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.


Thursday, November 15, 2018


The Jewish Federations of North America were to be a central address not just for the federations but for the professional cadre who lead and support federations' work. Under the leadership of a succession of former Large City CEO's JFNA either remained as a continuing resource for the federation professional or retained the potential to be just that. Not any more. No more.

At one point in time, during the few years of Howard Rieger's professional leadership, the support for communal professional leadership was elevated to the extent that almost the totality of JFNA's (then "UJC's") domestic functions were subsumed within the silo of "Consulting Services." At that time in the now distant past, the professional leader of the continental financial resource development effort, to preserve her job (if only for a moment), acquiesced in the diminution of her own role and that of FRD itself.

And, that moment in time occurred in te aftermath of the resignation of a superb National Campaign Chair, ultimately replaced by a succession of lay leaders willing to be part of (or ignorant of) the assisted suicide of JFNA Financial Resource Development. 

And, then, the continental consultancy withered and died as well. In any other organization the disappearance of its two critical functions -- FRD and community services -- might have raised the fundamental question: "What the hell is the organization doing for the communities?" Not at JFNA, of course; never at JFNA.

JFNA as the continental organization decided (where and by whom?) that the entire continental cadre would be left to their own devices. FedCentral emerged as a sorry "answer" to questions serious and not so much -- JFNA professionals either had no answers or had no interest in finding them.  The leadership of JFNA Community Consulting met the same fate as that of FRD only a few years earlier. Excellent professional leaders left JFNA; there was nothing to offer.

And, after years of neglect, two and one-half years ago JFNA FRD, now being led by a "senior consultant" began an embryonic community consulting effort, implemented by a four-person team of part-time consultants, each assigned 20+ communities to which they were assigned. 

Then, in a sudden quest for the relevance with the federations from which it had walked away, JFNA professional leadership determined to "expand" the consultancies beyond the four part-time consultants to an expanded cadre of part-timers teamed with some JFNA professionals with an expanded role beyond FRD. Somebody...somebodies...had this brilliant idea that FRD expertise would automatically extent to community service expertise and all would be happy...somehow...just like a decade ago. But then, Community Consulting was led by respected professionals dedicated to the task; today...not so much.

FedCentral was not the disease, it was a symptom of the metastacized cancer that had eaten away at the body of JFNA'swork and purpose. FedCentral was and is window dressing -- an attempt to paint over JFNA's abysmal failure.

It didn't work.


Friday, November 9, 2018


The following is almost impossible to believe.

As reported in multiple media in the Dallas and Fort Worth communities, "nearly $1 million dollars was stolen from the Fort Worth-Tarrant County Jewish Federation" by its Controller.

That's $1 million dollars, my friends...$1 million. And, this was no sophisticated fraud. It is alleged that the Controller merely wrote 300 (+/-) checks to herself over a five year period totalling $1,000,000 and was never caught. This small federation was victimized to the tune of approximately $200,000 per year and no one one. 

Are the organization's books audited? Is there an Audit Committee? Where was the Controller's supervisor(s)? Where was the Federation Board? So, the Controller just continued to write the checks to herself...for five years!! 

That's $200,000 a year stolen from a community whose annual campaign has remained at a little less than $1 million a year. You'd think someone would have noticed that $200,000 or so was being stolen. And, a quoted Board member said the total stolen was actually more than $1 million, the overage dating back to 2011 -- beyond the statute of limitations!! 7 years of this. The theft, according to the media reports, was discovered in a recent audit -- was this the first audit? I'm having a tough time getting my arms around this -- in particular because it appears that this Federation has not filed its mandatory IRS Form 990. (Guidestar does not cross-reference any filing; the Federation's website does not link to one.)

I visited the Fort Worth and Tarrant County website -- it disclosed a community engaged in joy-filled activities, supporting local needs in meaningful ways. I'm certain that the communal lay leadership are as committed as any in most communities. I've known a number of past leaders -- they were terrific. And, now? If you look at the photos, you would see leaders that mirror those in Los Angeles or Palm Beach or Dallas. The website includes the agenda of the recent Federation Annual Meetings which included not only the Federation's most senior lay leader reporting on the "State of the Federation" and a presentation from JFNA's Richard Sandler -- all the while the Controller was stealing 20% of the community's annual campaign resources.

The trust that is so absolutely vital to community building and to sustaining the community, now must be rebuilt in Fort Worth-Tarrant County. Anyone who has been a regular reader of this Blog knows of my fear that that trust, once destroyed, can almost never be rebuilt...almost never.

Our Boards are the stewards of our donors' resources; for the donors have entrusted their dollars to our Boards. When that stewardship fails, communities die.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018


     "I bark and I bark but I never feel like I effect real change."

The New Yorker captured the story of this Blog in one simple cartoon. (October 15, 2018) It is the cartoon equivalent of that which has been attributed to Albert Einstein:  "the meaning of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result."

Yes, that's Barking and barking and barking again. Baying at the moon, as it were.

I admit it. As a fund raiser, I am an eternal optimist. I have believed that people, especially those charged with sacred responsibilities will do the right thing....will always do the right thing. Einstein would have admonished me.

Since I first began this Blog, I have made it a practice to go silent on matters related to JFNA upon each passing of the gavel from one Board Chair to the next out of what proved to be the false hope that the incoming Chair, having seen the deconstruction of JFNA under her/his predecessor, would take the bold steps necessary to force the radical surgery that would restart the organization, moving it in important directions, in critical directions...away from the sorry past to a brighter future for JFNA, for its federation members, for the "system," for our donors.

Yet, Kathy Manning was so obsessively focused on what would be the multi-million dollar disaster of her Global Planning Table, that, against the best advice from leaders far more relevant than I, she wasted her leadership years on the Rube Goldbergian-GPT; she neither wanted nor tolerated counsel -- other than her own. Michael Siegal, a spectacular philanthropist, wanted to effect change; he understood that major change was needed; change that he was unable to deliver. I shared Michael's frustration.

In the weeks before Richard Sandler succeeded Michael Siegal, he agreed to meet with me at his office in Santa Monica. He was extremely generous with his time and in sharing with me his vision for his Chairmanship. I felt that his leadership philosophy -- expressed as getting out of the way of the organization's professions and letting them "do their job" -- was inconsistent with the fiduciary, the sacred, responsibilities of lay leadership. Ours was an argument l'shem shamayim. It went nowhere. 

And, so, in each instance, my period of self-imposed silence was abandoned for the balance of each of these wonderful, committed lay leaders' whose only desire was to do good in service to the Jewish People, terms.

Now, Richard Sandler has passed the gavel to Mark Wilf. Mark can be the paradigmatic JFNA transformational change agent. His background inside the system and outside -- from Chair of the Young Leadership Cabinet through National Campaign Chair, his federation leadership roles and as the driving force behind JFNA's successful Holocaust Survivor Initiative. The Wilf Family's generous contributions to Holocaust survivor efforts are part of their and Mark's n'shama. Now, he will face his biggest challenge -- because his success as Chair is entwined with the need for a dynamic professional partner -- how quickly he will have one is wholly within his hands.

My confidence in Mark has been magnified in recent days when I learned that Chicago's David Brown will serve as the 2020 National Campaign Chair. With David's incredibly broad range of leadership roles locally and with JFNA, he and Mark hold out the promise of being the most formidable JFNA leadership team in decades. (To the extent that is damning with faint praise, so be it.)

Based on that promise, I will soon put that portion of this Blog that is commentary on JFNA on hiatus. I, with you, expect serious and transformational change. As i wish Mark only success, I won't wait long.


Saturday, November 3, 2018


Memorial services across America continue to mourn for the victims of the anti-semitic terrorist in Squirrel Hill. Each has great meaningto those present. I could cite any number of these, but this one, in Napa, California, with its small Jewish community struck me as particularly moving. That memorial service was captured in the Napa Register: Napans speak out at vigil honoring memory of 11 who died in Pittsburgh synagogue shooting:

"Napa has been home to Steve Rozensky for a decade. But before that, home had been the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh, a longtime Jewish enclave he never imagined would be rocked by hate-fueled mass violence – until Saturday morning.
“I turned on the TV and it hit me like a ton of bricks that my old neighborhood had been hit like that,” Rozensky said Monday night at Napa’s Congregation Beth Shalom, before a vigil for the 11 people shot and killed while worshiping at Tree of Life Congregation in his old neighborhood.
“You’re from there, you grow up there, and you think it’s the safest place on earth,” Rozensky said. “If you gave me a list of 100 places in the country where this could happen, I would’ve put Pittsburgh last – such an accepting place, I couldn’t see that happening. If someone wanted to know a place where they could walk day and night, I would say Squirrel Hill.”
The vigil, taking place two days after the Pittsburgh shootings, drew more than 240 people to mourn the men and women, ages 54 to 97, who died. The attack is believed to be the deadliest ever against Jews on U.S. soil.
“These innocent victims were doing nothing but worshiping with one another, celebrating the God they believed in,” Rabbi Niles Goldstein told the capacity audience at Congregation Beth Shalom. “These are dark days for our country with so much hatred and fear that it’s pervasive around us.”
In an apparent admonishment of President Trump, Goldstein, who became the rabbi of the Napa synagogue last year, urged a forceful rebuke of anti-Semitic sentiment that has emboldened people like Robert Bowers, the Pittsburgh shooting suspect who reportedly left a long trail of anti-Jewish screeds and other conspiracy theories on social media before the attack.
“What we need is leadership starting from the very top, leadership to navigate this crisis we are going through — not the kind of leadership that leads to the hate that fuels acts like what we saw on Saturday,” Goldstein told the audience.
Speakers including Mayor Jill Techel and Police Chief Robert Plummer and local religious leaders decried the attack not only as an act of hate against Jews but an assault on the rights of all Americans.
“I know we cannot feel this loss and injustice in the same way you will, but any harm to you affects us all,” said Pastor Julie Webb of Napa Valley Lutheran Church.
When vigil leaders passed the microphone to audience members, anguish and fear and indignation poured out from various mourners – as well as a feeling that a sense of security had been ripped away.
A young Pittsburgher studying at the Oxbow School described his shock “that this could happen in 2018 in my city.” An older man, the son of German Holocaust survivors, spoke of renewed fear among his Jewish friends, hoping “that we never have to go to that deep dark place that existed 85 years ago.” Still another speaker called on the audience to turn words of tolerance into action by voting Nov. 6 and urging friends and family to do the same.
Plummer, who took the helm of Napa Police in July, pledged local law enforcement’s readiness to investigate threats to residents of all faiths, and said he would take seriously not only direct attacks but also online threats of the kind that preceded the Pittsburgh shooting and the attempted mailing of bombs to former President Obama and Democratic leaders.
“If you see something or hear something, you’ve got to say something,” he said. “Because you can never know what bit of information may be the key.”
Bowers, who faces capital murder and federal hate-crime allegations in the synagogue shooting, had no known criminal record but had made frequent anti-Semitic postings to the right-wing social media site Gab since January. A Gab posting in his name just before the attack raged against HIAS, a Jewish organization that resettles refugees under U.S. government contract, and ended: “I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”
Toward the end of the Napa vigil, Rabbi Goldstein led the audience in reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish, calling their attention to 11 white glass candles – one for each of the dead in Pittsburgh – and reciting each man and woman’s name before the prayer.
“I don’t want them to be a statistic,” he said. “These were fathers, mothers, grandfathers, grandmothers, daughters, sons, children – the list goes on.”"