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?



Anonymous said...

We can all be confident that at the next board meeting Sandler will praise the JFNA professional staff for a job well done.
Death without dignity - Silverman's new tag line.

Anonymous said...

Sending a letter to "Dear Colleagues" requires that JFNA treat the recipients as true "colleagues." Advising the National Agencies leadership 3 months before funds would be due them, offering them neither warning (of going to zero) nor assistance demonstrates that there is no collegiality whatsoever. This is criminal neglect of responsibilities. JFNA needs so be swept clean, top to bottom.

Anonymous said...

I guess the only silver lining to this debacle is hopefully, communities will step in to fund those very worthy agencies....we, for one, having been doing that for the past few years (outside of the Alliance) and will continue to in the future...It is our solemn responsibility (even if JFNA doesn't get it).

Anonymous said...

Jerry Rosen is a total mensch and should have been mentioned by name in your post, just as this blog mentions the names of countless others. His firing meant the end of the collective a decade ago.

It is bad enough that the memory of the collective is being lost here--we dare not forget the names of those who enabled this collective to flourish.

RWEX said...

To Anon, 1:08 -- I hold Jerry Rosen in the highest regard as a terrific professional -- and Jerry knows this. Jerry had an incredibly difficult job and he did it so well. I expressed my outrage at the way he was treated at the time. I believe that our system has suffered from the void left when he was let go.

Anonymous said...

Ditto on Jerry Rosen.
So the Alliance is history, and let's review what I think are the facts and not Fake News; and I know that someone will correct me if I'm wrong:
**Jerry Silverman steals $1 million from the Alliance and it disappears into the JFNA budget
**Jody Schwartz is the treasurer of JFNA when this is accomplished and she is a volunteer from NYFED
**The death knell for the Alliance was a direct result of NYFED eliminating its support

Anonymous said...

Here's evidence of JFNA's core problem: the leadership doesn't give a shit about the impacts of their decisions, their inaction, their failures. You cannot tell me that that so-called leadership was unaware that this decisionwould devastate many if not all of these Agencies and, yet, JFNA operated on the pretense that this wasn't JFNA'problem, this was "just" a matter between the National Agencies and the members of the Alliance. These people (and this goes all the way to top on the professional and the lay) actually believe that their responsibilities end with the sending of a letter. There is zero appreciation that the National agencies will now descend en masse on the federations now that this chapter of collective action is over.

Heads should role at 25 Broadway but those who have the responsibility just shrug and turn away.

Anonymous said...

I've given up counting how many comments you receive complaining about what is going on at the JFNA. Yet, there still is no serious plan of action to fix this major problem.

Anonymous said...

Responding to Anonymous, 3/22 -- I completely disagree. If you have in fact been a regular reader you know that Wexler (1) has argued for years that under thre maxim that "the fish rots from the head," any plan of action must start with the termination of the CEO. He has also proposed a system-wide conference of federation lay and profssional leaders, a Continental Congress if you will, to plot out a new course for, a new Mission statement and a new governance of JFNA. Do you have any ideas yourself?

Anonymous said...

Re Anon 8:45
Perhaps now the lay leadership in the local federations will get your message, now that the Alliance agencies will rightfully descend on them, pitching each of their cases for funding.
We know that the CEOs won't complain.

Anonymous said...

Ah...another lament for the end of something that wasn't working anymore for anyone. Please stop measuring success as the funding of things that "used to be oh so great." (Similarly, please stop judging the system by how much money JAFI and JDC and ORT get.) JFNA does need to figure out what Federations can/should/are willing to do together -- and it's done a lousy job of that, but ending the Alliance was a necessary thing to do because times have changed. So many things that you, Richard, count as major JFNA failings would have died no matter the national structure (merger or no merger) because Federations, communities and the giving landscape are so different now. The question to tackle is -- what can and should be done collectively now given today's realities?

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:03.
Certainly many things would have happened regardless of the creation of JFNA.
And the demise of the Alliance may have been one of them. But considering the nature of the messaging about what and how it happened speaks to the insensitivity of those at 25 Broadway.
And interestingly you didn't mention the $1 Million that was taken from the Alliance and given over to JFNA.
Regarding the questions to tackle that you articulate in your comment, they are spot on.
But Jerry Silverman has been at the helm of JFNA for 7 years. Can you list one thing that he has done to address the questions you pose?
The perspective that I think you are missing is that despite sometimes longing for the way things were in the old days, Richard has been asking your questions for close to 8 years.

Anonymous said...

To 5:54 - I have a better question: Can you list one positive thing Jerry has accomplished during his tenure?

Anonymous said...

Times are indeed changing and things are getting worse and worse. The problem is that nobody is doing anything about it.
If indeed what is happening would have happened anyway what does that tell us about the obscene waste of hundreds of millions of dollars to fund an organization that is supposed to be doing something about it?
We are wasting so much of our valuable resources, yet Federations get no value at all. With no leadership, no accountability and no supervision or oversight, our presence in Israel does more damage than good while wasting still more millions of Dollars under more than a decade of Becky Caspi's decadent regime.
The whole thing is a total mess and current leadership will go down in history as being responsible for the death of our collective Jewish organizational life.
Does anybody care?

Fed Exec said...

To 6:44Am - Can you list one positive thing Jerry has accomplished during his tenure?

He lets Daroff and the Washington action office do their jobs and serve the federations with spectacular results.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful 3:32. But is that worth around $800k/year, and that's before the add-on for destroying JFNA's credibility?

Anonymous said...

To Anon 6:44-
I cannot list one thing the Jerry has accomplished-not one.
Regarding Anon 3:32's comment, Jerry's style is not to manage because he can't be bothered. He just lucked out with Darof and DC.
Look at everything at 25 Broadway where his office is:
The FRD Department has been decimated for 6 years while Marketing has grown into the largest department in the organization, providing what, exactly?
The Mandel Center has been gutted. This couldn't be the result of Mort Mandel being pleased with Jerry's management acumen.
As far as history is concerned, leadership hasn't cared for years, but they will be the first to lament 'how did this happen'?