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?



Anonymous said...

Richard, I feel your pain.
But you've got it wrong about the JFNA leadership-they aren't hiding.
They show up at the JFNA board meetings and just sit there and do nothing. These are the same people that are emotional, judicious, thoughtful, demonstrating all the other characteristics that we want in leaders. The difference is that they exhibit these qualities when they are on their local federation boards; but not when they arrive at JFNA.
Very sad.

Anonymous said...

They are only trying to avoid being accused of a double standard. If they spoke out on such issues they would have to take a stand and speak out about their own disasterous organization. Better just to keep their mouths shut about everything. Better to stick your heads in the sand than to stand up and be counted. Easier to say "aye" than to make waves. Better to be invisible because the alternative would be too embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:45
Good description of reality.
So who in their right mind would want to lead an organization with these types of board members.
How will that advance their resume?