)

One other thing we do know, as I was recently reminded:
"The Iron Law of Institutions is: the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself."
As one of my own chevre, close to the situation, advised, to paraphrase: "The Israelis just expect money to rain down on JAFI" as a matter of entitlement. They don't understand the need to invest in fundraising as do, e.g., JDC, JNF-USA, WorldORT and federations -- especially if they cannot totally control the effort.

So, Fogelson met the same fate as his predecessors -- David Sarnat, Maxyne Finkelstein, Misha Galperin -- each of them a superb professional, each totally dedicated to their engagement and to JAFI. Yet, in each of those prior circumstances, one could point to the lay and professional leaders who decided the professionals' fate -- Sharansky and/or Alan Hoffmann, then the JAFI Chair of the Executive and Director General, respectively. But Natan is gone and Hoffmann tendered his retirement notice last March, and Bougie Herzog is still too new to his Chairmanship. So, Hoffmann...

In this void, who is making decisions at JAFI on FRD matters? On the investment necessary to create a return? Who is part of the cabal that decided that after less than three years Josh Fogelson's success or failure could be measured? Fogelson did spend a significant amount of time restocking the JAID staff, then drafting a fundraising plan. He rejected suggestions as to how to reinvigorate outreach to the federations directly because he knew better. Yet, as his third year of FRD leadership was coming to a close, the fruits of his efforts appeared to be on the cusp of some degree of success. And, he is gone and there are a lot of resumes of good people now in circulation.

There is a pattern here. I remember as if it were yesterday being in Jerusalem with Misha Galperin literally on the eve of the execution of his JAID CEO contract as certain JAFI leaders (OK, it was Hoffmann), somehow already dissatisfied with the deal that JAFI had made, started demanding changes to Misha's contract that would have brought him under the very thumbs of those in Jerusalem who would turn out to be obstacles to JAFI's FRD success (OK, it was Hoffmann). 

When, after years of substantial financial results, Misha decided he'd had enough, JAFI determined to bring the FRD marketing function back to Jerusalem and under the control of the bureaucrats there. As we observed at the time of Fogelson's hiring:
"Anyone who has led an FRD effort understands that marketing and FRD require coordination and direction, by FRD for FRD -- that will not be the case at JAID/JAFI."
Now, it appears that JAFI wants to coopt its own financial resource development by relocating the FRD effort to Jerusalem, as well -- a locus that has never produced signicant dollars for the Agency. So, whatever fundraising progress was made since we established JAFI North America and, then, JAID, Jerusalem will surely reverse it.

JAID can still succeed. But only if it is allowed to.



Thursday, September 27, 2018


Bougie Herzog was elected Chair of the Jewish Agency Executive in June and, reading a brilliant interview conducted by Haviv Rettig-Gur in The Jerusalem Post, one can only conclude that Herzog has all of JAFI's ills vis-a-vis the Diaspora figured out -- it's JAFI's own fault. Well, that didn't take long, did it?

In the article -- -- Herzog seems to believe that he has hit on some fundamental problem that has distanced JAFI from its main funding partners (its most main partner, of course, is the Government of Israel): "...However, it’s an organization that really doesn’t know how to tell its story. That’s why people doubt its necessity."

I'm thinking back --where have I heard this "theory" before? Oh, yes -- this was Jerry Silverman's mantra, the one he tried to use, well, every time the JAFI core allocation dropped to a new historic low over each of the years of Jerry's faux leadership. I have absolutely no doubt that while Silverman played tour guide to Herzog on his recent visit to some federations in the eastern U.S. they had more than one conversation that went like this:
Herzog: "Why are the federations' allocations to our budget so horribly low and falling?"
Silverman: "As I've told JAFI, their product is horrible and they can't tell their story at all."
Herzog: "Got it." 
As time passes, certainly Bougie, who is no one's fool, will come to understand that JAFI's messaging is not even a minor factor in the draconian allocations it now receives.

Rettig-Gur offered a simultaneous reading of the Agency's importance coupled with its decline in another Times of Israel article that is must reading for those who love the work of the Jewish Agency: A must read. 

And, here is the reality: JAFI (and JDC for that matter), while engaging in direct fund-raising in the United States for over a decade through its JAID "subsidiary" with only middling success, certainly less success than one would have expected given its overhead, determined to leave allocations advocacy among the federations to JFNA. Since Detroit's Jane Sherman chaired an organized national advocacy effore on behalf of JAFI and the Joint under Doron Krakow's enthusiastic professional leadership -- a one year effort with no real success -- JFNA has shown no interest in allocations advocacy. The "partners" were an afterthought; they remain exactly that, maybe less.

As I wrote in TIME FOR CHANGE, it is long past time for the partners to "partner up" and assume the responsibility to advocate themselves. I know from my years of advocacy on behalf of JAFI and JDC, no one can tell their stories better than the leaders of JAFI, JAD and WorldORT better, no one else has the passion and no one else, the facts. 

Bougie Herzog will come to understand this quickly -- he is, in fact, a quick study.


Monday, September 24, 2018


The "Estimated Unrestricted 2018" Allocations to JAFI/the Joint Distribution Committee/WorldORT have not just reached the lowest point in history, they are so low that they assure that the great needs that these three "partners" are charged to meet, will not be. And that reality is beyond sad, it is tragic.
JAFI          $81,500,000 
          JDC            31,000,000
ORT              2,400,000
These horrible results (a reduction of almost $4 million from the dismal results of the prior year) are now accompanied by a footnote (apparently repeated and to be repeated annually):
"*Note: This estimate reflects a decrease from 2017 allocations. JFNA/Federations will pursue all possible avenues to increase the available amount." (emphasis added -- and I would add, bullshit)
The individual allocations are (or should be) humiliating to JFNA, the aggregate total, $115,000,000, beyond embarrassment...or should be. Think of it: in the first years of JFNA, the allocation to JAFI alone was $185,000,000 -- while federation campaigns have stagnated, even fallen off for some, they stand at $933,000,000 year-to-date -- 12% -- a percentage that will surely fall by 2018 calendar year-end to about 7%.

So, after the toilet-training advocacy offered by JFNA -- Envoys, Ambassadors, whatever -- the end result reflects a system in denial that it no longer is a partner in 2018 in the work of what were our partner organizations. The denial is so gross that after the Board meeting, outgoing Board Chair Richard Sandler wrote:
"We look forward to continuing to work with our overseas partners to improve on these results."
Nice, but, of course, there is no "how" because JFNA never has a"how" -- but the reality is that under JFNA's benign and inept "stewardship" the allocations have cratered.

OK, that's the environmental scan, as it were. What should be done, or, at the least, what could be done. As I proposed 15 years ago to JAFI and JDC -- and which the Joint leadership declined after serious internal discussion -- the JDC, JAFI and ORT should take over the total responsibility for their own advocacy for core allocations. This would not be a joint venture that would preclude the on-going financial resource development by the individual organizations, it would merely locate the responsibility for advocacy to the beneficiaries themselves working together in their common interest...where that responsibility should lodge given that JFNA has evidenced over the past decade that the organization has neither the interest nor any sense of moral imperative to do so. That's a shame, but it's also the reality. When it comes to advocacy for the core allocations, jfna has offered lip service.

Here is another reality that must end -- the Joint and the Jewish Agency continue to fight over percentages -- as if this were 1998. The JDC takes umbrage that it receives such a small slice -- 27% -- of an ever-smaller pie. The JDC will not acknowledge that it is doing quite well in reaching to its own Board members and to the federations for project giving that rights any imbalance. 

Advocacy should no longer be about the "split," but, instead, about increasing the aggregate pie benefiting all of the partners. At one point in JFNA history, JAFI and JDC had agreed to a new formula that would have awarded "new money" allocated to the two partners 50-50. Without reason or judgment, the then JFNA Board Chair rejected this compromise. She is no longer around -- isn't it time for the parties to return to their agreement and move forward together

The "split" percentages argument, as it has been for years, maybe decades, is the classic movie MacGuffin -- a distraction designed to take an organization's (or two) eyes off the ball. It's a distraction like a Trump Tweet. The fact  that there continues to be an argument over nothing (or almost nothing) reflects badly on all organizations. Let's focus on substance, the MacGuffin be damned.

For JAFI/JDC/ORT to leave advocacy to JFNA after decades of its neglect and failure and lack of passion, would be a shame. The partners need to leave this failed "partnership" and bring their passion for their work and purpose directly to te communities -- and they need to do so...NOW!!


Friday, September 21, 2018


I retrieved a bizarre e-mail from my Spam folder at the end of August from something called "Jewish Federation." 

Here is how it read:

"Hello All,

Receiving this e-mail insinuates that you are an alumni of one Jewish Association or another. There is a debate going on globally and your opinion and worldly contribution is necessary if not compulsory.

Attached is a confidential document shared via DocuSign FYA, Kindly download the attachment and, login with your respective e-mails to access the PDF document and process your feedback.

The content of the attachment would have been discussed openly but the loopholes in cyber security is alarming lately.

NOTE- Don not open attachment if you are not an alumni of any Jewish Association or if you think you received this e-mail in error. This e-mail list is acquired from the JFNA database

Thank you all for the audience.

Jewish Federations"
"Insinuates?" "one Jewish Association or another?" "audience?" Multiple punctuation and grammar errors. So, of course, it could have come from JFNA couldn't it? 

I didn't think so -- especially the sentence: "The content of the attachment would have been discussed openly but the loopholes in cyber security is alarming lately." No, not even JFNA could have conjured a sentence like that one.

I forwarded this email directly to Jerry Silverman knowing that he would want to alert the JFNA Board of this phishing expedition. He didn't; I was wrong...again. Never a warning to the Board: another "this is none of our business, we're not getting involved." Or...something.

So, I will never know whether this fake email was Russian hacking, someone(s) phishing expedition or worse. 

Probably worse.


Thursday, September 20, 2018


On Yom Kippur I received and published this Comment to our Post on the upcoming GA -- although the Comment was much more focused than that Post:

"Anonymous said...
On this Yom Kippur, those of us who work on the sinking ship known as JFNA, must say the prayer that best describes what our employer does every other day of the year. I too have a hand in this deceit. It is what the boss demands. Thank gd he is leaving, but you lay leaders who allow him to remain in the building cannot say your Al Chet until you right the wrong by removing him. Then you can begin the teshuva.

He has destroyed everything that was good in CJF and UJA. All that is left that works is Washington Grants, the Bond Fund and UIA

The Al Chet of JFNA

For the sin which we have committed before You under duress or willingly.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by hard-heartedness.

For the sin which we have committed before You inadvertently.

And for the sin which we have committed before You with an utterance of the lips.

For the sin which we have committed before You with immorality.

And for the sin which we have committed before You openly or secretly.

For the sin which we have committed before You with knowledge and with deceit.

And for the sin which we have committed before You through speech.

For the sin which we have committed before You by deceiving a fellowman.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by improper thoughts.

For the sin which we have committed before You by a gathering of lewdness.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by verbal [insincere] confession.

For the sin which we have committed before You by disrespect for parents and teachers.

And for the sin which we have committed before You intentionally or unintentionally.

For the sin which we have committed before You by using coercion.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by desecrating the Divine Name.

For the sin which we have committed before You by impurity of speech.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by foolish talk.

For the sin which we have committed before You with the evil inclination.

And for the sin which we have committed before You knowingly or unknowingly."
One of our comrades described this Comment as a cri de coeur -- and it is certainly that. It is the deepest expression of pain, isn't it? 

Al chet -- loosely translated to "on account of this sin..." Well, chevre, as our correspondent makes clear in his/her charge to us, there is a cntinuing sin in doing nothing, saying nothing while JFNA does nothing.

It's bad.


Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Friends, here is the seminal question: 
At long last are the Jewish federations of North America prepared to take over the Jewish Federations of North America?
What brought this on, you ask? Well, I just saw the GA "Program Highlights" released by JFNA just a couple of weeks ago -- "Highlights" being hyperbole to the extent that I thought this was some form of Purim shpiel.  (It wasn't; it is the Program.) It was reported that a week ago lay registration was at 604 (that's based on a "hand count" of 784 total NA registration times 77% [Don't ask; it's Jerry-math.) -- as if this were a good thing. 

You can review this thing for yourselves at -- if you dare. 

The Plenaries will contain a mixed bag --the good, Andy Tisch, in his role as Founder of the Tisch Center for Jewish Dialogue, will be on a Plenary Panel; there will be speeches by the Co-Vice-Chairs of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, Bougie Herzog will offer his first address to the federations as a whole (or such as may be there) as Chair of the JAFI Executive; and the Prime Minister will address what appears to be the Closing Plenary.

There is the bad: Jerry Silverman will speak (not certain why Richard Sandler has not yet been scheduled); some "outside the box" Israeli entrepreneurs; there is no "scholar in residence" to tie the Plenaries together;; there is no continuity.

There are a whole bunch of Breakouts, Rooftop Raps and Dialogue Dens (again, don't ask), some of which appear to have value, and something called Deep Dives: Dialogue in the Den.

And here is my absolute favorite: The Knesset Event --
"We can't tell you what it is yet, but we promise you won't be disappointed. Stay tuned for more details on this exciting event in Jerusalem!"
I'm not making this up -- it just sounds like it. (And, N.B., RSVP Required)

The GA "planners" have scheduled three Prime Minister's Council events from which most, nearly all, will be excluded: "Home Hospitality with "Israeli leaders," A Seminar "with HealthTech Trailblazers" (not to be confused with the Portland Trailblazers); and an Ambassador's Reception at the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem "with Ambassador David Friedman" (have a great bus ride from Tel Aviv).

To paraphrase the Marketing/Communications professionals who appear to be driving this GA -- federations, This is why We Need to Talk. It appears clear that the Program for this GA is driven by nothing more or less than...austerity. It's GA Lite; it's GA On the Cheap except for the Registrants for whom this will be an extraordinarily expensive General Assembly. 

I would hope that those of you going to the GA take a Deep Dive together into the swamp that is JFNA and vow to fix it...NOW.

Vayezmir. It just goes  from bad to worse.


Sunday, September 16, 2018


On the New Year, ejewishphilanthropy published an op-ed over the "by-line" of A Senior Israeli Nonprofit Consultant,,+2018&utm_campaign=Wed+Sept+12&utm_medium=email.

The article saddened me so much, and, then, sadness turned to outrage. Is the GA Scamming Israeli Nonprofits? is an excellent question; given that JFNA has been scamming its own owners, the federations, and its former "partners," JAFI, JDC and WorldORT for over a decade, not so surprising. Essentially, the author, who clearly has a keen insight, states forcefully that small (and, for that matter, large) Israeli NGOs are paying an exorbitant price for a booth -- for visibility -- at the upcoming Tel Aviv GA. As Chicago's Caryn Adelman, commented:
"Standing behind a table giving out pamphlets and free candy is not relationship building...meeting on common ground, sharing ideas and values are what it's all about.
Donors are smarter than you think." 
Israeli non-profits don't realize, but, if they rent a booth, they soon will, that JFNA GAs are nothing more than a numbers game for the convener, JFNA. Facing annual deficits from the failing General Assemblies, and an ever-reducing number of quality sponsors, the pressure is on to "sell" more booths without any sense of responsibility to the NGOs to advise them, as has the anonymous author, that they expending more for less in terms of return on investment -- more, in many cases, than the NGOs can afford or should expend. The same numbers game has driven JFNA to offer steep registration discounts for Israeli professional staffs of American organizations operating in Israel.

And, of course, as is their way, JFNA will soon be inflating the number of lay registrants for the TAGA -- in mid-September lay registration stood at less than 700 -- a shocking number that confirms the need to use 2019 to undertake a long and fresh look at the value-added from an event that has lost what it once had. It would have been great if the GA were still what the author of Scamming recited:
"The GA is the gathering of all of the staff and lay leadership involved in the Jewish Federations across North American whose primary purpose is to support Jewish life, community, and identity in America. heir Jewish identity and increase their participation in their home Jewish communities."
Oh, if only it were so.

G'mar hatima tova.


Wednesday, September 12, 2018


At some point, my friends, more and more leaders -- especially communal professionals -- have to start asking -- "what, exactly, do I and my community get in return for the outrageous Dues we pay to JFNA?" One of the answers has to be "next to nothing;" another, "less and less and less."

Instead of a continental organization that partners with them, providing the expertise for federation CEO searches, federations are on their own; instead of supporting its own FedWeb initiative, federations are on their own; instead of the continental Speakers Bureau, federations, for the first time, are on their own...and so it goes, Dues remain the same, federations return on what was once an "investment" -- on their own.

And, mentoring new CEOs across City-sizes, I am reminded...

  • A few years ago, one then new CEO told me of the time shortly after he joined the system that he spoke up at a Large City Executives meeting of his need for help, to which one of the renowned long-time LCE responded: "We have to get ____ a mentor." The CEO looking for guidance responded: "You were assigned to help me."
  • Another new CEO, well-trained in our federation system, told me that instead of a mentor, he received a sheet of "Q and A's for the New CEO" or some such, nothing more.
The void that has been created by JFNA walking away from its obligations to the profession and the federation system, can be found in a single "edition" on FedCentral, the web-based device JFNA has substituted for its own lack of capacity to respond even to the most basic questions from the communities. For example, in the FedCentral edition, August 6-12, the questions:
  • Who should we get as a Major Gifts "inspirational speaker;"
  • What platform should we use for on-line donations;
  • Does your community include a "honey stick" with Rosh Ha'shana cards;
  • Should we have a communal Social Media policy;
  • Does your federation use Instagram;
  • Super Sunday text to pledge;
  • How to increase teen travel to Israel;
  • And...more
This is in no way a criticism of the questions: it is an observation on the extent to which JFNA has left the field to its own devices. And, then, charges the user for the privilege.

And, while the abandonment is on-going, JFNA leaders are pleading that Dues are inadequate, that they need more and more and more.

This isn't going well so there is no reason to believe that this will end well.


Sunday, September 9, 2018


Dear Readers, Dear Friends,

Wishing all of you the happiest and healthiest of New Year's.

A shana tova u'metuka.


Thanks to an insightful reader for this Comment to our Post, COMPARE AND CONTRAST...AGAIN:
"Once upon a time there was an organization called the United Jewish Appeal. It was then "merged" into what is today called JFNA. Actually, rather than being "merged" into JFNA, it was taken apart and thrown away.

Today, JFNA has no collective campaign - only FRD consultants and advisors.
Sometimes we decide to open a mailbox - usually not. Passively opening a mailbox is not the same as running a campaign but that seems to be all that is left of what once was.

Is there anybody out there that doesn't think that we have failed miserably aa an umbrella organization?
We have become an umbrella that is incapable of opening up to stop a drizzle, never mind a heavy rainfall.

We have become a useless but expensive umbrella. We have lost our way, lost our vision, lost our mission, lost our value to our federations, our partners and our people."
Our correspondent offered some telling points. To me the most telling is that what we have "...seems to be all that is left of what once was." The years of this Blog have been my attempt, feeble though it has been and is, at atonement for my role in the creation of what is JFNA.

There have been points along the way in this tragedy where strong intervention by those of us who knew better might have made a difference but we were restrained -- restrained by our natural inclination to offer constant, even unquestioning, support for our leaders. I will offer one example: we structured the merged entity to strike a balance between our national responsibility for financial resource development and other services to federations. After the first five years of operations, the professional head of FRD felt threatened by a new CEO. Seeking to gain the CEO's favor, the FRD pro and the Campaign Chair agreed to reframe JFNA (then UJC) as a support function to the rest of JFNA, rather  than retain FRD's status as one of the "pillars"of JFNA. I/we wanted to support the Campaign Chair and the FRD senior professional -- that was a terrible mistake, both short-term and long-term.

BTW, whatever "favor" this act of altruism and self-sacrifice gained the FRD senior pro was short-term -- very short-term. She was soon forced out after months of agony. 

A "useless but expensive umbrella"...indeed.


Thursday, September 6, 2018


I don't know the exact date that the 2017 JFNA IRS 990 went "public" -- you know the annual filing that JFNA wouldn't make if the IRS didn't require it. In all events, the most recent 990 reveals almost nothing about what JFNA is doing and little about what JFNA did during the Fiscal Year 2016-2017.

What it did disclose was just more of the same:

  • Consultants -- it should be hard for me to criticize JFNA for being the full employment organization for Consultants inasmuch as I am one myself (though not for JFNA, sad to say). But...JFNA makes it so necessary...
    • The organization reports that it retains 29 Consultants who were paid more than $100,000 in FY 2016-2017;
    • Among the itemized Consultants are 2 which appear to have been retained for "producing" the GA to the tune of $1.2 million -- money well spent??
    • How many Consultants paid less than $100,000 served the organization in 2016-2017? 
    • And what were al of these Consultants doing for the federations? That's "CONFIDENTIAL"
  • Professionals -- see if you believe that there is accountability at JFNA when...
    • 11 professionals earned were paid in excess of $200,000 in FY 2016-2017
    • Of those 11, 5 were paid in excess of $300,000 in the fiscal Year
    • And, the highest 3:
      • Silverman -- $692,000
      • Gurvus -- $400,000
      • Caspi -- $353,000
For any of you who believe that federations are receiving a return on these "investments," I have a bridge to sell you.

Are there examples of JFNA's "excellence?" Of course -- JFNA is great when acting as a conduit. For examples...

  • Millions in Holocaust Grants (although there was no disclosure of the criteria used in awarding the Grants to 10s of local agencies); or
  • Emergency Grants for, e.g., Hurricane relief
I hate to be picky but: 
  • Why doesn't JFNA publish its 990s by sending the link to them directly to its Board members? 
  • What standard has been codified to determine that a list of consultants and the purposes of their engagement ARE "Confidential?"
The 990, for any charitable organization is an opaque document; perfect for an opaque organization.


Monday, September 3, 2018


1. In Westchester County, JTA reports, a 71 year-old "caller" is alleged to have "fixed" synagogue-sponsored bingo games.. Maropost&utm_campaign=JTA&utm_medium=email&mpweb=1161-5625-27384

2. Did Jeremy Corbyn, the head of Britain's Labor Party, really lay a wreath in memory of the Palestinian terrorists who slaughtered Israelis at the Munich Olympics? Is he the highest-ranking current political leader in Western Europe to evidence anti-semitism beyond anti-Israeli sentiments? Or is he the symptom of a spreading disease?

3. With all of the issues swirling around Israel, The Times of Israel recently reported that the country is now confronting...a crocoidile crisis  700 of them isolated at a defunct "tourist attraction." As one observor pointed out: "a loose croc in the Jordan River could spark an international incident." OY!!

4. JTA reported that a moronic (my description) GOP candidate for Governor of California publcly compared waiting in line at the DMV to the Holocaust. Enough said about that guy.