Friday, January 5, 2018


About a year ago, while JFNA's senior volunteer leader was publicly obsessing and ducking for cover over the prospect of being urged to speak for the federation constituency on matters related to Jewish and communal values, over at 25 Broadway, Jerry Silverman was obsessing over this: "An Israeli investigative reporter named Uri Blau and his associate Akela Lacy are purportedly working on a story for Haaretz and The Forward about Jewish Federations in the United States." Panic apparently ensued at 25 Broadway where there were/are no answers to the reporters' questions. JFNA's advice to the federations: equivocate; we can't help you. Sorry. Yep, really, really sorry.

The language quoted above appeared in a set of something called "Inquiry Guidelines for Individual Federation Chapters." (Just as an aside, who writes this shit? Does the CEO of JFNA not understand after 8+ years that the federations are not "Chapters?" Rhetorical question.) In any event these "Inquiry Guidelines" were sent to Federation CEOs, one of whom from a Large City (the identity of whom you would never guess) sent them on to me directly with the comment: "...they tell us nothing. They are so out of touch." 

And, what happened? Most federations understood that JFNA's advice was, as always, best ignored; that responding to the Haaretz reporters inquiries would be (a) far better than silence; and (b) the answers were in the federations' hands, not Jerry Silverman's, not JFNA's. Many federations spent literaly 100's of hours responding in detail while CEO Jerry gnashed his teeth on their behalf, offering nothing because JFNA had nothing to offer. The ultimate articles raised serious questions, printed the serious responses received from multiple federations -- proved that there is really nothing to fear from the truth...from the facts.

Yes, you probably noticed that this JFNA, the organization all of us should be able to rely upon for facts, apparently had none to offer in response to an inquiry from a reporter about, inter alia, "financial oversight, fiduciary responsibility and specific spending over the Green Line." Anyone reading those pathetic  Guidelines would have had to conclude that JFNA has no answers and my guess is that these JFNA "leaders" didn't even know where to turn to find these answers; although one would like to think that among the 25-27 staffers of JFNA-Israel there would have been someone who has a clue -- yeah, I'd like to think that. Somehow the organization that stated that it would assure that the facts "will speak for themselves" doesn't know what the facts are

But the federations knew the answers, provided them in detail and their responses were included in the ultimate Blau Haaretz articles. JFNA itself is so opaque it operates as if everything it does is secret. JFNA and transparency have been determined by Jerry Silverman with the active connivance of a disinterested laity to be wholly incompatible.
Is there anyone...anyone...who sees the basic problem raised by the reporters' "inquiries?" That JFNA has serious problems with...facts? One big one is in possession of none. And, therefor, it reacts in panic. 

And the Board Chair and those with whom he consults see no problem at all.



Anonymous said...

We proudly answered the questions posed to our community. No reason that the answers should not have been immediate and complete...that's what transparency is all about.

BTW Our community's overseas allocation percentage has gone up for the past three years as has the annual reason to think it will do otherwise in years to come....unless you have something to hide

RWEX said...

I don't know your community but I sense and appreciate your pride your and its work. Sounds like a community and a lay and professional leadership that could lead JFNA out the darkness. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to disagree Richard, but JFNA will forever languish in darkness until a meaningful number of board members take their responsibilities seriously. And it starts with the chair.

Anonymous said...

JFNA is of absolutely no value to the federations beyond the efforts of JFNA-DC unless one considers waste and irrelevance to be "values."

Anonymous said...

Richard, is there ANY explanation for the federations' complicity in this farce?

Anonymous said...

APATHY combined with COWARDICE