Monday, April 2, 2018


I have the sense that JFNA's Board Chair, Richard Sandler, now in the last months of his terms, looked around and suddenly realized that over those three years JFNA had, at best, accomplished nothing and, at worst, just circled the drain. So, Richard decided to use his bully pulpit (which has remained almost totally vacant) to promote what he believes is some kind of new initiative. In an article in ejewishphilanthropy, Richard laid it out: JFNA's Deep Dive Into Next Gen Jewish Engagement. You can find the entire piece here: It's silly. Old wine in another new bottle.

Some have already described this effort as deja vu all over again...but it's worse than that. 

JFNA needs a signature accomplishment; Sandler wants the one accomplishment that might distinguish (rescue?) his Chairmanship years. If only. Perhaps Richard (and the granting Jim Joseph Foundation) is unaware of Jerry Silverman's incredibly wasteful "investment" in one TribeFest after another as his signature initiative year-after-year -- it was only after wasting hundreds of thousands of the system's precious resources on this frolic that someone (the LCE, perhaps) demanded that these "Fests" come to an end. Designed to attract and engage the Next Gen, they didn't attract flies let alone future leaders.

Maybe Sandler finally realizes that for the last two years five months he has delegated away his leadership responsibilities down the ultimate black hole -- down to a professional void; to a place where, other than in D.C., nothing is happening. Yeah, maybe Sandler has come to realize this...nah, he doesn't. And, other than on these pages, it appears that nobody is going to tell him. Apparently it wouldn't be a good thing for the person who might tell him doing so.

If any grants-maker thinks that JFNA has the ability to direct the system's engagement with the next leadership generation, they must have forgotten or be unaware (as Richard Sandler apparently is) that Silverman led the organization through those Three Festivi. These total failures to connect the system with the Next Gen reminded me of that scene from the movie Animal House -- you'll remember -- where the boys of Delta House explode the City's parade and one of those fraternity boys (Doug Kenny, z'l), knocks the marching band's drum major out of the parade, grabs the huge baton and takes over the leadership and marches the entire band into a dead end alley up against a wall. Welcome to the precursor to Silverman's TribeFest -- all three of them. 

Bottom line, for the 6 years since the burial of the last Fest, JFNA convinced itself that the Young Leadership Cabinets were the Next Gen. And, now...this.

And, I don't know, but the organization introduced a Next Gen cohort of young professional leaders -- 14 wonderful future CEOs should they pursue that path...14 terrific women. Was this the plan; or is this our system today? There used to be valid criticism as our system seemed to ignore the best and brightest women professionals in our midst. Not one man today?

I think all of us, other than Richard Sandler, know what happens when one takes a deep dive into a shallow pool. #SAD.



Anonymous said...

It is impossibe not to notice that the Board Chair has chosen to preempt the CEO for the most pedestrian of messages. Does this preemption suggest that Sandler has realized that His Chairmanship has produced nothing so he attaches his name to nothingness make up for it? It's truly a shame because had Richard exercised the leadership he was elected to provide, Silverman would have been long gone and maybe JFNA WOULD BE IN A BETTER PLACE. Instead, he apparently wanted to validate his chosen path of delegating everything to his CEO and the results speak to how wrongheaded this policy has been.

Anonymous said...

Indeed, this is a noble repackaging effort but, even if successful, will never be able to make up for all of the emptiness that we have seen for years now. We are now at the stage of our illness that even a good program will become a joke because of who is leading it. Even good programs will bite the dust in an atmosphere where there is no leadership and no strategy. The brand is already so unreliable and unrespected that even if someone manages to come up with a good product from time to time the market just won't support it.
The time has come for systemic change, for nothing less than a revolution!

Anonymous said...

What is most reprehensible is the institutional arrogance that JFNA embodies in announcements like this one from Sandler. These so-called "programs" emerge from the ether never thought through, never prioritized, and most often stillborn. This is why engagement with JFNA is almost always impossible.