Sunday, December 30, 2018


Here are a few things on my mind:

~ Maybe someone will explain why JFNA leaders couldn't even express their condolences upon Danny Allen's, z'l, death. There is no excuse for this sad neglect of common decency with respect for a professional who worked so hard and so long for the Jewish People. There is no excuse for the neglect of Jewish humanity let alone responsibility. Shame of them.
~ I have unrequited respect for Eric Goldstein, the former lay leader who accepted the challenge of succeeding John Ruskay as President and CEO of New York UJA-Federation, certainly one of, if not the most complex of federations. While I don't profess to understand why Eric has led his community to turn inward, a sharp U-turn away from historic collective responsibility. I'm sure there is reason behind a series of decisions. At one and the same time there can be no explaining why, as reported in the Times of Israel and elsewhere, Eric would announce that "American Jews want 'to throw up' due to Netanyahu's policies." 
All of you have been readers of this Blog over the years know that I am one who believes our organizations must speak out on all issues impacting on us -- on the North American Jewish polity. this way? Never. Goldstein's diatribe must have been born of the frustration of losing donors who believe that "Israel has rejected" our religious practices, our concerns...but that doesn't excuse the language used in any way. I hope that by the time this Post is published, Goldstein has apologized in every possible way.
~ Many of you have written me to question why Sandler (the past JFNA Board Chair) and Silverman (the soon to be past JFNA CEO) were JFNA's "representatives" at the Trump White House Chanukah celebration. I sense that in Jerry's case he has believed for years that these invitations are in personam, that he's invited because he is Jerry Silverman. HE IS WRONG. Why Sandler would be there is also a mystery -- isn't he from LA; isn't he out of office? 
As we've pointed out on more than one occasion on these pages, the best practice, one always practiced at UJA, z'l, was to use these invitations to cultivate our donors and our future leaders. I can't remember a single occasion where we extended those invitations to the past leaders of the organization, unless to Max Fisher, z'l. Trust me, I knew and loved Max; Richard Sandler, a fine man and a wonderful Jew, is no Max Fisher.
When will it end; when will it ever end?
~ Y'all recall that after a specious set of recommendations on collapsing JFNA subsidiary UIA while expanding the work of the exercise in futility JFNA-israel, 4 federation leaders serving on the Committee which raised the Recommendations filed a forceful, thoughtful set of objections in a Dissent. Well, on Monday, December 17, the JFNA Executive Committee received the apparently Final Report and, its been reported privately (!!) included changes that, it was asserted, accommodated the Dissenters; heard the objections from UIA itself and, then...did nothing!! No vote...nothing
But let us close out 2018 on a more positive note. Bob Hyfler, consummate communal professional, whom I first met in his senior professional role at the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, and, then, at JFNA in its formative years, wrote us with his own perfect tribute to Danny Allen's, z'l, memory:
"While attending (Danny's) funeral I considered the clearest lesson I learned from Danny. Danny always understood the nature of history, structure and change in the Jewish world. He was never enamoured with any single structure for its own sake and certainly not the permanency of any one structure. What motivated him always was a fearless commitment to protect the eternal purposes embedded in those structures he served with an uncompromising honesty: the survival of our people and our values; our responsibilities, big and small, one to another; and the hope and promise that Israel and the Zionist ideal represented. Danny leaves this world with his legacy and integrity intact. Shalom Chaver."
A happy and healthy 2019 to each and every one of you and your families.


Thursday, December 27, 2018


Bougie Herzog, JAFI Chair of the Executive, announced that the Jewish Agency had hired Gail Reiss as the new CEO of the Jewish Agency International Development, succeeding Josh Fogelson who resigned that position precipitously earlier this fall. This is great for JAFI; but is it for Gail?

I had the pleasure of working with Gail over the course of her years as one or the great senior professionals at the United Jewish Appeal, z'l, and then during her leadership time at JFNA where she was one of the superb professionals effectively forced out as then CEO Howard Rieger defenestrated FRD there with the connivance of his Board Chair. Gail moved on to drive Major Gifts at UJA-Federation of New York and then to professionally lead American Friends of Tel Aviv University.

While all of this was on-going, on the JAFI side a series of superb professionals, from Atlanta's David Sarnat, to D.C.'s Misha Galperin to Minneapolis' Josh Fogelson (with a soup├žon of the terrific fundraiser Jeff Kaye in the mix) tried to professionally lead JAFI's fund raising arm -- first JAFI North America, now JAID -- only to hit the brick wall of frustration in the form of Director General Alan Hoffmann, who undermined any potential success time and again. I've written about this human obstacle on more than one occasion, most recently in JAID...WHY which I commend to your (and Gail Reiss') attention.

Please know that Gail Reiss is one of the hardest working professionals with whom I ever partnered. She understands the lay-professional partnership (though I am not sure whom her lay partners will be in this new area of leadership to tell you the truth). Had Gail asked my counsel before accepting this new leadership role, I would have suggested she speak at length with her predecessors and that she get every promise made to her by Bougie, Michael Siegal and Richie Pearlstone, JAID's Chair, in writing and, as was the case in Misha Galperin's contract, a provision for significant severance in the event of termination.

The good news for Gail is that Hoffmann has allegedly retired even as he attempts to insert his own choice as his successor. The bad news is that his successor is not yet known, It is, therefore, on JAFI's elected leaders to assure Reiss' and JAID's success as it has always been, to assure that all of JAFI understand that Gail's and her staff's success will be JAFI's success and that she be given adequate time and the resources necessary to build that success. Bougie's reported impatience with the "results" of Josh Fogelson's efforts within weeks of his election as JAFI Executive Chair does not predict well on the patience front.

It will take a lot of time for Reiss to gain the trust of her future partners in this effort. If she is not given the time necessary, JAFI and Gail will both be the losers.

For JAFI...again.


Tuesday, December 25, 2018


The time is long past to get on with the task of cleaning up the mess that is JFNA. Long, long past. This is not the time for further introspection; not the time for further delay occasioned by a misbegotten consultant study (whose idea was that?); not the time to await the arrival of another CEO. This is the time for action.

As one of you wrote in response to the Post on Duty:
"You have hit the nail on the head!
Is it our duty to say "Aye" because that is what is expected of us or is it our duty to express our real opinion and say "Nay" if we think that the proposals on the table are not good for the organization?
The answer is obvious and the time has come for lay leadership to begin to lead rather than be led like a herd of sheep.
It is our DUTY to lead and not to go along with every proposal staff puts in front of us, even if they have managed to get other lay people to sign off on them.
In short, the time has come to change the organizational culture and the rules of engagement."
It would be nice to see some leadership, wouldn't it? I have absolute faith that the JFNA Board will follow Mark Wilf's lead; in fact, they are waiting for it. "Enough," as my friend, Charles  Bronfman, used to say, "Enough." Enough already.

On December 16 four courageous federation, JFNA and overseas leaders, on the cusp of a JFNA Executive Committee meeting forcefully said "enough" noting precisely and specifically that the JFNA Overseas Task Force Recommendations failed to meet any standard of reason, fact or opinion. ( There are rumors that, unlike "standard practice," where the JFNA Executive Committee would vote to approve anything put before them without regard for debate or dissents, at its December 10 meeting, the Executive did not vote at all. Awaiting clarification.)

It is up to JFNA Board members themselves, led by Wilf, to declare that the four dissenting leaders do not stand alone; that their dissent will not just be a one-off but will be the start of JFNA leaders standing up, pulling the organization along with them. 

After almost two decades of mediocrity, of failure, of backing away from their responsibilities it is past time for more of the same, it is time, long overdue, for action, for pulling the organization from the torpor of twenty years.

The odds of positive revolution are slim, but they exist.

On with the task.


Friday, December 21, 2018


Within a day of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago announcement that the Federation Board had voted to accept the recommendation of its Search Committee and elected Lonnie Nasatir to succeed Steve Nasatir as CEO, several of you wrote to the Blog or offline. One of you asked:


On a different topic, but since you have not posted a word since Steve Nasatir some time ago announced his imminent retirement:


Time for you to post. Defend the choice all you want, but at minimum the optics look awful. Perhaps that's why they announced it right before the holiday break?" 
In fact I had earlier responded to a Comment on these pages.
Thanks for your question. I was honored to serve on the Search Committee which unanimously recommended that Lonnie Nasatir succeed Steve Nasatir as the Chicago Federation CEO. Lester Crown spoke for all of us when he told JTA:

“We interviewed dozens of exceptional candidates, and were thrilled with the caliber of leadership represented,” said Lester Crown, a leading local philanthropist and member of the search committee.
I think that all of us were aware (how could we not be) that there would be those who would suggest that the "optics" are bad or good depending on one's view. We who served on the Search Committee were determined to pick the best person for this awesome task.

We believed, unanimously, that we did so.


P.S. The announcement was timed to the long-scheduled Federation Board meeting at which Lonnie's election took place. 


A brand new member of Congress demanded, as a price for her vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, an end to “the old culture of waiting your turn.”  The need for instant gratification has become almost an obsession among some who clearly have never had to earn their place at the table themselves.

And, in Jewish communal life today that same attitude has gained momentum with the push to seat young leaders in the "room where it happens," on community Boards with nothing more to recommend them than their youth and enthusiasm. The question is: are those enough? Does service matter anymore in a culture of entitlement?

As one of you wrote:
"As a long time federation leader and a person who has attended numerous GA's where I have had a chance to interact with other lay leaders, a common thread that runs thru discussions I have had is that many individual federations can also be viewed as sending in the clowns.
 In efforts to bring in new young leadership too rapidly with little or no historical perspective (and often accompanied by new professional leadership with little or no historical perspective) these federations are facing a serious decline in campaign in real dollars as well as when comparing the value of the dollar today to the value 10-15 years ago as more established donors don't want to have anything to do with the new direction, or to surrender their support for traditional agencies in the local community and the overseas partners.
 While this is happening the new young leadership do not have the financial resources to replace the lost revenue. I believe this is a strong contributing factor to the explosion in donor advised funds, endowments, supporting foundations and other ways that have the effect of taking the decision making out of the hands of the clowns. The end result, I believe, is a contributing factor in the rapid decline in campaign dollars and donors to federations. Perhaps the next song ought to be a parody of the Peter Paul and Mary Song - 'Where Have All the Donors Gone?'"
This "phenomenon" is truly nothing new. Our friend, Jeff Solomon, and I collaborated on a white paper two decades ago that reflected on this push for instant gratification even then. We wrote Setting Standards for Volunteer Leadership and the Profession -- A Dialogue in the Journal of Jewish Communal Service in 2000. I believe it to be as relevant today as it was 18 years ago. But, that's just me.

And, back in the a graduate of the Young Leadership Cabinet myself, I understood that "community service" in Chicago meant actually serving: thus I began to work in Campaign in our Lawyers Division and in the Year End (clean-up); and on the Federation Jewish Education and Missions Committees. Only after five years of these involvements was I elected to the Federation Board. By then I had been inculcated in the communal ethos.

I know of no community that is not interested in assuring interested furture leaders a communal leadership experience that they earn. Earn through service and commitment. Do you?````

Today, sadly, in too many places there is no ethos at all. So, perhaps it makes no difference if one learns anything about one's own community at all. And the results show it.


Tuesday, December 18, 2018


When we learned that Danny Allen, z'l, had entered hospice care after his courageous battle with ALS, our first thoughts were of Danny's wife, Mary Lou, his children and grandchildren, of course, and then our thoughts turned to Danny: his love of family, his love of Israel and his passion for his profession. And, a day later, we learned that Danny had died. North American and Israeli Jewry lost a passionate Zionist, an indefatiguable fighter for justice, a great friend.

Memories of Danny Allen overwhelm, like a flood. The countless meetings where we sat together in the back of the room, observing sardonically the goings-on, or the not goings-on. Our exchanges of emails as recently as weeks ago after my article on UIA and JFNA appeared in ejewishphilanthropy to which Danny himself was a frequent contributor -- it was the article that Danny wanted to write. His passion for justice was there to the very end.

And, of course, I remember our pitched battle at the time of the merger creating JFNA Danny's passionate (sometimes infuriating) defense of United Israel Appeal's independence side-by-side with his incredible lay partner, Shoshana Cardin, z'l. Danny, the Executive Vice Chair of UIA at the time, a role he would leave post-merger and return to with great passion and leadership years later, never let up -- he and Shoshana, publicly and privately, saw the future with a clarity that I and UJA/CJF leadership did not: that the merger as structured would lead to what we are seeing today, the erosion of support for our system's overseas partners, and an inexorable turning inward. We were so focused on the merger we had structured, we were blind from what Danny saw with such focus.

As we went forward, Danny knew of my love and respect for him. We spoke often in the dark days of his brief professional leadership of the Hartford Jewish Federation and, then, during his service as CEO of American Friends of Magen David Olam, where Allen confronted corruption and lost his job because he would not tolerate it.

And, then, Danny returned to his professional passion: as Executive Vice Chair of the UIA. In expressing that embrace of Israel, and his constant advocacy for Israel and UIA's role, there was a baked-in inevitability to conflict with the passive leadership at 25 Broadway. Danny and I often conferred over those years, of his concern with UIA's role and the lack of support from JFNA both internally and externally. Conflict appeared inevitable and Danny's fierce and constant defense of UIA and his personal and professional advocacy for the Jewish Agency and Danny's expression of principles -- his integrity -- ripened into conflict that isolated him from JFNA's senior management. And, ultimately, JFNA's CEO began reading Danny's emails, found one that severely criticized JFNA. Danny left JFNA shortly thereafter. As one of his great friends observed to me in the past few days: "Danny just cared too much." This was the ultimate compliment.

Danny fought for his profession. A leader among Jewish organization professionals, Danny was a partner in the formation of JPRO; he had served the predecessor organization, AJCOP, as President. He decried what he saw as the abandonment of the profession by the continental Jewish organization. He had received the profession's highest honor from his peers, the Mandelkorn...he earned it....he treasured it. 

And, Danny was an ardent Zionist; so much of him sprang from his love of Zion -- his and his family's dream of aliyah, his professional leadership of ARZA which he served as President, that joy he received from every visit -- his inspiration, the driving force of his leadership and his life.

Our condolences to all of Danny's family and his friends worldwide. As one of those friends wrote:
"May Danny’s life, deeds and memory serve as an eternal source of brachot and mitzvot for his family and all of us. 
Baruch Dayan Emet." 


Monday, December 17, 2018


In our Post -- Send in the Clowns... -- I voiced my great concerns with the narrative, the false history and the draft Recommendations embodied in the JFNA Global Operations Committee Report. Those Recommendations, if implemented, would eviscerate the excellent work and mandate of United Israel Appeal while ratifying and actually enhancing the scope of the futile JFNA-Israel. Now that Report apparently has been finalized and is proceeding through JFNA governance as if it has merit. (The Draft was circulated to the CEOs of all federations -- I am advised that not one of them had any comment, positive or negative.)

Now, voices from within the Global Operations Committee have expressed their dissent. Four federation leaders, each with the most broad experience within their communities and with the federations global agenda have spoken out. This is their dissent.

"We are members of the JFNA Global Operations Review Committee (the “Committee”).  After extensive consideration, we dissent from certain portions of the draft Report of the Committee, dated October 8, 2018 (the “Draft”), as we explain below.

The premise of the work of the Global Operations Review Committee was a two-pronged evaluation of the overseas agenda/work of JFNA, including its subsidiary UIA.  Conceptually, it was to serve as a zero-based budgeting tool to be incorporated into the overall Bridgespan JFNA scope and strategy effort.  

During the evaluation process, we were members of the Israel and Overseas Subcommittee.  There was only one in-person meeting attended by both Subcommittees. During that meeting, our strong concerns were expressed about the approach to JFNA’s future scope of activities, its relationship with the American Joint Distribution Committee, the Jewish Agency for Israel and World ORT (collectively, the “Partners”), as well as JFNA’s/UIA’s governance role in the Jewish Agency for Israel.  Although certain references to the Partners were inserted into the Draft in response to our concerns, the overall approach to the scope of JFNA’s future activities remains unchanged.  

The concepts of collective responsibility and collective giving have been the cornerstone for generations of the Federation system, in general, and Israel and Overseas activities, in particular.  We fear that the underlying substance of the Draft, if implemented, will encourage an atomized future of narrowness and particularism in the Israel and Overseas area that runs counter to these fundamental concepts.    

We are unable to accept this vision.  We believe it (i) will undermine Israel and Overseas efforts by, and giving from, Federations and others in the United States; and (ii) will significantly weaken the Partners, as global service organizations that offer – even with their shortcomings (which we believe are being and will be addressed) – the only long-term path for global Jewish responsibility, unity and connection.  

The narrative presented in the Draft overstates JFNA’s role and record in addressing Israel and Overseas advocacy and fundraising. While JFNA does provide engagement opportunities with the Partners during missions and at the GA, and through participation in the Jewish Agency’s governance, the narrative in the Draft fails to indicate that JFNA’s role primarily has been as a conduit for the Partners, not as the implementer and fundraiser for these endeavors.  In fact, JFNA has not had a specific focus on fundraising at individual Federations for the international funding agenda.  The Draft suggests that JFNA build new expertise in overseas priorities without providing meaningful and detailed assurance as to how it will do so.  In light of JFNA’s historic role as a conduit, we believe this gamble on an expanded JFNA role is unwise and may result not only in taking attention away from the Partners, but also in diminishing the effectiveness of North American Jewry’s efforts in Israel and overseas.  

Specifically, the Draft (on page 4, items 5 and 6) describes a future in which JFNA would expand greatly its operations in Israel and Overseas to focus on projects and activities originated by JFNA and funded by individual Federations (this, in the context of the Committee’s original mandate to focus on reducing JFNA’s costs in the face of Federations’ concerns about the size of the JFNA budget). Based on JFNA’s limited accomplishments in the Israel and Overseas agenda and its funding since the merger, if JFNA truly seeks to expand support for the Israel and Overseas agenda, consideration should be given to focusing its activities with the Federations and with involvement of the Partners. 

In contrast to the breadth of JFNA’s role laid out in the Draft, we believe JFNA generally should focus its Israel and Overseas efforts on areas where it can successfully and efficiently create an umbrella of support. These include (i) advocacy for the principle of Jewish collective responsibility; (ii) broad advocacy amongst Federations for the sector and the Partners (which would supplement the Partners’ increased advocacy for their respective activities directly to Federations); (iii) organization in the U.S. of ad hoc national campaigns in times of emergency in the Israel and Overseas sector; (iv) high level interaction with the United States and Israeli governments; (v) logistical support for missions, travel and similar activities that foster greater personal connection for Federations and their donors with Israel and Overseas communities; and (vi) providing financial logistical services to initiatives that individual Federations undertake.  Ultimately, by enriching the collective of the Federation system and the Partners, rather than assisting in their dismantling, we believe our local and global efforts will be enhanced. 

If the rationale for the Committee’s efforts was to focus JFNA’s Israel and Overseas work, the Draft’s recommendations actually expand them in an open-ended manner. Given JFNA’s historical performance, if the Draft’s recommendations become the new strategy of a financially-constrained JFNA, we also fear the Partners will be severely damaged and will be pressed to compete with Federations’ activities in their own communities. We strongly recommend that JFNA focus on utilizing and strengthening the Partners (as opposed to limiting their roles and seeking to grow JFNA’s) to implement the substantive Israel and Overseas agenda.

Finally, rather than presenting a unilateral announcement of policy from JFNA, we believe JFNA should engage in a serious and extended discussion with the Partners and the Federations as to JFNA’s future role in Israel and Overseas activities.

Alisa R. Doctoroff
Beth Kieffer Leonard
Heschel J. Raskas
David Silvers"

These four leaders have shown a sense of responsibility to their fiduciary responsibilities that is commendable. May they inspire others to do the same. Now, JFNA's leaders, the authors of these Draconian "Recommendations" may be forced to do that which they never do -- respond, explain, justify.

If JFNA's governance bodies approve the "Recommendations" as written, that would be shameful.


Thursday, December 13, 2018


I have promised you (and myself) that I would attempt going forward to reflect on those matters that impact on Jewish organizational success or failure across the board. Given that commitment, I wanted to write today about "duty."

Earlier this month, the preeminent observer of corporate responsibility, James B. Stewart,  in his Common Sense column in the New York Times about the failures of the corporate Board at CBS in the "Leslie Moonves matter" wrote:
"Members of corporate boards, senior executives and even rank-and-file employees have a duty of loyalty -- to the company, not its chief executive. They're required by corporate law, company policy and in many cases their employment contracts to report misconduct to the board."CBS Report on Moonves Shows Epic Failure of Corporate Governance
 I'm sure that all of us recognize that Stewart's maxim applies not just to the corporate world but our non-profits in equal measure. And this duty to the entity not to the person is not a rule that may be compromised; it is has always been absolute.

Chevre, I have breached this rule; I have no doubt. There have been times when confronted with serving the CEO at some organizations or the entity itself, I have chosen the easy road. I'd like to think that in doing so, I had the best interests of the entity in mind. But, that's not the point is it? In choosing the easy path, I did damage to the basic rule: I was serving as the Board Chair (or whatever position in the organization); but I acted to benefit the person. And, in so doing, I damaged the non-profit. It may have been on something minor, but organizations can die as the result of a series of small cuts, small wounds...and they have.

And, it's not just the "leaders" whom are charged with this duty: this fiduciary responsibility to the entity is imposed on all Board members, and on the CEO him/herself. Those who stand aside, ignoring, e.g., incidents of sexual harassment as in "the Moonves matter," or a CEO who engages in public self-dealing, acting in his/her self-interest without regard to the negative impacts on the entity -- it makes no difference whom it is. It reminds me of the challenge: if you see something do something.

Each time this duty of loyalty to the entity is ignored or overlooked, the entity is weakened. And each time the duty of loyalty is ignored or overlooked ("nothing to see here"), the basic trust in the entity on which successful organizations survive and prosper is damaged. And, ultimately, this breakdown of trust kills.

How many of us have sat in silence as Boards of our non-profits are stacked with those who have demonstrated that they will look away while the CEO acts without accountability? How many of us have voted in the affirmative to seat a new Board Chair who makes it clear that he believes that the Board Chair and the Board itself should delegate all to the CEO and "get out of the way?" 

Yes, I know full well that in many of our organizations the role of lay leaders has been relegated to the sidelines. We are admonished to "make no waves." We have become nothing more than institutional cheerleaders.We see that those who "move up" in our organizations are those who make no demands upon it. We have forgotten that we are charged with demanding accountability to the organization. Examples abound, they are happening around us every day. 

Every day. And those organizations wither and die.


Monday, December 10, 2018


A few weeks ago, ejewishphilanthropy published our Post on the institutional attack on the JFNA subsidiary, United Israel JFNA itself, in the guise of a set of Draft Recommendations emanating from something titled the Global Operations Review Committee

Aside from the assault on UIA in the Draft, the Recommendations underscored jfna's support for continuing the demonstrable waste that is and has been JFNA-Israel. The Global Operations Review Committee attempted to underscore JFNA's commitment to advocacy for Israel (none) in a variety of ways (none). Sadly...pathetically...this transparently false endorsement of the Review Committee was immediately contradicted by reality:
1. The Prime Minister's Council/King David Society Mission will go to...India
2. The Summer FRD Mission will travel to...Argentina
Neither of these high-end Missions will find its way to...Israel. Should we believe a Committee Report or our own eyes? JFNA, as always, wants you to "look away, nothing happening here." 

What surprises me is that these Review Committees (yes, there are two) Draft Recommendations included a number of brilliant federation leaders totally committed to the "overseas agenda." Why the silence, folks? One can only hope (dare we expect) that there will be multiple published dissents to the final Recommendations, if not public resignations.

In response to the Post, Send in the Clowns: A Commentary on JFNA-UIA, one of you wrote:
"So there was a "merger."
UJA was "merged" and federation leaders (were) gone, along with any FRD of national campaign mechanism.
Now they want to complete the "merger" of UIA, first killing its independent lay leadership and its role in advocacy and then "merging" its functions.
Once the "merger" is complete, there will be nothing left of any value to our federations, our overseas partners or to anyone except for the well paid architects of this "MERGE AND DESTROY" mission.
And we just allow them to continue drafting position papers and committee reports that are really nothing more than suicide notes for our collective communal system, signing our names to them and saying "aye" when asked.
If we don't all wake up soon we are going to get what we deserve for sleeping through this systematic destruction of everything that we believe in - "merger" into oblivion."
The fact that two...count 'em, TWO...Review Committees were at "work" (if one may call it that) while another consultant was being paid hundreds of thousands to "study" the entity just underscored the farcical nature of these Recommendations

An unnecessary farce.


Thursday, December 6, 2018


Those who question: "why do we need federation?" and those who understand federaions' many roles -- but especially those of responder and convener, need to read Los Angeles' CEO, Jay Sanderson's article in full:
The 72 hours Jay described so beautifully and poignantly evidence Federation's critical roles at critical times.

Kal ha'kavod.


Sunday, December 2, 2018


                                    SEND IN THE CLOWNS*

                                             But where are the clowns?

                                     Send in the clowns

                                 Don’t bother, they’re here”

We all have heard the haunting lyrics of Stephen Sondheim’s beautiful dirge. Sad to say, they are too appropriate in light of JFNA’s determination to effectively defenestrate its subsidiary, the United Israel Appeal, for no reason other than it exists. It’s also entirely possible that this decision, reflected in what can only be described as a “made as instructed” Report, now circulating in Draft Form to Federation leaders in the uNited States, may be modified in a positive manner. After all, miracles do happen

A very brief history is in order. The merger which resulted in what is now JFNA was the outcome of votes by the United Israel Appeal and the Joint Distribution Committee, the owners of the United Jewish Appeal and by the Jewish Federations, the owners of the Council of Jewish Federations. In that referendum, the UIA leadership acquiesced in surrendering the organization’s independence in what’s argued to be the “best interests of the system,” becoming instead a subsidiary of JFNA. UIA’s Board, led by the incredible leader, Shoshana Cardin, z’l, and her chief professional, Danny Allen, fought so hard because they saw, as I, who led these merger discussions, did not, that the consolidation would ultimately fail the overseas partners and, specifically, the Jewish Agency, the agent of our system, reporting to UIA, the principal on our behalf. They were proved sadly prescient.

UIA leaders premised their joinder in the merger on Federations assuming “…the responsibility of making sure (JAFI and JDC) would continue to receive significant allocations.” In fact, the merger was designed to “create more dollars and more donors.” JFNA/the Federations have totally failed to meet any of these obligations. Curiously, the authors of the JFNA Report did not consult with any of the women and men who led the UIA merger negotiations to ascertain the facts.

Over the past 20 years, UIA has performed its assigned roles with excellence. In fact, it can be concluded that, other than JFNA’s Washington Office, it is the only area of Federations’ work through JFNA that has been consistently performed at the highest level. UIA secured and has administered a multi-million dollar U.S. Refugee Grant — its work with that Grant has received accolades from the U..S. Department of State; it has authorized allocations to the Jewish Agency after review and UIA has carefully engaged in the operation and disposition of properties which it owns and/or operates, maximizing values. UIA (now JJFNA-UIA) appointees to the Jewish Agency Board of Governors have been women and men, Federation leaders all, vetted by and with JFNA.

In November 2013,  JFNA’s Board approved a Report of the UIA Futures Committee “Report and Recommendations for UIA Mandate.” The Futures Committee, chaired by the Washington Federation leader,Norman Goldstein ,and Nashville’s Fred Zimmerman, restated UIA’s historic roles for the system and set forth a series of “UIA Value Added Services” and “Structural Enhancements.” All of these were approved by the JFNA Board. (For future reference, please note: Harold Gernsbacher, the Chair of the current JFNA Task Forces — strangely, both of them — served on the UIA Futures Committee.)

So, ignoring the historical certainty as expressed in the mantra: “if ain’t broke, don’t ‘fix’ it,” JFNA organized two — not one…two — Global Operations Review Committees which, if one reads the Draft Recommendations, concluded that though “it ain’t broke,” we’ll “break” UIA. And these Draft Recommendations emerge as UIA embarked on an ambitious and creative advocacy program to attract new federation lay leaders to the cause of overseas  needs. As one terrific UIA leader lamented to me:

“in an environment where we are so desperately testing to attract and engage lay leaders why they see us a threat or in competition is just not understandable. JFNA should be encouraging and supporting our efforts where there is such demand and added value.”

The set of Draft Recommendations for delimiting UIA is preceded by a specious and misleading rendition of “history’ embodied in a report titled JEWISH FEDERATIONS’ GLOBAL ROLE TODAY AND TOMORROW, authored by the JFNA Global Operations Review Committee has been published and widely distributed. If implemented, UIA would be, as its immediate past Executive Vice-Chair, Danny Allen, described it, “eviscerated;” its Board would be reduced to 7 (from 32 Federation leaders today, all of whose appointments were vetted through JFNA), and its roles relegated to certifying the tax deductibility of Federation/donor allocations and other oversight functions along with U.S. Resettlement Grant. 

And, the purported bases, the rationale, for this deconstruction of UIA?  Here is some of it:

1. “Complete the integration of UIA functions (into JFNA) as was historically intended.” This red herring defies scrutiny. The “historical intent” of the merger vis-a-vis UIA was expressed in the merger and has been fully accomplished. Period. Full stop. 

2. Eliminate 25 federation leaders from the UIA Board, reducing it to 7. It appears this would be done because by reducing and restricting UIA functions and services, what is there left for the Board to do? Inasmuch as this Draft Report was staff-driven in its totality, it reflects the JFNA professionals’ disrespect for the significant lay involvement embodied in UIA’s lay leaders’ service to their own communities and JAFI.

3. JFNA’s Nominating Committee would supplant UIA’s own historic processes and ignores the fact that UIA leaders clear these name with JFNA in advance.

4. UIA’s advocacy for overseas allocations (and, specifically, federation allocations to JAFI),  approved by the JFNA Board in November 2013, would be formally eliminated  even though, after 18 community visits in its first year, UIA agreed to curtail that advocacy subsuming that effort for  JFNA’s “Ambassadors” advocacy — sending lay leaders into federations under the JFNA-Israel and Overseas Committee— which has failed from the outset.

There’s more — fully integrating UIA’s vetting and processing allocations into JFNA’s Finance Department, and, without reflection on the potential impact on the very Revenue Rulings  even JFNA rallies it must support, “systematically reduce UIA’s role in ownership and management of IEF properties” — but the unstated purpose of the Draft GlobalOperations Review Committee Recommendations is to “reduce UIA costs to JFNA” (even though UIA’s cost to JFNA’s Budget is $1,250,000 — 1/2 of UIA’s budget, the other 1/2 being credited against the JAFI allocation) and, remarkably, given its continued failures, to enhance and ratify the work of JFNA-Israel, as if that silo had any capacity to accomplish even a delimited set of purposes let alone an expanded one.

Washington Federation and UIA leader, Norm Goldstein, registered his concern with the Draft in his typical incisive manner:

“As the co-author of the UIA Futures Report, I read the Gernsbacher report with great care.  Since I have great respect for many of the persons who are signatories to the report and engaged members of UIA, with  strong backgrounds in JFNA, I am somewhat reluctant to criticize it.  However, stated simply, I do not see how this report answers the very serious problems facing JFNA in addressing the challenges of  carrying out its role with respect to the Israel and Overseas agenda.”

“Specifically, while the report states it was initiated as part of the zero based budgeting process, I see no fiscal analysis whatsoever.  I see well phrased verbiage giving a depressing history which demonstrates a striking decline in the resources provided through the system to our historic partners, and discussion about reasons for the possible decline based on changing attitudes of local Federations.”

“I see no clear strategic plan for addressing the identified issues, other than general statements about developing new relationships with Israeli NGOs, and enhancement of JFNA's  control in other areas.
I see nothing which reflects any serious consultation with our overseas partners, especially with the Jewish Agency which is the clear underlying focus of the paper.”

“The only concrete recommendation I see are reiterations of efforts to be undertaken by JFNA, where they have not have not succeeded in the past, and/or have not demonstrated the value of their current efforts on a cost effectiveness basis.”

“Basically, all that I see is the obviously predetermined result oriented goal of eviscerating the UIA, the one entity which retains lay leadership in active capacities to act on behalf of the Jewish Agency, and by implication the Overseas Agenda. “

“That will not answer the more serious questions facing the JFNA.”

Insiders have told me that JAFI leaders were promised an opportunity to discuss the Global Operations relationship with the Review Committees before the framing of Draft Recommendations; a promise unfulfilled even as the Draft Recommendations would significantly impact on the Jewish Agency and JDC. Perhaps, the fact that JAFI’s current and immediate past Budget and Finance Chairs and JAFI Board members served on the Review Committee was thought by the JFNA draftspersons to be sufficient. It wasn’t.

Suffice it to say: the JFNA Global Operations Review Committee wholly failed to offer a valid, comprehensive or comprehensible rationale for its Recommendations to place UIA in an even more reduced role than contemplated by the merger other than the obvious goal of accreting to JFNA itself, our organization that has failed both in the absolute and relative to UIA itself.

Somehow, those who support these changes believe that American communal support of the Jewish Agency/Israel will be enhanced by pushing those lay leaders who have enthusiastically and passionately advocated for Israel/JAFI to the sidelines if not completely from the stadium.  All the interest of unquantified “cost savings.”

What UIA accomplishes, year-in and year-out, with dedicated lay leaders and an incredible small group of professionals in Israel puts the rest of JFNA-Israel to shame — a well-earned shame. For JFNA to be focused on UIA at this point in its history is, as a matter of principle and practice, so very wrong; an unnecessary distraction at a time that calls for transformational change.

It would be time to Send in the Clowns….but they’re already there.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018


In the Mid-Term elections one race didn't reeive much notice. After all, on the surface, a race in an obscure House District on Chicago's Southwest Side, heavily and historically Democratic, where the Democraic incumbent, the soporific Dan Lipinski, easily defeated the Republican -- 73% to 27%. 

Yet, in this race the Republican candidate, Art Jones, was an avowed neo-Nazi, Holocaust denier and anti-Semite. Jones was so bad that the Republican Party tried to remove him from the ballot after it was too late to do so. (Combine Illinois' archaic voting laws with GOP negligence for his nomination and ballot retention.)

In the immediate aftermath of the Pittsburgh terrorist attack killing 11 Jewish Americans who were in prayer in the worst anti-Semitic crime in American history, this anti-Semite candidate received 27% of the vote...27%. Jones was clear in stating that he was "gratified" for the support:
"They can't say they didn't know who they were voting for."
Then, the conclusion:
"I think I probably would've done a lot better had it not been for this disaster in Pittsburgh with the murder of 11 Jews."
There you have it, this cretin received 27% of the vote in his House District race and believed his vote total would have been higher if Jews hadn't been murdered. 

As we all know, the ADL has reported that there was an explosion of anti-Semitic attacks and incidents in America in 2017 continuing into this year. The vote that Art Jones garnered on Chicago's Southwest Side -- 27% -- was, in this writer's view, another anti-Semitic event. When, in his press conference on November 7, the President of the UNited States was asked directly what he might be doing to stem the anti-semitic assaults, his response was: "Prime Minister Netanyahu said that I am the best friend Israel has ever had." 

All of us must stand tall for our children and our grandchildren and for our values. No one else will.


Saturday, November 24, 2018


Traveling through Ben Gurion International into or out of Israel one is greeted with a series of slick ads -- I'm not talking about the ones for chocolates, or Duty-Free. I'm speaking of the ones bearing tag lines like:
"Bringing the Jewish People Home"
"Supporting our Soldiers" 
"Bringing Hope to the Next Generations of Jews Around the World" 
And, then, you realize that the focal point of each of these advertisements is singular -- there, in the center of each, is the visage of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the Chairman for Life (apparently) of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. And you realize that these messages were not at all about the IFCJ (or, maybe, a little), but were all about HIM. Yes, Yechiel truly believes that, like a faux Moshiach, He is bringing the Jewish People home, and more. It's him, him, him. Of course it is.

Up to a certain point in time, Eckstein appeared to be satisfied with the kinds of kavod some donors demand (and all are entitled to) -- a photo of Yechiel and a federation leader with an oversized check against the background of a bedraggled Jewish community in, e.g., Kazakhstan, or a speaking engagement at a national meeting of the United Jewish Appeal, or a seat on the Executive Committee of the Jewish Agency or newspaper ads promoting him from the JDC. Are those days gone forever with the new promotions in jetways and on the walls of Ben Gurion? 

Today, Eckstein, who, to his credit, made aliya several years ago, promotes himself (actually has others do the promoting) as a potential candidate for Israel's presidency. After all look at all he has accomplished. One of the FOB, when I asked "what's next for this guy?" responded: "I hear he want to build a few pyramids."

There is no denying the prodigious FRD in which Rabbi Eckstein has been engaged for more than three decades now, Nor should anyone deny him credit for driving those 100's of millions to good charitable works in Eastern Europe, Russia and Israel in the name of Christians who have sent their checks in small amounts to the Fellowship. The funds raised have also rewarded Yechiel with a huge salary and provided a major executive position to his daughter, Yael. The IFCJ and its affiliates today represent a mammoth charitable venture operated like a Mom and Pop store; there is a Board...of sorts...that must operate as does President Trump's Cabinet.

Then, a few years ago, Eckstein, at no small expense to the Fellowship, decided to professionalize the operation. He hired at least two outstanding fundraisers -- Jeff Kaye as Executive Vice-President and Seth Moscowitiz as Major Gifts Director -- as he staffed up. Earlier this fall, Kaye and two others left the IFCJ employ abruptly and Eckstein announced to the press that none of the three needed to be replaced. I guess things just didn't work out -- or, perhaps, Yechiel concluded that given that the 2017 IRS 990 disclosed that his compensation from all sources approached $900,000, he could do even more himself. (And that does not even approach the close to $20,000,000 spent ["invested?] a direct mail, direct response consultants.)

Now, there is this huge investment in glossy promos on the walls of Ben Gurion International. I'll leave it to Eckstein's Board to determine if this was an appropriate investment of charitable dollars. In the meantime these ads must make Yechiel Eckstein feel so good each time he walks by and sees himself.

So good.


Monday, November 19, 2018


JFNA should be in the middle -- not the beginning and, maybe, even near the end -- of its search for a new CEO. Richard Sandler appointed himself Chair of this Search, a choice that might be debated if debate were permitted, and we should presume if not insist upon a serious Search for a talented, knowledgeable and creative CEO.

I have a suggestion. Each candidate (and, the Search Committee members themselves -- why not) should be required to have read the following:

~ The Roots of the Future -- Rabbi Herb Friedman, UJA's first CEO and my personal hero, who inspired generations of American Jews, the visionary who created the Young Leadership Cabinet and, decades later, the Wexner Program, and so much more.  
~ Sacred Survival -- The Civil Religion of American Jews -- Jonathan Woocher's, z'l, incredible work on the greatness of the Jewish communal system and those dedicated to it
~ To Dwell in Unity --The Jewish Federation Movement in America since 1960 -- Philip Bernstein, z'l, one of the greatest professional leaders in American communal history wrote this incredible history in 1983
~ Living UJA History -- The visionary UJA CEO, Irving Bernstein's, z'l, autobiographical appraisal of his years at the United Jewish Appeal
~ Operation Exodus -- Our friend Gerry Nagel's, z'l, first hand history of one of American Jewry's greatest chapters in philanthropy
 From Predictability to Chaos-- How Jewish Leaders Reinvented Their National Communal System -- An after the fact analysis of the merger that created JFNA from the great scholars, Gerald Bubis, z'l, and Dr. Steven Windmueller, whose conclusions proved prescient.
And, add to the reading requirements the daily insights found in ejewishphilanthropy,  The New York Jewish Week and the Los Angeles Jewish Journal as well as the excellent reporting in The Forward and on the pages of JTA.

I wish you good reading and to Sandler and the Search Committee, good judgment.