Wednesday, February 28, 2018


Which organization is doing what today?

  • "The architect of the Jewish future"
  • "Your voice in Israel"
  •  CEO searches
  • "Touching more lives than any organization in the World"
  • "Representing Jewish communities in 100 countries across 6 continents"
  • The 1st-ever national CEO OnBoarding program
  • "We Are One" (only kidding)

If you responded JCCA, JNF, JCCA, JFNA, WJC, LeadingEdge, you obviously have too much time are your hands and you should join me in Blog-writing. 

But, the point of this exercise is this: while JFNA is lost in cliche, other organizations have filled the void that JFNA has left, leaving our federation-owned entity in the dust. The voids that have been created by JFNA either abandoning the field -- Israel, CEO searches and professional training, representation, future vision -- or not even being aware of its responsibilities.

So, you may ask, what is JFNA doing? Me, too. We know of its work in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and of its Washington grant-making successes in a terrible environment. Yet, a newly announced Leadership Coalition for Jewish Service dedicated, at least at the outset, to additional assistance to, and in partnership with, the Houston Jewish community, appears to not include JFNA. As reported by the brilliant ejewishphilanthropy --,+2018&utm_campaign=Wed+Feb+7&utm_medium=email -- raises the implicit question: is JFNA relegated to a few fly-ins or are its leaders pounding on the door of this new Coalition begging to be admitted?

And, what else -- help me here folks. I am at a loss...and so is JFNA. And, no, just spending $53,000,000 a year, $30,500,000 from Dues, tells us nothing -- other than that there is no accountability at JFNA, no sense of responsibility. But there is lip service...always lip service. 

In one of his last presentations to the JFNA Board as National Campaign Chair, Harold Gernsbacher pleaded with the few federations represented for data, for the federations to trust JFNA with their Campaign data so that JFNA could then responsibly report back to the communities on annual campaign trends and achievements. Harold's plea apparently fell on deaf ears inasmuch as the current National Campaign Chair, Delaware's Suzanne B, Grant, made the same plea in a letter to the communities last month, underscored in her presentation to the Board in January. 

Why do the communities clearly not trust the national organization which they own? I would submit it is because JFNA, with its claims of "confidentiality" about almost everything, its continued annual waste of millions on a series of failed General Assemblies, and the failed JFNA-Israel, its opaque Budget process and more opaque expenditures, its lack of purpose, its egregious over-compensation of its senior professionals, its reliance on a secret group of consultants, its claims of "confidentiality" in all things -- JFNA, remarkably, has demonstrated no trust in its owners, the federations. And all of the while the owners, the federations have demanded nothing...not a thing...of JFNA.

Friends, here is what JFNA defines as its Mission today:
"JFNA’s mission is to SERVE, REPRESENT, and LEAD the 148 Federations and more than 300 independent Jewish communities across North America. Our goal is to strengthen Federations’ abilities to deliver their mission of caring for Jewish in need (chesed), building and deepening connections to Judaism, Jewish life and community (chinuch), and building the cohesiveness among and between Jewish communities, Israel and the Jewish people throughout the world (k’lal yisrael). "
Assume that this is, in fact, the Mission the federations dictated for this entity (it isn't but that's a story for another day), how is JFNA doing? Is the organization really delivering in the areas of chesedchinuch and building cohesiveness among and between Jewish communities? Under this leadership what demonstrable success has JFNA delivered in its self-assigned goals to SERVE, REPRESENT and LEAD the federations

I think, I know, that all of us, every lay leader, every CEO knows the answer -- JFNA has failed us.

Now what are the lay leaders and their CEOs going to do about it?



Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to know how many employees / consultants of JFNA can clearly articulate JFNA's mission? As an example, at JDC, everyone - from the front-desk person on - understands JDC's reason for being. Can the same be said about JFNA? In fact, do Silverman, Caspi and Sandler understand JFNA'S mission. Their actions suggest they do not.

Anonymous said...

Richard, why the obsession with JFNA using consultants?
Perhaps JFNA can accomplish the same things without having the added medical coverage, social security, etc. expenses, thus keeping their operating costs down.
I agree with you that these agreements shouldn't be secret, but operationally, what's the issue?

Anonymous said...

I suggest that Anon 6:40 is naive if he/she thinks that a consultant doesn't build into their contract compensation the cost of medical, social security etc without showing it as a line item. In other words if JFNA is paying a consultant $300k or so perhaps another person under regular employment would cost $250k plus benefits or some such thing. FYI, in developing a typical budget as a former federation exec it was not unusual to add 20% (depending on average medical costs, pension costs and so forth) to each projected position.

Anonymous said...

no mission, no vision, no accountability, no supervision, no oversight - makes absolutely no sense!

Anonymous said...

no FRD campaign, no Israel advocacy, no work ethic, no efficiency, no accountability, no purpose, no reason to continue this farce!

Anonymous said...

I can tell you that at least one Federation (ours) is now openly discussing withdrawing from the National organization and anticipate that it will come to a Board level within the next 120 days for consideration.

RWEX said...

Ifit comes to pass; if, even, a discussion takes place, this will be the tipping point toward either the end or a new beginning under leaders who understand what the Mission of a continental organization must be and the passion, leadership and dedication to execute with transparency.

Keep us posted.

Anonymous said...

Richard, perhaps you could clarify what the original mission of UJC was, so we can have some perspective.
Was there an actual mission statement at the time of the merger?

RWEX said...

Here it is, compare and contrast:

"Jewish federations across North America commit themselves to the renaissance of the Jewish people in North America, in Israel, and throughout the world. Thus, we articulate, in word and deed, the mission of this new entity to: Utilize our financial and human resources to improve the quality of Jewish life worldwide--honoring the covenant that 'All Jews are Responsible One for the Other,' and that only through unified action can we solve our community's most pressing problems; Nurture vital experiences of Jewish life and learning in North America to create a compelling culture of shared meaning, shared responsibility, and shared values as Klal Yisrael, one people in all its diversity, with a shared commitment to its future; Join in partnership with our fellow Jews in Israel in building unity and mutual respect and solidifying Israel's central role in our Jewish identity and future; Inspire Jews to fulfill the mitzvah of Tzedakah, securing the financial and human resources necessary to achieve our mission of caring for those in need, rescuing Jews in danger, and ensuring the continuity of our people; Provide the strategic resources, assistance, and direction to help local federations fulfill their individual, regional, and collective responsibilities of Tikkun Olam, community building and Jewish renaissance; and Involve more of our fellow Jews in the work of our community and provide opportunities for a new generation of leaders to continue our sacred work of caring for one another.."

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I question the very legality of the consultants at JFNA.

An independent contractor is narrowly defined by the IRS.

“People such as doctors, dentists, veterinarians, lawyers, accountants, contractors, subcontractors, public stenographers, or auctioneers who are in an independent trade, business, or profession in which they offer their services to the general public are generally independent contractors. However, whether these people are independent contractors or employees depends on the facts in each case. The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.” - Internal Revenue Service

I would venture, that JFNA is defrauding the IRS along with its member Federations.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:26 The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done. - Precisely, JFNA as the payer has the right to control only the results of the work. They expect nothing and that is exactly what they get. They don't control what will be done or how it will be done. My assumption is that everybody in senior management positions falls into this same category and should also be considered consultants under the same definition.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 9:26, clearly you need to see one of the consultants contracts in order to determine whether or not JFNA is defrauding the IRS along with its member federations.

Anonymous said...

Borscht Belt comedy at its best.

Jerry Lewis could not have deadpanned that better

“See the contract...”

Es vet helfn vi a toytn bankes (עס וועט העלפן ווי א טויטן באנקעס) – that is, “It will help like cupping a corpse.”

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, consultants and professional coaching. The new bottomless pits for community dollars.