Friday, March 30, 2018


There are times when I marvel at the genius of our organizations -- local, continental and international. An announcement in a recent transmittal -- an Update -- from the Jewish Agency for Israel raised some serious, maybe even existential, matters for me.

The announcement of a new JAFI Campaign Chair, succeeding our friend Richie Pearlstone, raised serious questions in my mind -- certainly not in JAFI's, but so be it. Let me be clear, I'm certain that the new Campaign Chair is a wonderful leader, probably inspirational and, certainly, committed. But that alone doesn't trump the serious questions:

  • Can a leader be separated from the comunity from which he/she comes? The question arose when I read the bio of the new JAFI Campaign Chair who comes from a federation, one of which she is a Past Chair, whose allocation to the Jewish Agency is almost non-existent...according to its last 990 of record, almost nothing at all. In each leadership role I was privileged to play in organized Jewish life, I always felt that I was serving because of my community. Clearly that's not the case today; but, should it be?
  • This is not the first time I have raised this question. Back in our respective youths, a dear friend, a terrific communal, national and international leader, called me to tell me how thrilled he was to have been named the "Allocations Advocacy Chair" for UIA. After congratulating him, I told him the truth from my perspective: UIA could not have named a better leader or a more articulate spokesperson. Then came the "but..." "But, you come from a community that is reducing its allocations to JAFI and JDC by 20% a year. How are you going to respond if you come to Chicago or Miami or Baltimore and are asked 'what is your federation doing with allocations?'"
  • And, then, there was another communal leader, a great, dedicated philanthropist who called to ask me what I thought. He had been asked to Chair the infamous JFNA Overseas Needs and Assessment process back in the day. He would have been brilliant at the job. Then came the "but." "But, as we discussed at the last GA, your federation is over $1 million in arrears in the payment of its allocations. It just doesn't compute." He thanked me with a "I thought that's what you might say."
In my communal leadership career, I was so fortunate. I came from Chicago. I learned the values of and from my community. I tried my damnedest to pass them on. At times and in some places, I succeeded; in other times, in other places, I failed...but never from a lack of trying or caring.

I have suggested to JFNA that its "Envoys" be challenged to advocate for increased allocations for Overseas needs in their own communities. (Inasmuch as no community to my knowledge is allocating more to meet the core budgets of our partners today than the communities allocated 5 years ago, it strikes me as having "potential.") I would wager that my suggestion, as with most (all?), made a quick detour to the wastebasket.

I wish JAFI's new Campaign Chair great success.


Tuesday, March 27, 2018


In the course of one of our discussions on these pages, I was asked if there was a framing statement of Mission for what was to become the Jewish Federations of North America at the time of its creation. Here it is:

"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."
I think it is a pretty safe bet that the current leaders -- lay and professional alike -- have no idea this Mission ever existed; it is even a safer bet that if they did know of it they have discarded it, ignored it, disregarded it.

I was so proud to be part of the process, the discussion, that led to this Mission statement that framed the merger. I was so proud that the "system" then -- lay leaders of the United Jewish Appeal and the federations --- sat together and committed to a Mission of such breadth and depth.

As proud as I was then, I am now filled with disgust at the manner in which the current iteration of the Continental organization bears no resemblance to what had been intended for it. 

We are all responsible, each of us to the other for what might have been....and for what is.


Saturday, March 24, 2018


What passes for JFNA's "leadership" continue to have no voice, none whatsoever, on public issues of importance to the federation system or on matters that affect the Jewish People...or both. Because at JFNA everything is "confidential," everything is "none of your business," we plebeians (that's almost everyone except those breathing the rarefied air at the highest altitudes of that so-called "leadership") aren't provided, won't be provided with an explanation of just why...

  • There has not even been an institutional expression of sympathy and compassion for those who were slaughtered, injured and traumatized at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School from 25 Broadway. I've speculated on these pages that JFNA's attitude appears to be "none of our business," but there is no explaining the silence here; 
  • Last month Haaretz reported that: In Rare Move, U.S. Orthodox Leaders Visit Israel to Lobby Against Kotel, Conversion Deals. Now I'd like to argue that those "visiting" were not "Orthodox leaders," and that, for some of these, there has been little evidence of historic support for the Jewish State, but, even were those opinions accurate, that's not my point. Mine is this: the American Orthodox community is doing exactly what the organized Jewish community is not...and that is both shameful and criminally neglectful. Oh, yes, of course, we'll be reminded of the strong stand taken by our "leaders" back in June 2017 when, serendipitously, some in leadership were in Israel for Jewish Agency meeting when Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the breach of the Kotel access agreement and supported Conversion legislation, now on "hold," that would further disenfranchise Reform and Conservative (and a large body of Orthodox) Rabbis and those "leaders" confronted Bibi. That must have exhausted those in "leadership," because ever since...well, you recall that at the General Assembly, JFNA Board Chair Richard Sandler confronted the Prime Minister after Netanyahu misstated the totality of these acts with a "Thank you, Prime Minister, for that clarification." We have called on JFNA to lead an effort to bring communal leaders and major donors to the Knesset and the PM's office on this issue and JFNA has done...nothing. (The Prime Minister's Office recently unilaterally approved plans to expand the existing egalitarian prayer space but none of the  egalitarian management aspects for that space -- those approved in the Cabinet resolution "suspended" [breached] by the Prime Minister in June of last year.) JFNA is speechless; perhaps worried that if the "leadership" were actually to advocate on behalf of us, the PM will be a no-show at the Tel Aviv GA this Fall.
  • Poland passed the most horrific and venal piece of Holocaust denial legislation in history in February. The World Jewish Congress issued a brilliant statement of condemnation (published as a full page letter from WJC President, the incredible philanthropist and leader, Ron Lauder); the NCESJ likewise. But, again, JFNA, in a further underscoring of "not our business," stood silent -- totally silent.  
  • Then, there was the total lack of a public, institutional response from JFNA to the #MeToo movement. I saw with great pride the work of the Jewish Funders Network, which had already taken major strides on the subject even before the emergence of #MeToo with the issuance of Funders and Power: Principles for Honorable Conduct in Philanthropy in 2016, went further in a revision to those Principles in January. JFNA, which must have felt that it had done its part with its, apparently momentary, support for women in the profession 9 years ago (+/-) might have been expected to say something. Then, long after I wrote this and set it for publication, ejewishphilanthropy published:  Safe, respectful, equitable: Launching a new partnership for Jewish communal life  -- an article announcing "a new Jewish communal partnership" to address the issues identified by #MeToo among Jewish organizations and foundations. This could be excellent but one couldn't help read that the organizations signed on in personam -- e.g., "Jerry Silverman, Jewish Federations of North America." I'm sure some explanation will follow.
  • Finally, this is the 70th Anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. No doubt your federation, like mine, has made this a yearlong celebrations. For JFNA -- a Mission and a Tel Aviv GA. Not a mention on the JFNA home page; no best practices for Federations (I guess they'll have to discover those on FedCentral.) What's wrong with these people?
Is there any explanation for this unconscionable silence? Any?

Would JFNA's so-called "leaders" come out from the rabbit hole where they have been hiding?


Wednesday, March 21, 2018


The National Agencies participating in the Jewish Federations-National Agencies Alliance were advised on March 13 that the Alliance had died a premature death. In a letter from the newly installed Alliance Professional the Agencies were advised:
"Dear National Agency Colleagues,

Notwithstanding ongoing efforts to preserve the National Federation/ Agency Alliance as a collective funding process among Federations to support national agencies, the pool of funding available continues to erode as more individual communities seek to manage their own decisions.  As a result and based on the latest discussions of the Steering Committee, we are writing to inform you of an immediate change related to the 2018-2019 funding cycle. For this next budget year, there will not be collective funding from the Alliance.  Rather, Federations will make their own funding decisions with respect to agency funding and will inform you directly of those decisions.  Federations will disburse their funds directly to the agencies in 2018-2019.  

Based on the material that you have already submitted for the Alliance review process, JFNA will review and summarize each agency’s request for funding for 2018-2019 and forward those materials, with all relevant attachments, to the Alliance communities shortly.  We will also convene Zoom meetings to facilitate agency presentations for those communities interested in a joint review process.

We recognize that this is a major change and it is coming late in the preparation of the next funding cycle.  While Federation communities continue to respect and value your work, our historical model is no longer sustainable. We are committed to facilitating an easy transition to your working directly with individual communities.  Your long partnerships with the Alliance served many communal objectives.  We’re confident that some of those objectives will continue while new ones are developed.  

Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions or concerns." (emphasis added)

The Forward jumped on the story inappropriately focused on, of all the impacted National Agencies, HIAS, the organization, which having dropped "Hebrew" from its name, may have been a contributing factor in the termination of the Alliance:
All of you who read this Blog even only periodically recognize that I have not shown much restraint in my condemnation of how JFNA leadership abandoned the legacy National Agencies over time and, in particular, over the years of the Silverman maladministration. It is JFNA that is now nailing the coffin it has built over the past decade shut. 

A brief historical note: at the birth of JFNA, New York’s Louise Greilsheimer, then New York UJA’s immediate Past Chair, was appointed to head a Commission on National Agencies. Over a period of months, that Commission could not reach consensus, but from its ashes the Alliance was formed — much like ONAD for overseas agencies, the Alliance was created to (1) vet the roles/relevance and budgets of the legacy National Agencies; (2) assure funding from the member federations of the validated agencies; (3) recruit additional federation membership in the Alliance; and (4) advocate for full funding for the vetted/approved Agencies. In practice, the Alliance succeeded only in step (1) and, as the years passed, failed more and more and more in every other area.

Let's briefly review:

  • Remember, The Alliance was created to (1) validate the work of the National Agencies and, once validated, (2) to support the budgets of those validated. The Alliance leadership invested in (1) and never...that's n.e.v.e.r... performed (2) because (2) would have required advocacy and, quite frankly, hard work.
  • The Alliance, from its birth, until a decade ago, had a wonderful professional who understood the Alliance mandate. That professional was terminated without reason (or protest from the Alliance lay leadership) and, for no apparent reason, staffing was shunted off to JFNA-Washington where it would be no more than a part-time assignment for a D.C. professional. (That is until this fiscal year, when a new senior professional was assigned to supervise the burial.)
  • At no time did either Alliance leadership engage in the necessary, vital advocacy among its members for increased allocations or the recruitment of new members. If one rereads the plea of an Alliance Chair to the JFNA Board a few years ago, one would understand the futility.
  • The Alliance essentially oversaw the collapse of the National Foundation for Jewish Culture and, then, the death spiral of JESNA, both national agencies with a critical role to play in national Jewish life. 
  • Over the last five years, New York UJA-Federation first threatened to pull its disproportionate Alliance allocation (40%, as I recall, of the National Agencies Funding Pool), agreeing to extend its deadline through FY 2017-2018. Now, it is clear that New York has executed on its threat, converting it to a devastating reality. The Alliance leadership had no impact whatsoever on the New York UJA decision.
  • And in a brazen daylight theft, Silverman demanded that over $1 million in National Agencies funds be delivered by the Alliance leadership to JFNA as "seed money" for an Education "Unit." Let me be clear: these funds were the property of the National Agencies and these funds were purloined by Jerry with the connivance of the Alliance leaders. This was a pitiable chapter. (And, BTW, how's that Education "Unit" doing?)
  • The Agencies leadership was told that there would be at least a year of lead time until they received the email advising there would not be a year, there would be nothing. 
As you can tell from the "death to the Alliance" letter above, JFNA isn't taking any more responsibility for the Alliance's collapse than it did for the Alliance's existence. Further, it's failure here dumps the National Agencies at a time that the federations to which they must now advocate for an allocation many of which are already in the midst of their annual Budget processes. Many of these legacy Agencies are simply unprepared to reach out to the federations and/or donors for financial support.

This is the close of a sad chapter. It is evidential of JFNA's criminal neglect of one of its critical responsibilities. The Alliance was one expression of collective action. It is no more.

So, what else is new?


Sunday, March 18, 2018


With apologies to The Washington Post, "organizations die in darkness." And, as we have pointed out on these pages too often, nowhere is the darkness deeper than at the Jewish Federations of North America.

On a snowy winter's night in February 2018 at Chicago's Midway Airport, Southwest Airlines had to cancel all of its flights when it ran out of deicer. When I heard about this on the news, my immediate thought was: "when did Jerry Silverman become CEO of an airline?" How does something like this happen to a major corporation; how does darkness fall on what was a major North American non-profit? At Southwest actions were taken; at JFNA no one gives a damn.

We are in the post-shame JFNA. There is no longer any evidence that anyone within JFNA leadership -- and I include its Board, the federation CEOs, and, of course, its Board Chair and Vice Chair. What they do care about is unclear. JFNA has been allowed to become the institutional equivalent of the witness protection program. 

JFNA is the place where the degeneration, the entropy have become constants. The greatest college Coach of All Time, the GOAT of college coaches, Alabama's Nick Saban, has a mantra, a challenge to his teams year-after-year: "How good do you want to be?" At JFNA there appears to be no one who would even understand the question. There are some great professionals at JFNA -- as well as the many superb professionals who have left the organization -- who lack direction, who feel they lack professional leadership. For JFNA is in the depth of Tartarus and can't/won't emerge, if ever, until...the 12th of Never.

If there are those who suggest that JFNA under Silverman is anything but the grossest of failures, that suggestion is, quite obviously, risible. As Michelle Goldberg observed in a different context, those at JFNA who think "all's well" have "a photo-negative version of reality." JFNA's failure is not that of its CEO alone; the JFNA Board members and federation CEOs are themselves passively engaged in the deconstruction of JFNA...and, ultimately, of the federation system itself.

Friends, we all know that in any successful organization -- for-profit or non-profit -- we see building on success; at JFNA, other than in the brilliant work in Washington, each success is a one-off (e.g., disaster relief during and post-Harvey) succeeded not by further success but by folly and repeated failure (e.g., JFNA-Israel, the GAs). And no accountability...ever.

Yes, I despair. The only hope I see is in the Anonymous Comments to my Posts from those of you who see what others do not. I try to keep optimism alive in my heart even as optimism is on life support in my brain. But for you, my dear readers, I feel like Al Gore were he at CPAC talking about global warming.

Who ultimately will call a Code Red?


* "Dreckitude" -- that perfect decriptive term is derived from the works of Maureen Dowd writing of something else.

Thursday, March 15, 2018


1. All of us without exception reacted with horror and rage at the slaughter of 15 teenagers and two faculty on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 15 teenagers, 5 of them Jewish. It took 6 days for the JCPA to issue a strong statement: JCPA Expresses Outrage at Mass Shooting at Parkland High School and Calls for Action to Combat Gun Violence. 6 days of silence followed by a strong statement.

Then there's JFNA -- not a word. I guess the sense that Jerry and Richard and Cindy have is "none of our business." For there can be no other rational explanation, can there be?

I've read the statements emanating from countless federations echoing the powerful words of JCPA, but from JFNA, our JFNA...nothing...absolutely nothing. The MetroWest Federation organized an anti-gun rally...but from JFNA...only silence.

Wouldn't all of us want our Continental organization at the least (and no can expect anything from these chachams but the very least) to have decried this senseless atrocity from the muzzle of an AR-15 of our nation's young...maybe...maybe...a word in support of the young people who have now mounted an offensive against the easy proliferation of assault rifles in our society.

But, no, nothing. 

The silence is deafening.

2. At the end of February, the Conference of Presidents convened its annual Mission including almost a week on the ground in Israel. JFNA was well represented by William  Daroff. But, for some reason, Becky Caspi, the Director General of JFNA-Israel had the time to also be on that Mission. Of course she had the time. Could Daroff have "handled" this "representation" without a "second?" Of course, he could have.

Which raises the question. Is anyone providing any management of JFNA-Israel at all? Is Caspi some form of independent contractor operating according to her own whims? What does she do? What is she supposed to be doing?

Does Silverman manage anyone? Does Gurvis?

Enough already.

Damn it; enough already.


Monday, March 12, 2018


Well if ever there were two names you might have thought someday you would read in the same sentence, I guess it would be this President of the United States and that Chairman for Life of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Hmmm, do they have anything in common?

This unusual pairing was highlighted by an article in Haaretz last month. Reporter Judy Maltz captured the setup perfectly. Evangelical-funded Israel charity hopes to cash in by getting cozy with Trump. The only thing missing from the headline was Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein's name -- missing, that is, to Rabbi Eckstein himself.

OMG how this philanthropy, grown on the backs of tens of thousands of small contributions, often in cash, from Evangelical Christians into a prodigious fund-raising machine that is now extending far over its skis with Eckstein's ambition-driven intent to hold a mega-event at Mar-a-Lago, of all places...Mar-a-Lago. Boy-oh-boy, the IFCJ is in the big time now. Ignoring the fact that since Trump's election charity-after-charity has canceled planned events at Mar-a-Lago, the Fellowship is there anteing up the six figures to rent the place.

And, while there are other venues in South Florida, far less expensive, the tease for Mar-a-Lago is that maybe the President will drop in...and I have no doubt that Rabbi Eckstein will be hovering by the door, praying for a Trump appearance, and that the Presidnt will offer some remarks in which he will acknowledge Rabbi Eckstein in his own way.

This event could be, may be, if the President does a stop and chat, a career capper for the Rabbi. Oh, the days are long past -- I'm sure forgotten -- when Yechiel was satisfied by a large blow-up of a small check accompanied in a photo op by leaders of Chicago's JUF, then UJA, then JAFI, then Keren Ha'Yesod, now JDC -- meetings with a succession of Israeli Prime Ministers and Presidents and, if it all works out, a fleeting moment, the biggest yet, a brief encounter with the Donald.

Now, the cynic in me (a living thing, really) would suggest that the event at Mar-a-Lago, and the six figures to rent the place, is strictly to salve the insatiable ego of Rabbi Eckstein. Yet, when last he and I met, Yechiel assured me that he didn't need to have his ego stroked, he wanted "out of the limelight." After all, he recently named his daughter Yael as Executive Vice President and under "Leadership" on the IFCJ website there are now two names and two names only -- Yechiel and Yael. Well, that's progress. Then, again, there was that April 2017 article: Rabbi Eckstein Raises Millions for Israel's Poor, and Don't You Forget It.

For those of you who are not familiar with Yechiel, you might wish to consider the  2015 Zeev Chafets-authored hagiography Bridge Builder: The Life and Continuing Legacy of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, which has the literary and historical merit of The Art of the Deal. But always remember that Eckstein heads an incredible fundraising operation that even after its first "down" year, is producing more to aid Israel's population most in need than any other. 

So, perhaps, you will want to join Rabbi Eckstein and the IFCJ at Mar-a-Lago. As reported in Haaretz:

"The event, Eckstein noted, is scheduled to begin at 5 P.M. – an hour that was chosen carefully. 'That will give the president time to hang around before he needs to head back to Washington,' he said."
As the Rabbi might add, "Let us pray."


Friday, March 9, 2018



1. We all congratulated JFNA on its work in Houston post-Harvey; our congratulations only paled in comparison to the self-congratulations JFNA offered itself. Even now, JFNA is holding a series of 24-hour "fly-ins" to Houston to see a community still in need and still in recovery.

So, it came as a surprise to learn that a new Coalition has been formed to continue the life-saving and community-rebuilding work and that JFNA has no part in it. As JNS reported:

 A new coalition of national Jewish organizations has issued a call to other Jewish communal groups across the United States to send volunteers to support the still-urgent recovery needs in Houston following the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey last August.
The Leadership Coalition for Jewish Service, which includes BBYO, Hillel International, JDC Entwine, Moishe House, OneTable, Repair the World, and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, has partnered with the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston on #ActNowHouston."
Did JFNA choose not to be part of the emerging Coalition? If so, why? 

Was JFNA not invited to join in the Coalition? If so, why?

Does anyone at JFNA recall that, in the aftermath of the devastation to New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina, a superb JFNA professional led the formation of a very similar Coalition back then? A coalition now forgotten.

Now, the best JFNA can do is this sentence in FedWorld:

"As recovery from the devastating Hurricane Harvey continues, the Leadership Coalition for Jewish Service – including many Federation-funded organizations – is partnering with the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston to place recruited volunteer groups with on-the-ground agencies." (emphasis added)
Good try?


2. Then in reading a Summary of the JFNA Atlanta Board meeting the last week of January, I learned that "54 Federation communities across the continent" were present. 100 lay and pro leaders from 54 federations. That's 54 federations of 148, that's a little over 1/3rd of the federations. Shouldn't someone be asking: why? Why only a little over 1/3rd of the federations were present? 

We all know that in most non-profits, a quorum for voting purposes is one more than half of those eligible to vote and, while I don't obsess over By-Laws, I'm certain that JFNA's provide no quorum requirement -- but 36%? Really? 

Yes, only 100 lay and professional leaders were there? Does anyone even notice that federations have disengaged? Does anyone ask: WHY?

Friends, I shouldn't be the one asking these obvious questions/thisobvious question. We all know who should be asking. But I cannot think of a single reason why the Jewish Federations of North America is not/was not a founding member of Leadership Coalition for Jewish Service. I do understand why no one is even bothering to show up.

Can you?


Tuesday, March 6, 2018


What's up at JFNA and Elsewhere?  Try these...

1. There's the reality that at our Continental organization Israel has become a terrible after-thought. At a time that our presence is demanded in response to actions such as the Prime Minister's breach of his agreement that there be an egalitarian prayer space at the Kotel...
  • JFNA's Vice-Chair is actively recruiting leaders for 24 hour "Fly-ins" to Houston (with no fund raising);
  • JFNA promotes its major FRD Mission: "It's time for a game-changing Berlin and Budapest."
  • National Women's Philanthropy takes its Mission to Argentina
  • The Joshua Society convened an important Mission to...Cuba
Reasons -- 

  • The Missions Director has been ill
  • The GA will be in Tel Aviv and people don't want to go to Israel twice (given the lack of GA attendance, maybe they should just call it a large national Mission and do some serious recruiting)
  • Israel is so 90's

JFNA has lost its way. 

2. At is Atlanta Board Meeting Renee Rothstein presented an excellent and candid Report on recent GAs and offered alternatives (including continuing the GA annual gathering at a cost of $2,500,000 per year for the dwindling number of Registrants) for the jFNA Board's consideration. Kal hakavod to Rothstein for her candor and the transparency of her presentation; sadly, this serious matter was placed at the end of a long agenda on a long day, and, though I was not there, I sensed that participants were wheeling their luggage out on their way to their transportation from EWR, LGA and JFK during the presentation. 

I don't believe that Renee received much in the way of direction. (My favorite question from a Board member: "What do you want from us?") 

My sense is that the GA will continue as is.Change for this organization is (1) so hard and (2) the Large City Execs like them (for reasons unclear). 

More to follow? Maybe. (It's JFNA after all.)

3. My jaw dropped when I hit the liink for the JCPA 2018 Plenum and discovered that the cost of "Full Registration" is $525...$525!!!! I'm sure it will be worth every dollar. (BTW, the Young Leadership registration is only $425...$425!!!) Goddam the Plenum must be so much better today than back in the days of my attendance (then again, it would have to be). Don't miss it if you can afford it.


Saturday, March 3, 2018


Well, friends, you have to give Jerry Silverman some credit. In his Dvar Torah to the assembled few for the JFNA Board Retreat the last week of January, he asserted a truth: we are to be "judged by our actions not our mottos." Jerry is the master of lack of self-awareness.

That brings me to the January 29 JFNA Mid-year Progress Report. OMG!! I appreciate the candor in the Report, but all one can conclude is there has been almost no "progress" in almost every area...almost none...and, yet, nothing ever changes. 

The Report begins:
"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)." 
I honestly don't believe that anyone who has been paying attention (that appears to exclude the JFNA Board, Officers and, in particular, the Budget and Finance Committee and its brilliant Chair) needs a bullet point by bullet point recitation of JFNA's sad state --
the lack of progress, but another 23 pages were found necessary to do so. You'd think the document might wake the dead (or, at least, be a wake-up call),

So, let's take a look:

  • Federation Relations. Best I can tell, the 8 person JFNA FRD CCT (that's JFNA acronym-world for the FRD Community Consulting Team) has been busily consulting with federations as JFNA "(C)ontinue(s) to shift our business model and organizational culture from a program-centric one to a customer-centric approach." (BTW: Who writes this crap?) There's more about "leveraging," "points of contact," "a living 360-profile of each Federation," "levers" -- well, you get the point. There is little to report other than "mottos," cliche and jargon.
    • Remember, the CCT Team is made up of 8 part-time consultants (plus another to be added), the Senior part-time Consultant, and the FRD professional staff
    • It appears that the entire professional staff will have to be mobilized and trained (by whom?) to meet JFNA's goal that all 148 federations be offered Consulting Services -- this will sound familiar to Barry Swartz and Becky Sobelman-Stern. It's back to the future.
  • Financial Resource Development. See Federation Relations above. It's all about Consulting -- how many times, with whom at the federations, yada yada yada, we're not to know. There is the good old idea of partnering federation Campaign Chairs with JFNA FRD Campaign Cabinet members presented assomething "new."
    • Missions -- the JFNA role can best be described by the following: "JFNA's Mission Director has been out of the office on medical leave and much activity in this area has been placed on hold." There is Fisher Flight which took five...count 'em, 5...couples on its latest flight. They should hang their heads in shame.
    • Major Gifts efforts are focused on Missions -- an excellent Civil Rights Mission and a Mission to Cuba -- and on PMC Receptions. 
    • Supplemental Giving -- high marks for honesty, low marks for fund raising. On the plus side, the dramatic success of the National Holocaust Survivor Fund; on the other hand, as predicted on these pages, the four year goal of $18 million for the ENP SHAPE Program is dithering at $1.18 Million (and the desperate reach to federations has only resulted in another $2 Million).
    • Let's sum up -- some FRD positive results in the Network (question: is the Network reporting as its success project giving to JAFI (through its JAID efforts), JDC and WorldORT? Just askin'. The Cabinet continues: presented as if it were 1970 and successful.
    • And, how the hell do you have a "Progress Report" on FRD with no reference to the federations, no reference whatsoever to the Draconian erosion (as one Large City Executive called it, a "hemorrhage") of donors. JFNA FRD has been diverted to a consulting function to such an extent that it has lost sight of its own purposes. And, I believe I know why; so do all of you.
  • Planning. There seems to be a " Planning and Research Department" which -- just reading between the lines -- may be one or two people inasmuch as the "Department" is going to "leverage" all other JFNA Departments " support local planning needs." Got it? 
    • That Jewish Education Unit that Silverman took over $1 million away from the National Agencies to fund? That's now the Jewish Education and Engagement Office relegated to "working with and supporting 'community of practice groups.'" Your guess is as good as mine.
  • Talent Development. Best I can deduce from the narrative, if anything is happening on this front, Mandel is doing it. Though JFNA no longer engages in CEO searches, there appears to be some real (as opposed to the faux) CEO mentoring and "onboarding" efforts and "skills and knowledge acquisition." 
  • The GA. Going nowhere, attracting no one. And at a great annual cost. 
There are also objectives in the area of policy agenda building and "representing Federations on policy issues of high concern in both Washington and Jerusalem."  And it is this latter "" to which I would like to draw your attention. 

JFNA clearly is striving for relevance; just as clearly it doesn't really know how to do so. At the table discussions at the JFNA Board Retreat in Atlanta last month one conclusion was that "we don't know what we want JFNA to be" -- and whose fault is that. 

Double that concern when it comes to JFNA-Israel. It was illustrative to me that JFNA-Israel is so irrelevant, even within JFNA itself, that there is no specific "Mid-Year Progress Report" for JFNA-Israel. But, there is this:
  •   The Israel office maintains close and discreet relationships with Government of Israel officials on issues of concern to North America Jewry, including participation in key meetings and behind the scenes activity with a particular emphasis on the Kotel and other pluralism- related topics.
  •   A mission of senior Knesset members and party faction leaders was held in September in partnership with the Jewish Agency, visiting Atlanta, New York and Greater MetroWest.
  •   The Israel office represents Federations at the Knesset and in caucus meetings, such as Peoplehood, Religion and State, Diaspora Affairs, and Aliyah and Absorption.
  •   Also with the Jewish Agency, JFNA Israel took a group of seven chiefs of staff and senior advisors of government ministers and senior MKs to the GA with a pre-program with the LA and Orange County Federations.
  •   JFNA provided a program for newly elected Labor Chair Avi Gabbay to get to know the North American Jewish community.
  •   Following GOI actions on Kotel and Conversion legislation in June JFNA drafted and distributed fact sheets on the Kotel and conversion issues, as well as an overview of all religion/state issues and a document that reported on Federation’s investments in pluralism issues in Israel, through core, supplemental and designated giving.
JFNA Mid-Year Progress Report January 2018
And, allow me to sum up the pathetic excuses JFNA has deployed for doing nothing with this one:
“The 10 month effort to mitigate the impact of a Haaretz investigative report positioned JFNA Marketing and Communications Department as a primary source for navigating PR and media on specific issues. Due to the Haaretz process we have not begun providing training and regular briefings on events." (emphasis added)
Laughable. Only JFNA could bootstrap as its excuse for not doing something (in this case "Training and regular briefings") on something it never did (provide guidance and mitigation to the Haaretz investigation). 


That's about it!!

And, anyone who reads these Posts knows that that is because JFNA-Israel is a black hoile within the black hole that is JFNA itself. Over the past decade-+ what has JFNA-Israel accomplished? Just as an example of failure, if JFNA-Israel is responsible for the JFNA "Envoys" Program, we see classic failure. In the first 6 months of the fiscal year, 4 communities -- that's FOUR -- received JFNA Envoys -- 2 more visits -- that's TWO -- are confirmed for 2018. Envoys is an effort with NO support; JFNA-Israel is what then? One thing is for sure -- there is no there there.

I want you to draw your own conclusions. Here's mine: JFNA, even more than a GA, needs to be totally rethought -- from its Mission to its Vision, from its lack of Purposes to Purposes. It is going nowhere in its present iteration...and it hasn't for a long, long time.