Friday, June 22, 2018

PUFFS OF WHITE SMOKE

We recently focused on the need for the best and brightest to step forward and be elected JAFI CEO through the legitimate codified Jewish Agency process in "Leaderless -- A Plea." Today, we will turn our attention to the equally important step in Jewish Agency's "processes" -- the nomination and election of the next Chair of the Jewish Agency Executive.

12 years ago, a group of important Continental leaders led by Past National JFNA Chair, Charles Bronfman, and several prominent lay leaders of JDC (purely a coincidence, I'm certain) attacked UIA (which I chaired at the time) and JFNA for their alleged placing the tax deductability of allocations to JAFI at risk as these leaders claimed the deductions were fatally tainted by JAFI's "politicization." JFNA and UIA vigorously responded and, ultimately, brilliant lawyering by our counsel and staff professionals led by JFNA's then CFO, Sam Astrof, offered convincing arguments that rebutted the philanthropists' allegations. 

I thought of those times as I read the newspaper articles reciting the totally politicized process that will lead inexorably to the Prime Minister naming his choice to the position. There have been moments in the past when the federation system stood tall, rejecting the PM's nominee for another. For example, there was the nomination and election of Avraham Burg -- so enthusiastically endorsed by Brian Lurie, then the CEO of UJA, and most if not all of the Federation chief executives that they even overcame our communal patriarch, Max Fisher's, z'l, initial misgivings (most of which would ultimately prove true). As it turned out, Avrum was about as "political" a Chair as any other, always seemingly calculating whether a given decision would impact on his then political aspirations. 

If there was a question as to whether Diaspora Jewry would stand tall in 2017 -- well, asked...and answered.

Then, in the run-up to the succession process 2018, it was as if the powers that be wanted to confirm Bronfman and his associates' arguments. First, the "lists" emerged. One of those allegedly came from JFNA but appeared to have been drafted by the Office of the Prime Minister. The "names" suggested included politicians who were under investigation in several of the matters that threaten the Prime Minister and, also, some with superb relations to the Diaspora -- most notably, Labor's Boogie Herzog, our great friend, MK Nachman Shai, and Ambassadors Ron Prosor and Michael Oren. But the politicization was clear: Bougie Herzog was publicly "rejected" -- https://www.jpost.com/.../Workd-Likud-vetoes-Herzog-as-Agency-chairman-558774 

Compunding the politicization the Agency named World Zionist Organization Chair, Duvdev
Duvani, one of the most shrewd of political operatives who has steered the WZO
into direct competition with JAFI, as Chair of the Nominating Committee.

Then, BOOM, we received this advisory from the UIA Board Chair, Andy Groveman, on
the very cusp of the JAFI Board of Governors meeting:
 "The Leadership Nominating Committee of the Jewish Agency for Israel will recommend on Sunday to the Jewish Agency Board of Governors the election of MK Isaac Herzog as the next Chairman of the Executive for a term of four years. MK Herzog will assume office no later than August 1, 2018."
Read all about this choice in https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/search-panel-taps-isaac-herzog-as-jewish-agency-chief-1.6198107?utm_term=20180621-14:49&utm_campaign=Judy+Maltz&utm_medium=email&writerAlerts=true&utm_source=smartfocus&utm_content=www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.6198107

Isaac "Bougie" Herzog -- the Prime Minister's choice was rejected -- something that hadn't happened since that Burg episode. An excellent choice; a good man. 

I offer congratulations to JAFI Board Chair Michael Siegal and forgive my well-earned cynicism.

But....it is Israel after all. Things can change by the hour. I, like you, will soon learn where this is will end. Will JAFI emerge with strong,
 new leadership -- or will it emerge "leaderless?" 

And will this decision make a difference?

Rwexler

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

WHAT MORE PROOF DO WE NEED?

Perhaps JFNA has proved, approaching 20 years since the merger that created it, that we don't need a national. let alone a continental, organization after all. Yes, I know the mantra, it's one that I've uttered at least as often as anyone: "If we didn't have a JFNA, we'd have to create one." Well, we don't have the JFNA we expected or needed.  

While constantly kvetching that it doesn't have the resources to perform its ascribed responsibilities, JFNA leaders have done nothing to focus the organization on ites core purposes while it strips away program after program that woud benefit the communities which own it, preserving those like JFNA-Israel which have offered no appreciable return on investment.

What do I mean? Consider:

  • The newly approved Budget will eliminate the JFNA Speakers Bureau -- an effort that has been of great benefit to the Intermediate and Small Federations and, actually, to all federations which have used the Speakers Bureau;
  • JFNA eliminated its CEO Search function leaving the federations to seek out and employ, at significant expense, Search firms for its chief professional officer searches;
  • FedWeb will be "outsourced"  -- another federation benefit...gone:
  • JFNA eliminated the internal professional resources that used to respond to federation professional inquiries on a myriad of topics, directing them instead to the links of FedCentral;
  • The GA, which today barely attracts flies, will be so pared down by the time that it arrives in Tel Aviv this November that the Plenaries sound as if they will be the equivalent of "Open Mic Nights" at the Comedy Clubs. Admitting defeat, the General Assemblies may (and probably will) move to a Biennial event (with a "by invitation only" thing in the off years);
  • The FRD Consulting function, in the hands of a team of 9 experienced, remarkably credentialed, part-time consultants and the few full-time Financial Resource Development professionals, was created as a focused effort, assisting communities in their campaigns, or more generally, with FRD. It is now a comprehensive community consultation effort, so diluted in that the consulting team is spread so thin that many of them can't possibly offer the in-depth consultation that was once-promised (one Consultant has been assigned 68 communities, another only 23, another 24) -- there seemed to have been a determination at JFNA that the smaller the community, the less in consultation would be needed; that determination is just so without merit;
  • JFNA eliminated the struggling National Agencies-Federation Alliance after not just failing to offer the National Agencies any support but actually after stealing over $1 million from the National Agencies Funding Pool for its own internal budget purposes. This left the National Agencies adrift. JFNA? Its leaders just shrugged;
  • JFNA's lack of support was the most significant factor in the demise and elimination of JESNA, the entity created by the system to lead a continental support effort for Jewish education. After JESNA's demise, JFNA decided to create its own internal Jewish Education and Engagement Office (once a "Unit," now an "Office," no doubt soon to become a "Desk"). At JFNA this is called "Planning;"
  • JFNA will no longer offer technology services to the Federations
  • And, add to this list JFNA's continued silence in the Public Square
Oh, there's more, so much more. 

In its recent explanation of its Priority Focus and Budget Planning, here's how JFNA rationalized its "Narrowing Priorities:"
"...the discussions over the past year have reinforced the degree to which the national system, having been through successive waves of budget reductions*, is already largely focused on areas where there is a high degree of consensus about their importance...JFNA should exit or outsource current programs and services that don't align, and/or where we don't bring unique added value to the Federations." (emphasis added)
To which I would respond simply: bullshit. For the reality is that JFNA has consistently reached its  programmatic and service decisions without first consulting with the very Federations they claim to serve. This top-down approach has led to disengagement and the deconstruction of the continental effort.

And, that's where JFNA has led us -- in the deconstruction of the continental effort.

And continues to...

Rwexler

"...waves of budget reductions?" Total fabrication. The JFNA Budget has remained a constant over the years. What has been decimated -- JFNA support for the federations.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"LEADERLESS" -- A PLEA

Michael Siegal
Chair
The Jewish Agency for Israel

RE: The Next Director General of the Jewish Agency

Dear Michael,

It's been a long time since I have written you -- then it was in your capacity as Chair, JFNA; now, Chair, JAFI. This letter will parallel those I wrote you on JFNA -- parallel in that this correspondence, like those, is about professional leadership, this time with regard to Alan Hoffman's successor upon his retirement.

One article, Judy Maltz's in Haaretz, stipulated that at year-end, with Natan Sharansky's and Alan's respective retirements, the Agency would be "leaderless;" another, Gil Hoffman's in the Jerusalem Post, stated, at its end, that the long-time JAFI Secretary-General, Josh Schwartz, had already been named CEO, further, speculating that Josh would be the professional leader to succeed Alan. 

If Gil Hoffman was correct, Josh would be appointed Director General without regard to JAFI's By-Laws. (As an aside, there would be a certain consistency to this lack of process: when one prominent American Jewish leader had exhausted her terms as a JAFI Board Member, she demanded that Josh assure her that she would continue as a member of the JAFI Executive -- a most peculiar request. Josh assured her continued Executive Committee service. So I wrote Josh requesting the same treatment...NOPE, no special treatment for you.) 

Those JAFI By-Laws provide a process:
"a. Selection

1. The principle underlying the appointment of senior staff is to ensure excellence in carrying out the responsibilities involved.

2. The senior staff members are the Director-General of JAFI, the Secretary-General of JAFI
, the CFO, the Legal Advisor and the Deputy Directors-General of JAFI.

3. The Director General of JAFI and the Secretary General of JAFI shall be appointed by the Board of Governors upon recommendation of the Executive following a formal search process based on a written job description."
I know that you will demand that this process be followed.

And, Michael, it's on you to assure that the absolute best professional succeed Alan. If not the irony of the title to Judy Maltz's article will be realized.https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-jewish-agency-ceo-resigns-leaving-the-institution-leaderless-1.5939537 JFNA cannot be allowed to become truly "leaderless."

Michael, please reflect on this JAFI reality -- I, and so many others, have had the privilege of working with a succession of Directors General who were assuredly among Israel's best and brightest: Shimshon Shoshani, General Giora Romm, Aaron Abramovich, Moshe Vigdor and Alan himself. Of these great men only Alan Hoffman came from within the ranks of JAFI professionals -- and Alan's achievements within the Jewish Agency as its Education Department Director General were recognized worldwide. I know Josh Schwartz to be a good professional; he's demonstrated that he can work well within the JAFI bureaucracy, Josh knows the JAFI lay and professional leadership well and he really wants this job. 

But, Michael, what JAFI requires in 2019 and going forward is a chief professional officer of the preeminence of all of the Directors General who preceded he or she who will succeed Alan. If not, JAFI will truly be "leaderless."

Ein breira, Michael. Be strong.

Richard

Rwexler


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

THOUGHTS

Bob Hyfler, one of the true thought leaders in the federation movement, recently wrote us commenting on our recent Post -- Bruni on 'Leadership:'

"What ails the federated Jewish world is not the absence or quality of leadership. It is the absence of an informed, sustained, multi-generation conversation among the many on our collective challenges and directions.

By seeing our future only from the top down we will simply recreate a failed system where hasbarism has replaced a truly honest 21st century engagement with Israel and where our domestic agenda is overwhelmed by foundation- funded outreach and continuity initiatives predicated on the thoroughly insulting notion that Diaspora Jews neither care or (sic) understand what it means to be Jewish.

How we create local structures responsive to the grass roots and imbued with a radical notion of inclusiveness is a task that goes beyond the question of who our next generation of gurus might be, or who have what lay and professional titles moving forward."
I recalled Bob's eloquent and insightful thoughts as I read JFNA Board Chair Richard Sandler's plaintive message to his constituency a few weeks later: "Let's Not Stop Caring About Each Other." I mean -- who can argue with that? This is how Richard closed:
"We have survived and made a significant difference in this world for over 3,000 years because of our common values and tradition. It is also what propels us to do the sacred work of caring for people in need all over the world. The very best in us is imperiled when we let grievances and disagreements rise to the level of disrespect and enmity. Our people look to us as leaders to guide them through this wilderness. Let’s be true to our task of being a light unto the nations – and to our own people."
Yes, of course, and by all means, let's care about each other. However, shouldn't we be hearing from JFNA's leader just what steps JFNA will take to bring us together? What steps JFNA will take to move us forward...on anything? 

Bob Hyfler outlined some, but certainly not all, of the challenges we need JFNA's leadership to confront, if not to solve, to take us down the path toward developing solutions. And, what do we get: a plea for the "unity" that eludes us and nothing more.

Were JFNA more than a virtual organization; were it a vital one, Sandler's plea  would immediately be followed with a series of steps from JFNA that would drive us toward "unity." And those steps would be debated by federation leadership. And from those debates might emerge an actual plan the implementation of which would be managed by JFNA. 

But, friends, as has been too often the case, Richard's well-articulated plea is once again nothing more than a one-off without thought of how to follow up.

It's JFNA.

Rwexler

Sunday, June 10, 2018

LET'S WASTE SOME MORE MONEY

Soon there will not be sufficient space on JFNA's 990 to list all of the Consultants that the organization has hired. As we have written before, the engagement of consultant after consultant paired with JFNA's leaders refusal to disclose the nature of their work and their compensation under a fictitious claim of "confidentiality" compounds the felony.

And, now...this:

"Incubated at Bain, The Bridgespan Group brings Bain-quality strategic thinking to the nonprofit world. The Bridgespan Group is the preeminent consulting firm of its type, and serves nonprofit organizations, foundations and philanthropists. As a nonprofit organization itself, Bridgespan collaborates with mission-driven and philanthropic leaders to help scale impact, build leadership, advance philanthropic effectiveness and advance learning. Its roster of more than 1000 clients served includes organizations such as Harlem Children's Zone, Youth Villages and KIPP, as well as several major foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Omidyar Network."

Maybe the thinking at JFNA was: "if we hire Bain's Bridgespan Group, we're really as important as we think we are." Maybe they didn't have a clue. Perhaps, I am the last to know that these consultants (and if one looks over Bridgespan's team of Managers, Directors, etc., it is a very impressive group), perhaps, everyone in the JFNA food chain knew of this hire and the purposes for which Bridgespan has been engaged and how much Bridgespan is being paid. But, I doubt it.

Much has been made of Bridgespan's experience with "other large network organizations" that will bring that experience to bear on reorganizing JFNA in so many ways. 
The Bridgespan Group has been engaged by JFNA for a six-month consultancy on JFNA "reimagining itself!!!!!" through some form of strategic planning and reorganization -- "...as an external resource for a review of the National System." OMG!! Six months.  Should be so interesting -- a reimagination? Shouldn't there first have been an "imagining?" Bridgespan was introduced to the JFNA Board at its June 4 Board Meeting where the "reimagining" continued (we're told that this "process" began at the January Board meeting. No one but leadership seemed to remember this; and no summary of the Table discussions that took place there have been distributed.). And, of course, there will be a JFNA Task Force to work on this -- but not yet???

As it turned out, it appears that the Bridgespan consultancy had begun before the June JFNA Board meeting. (We can't be sure when inasmuch as the contract was never processed through the JFNA Board.) Here's what the assignment may be:
" ~ Sharpening focus on the most critical areas of functional support for Federations.
            ~ Conducting a zero-based budget process aimed at ensuring that our financial     resources are focused on our most important priorities, maximizing all possible efficiencies and economies; and
  ~ Beginning a strategic review with support from an outside consulting firm to take a critical look twenty years post-merger at JFNA's value proposition and to devlop a new revenue model to ensure sustainable operations in the future."
If this be "reimagination," I've lost my imagination.

Not that "reimagination" can't help.  Anything would. But...$450,000 to Bridgespan* for 6 months? Really??

But...doesn't JFNA's leadership remember that it was only a few weeks ago that Richard Sandler announced Silverman's "retirement?" Is this the appropriate time, then, when JFNA is truly without a CEO and will be until a new CEO is hired and onboarded? It's possible that the answer to this question can be discovered in JFNA's own history.


"Way back in 2001, frustrated by the lack of attention to federations' needs, the then "Pillar" Chairs -- the United Jewish Community Chairs of all Standing Committees -- created a Strategic Planning and Priorities Committee to develop programmatic priorities and to then submit them for debate and approval of the appropriate governance vehicles. After months of study and debate, this "SPP Committee" found itself unable to achieve consensus; and JFNA's Chair and Co-Chair offered no leadership in the process. Then, as the SPP Committee continued to attempt to find consensus, Steve Hoffman became the CEO, and, for a variety of stated reasons, Steve let it be known that he did not endorse the Pillars' 'Big Ideas' and wanted the whole matter 'set aside.' (Some suspected that an unstated reason was that Hoffman was not 'in the room where it happened.')
And, once again, rejecting Santayana's warning, JFNA has engaged a Consultant to help it "reimagine" itself while simultaneously in the Search process for a new CEO. If the idea -- "reimagining" the organization -- is an excellent one, the timing is so, so wrong.

So, so wrong.

Only at JFNA.

Rwexler


* My apologies -- in the original publication of this Post, I referred to Bridgespan as "Bridgestone," the tire company. I have corredted my error.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

AHHHH....MEMORIES

Waxing nostalgic...

1. Last April, on the cusp of the celebration of Israel's 70th in Jerusalem, the New York Times and Israeli media reported on the chaos that erupted there over who would "star" in the public ceremony, the Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, as had been traditional, or the Prime Minister. Ultimately, as it was reported, there was some agreement that the Speaker would utter 700 words, the Prime Minister, 500!! 

This reminded me so vividly of events surrounding the Israel 50th Anniversary celebration spearheaded by Charles Bronfman at the time of the CJF-UJA Partnership, z'l. The CJF Chair and I for UJA, as the Partnership Co-Chairs, were scheduled to deliver greetings at the Opening Ceremonies. Harold Cohen, the terrific UJA senior professional (now the JNF COO), had been given the responsibility to team with CJF professionals in the planning process. Harold told the UJA folk at a meeting a few weeks before the conclave: "Richard, you won't believe this: the CJF Chair is counting the words in your remarks and has demanded that they not exceed the number of words in his." I, incredulous, just said "Sure," knowing that I would follow the CJF leader...

For some reason, I sense, don't ask me how, that the dispute between Yuli Edelstein and Bibi Netanyahu is more serious.

2. Perhaps you remember that last month, landscapers (or the Secret Service) discovered a sinkhole in the White House Lawn. And I remember when JFNA wasn't a sinkhole. Do you?

3. Perhaps, like me, you remember when you could call CJF or UJA or, untila decade ago, jfna itself, to ask a question and the resources at the organizations were tapped to provide or find answers. Well, that was then. Today, apparently, if you have a question, turning to JFNA for an answer...well, here is an example of what passes for an answer: JFNA passes your question on to...FedCentral. Example: Renee Rothstein's:
"are you familiar with any federation folks who have installed large, publicly-facing monitors on which to display images/video/messages that support the organization’s overall branding/message? JUF is investigating best practice, and potential services ?"
("JUF" -- the Jewish United Fund -- is the FRD arm of the Chicago federation.)

The question garnered a few responses, the only one on point, came from a senior pro at... the Jewish Federation of Greater Chicago.

4. And, I remember in the first year of what is now JFNA, I went to our great partner in the merger, the brilliant Dr. Jeffrey Solomon to lament (as you, faithful readers, would understand, I do that from time to time) the then sorry state of UJC for one reason (!!) or another. Jeff comforted me: "Richard," Jeff said, "Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint." And, I was pacified -- for a day or two. I know that a number of you interact with Jeff in your work or socially; for those of you who do, please ask Jeff: "Is the f'ing JFNA marathon over yet?"

Rwexler



Monday, June 4, 2018

SECRECY

I became acquainted with something new and different in story after story about the corrupt enterprise being run by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Donald Trump's appointee, Scott Pruitt: "SCIF." yes, the "Sensitive Compartmented* Information Facility" where, at unheard of expense, Pruitt could be assured that his discussions took place in absolute secrecy. Pruitt's SCIF cost an astonishing (only in the sense that the cost was not properly approved in advance [and, probably, would not have been]) $43,500. 

Our own SCIF -- for that is what JFNA has become for the last decade -- is JFNA itself. Our institutional SCIF. Yes, at a cost of $53,000 per year, we have built the ultimate institutional "Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility" for one and all. Insiders have access to information that no one else down the JFNA food chain can access. Questions are looked upon with disdain, answered with either a "I'll have to get back to you" which, when you hear it, you know no one is getting back to you. The harder you push for answers, the greater the likelihood is that you will be viewed as somehow traitorous and you will be shunned.

And, then, in 2016-2017, we...those of us on the Board but outside of the inside...we began to get some insights, some information, heretofore denied us. Over Richard Sandler's transmittal, JFNA began to publish Mid-Year and Year-End Progress Reports -- these were revelatory; not of progress but of the total lack thereof.

My intuition informs my conclusion that Board Chair Richard Sandler (a) read these Reports  (which bore his name), (b) noted that the CEO did nothing to either effect "progress," or effect "change;" and (c) like the superb lawyer he is, concluded that the only way to achieve "progress" and "change" would be to end the Silverman regime. We don't know this for sure because Richard, to date, has adhered to the story that Jerry decided to "retire;" and, that's fine, so long as JFNA pays Jerry off to secure his early albeit not early enough retirement...NOW.

One of you recently questioned why no one has received an accounting of how emergency and special campaign funds have been spent by JFNA:


"Richard, could you please post the distribution report published by JFNA from any emergency?

I have searched high and low and cannot find one.

The first time I looked was the First Lebanon war and I was told that JFNA hired someone to prepare the report. I am still waiting. 2nd Lebanon war. Katrina and every subsequent disaster, still no reports that I can find.

It seems that JFNA is really good about announcing how much money we “raised”, but reporting, not so much....

Curious that in essence JFNA has gone out of the campaign business and has become the national allocations committee of all disasters. One might think that at least they would report where are money went.

When there is no publication of such results it requires one to wonder why.

What is it that they are hiding?

I, for one, won’t be giving any more emergency funds to them without available reports after the fact."
Is JFNA so hidden within its SCIF, that it believes that its work is beyond scrutiny and that it has no responsibility to be accountable?

Are these questions too much to ask for starters?

Rwexler

* Yes, I know that "Compartmented" is not a real word.

Friday, June 1, 2018

"DEFAMATION"

Accusations of "defamation" have been flying among certain non-profit members of the Conference of Presidents -- the ADL, HIAS and the National Council of Jewish Women on one side, and the Zionist Organization of America on the other. As reported in JTA, the claims and counterclaims batted back and forth will be (or "has been" -- it's a secret process after all) the subject of a closed hearing convened by the Conference. https://www.jta.org/2018/04/30/news-opinion/3-jewish-groups-accusing-zoa-defamation-zionist-group-bringing-charges

Here is a succinct explanation of "defamation" in the non-profit setting: 
"A corporation is defamed if material is published about that corporation that would tend to negatively impact its standing in the business in which it operates. Although a company or corporation is not considered to have a reputation in the sense that an individual does, statements that would impact the public’s view of a company’s financial soundness or managerial integrity are generally considered defamatory to a company’s business reputation. A company or corporation may sue for defamation if such statements would tend to deter others from dealing with it."
Hypothetically, then, would it be defamatory if Non-Profit A were to state publicly that Non-Profit "B" had lost its 501(c)(3)  -- simply stated, were the allegation true the statement would not be defamatory (truth being  an absolute defense); were the statement untrue, Non-Profit "B" might have a defamation claim. 

Or, another pure hypothecation: Non-Profit "C" states publicly that Non-Profit "B" serves no valid non-profit purpose other than as a vehicle for promotion of its CEO. Again, were the allegation true, the statement would not be defamatory in law; were the statement demonstrably false, Non-Profit "B" might have a claim.

And, what exactly happened here? Well, according to the JTA (the article is must read) ZOA has issued statements in the recent past accusing HIAS and the NCJW of being "far left" and its leaders "extremists" and the ADL of supporting Black Lives Matter, which it does not do. I am not sure from the article what the basis of the ZOA clounterclaim might be.

And, what might the Conference of Presidents role be? Under the Conference governing principles, the parties have agreed to non-disparagement of each other. A closed hearing may be demanded by an offended party. and, that's where we are.

The ZOA CEO as reported by JTA: "What kind of ruling (is that), that we can't say whatever we think is right? I'm not going to agree to be restricted from saying what I believe."

I was sure that in the era of leaks, we will all know everything pretty soon after the "hearing." Uh huh. Immediately after the "secret" Conference "hearing," JTA reported:
"On May 2, the committee met, in strictest confidence, to hear three complaints. The session, all parties agree, soon devolved into insults, ad hominem attacks and name-calling — and without a decision or definitive plans for what happens next."
I sense some sarcasm, yes? https://www.jta.org/2018/05/15/news-opinion/united-states/jewish-groups-fighting-private-things-say-public?utm_source=JTA Maropost&utm_campaign=JTA&utm_medium=email&mpweb=1161-4330-27384

Then JTA reported -- These Jewish Groups Are Fighting -- -- Even Physically, According to Some...-- getting quotes from the ZOA and ADL "representatives" from the supposedly confidential hearing. Read the lengthy article at https://www.jta.org/2018/05/15/.../jewish-groups-fighting-private-things-say-public

And one of the parties continued the public insults of another post-hearing.

Can't wait to learn what happens next.

Rwexler

 * I note the confusion of"we" and "I" in this quote.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

EFFECTING CHANGE

Recently, an Anonymous Commentator responded to another who had proffered the "day school model" as an exemplar of effective change:
"Yes, let’s look at the Jewish day school model with its underpaid teachers, massively subsidized and inefficient budgets, and woefully unskilled managers and administrators. Perhaps they could teach federations something? Let’s contemplate that for a while. Perhaps it would be in how to claim relevance with a shrinking market share. Wouldn’t it indeed be fascinating to involve day school professionals in the deliberations of the federations? Except, of course, that they already can if they wanted to. It’s called community involvement."
Harsh criticism or a dose of reality? Opinions will differ but we would all agree that this Comment offers no suggestions as to how to effect change while pointing out the numerous conclusions of exactly why change is necessary.

I disagree with the Comment in so many ways but let's "contemplate (this) for a while:"


  • Who has experienced a greater "loss of market share" than federations? Their donor base aging, the number of donors down 70% or more since the creation of JFNA -- and no attention being paid to that sad reality. If the next JFNA CEO and his/her professionals do not address this, JFNA will not deserve to exist any longer (if one assumes, arguendo, that JFNA does exist).
  • While I think any...that's any...rational observer of this catastrophic evaporation of the communal fundraising base would have to conclude that here, right here, and now, right now, JFNA had/has the opportunity to make a real difference for its owners, the communities across North America. Instead, JFNA FRD, still allocated about 50% of the $53,000,000 JFNA Budget, has focused, not on increasing donors and dollars (as was the entire organization's mandate in the merger of almost two decades ago), but on "community consulting." I'm certain that the 9 part-time consultants are doing a great job "consulting" with the few communities with which they are engaging but this effort pales in comparison to the great needs communities have for answers.
  • Why can't JFNA FRD be an agent of transformational change? Why can't this consulting corps bring directed to bring back to JFNA for the widest dissemination the best practices they identify in the communities they've been assigned -- best practices for, e.g., donor development and donor retention? What am I missing here? Are there no best practices to offer? Or, are the federations who have not been reached for in-depth consultation to be denied them because the consultations are "confidential?"
Is JFNA just like the hamsters on the running wheel, round and round getting nowhere? Where are the results? Are there quantifiable results? Or are there no results?

Round and round they go and where they stop nobody is to know.

Rwexler

Saturday, May 26, 2018

UPDATES

For some organizations and some leaders, it's all about them, always all about them. Here are two examples and kore:


  • We learned in an article in JNS.org that a "Multimillion-dollar building for Christian visitors planned near new US embassy." Yep, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has already broken ground for its Jerusalem HQ "that will provide a home in the Holy Land for visiting Christians." The entry lobby rendereing looks as beautiful as you might expect. Programming for the visitors, as described by Yael Eckstein, "the Fellowship's global exceutive vice president," sounds exceptional. The only thing is: will it really be called "The Global Fellowship House" or will it be "Beit Eckstein," as one of our chevre suggested?
  • Then there's the Zionist Organization of America which, in a recent mail solicitation suggested that we all contribute to the ZOA because "ZOA is proud to say that we were at the forefront of every stage of this fight" to relocate the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. How true. For your gift "you will receive the hard-hitting ZOA magazine." Vayezmir.
  • Past JFNA Chair, current the Founding Chair of Prizmah, Kathy Manning, beat down her primary opponent in her Democratic Primary run for Congress in the North Carolina 13th Congressional District. She'll face the Republican incumbent in November. I join all of her supporters in wishing her further success. I'm not great on political advice but let me suggest: "Kathy, maybe it would be best to play down the 'I graduated from Harvard' big for the duration, proud as you are." BTW, David Butler, one of Kathy's most fervent supporters within the failed Global Planning Table process is/did hold a fund raising event for Manning. Invited? No.
  • Why do some professionals now find the need to list themselves as the "Founding CEO of _________." Why? Should a Steve Nasatir now identify himself "Dean of Federation CEOs" or another as "Longest Serving CEO of the __________ federation" on their communal letterhead? 
Rwexler


Wednesday, May 23, 2018

DOMESTIC EMERGENCIES -- CAN JFNA STEP UP?

Even as that JFNA Mailbox, created in response to Hurricane Harvey and expanded, we think, to incorporate the unmatched needs created by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, failed to fill up to meet those needs, questions abound as to how JFNA might be best prepared to meet current and future catastrophes.

The current head of FEMA observed that from a government perspective, our country requires a "true culture of preparedness" -- a culture that JFNA needs to develop as well. The response to Harvey -- the rapid mobilization of human resources in Houston and under Mark Gurvis' leadership -- was superb; the best efforts of JFNA. As human resources were dedicated to Houston Gurvis refereed a blueprint on FedCentral:

"1) The most immediate need for volunteer groups and individuals is for help mucking out flooded homes. This is hard, physical labor - tearing up carpeting and tearing out wallboard, and carting that and ruined furniture and other household goods out of the home. Most of the Jewish homes affected (estimated at 1,000-1,200) have already completed this process but there are tens of thousands of homes in the general community that need this assistance quickly. The window for this kind of assistance is relatively brief - a few more weeks at best. The next stage will likely be for volunteer assistance for reconstruction. Here too, the greatest needs will be outside the Jewish community.
2) The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston is partnering with All Hands, a FEMA registered national disaster recovery organization, which has a special unit working with the Jewish community. All Hands will provide the on-site management, deploying volunteers to specific homes, supervising volunteers and providing equipment. Groups should call 1-800-820-5188 to get registered and scheduled. If you are bringing a Federation group please let me know when you are scheduled.
3) You need to be prepared to manage your own logistics for flights, lodging, meals and local transportation. All Hands and the local Jewish community do not have the capacity to handle this for you. Lodging will be the biggest challenge as available rental and hotel stock in the area has been absorbed by people needing temporary housing.
4) Your volunteers need to understand they will most likely be deployed outside the Jewish community, and the folks affected within the Jewish community know the drill and have a well organized community base of resources to lean on - they have already mucked out. Other populations across the region have fewer resources and more desperately need this help."
As remarkable was the human response to Harvey, it appeared in retrospect (and even at the time) to be ad hoc to the Harvey emergency even though years ago a protocol for just such an emergency response was developed by lead professionals at JFNA. Does anyone at 25 Broadway know where it is?

But, while human resources were well-coordinated and applied, financial resources, not so much. For example, in response to Hurricane Katrina— $32-33 million raised from the system — and, for some reason, only $23 million was distributed by JFNA (?). In response to Harvey, as we recently wrote, JFNA had been able to raise only $2 to $4 million. All one can ask is "why" -- "why" was so little raised in response to this dire emergency?

And, a bit later, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. In response New York UJA-Federation mobilized assistance to that beleaguered American community. Along with New York affiliated agencies New York UJA was on the scene. You can read of NewYork's effort in JTA at https://www.jta.org/2017/11/09/news-opinion/united-states/we-went-to-puerto-rico-with-this-jewish-relief-mission-and-heres-what-we-saw?utm_source=jta_maropost&utm_campaign=jta&utm_medium=email&mpweb=1161-1625-27384 Where was JFNA? Mailbox...Maybe a letter.

And the lack of major response to the devastation of Puerto Rico evidenced the lack of any comprehensive plan to address the future natural disasters sure to come. 24 hour "Fly-Ins" to Houston led by JFNA's Vice-Chair are not a "plan;" they are way too self-congratulatory, as is JFNA's way. 

As we've written, JFNA pros had developed a continental protocol in anticipation of future disasters. Sadly, I would wager that today, no one at JFNA even knows where to find that protocol. Sadly, tragically, it is a certainty that there will be future catastrophes; JFNA will confront them anew as if none came before and none will come after.

The "JFNA way,"

Rwexler

Sunday, May 20, 2018

SHOSHANA, Z'L

When I learned of Shoshana Cardin's death, I was flooded with emotion and so many memories of this great, this historic leader of our communities and the Jewish People. In my time in Jewish communal leadership no one other than Max Fisher, z'l, had a greater impact on us, our institutions and the relationship between the Diaspora Jewish communities of the United States and Israel.

Shoshana didn't just destroy every glass ceiling she confronted, she just viewed them as opportunities to demonstrate that leadership isn't determined by gender but by an iron will and the courage of one's convictions.

I first met Shoshana as did so many of you, while serving as a Board Member of the Council of Jewish Federations during her Chairmanship (yes, Shoshana retained the title "Chairman" not "Chair," because she knew what she had accomplished...and so did we). 

Serendipitously, Shoshana was the speaker at the Annual Meeting of Metropolitan Chicago at which I was installed as the Board Chair and there began my leadership path that I took in Shoshana's wake for years to come -- I, like you, was in awe of this great leader. I was privileged to learn from her on Missions, in the deliberations that assured the independence and focus of what is now the NCESJ, and, with her blessing, when I succeeded Shoshana as its Chair during Operation Exodus, on the Boards and Executive Committees of the United Jewish Appeal and the United Israel Appeal. In every leadership role -- be it in Jewish life or in the State of Maryland -- Shoshana earned the respect that would eventually lead to her Chairmanship of the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations.

And I watched with incredible pride as Shoshana, who loved Israel as one who was born there and who helped build the country with total commitment, successfully mobilized our communities and led the successful fight  in the Office of the Prime Minister and on the floor of the Knesset to forestall devastating proposed changes to the Law of Return. 

That fight was followed but a few years later when, in her role as Chair of the Conference of Presidents, she spoke truth to power standing down George H.W. Bush after the President had angrily stated that Aipac, specifically, and American Jewry, generally, were a "Fifth column" in the United States.

During the merger process, Shoshana, as UIA's outgoing Chair with her strong right arm, UIA Executive Vice-Chair, Danny Allen, anticipated the potential diminution of American Jewish support from the absorption of UIA within what was to become JFNA. Leading that merger process I will forever regret the conflicts I created with Shoshana whose prescience on the outcomes became more and more evident over every year since. UIA...Shoshana... had demanded a "sunset provision" that would have restored the merging parties to the status quo ante pre-merger were the terms of the merger not met. That didn't happen and I apologized to Shoshana personally, directly as well as on these pages for my part in what we have become. 

Each of us have our heroes in modern Jewish life. On the lay side, my "Mt. Rushmore" has four -- Max Fisher, Corky Goodman, Marvin Lender and Shoshana. I am just one of so, so many whom Shoshana encouraged to express our leadership in Jewish organizational life. A long time ago, back in the 1990s, the Jewish Women's Archive wrote:
"A savvy, tough, and elegant woman known by presidents, dictators, and almost everyone else simply as Shoshana, she has become perhaps the most widely respected and successful lay leader in the Jewish community of the 1980s and 1990s."
"Savvy, tough, and elegant" -- a perfect description of this great leader. this great woman, this incredible Zionist, who inspired generations.

Thanks to David Mallach, the Executive Vice-Chair of the United Israel Appeal, all of us may watch the stream of Shoshana's funeral at https://venue.streamspot.com/video/d0194518a3

May her memory be for a blessing for her family and for all of us who mourn her passing.

Rwexler

Thursday, May 17, 2018

GA LITE -- DOOMED TO FAIL?

Oh my, JFNA appears to be dooming the Tel Aviv-centered GA ("GATA") to be an even greater failure than the General Assemblies have been since the last one in Israel.

For example, unlike at every prior Israel-focused, Israel-based GA, JFNA will offer no site visits. If a federation contingent wishes to visit a project it funds, b'hatzlacha; but the entire construct of past GAs -- to acquaint leaders with a broader set of projects/needs -- we won't be doing that any more. Why? Well, it's a mystery.

JFNA "plans" (and "plan" is cetainly a term inconsistent with what is going on here) to offer what Becky Caspi and her ilk are calling "real conversations" rather than meetings, site visits or other "events." Apparently, JFNA conflated site visits with "events" and then characterized them as "non-interactive" and, therefore, omitted.

Friends in leadership of Israeli NGOs tell me that JFNA-Israel has reached out to them to produce Israelis to be part of the GA Program (I assume in "real conversations"). Yet, when asked for specifically what JFNA wants, these leaders are told, "we need Israelis who have 'exciting' stories to tell." Some suspect that they are being asked to provide nothing more than "filler" to prop up an undefined event. JFNA appears to be hiding the lack of substance behind jargon -- you know, like "interactivity" and "connectivity." 

Vayezmir.

So, what the hell is going on here? As has been chronicled on these pages and in a series of JFNA Mid- (and Year-) End "Progress" Reports, JFNA itself has confessed error -- GA after GA have failed to interest lay leaders to Register. NOW...NOW...it certainly appears that the laity (and communal professionals) have even less reason to attend -- buy a round-trip ticket to Ben Gurion, pay for an over-priced Tel Aviv Hotel, pay the Registration Fee, pay for meals...and get even less of a meaningful experience than at the prior GAs you didn't (or did) attend in prior years.

Those who are leading this GA (and just whom are they??) appear to believe that Tel Aviv (and Jerusalem) and Israel are the attractions (just as last year they assumed -- incorrectly --that Los Angeles would be the draw) so Program just doesn't matter. Your takeaway will be the Beach or Dizengoff; it won't be learning (unless there is inherent value in revisiting an Israel project of your own community). 

For Registrants, if any, this GA will be the most expensive for you in history. The most expensive in every way. It's early yet so start saving up; you won't want to miss a General Assembly dedicated to "talking," to dialogue:
"Israel and the diaspora. What a relationship! For generations, we’ve been together. Through thick and thin. And this year, we’re celebrating 70 years of partnership. But even in the best relationships, misunderstandings can happen. A difference of opinion here. A misinterpretation there. That’s why we’re heading to Tel Aviv. To talk it out and ensure that our next 70 years remain strong. Together." "
If I have this right the GA will be about "Talking. Together." For three days. For G-d's sake one of the JFNA tag lines for the event is "We need to talk." (The other, at least for the moment, is "The GA takes on Tel Aviv" -- maybe you can explain that to me!!)

The Prelinary Program is available -- and I pray that it is strictly "preliminary." Here it is: https://cdn.fedweb.org/fed-42/2/GA2018_2-Page-Program_v11.pdf?v=1525282652  There are going to be "Rooftop Raps" and "Dialogue Dens" and a "takeover" of Rehov Rothschild when we "Take it to the Streets." *Sorry, I just threw up in my throat.")

If this is really the proposed GA Program, is it too cruel to ask whether Jerry Silverman can be forced to "retire" again?

So, if you can afford it, come to Tel Aviv to "[T]alk it out" and "take it to the streets."

We'll return to GA coverage when we better understand its purpose.

Rwexler



"and the diaspora. What a relationship! For generations, we’ve been together. Through thick and thin. And this year, we’re celebrating 70 years of partnership. But even in the best relationships, misunderstandings can happen. A difference of opinion here. A misinterpretation there. That’s why we’re heading to Tel Aviv. To talk it out and ensure that our next 70 years remain strong. Together."

Monday, May 14, 2018

THE "BRAND" AND NOTHING

In the New York Times Magazine First Words a few weeks back, Advertising for Humanity founder, Dan Pallotta, was quoted as follows: "Brand is everything, and everything is brand." This struck me as particularly apt inasmuch as JFNA is today just a "brand" -- empty and devoid of both purpose and meaning. It didn't have to be this way; yet, it is.

When the organization's then Supreme Leader dictated the hire as CEO a person with an arguable background in merchandising, sales and marketing a "brand," with neither background nor experience in the organizations -- the federations -- he was engaged to lead, what would one reasonably expect beyond "selling the brand?" I don't know, maybe nothing? Because that's exactly what we, the North American Jewish polity received -- NOTHING. 

And, in the midst of this nothingness, a leader who stepped forward to effect change after seeing the void, Michael Siegal, threw in the towel when there was push back from those who had hired Silverman in the first place. Not only did Michael back away, somehow he was convinced (maybe some day we will learn how this could possibly have happened) to renew Jerry's contract for another 5 years. (and, in doing so, Michael was unable to offer a single example of success over Silverman's first contract term).

So, the attempted (and, ultimately, failed) "building the brand" continued into another term of employment. Now, it could be argued that had JFNA dedicated itself to building the federation brand that might have been an important pursuit; but how could JFNA have done so when the vast body of its professional and growing consultant corps had never worked in a federation. As it evolved, under Silverman, JFNA would frequently call itself Federation as if were one/all when it was none.

As Gertrude Stein wasn't observed: "There's no there, there." Stein might have been referencing JFNA, the ultimate no there, not anywhere -- no distinctive identity, no significant characteristics. Nothingness. In JFNA's case the Brand became everything and everything became the Brand. And the Brand was nothing more than a Potemkin Village; a facade behind which...nothing. (Well, not "nothing" after all; there was/is JFNA-Washington. No small thing.)

One of my friends, who knows JFNA from its birth to its current state of worthlessness, observed in the aftermath of Silverman's "retirement:" "I hope there’s a serious search process that is far reaching. (JFNA) needs a total rethink and re-engineering." Many of you have expressed the same need underscoring that it is time for Jerry to depart -- not in late 2019 upon the expiration of his contract, but now.

As one of you commented:
"Yes, better late than never and yes, thank you. But why a whole year and a half at a direct cost of one and a half million Dollars - not to mention the indirect cost of letting this continue for another 18 months before there is even a chance of fixing what is so very broken? If the realization is finally here, how can doing nothing for such a long time and allowing this to continue be justified? When the leadership was in denial or didn't realize that things were so bad it was easier to accept the situation than it is now to let it slide for another year and a half!"
This is a task that must be started now, the Brand be damned.

It is already late...

Rwexler