Wednesday, April 11, 2018


These are the worst of times for JFNA, the continental organization that was created to reflect the strength of the federation Movement but has been driven to reflect only the failures of its institutional leadership. If, as Jimmy Collins, once our guru of Good to Great, has written, "Good is the evil of great," how evil is mediocrity, how evil is constant failure?

I have always decried on these pages JFNA leaders, lay and professional, who have walked back the organization they were supposed to lead...walked it back and away from its historic role leading collective responsibility, These leaders have walked it back in the ridiculous, wasteful and so expensive Global Planning Table which made no effort -- none -- to steward systemic collective response, planning, if it could be called that, for "coalitions of the willing" to support its Signature Initiatives, which themselves failed; walked away from successful collective response by reducing critical needs to Mailboxes, serving only in the role as an "allocator." 

In every Facebook office there are signs: "Move Fast and Break Things." At JFNA, were there signs at all, they would read: "Don't Move At All and don't break anything." As Winston Churchill described some British leaders as "Sheep in sheep's clothing," that would be the perfect description of JFNA's leaders who have proved best at fiddling while the system burns.

How can one not look at JFNA and not see that that/or bloated non-entity conjures up the image of what a whale committing suicide must look like. But this is the post-shame JFNA, the model for anarchic governance.

Where are the lay and professional leaders to remind us that we are better together than we ever are alone? We used to fight to stay true to our institutional values: we could state them and then we could set forth the steps to "stay true." Today we have had a succession of leaders who can't articulate what values drive the institution they purportedly lead. As a Chicago Sun-Times columnist recently observed: "You can't teach failing at failing. You either have the gift or you don't." At JFNA these leaders have this "gift" in over-abundance.

One "gift" the JFNA laity don't possess is the fiduciary obligation of accountability. Accountability isn't demanded of the CEO, it isn't even demanded of themselves. We knew, because he gave speeches about it, that Sandler would delegate away his fiduciary obligations to Jerry Silverman ignoring for all time that Jerry could not execute. Richard busied himself with sending out Memos over his name, decrying criticism as challenging his integrity, and giving voice to beautiful thoughts on NextGen, the future of Diaspora Jewry and the like. 

In their spare time I'd suggest to every Board member, every senior professional, a thorough immersion in Jimmy Collins. 



Anonymous said...

Today's Post is extremely timely; especially so in light of the JCCA Op-Ed written by JCCA's sitting and incoming Chairs:,+2018&utm_campaign=Wed+Apr+11&utm_medium=email

Anyone who cares about our communities and the desperate need for a central organization that will support them must read the JCCA piece.

Anonymous said...

We trot out these phrases -- kol yisrael this and kol yisrael that; we are one, etc etc.
Maybe there was a time these were true -- or at least more true -- in a way that those who utter them mean it.

I think they're still true today, just not in the same way.

What I mean is that Jewish expressions of unity, like Jewish "collective" giving," are being done differently. Do you only have to give to a federation to be interested in klal yisrael or Jewish collective giving? Does a federation have to participate in the national funding process to fully express responsibility for all Jews?

Of course not.

The national funding council has been broken for years. Few communities liked it. Many stayed in it out of a sense of obligation (or something). Was it the organizations/recipient, the process, other pressures? Maybe all three or more. But if all the establishment (and affected agencies) have going for them is to trot out this kol yisrael line, good luck winning in the market place.

BOB HYFLER said...

Sorry Richard. Your comment on Jim Collins is 15 years too late. Having brokered his appearance at a GA, and assisted him with his tailored plenary presentation, I do no recall any follow-up enthusiasm from either the FRD or I&O silos at UJC, or the "desk" of the CEO for that matter.

RWEX said...

Bob, unabashed, I retain my enthusiasm for Collins' work.

Anonymous said...

Ironically UJC's own leadership spent quite a bit of time promoting Good to Great and its principles in UJC/Federation conferences and events around 15 years.