Monday, February 19, 2018


From the DESK of Richard Wexler....

Back in the day -- the UJA "day" that is -- one of my great mentors, East Bay's remarkable philanthropist, Mort Friedkin, was asked by UJA's then National Campaign Chair Joel Tauber to Chair the first UJA Marketing & Communications Committee. No more than a month later, Mort called me. "I just quit." "What?" I asked. "I told Tauber if he is going to try to do my job when he should be doing his, he can do it without me."

I was reminded of this episode by a recent "From the Desk of..." missive from JFNA Vice-Chair Cindy Shapira. (And what's with JFNA, an inifinite number of Desks, a miniscule number of successes?) At its essence, Vice Chair Shapira was providing an in-depth domestic Fly-In Report on her visit to Houston with one of that community's preeminent leaders, Denis Braham, as Co-Chair. 5 unnamed Communities were also represented onthe Fly-In.

We all recall that Hurricane Harvey was the costliest tropical cyclone ever, causing approximately  $125 billion in damage, primarily from widespread flooding in the Houston metro area. The Houston Jewish community was severely impacted. The Hurricane hit Houston on August 17 and did not let up until September 3 -- the Hurricane ended 4 months before that first JFNA Braham-Shapira "Fly-In" while impacts continue to be felt.

The Houston Community is truly "Houston Strong" as it has proved in the face of weather disasters time and again; none as devastating as Harvey. There is still so much work to be done, JFNA is to be congratulated for offering a series of "Fly-Ins." (The unasked question, of course, is why these didn't begin months ago.) 

Best I can tell this is a 24 hour in and out; some important site visits; and a chance for a hands'-on experience in the community. And, for reasons totally unclear, the Shapira invite includes the important inducement that "[P]articipants are not being asked personally to make a gift." JFNA appears to wish to just put more nails in the coffin of FRD. Is that promise really going to attract more leaders to future "Fly-ins?" Is this the only way JFNA can recruit today? This is a terrible message from our Continental organization to our communities', 

Oh, yeah, thanks for reminding me: what's this got to do with my Mort Friedkin story? It's this: Gail Norry, a fantastic leader from Philadelphia who has held many important positions from UJA Young Leadership onward, had recently been appointed the JFNA Chair of Disaster Relief (or whatever title responding to emergencies by opening a Mailbox and deciding allocations may be). Gail is to leadership of Disaster Relief today as Mort Friedkin was to UJA Marketing back in the day. I'm not suggesting that Gail resign; I am suggesting that she might want to remind the Vice Chair that a great leader knows how to share the spotlight.

In all events, if you can afford it, a Houston Fly-In would be an important 24 hours spent.

Now, I don't know about you, but I'm heading to my office, where I have a real Desk (not upright, no treadmill) to do some work.



Anonymous said...

Love your header on this...a great example of JFNA hubris. I wonder if that was an outcome of the millions spent on marketing and branding. Reminds me of how the New York Times would say, "Mr. Bin Laden."

Anonymous said...

Cindy Shapira is a wonderful lay leader. She is also currently the most popular lay leade in the Jewish world. Anyone who can drop a million dollar egg wherever they sit, is offered a myriad of leadership opportunities.

The fly in the ointment is that Cindy has accepted an unlimited number of such opportunities. Without staff support, she routinely can’t remember even what meeting she is in.

She didn’t slight Gail Norry. She likely didn’t even know Gail was the chair.

This is just JFNA at its best or worst. Inflating the ego of the involved leader who supports JFNA independent programs.

So here is where the rubber hits the road.

Gail is just a successful wonderful federation centered leader. She rose to JFNA leadership through and because of Federation (and UJA). (Like her much of her extended family).

But in our current system Cindy trumps all. Cindy provides funding for independent JFNA (ad)ventures that the Federations do not support.

The very concept highlights another of Jerry’s abject failures. He cannot get the organization focused on the tasks that Federations support. He is running a truly independent organization. The funder first formula proves it handily.

He is diverting our organization from its goals. Get rid of him before there is nothing left.

Oh, and Gail, you can call and complain once over this matter. Don’t call them out twice or they will forget your email. Complaints are not tolerated well on the hamster wheel of Broadway.

Anonymous said...

Does David Shapira get any credit whatsoever?

Bob Hyfler said...

So to be clear, we know what we are but are just discussing the price?

Anonymous said...

Cindy Shapira will follow Sandler, if for no other reason then it's time for another woman as board chair. We'll then witness a good, well-intentioned lay leader do nothing, because after all that's the #1 responsibility of the JFNA board chair.

The question is, can JFNA survived yet another board chair who will allow Silverman and Caspi to collect pay checks because they don't have what it takes to force change? Or, might Shapira surprise us all and become the white knight who will save the system by initiating a major housekeeping?

Power corrupts and nowhere does it corrupt more than at the highest levels of JFNA - lay and professional.

Anonymous said...

We all know that the one and perhaps only thing Silverman excels at is protecting Jerry. So, he will have his guarantee in place that whoever succeeds Sandler willdemand no more of him than Sandler has. And that's nothing. Silverman will continue to fly all over the place confusing movement for action always landing to collect his ridiculaous compensation.

Anonymous said...

All of these Comments reflect the basic rationale for a total reconstruction of the system's continental organization. It is a given that the current oligarchy if continuing in power will continue as well to take JFNA from failure to failure non-stop. There is only one way out: the Large City Executives and their federation Chairs need to demand change and lead change. Hoffman, inasmuch as he is retiring, might lead this effort with his Board Chair as a parting example of his leadership; if he does not, then this is on him, Nasatir, Terrell, Solomon and Goldstein and their Federation Chairs. They know it.

Anonymous said...

Agreement with anon 8:44 with slight alteration in approach. Nasatir and Hoffman are clinging to all models, strategies and views of our collective future. Excellent professionals, great contributions, tired and dated thinking. Goldstein is important but only for the magnitude of New York and their financial contribution. Good guy; inexperienced. Terrell and Solomon have the experience and aptitude. Those who can should. Not many out there who understand the mission and values and can get things done. Someone should be tapping on their shoulders. The blogger and blogees need to act. Personally, I'm just a lowly staff grunt. Nobody listens to us.

Anonymous said...


For a significant time, JFNA spoke about 152 Federations...that number is now 148. Do you have any idea of who has left and what the result has been?

RWEX said...

Good question. One for which I have no answer. Do you think JFNA knows the answer? Mergers? Deaths? Lost?