Tuesday, May 29, 2018


Recently, an Anonymous Commentator responded to another who had proffered the "day school model" as an exemplar of effective change:
"Yes, let’s look at the Jewish day school model with its underpaid teachers, massively subsidized and inefficient budgets, and woefully unskilled managers and administrators. Perhaps they could teach federations something? Let’s contemplate that for a while. Perhaps it would be in how to claim relevance with a shrinking market share. Wouldn’t it indeed be fascinating to involve day school professionals in the deliberations of the federations? Except, of course, that they already can if they wanted to. It’s called community involvement."
Harsh criticism or a dose of reality? Opinions will differ but we would all agree that this Comment offers no suggestions as to how to effect change while pointing out the numerous conclusions of exactly why change is necessary.

I disagree with the Comment in so many ways but let's "contemplate (this) for a while:"

  • Who has experienced a greater "loss of market share" than federations? Their donor base aging, the number of donors down 70% or more since the creation of JFNA -- and no attention being paid to that sad reality. If the next JFNA CEO and his/her professionals do not address this, JFNA will not deserve to exist any longer (if one assumes, arguendo, that JFNA does exist).
  • While I think any...that's any...rational observer of this catastrophic evaporation of the communal fundraising base would have to conclude that here, right here, and now, right now, JFNA had/has the opportunity to make a real difference for its owners, the communities across North America. Instead, JFNA FRD, still allocated about 50% of the $53,000,000 JFNA Budget, has focused, not on increasing donors and dollars (as was the entire organization's mandate in the merger of almost two decades ago), but on "community consulting." I'm certain that the 9 part-time consultants are doing a great job "consulting" with the few communities with which they are engaging but this effort pales in comparison to the great needs communities have for answers.
  • Why can't JFNA FRD be an agent of transformational change? Why can't this consulting corps bring directed to bring back to JFNA for the widest dissemination the best practices they identify in the communities they've been assigned -- best practices for, e.g., donor development and donor retention? What am I missing here? Are there no best practices to offer? Or, are the federations who have not been reached for in-depth consultation to be denied them because the consultations are "confidential?"
Is JFNA just like the hamsters on the running wheel, round and round getting nowhere? Where are the results? Are there quantifiable results? Or are there no results?

Round and round they go and where they stop nobody is to know.


Saturday, May 26, 2018


For some organizations and some leaders, it's all about them, always all about them. Here are two examples and kore:

  • We learned in an article in JNS.org that a "Multimillion-dollar building for Christian visitors planned near new US embassy." Yep, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has already broken ground for its Jerusalem HQ "that will provide a home in the Holy Land for visiting Christians." The entry lobby rendereing looks as beautiful as you might expect. Programming for the visitors, as described by Yael Eckstein, "the Fellowship's global exceutive vice president," sounds exceptional. The only thing is: will it really be called "The Global Fellowship House" or will it be "Beit Eckstein," as one of our chevre suggested?
  • Then there's the Zionist Organization of America which, in a recent mail solicitation suggested that we all contribute to the ZOA because "ZOA is proud to say that we were at the forefront of every stage of this fight" to relocate the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. How true. For your gift "you will receive the hard-hitting ZOA magazine." Vayezmir.
  • Past JFNA Chair, current the Founding Chair of Prizmah, Kathy Manning, beat down her primary opponent in her Democratic Primary run for Congress in the North Carolina 13th Congressional District. She'll face the Republican incumbent in November. I join all of her supporters in wishing her further success. I'm not great on political advice but let me suggest: "Kathy, maybe it would be best to play down the 'I graduated from Harvard' big for the duration, proud as you are." BTW, David Butler, one of Kathy's most fervent supporters within the failed Global Planning Table process is/did hold a fund raising event for Manning. Invited? No.
  • Why do some professionals now find the need to list themselves as the "Founding CEO of _________." Why? Should a Steve Nasatir now identify himself "Dean of Federation CEOs" or another as "Longest Serving CEO of the __________ federation" on their communal letterhead? 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Even as that JFNA Mailbox, created in response to Hurricane Harvey and expanded, we think, to incorporate the unmatched needs created by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, failed to fill up to meet those needs, questions abound as to how JFNA might be best prepared to meet current and future catastrophes.

The current head of FEMA observed that from a government perspective, our country requires a "true culture of preparedness" -- a culture that JFNA needs to develop as well. The response to Harvey -- the rapid mobilization of human resources in Houston and under Mark Gurvis' leadership -- was superb; the best efforts of JFNA. As human resources were dedicated to Houston Gurvis refereed a blueprint on FedCentral:

"1) The most immediate need for volunteer groups and individuals is for help mucking out flooded homes. This is hard, physical labor - tearing up carpeting and tearing out wallboard, and carting that and ruined furniture and other household goods out of the home. Most of the Jewish homes affected (estimated at 1,000-1,200) have already completed this process but there are tens of thousands of homes in the general community that need this assistance quickly. The window for this kind of assistance is relatively brief - a few more weeks at best. The next stage will likely be for volunteer assistance for reconstruction. Here too, the greatest needs will be outside the Jewish community.
2) The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston is partnering with All Hands, a FEMA registered national disaster recovery organization, which has a special unit working with the Jewish community. All Hands will provide the on-site management, deploying volunteers to specific homes, supervising volunteers and providing equipment. Groups should call 1-800-820-5188 to get registered and scheduled. If you are bringing a Federation group please let me know when you are scheduled.
3) You need to be prepared to manage your own logistics for flights, lodging, meals and local transportation. All Hands and the local Jewish community do not have the capacity to handle this for you. Lodging will be the biggest challenge as available rental and hotel stock in the area has been absorbed by people needing temporary housing.
4) Your volunteers need to understand they will most likely be deployed outside the Jewish community, and the folks affected within the Jewish community know the drill and have a well organized community base of resources to lean on - they have already mucked out. Other populations across the region have fewer resources and more desperately need this help."
As remarkable was the human response to Harvey, it appeared in retrospect (and even at the time) to be ad hoc to the Harvey emergency even though years ago a protocol for just such an emergency response was developed by lead professionals at JFNA. Does anyone at 25 Broadway know where it is?

But, while human resources were well-coordinated and applied, financial resources, not so much. For example, in response to Hurricane Katrina— $32-33 million raised from the system — and, for some reason, only $23 million was distributed by JFNA (?). In response to Harvey, as we recently wrote, JFNA had been able to raise only $2 to $4 million. All one can ask is "why" -- "why" was so little raised in response to this dire emergency?

And, a bit later, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. In response New York UJA-Federation mobilized assistance to that beleaguered American community. Along with New York affiliated agencies New York UJA was on the scene. You can read of NewYork's effort in JTA at https://www.jta.org/2017/11/09/news-opinion/united-states/we-went-to-puerto-rico-with-this-jewish-relief-mission-and-heres-what-we-saw?utm_source=jta_maropost&utm_campaign=jta&utm_medium=email&mpweb=1161-1625-27384 Where was JFNA? Mailbox...Maybe a letter.

And the lack of major response to the devastation of Puerto Rico evidenced the lack of any comprehensive plan to address the future natural disasters sure to come. 24 hour "Fly-Ins" to Houston led by JFNA's Vice-Chair are not a "plan;" they are way too self-congratulatory, as is JFNA's way. 

As we've written, JFNA pros had developed a continental protocol in anticipation of future disasters. Sadly, I would wager that today, no one at JFNA even knows where to find that protocol. Sadly, tragically, it is a certainty that there will be future catastrophes; JFNA will confront them anew as if none came before and none will come after.

The "JFNA way,"


Sunday, May 20, 2018


When I learned of Shoshana Cardin's death, I was flooded with emotion and so many memories of this great, this historic leader of our communities and the Jewish People. In my time in Jewish communal leadership no one other than Max Fisher, z'l, had a greater impact on us, our institutions and the relationship between the Diaspora Jewish communities of the United States and Israel.

Shoshana didn't just destroy every glass ceiling she confronted, she just viewed them as opportunities to demonstrate that leadership isn't determined by gender but by an iron will and the courage of one's convictions.

I first met Shoshana as did so many of you, while serving as a Board Member of the Council of Jewish Federations during her Chairmanship (yes, Shoshana retained the title "Chairman" not "Chair," because she knew what she had accomplished...and so did we). 

Serendipitously, Shoshana was the speaker at the Annual Meeting of Metropolitan Chicago at which I was installed as the Board Chair and there began my leadership path that I took in Shoshana's wake for years to come -- I, like you, was in awe of this great leader. I was privileged to learn from her on Missions, in the deliberations that assured the independence and focus of what is now the NCESJ, and, with her blessing, when I succeeded Shoshana as its Chair during Operation Exodus, on the Boards and Executive Committees of the United Jewish Appeal and the United Israel Appeal. In every leadership role -- be it in Jewish life or in the State of Maryland -- Shoshana earned the respect that would eventually lead to her Chairmanship of the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations.

And I watched with incredible pride as Shoshana, who loved Israel as one who was born there and who helped build the country with total commitment, successfully mobilized our communities and led the successful fight  in the Office of the Prime Minister and on the floor of the Knesset to forestall devastating proposed changes to the Law of Return. 

That fight was followed but a few years later when, in her role as Chair of the Conference of Presidents, she spoke truth to power standing down George H.W. Bush after the President had angrily stated that Aipac, specifically, and American Jewry, generally, were a "Fifth column" in the United States.

During the merger process, Shoshana, as UIA's outgoing Chair with her strong right arm, UIA Executive Vice-Chair, Danny Allen, anticipated the potential diminution of American Jewish support from the absorption of UIA within what was to become JFNA. Leading that merger process I will forever regret the conflicts I created with Shoshana whose prescience on the outcomes became more and more evident over every year since. UIA...Shoshana... had demanded a "sunset provision" that would have restored the merging parties to the status quo ante pre-merger were the terms of the merger not met. That didn't happen and I apologized to Shoshana personally, directly as well as on these pages for my part in what we have become. 

Each of us have our heroes in modern Jewish life. On the lay side, my "Mt. Rushmore" has four -- Max Fisher, Corky Goodman, Marvin Lender and Shoshana. I am just one of so, so many whom Shoshana encouraged to express our leadership in Jewish organizational life. A long time ago, back in the 1990s, the Jewish Women's Archive wrote:
"A savvy, tough, and elegant woman known by presidents, dictators, and almost everyone else simply as Shoshana, she has become perhaps the most widely respected and successful lay leader in the Jewish community of the 1980s and 1990s."
"Savvy, tough, and elegant" -- a perfect description of this great leader. this great woman, this incredible Zionist, who inspired generations.

Thanks to David Mallach, the Executive Vice-Chair of the United Israel Appeal, all of us may watch the stream of Shoshana's funeral at https://venue.streamspot.com/video/d0194518a3

May her memory be for a blessing for her family and for all of us who mourn her passing.


Thursday, May 17, 2018


Oh my, JFNA appears to be dooming the Tel Aviv-centered GA ("GATA") to be an even greater failure than the General Assemblies have been since the last one in Israel.

For example, unlike at every prior Israel-focused, Israel-based GA, JFNA will offer no site visits. If a federation contingent wishes to visit a project it funds, b'hatzlacha; but the entire construct of past GAs -- to acquaint leaders with a broader set of projects/needs -- we won't be doing that any more. Why? Well, it's a mystery.

JFNA "plans" (and "plan" is cetainly a term inconsistent with what is going on here) to offer what Becky Caspi and her ilk are calling "real conversations" rather than meetings, site visits or other "events." Apparently, JFNA conflated site visits with "events" and then characterized them as "non-interactive" and, therefore, omitted.

Friends in leadership of Israeli NGOs tell me that JFNA-Israel has reached out to them to produce Israelis to be part of the GA Program (I assume in "real conversations"). Yet, when asked for specifically what JFNA wants, these leaders are told, "we need Israelis who have 'exciting' stories to tell." Some suspect that they are being asked to provide nothing more than "filler" to prop up an undefined event. JFNA appears to be hiding the lack of substance behind jargon -- you know, like "interactivity" and "connectivity." 


So, what the hell is going on here? As has been chronicled on these pages and in a series of JFNA Mid- (and Year-) End "Progress" Reports, JFNA itself has confessed error -- GA after GA have failed to interest lay leaders to Register. NOW...NOW...it certainly appears that the laity (and communal professionals) have even less reason to attend -- buy a round-trip ticket to Ben Gurion, pay for an over-priced Tel Aviv Hotel, pay the Registration Fee, pay for meals...and get even less of a meaningful experience than at the prior GAs you didn't (or did) attend in prior years.

Those who are leading this GA (and just whom are they??) appear to believe that Tel Aviv (and Jerusalem) and Israel are the attractions (just as last year they assumed -- incorrectly --that Los Angeles would be the draw) so Program just doesn't matter. Your takeaway will be the Beach or Dizengoff; it won't be learning (unless there is inherent value in revisiting an Israel project of your own community). 

For Registrants, if any, this GA will be the most expensive for you in history. The most expensive in every way. It's early yet so start saving up; you won't want to miss a General Assembly dedicated to "talking," to dialogue:
"Israel and the diaspora. What a relationship! For generations, we’ve been together. Through thick and thin. And this year, we’re celebrating 70 years of partnership. But even in the best relationships, misunderstandings can happen. A difference of opinion here. A misinterpretation there. That’s why we’re heading to Tel Aviv. To talk it out and ensure that our next 70 years remain strong. Together." "
If I have this right the GA will be about "Talking. Together." For three days. For G-d's sake one of the JFNA tag lines for the event is "We need to talk." (The other, at least for the moment, is "The GA takes on Tel Aviv" -- maybe you can explain that to me!!)

The Prelinary Program is available -- and I pray that it is strictly "preliminary." Here it is: https://cdn.fedweb.org/fed-42/2/GA2018_2-Page-Program_v11.pdf?v=1525282652  There are going to be "Rooftop Raps" and "Dialogue Dens" and a "takeover" of Rehov Rothschild when we "Take it to the Streets." *Sorry, I just threw up in my throat.")

If this is really the proposed GA Program, is it too cruel to ask whether Jerry Silverman can be forced to "retire" again?

So, if you can afford it, come to Tel Aviv to "[T]alk it out" and "take it to the streets."

We'll return to GA coverage when we better understand its purpose.


"and the diaspora. What a relationship! For generations, we’ve been together. Through thick and thin. And this year, we’re celebrating 70 years of partnership. But even in the best relationships, misunderstandings can happen. A difference of opinion here. A misinterpretation there. That’s why we’re heading to Tel Aviv. To talk it out and ensure that our next 70 years remain strong. Together."

Monday, May 14, 2018


In the New York Times Magazine First Words a few weeks back, Advertising for Humanity founder, Dan Pallotta, was quoted as follows: "Brand is everything, and everything is brand." This struck me as particularly apt inasmuch as JFNA is today just a "brand" -- empty and devoid of both purpose and meaning. It didn't have to be this way; yet, it is.

When the organization's then Supreme Leader dictated the hire as CEO a person with an arguable background in merchandising, sales and marketing a "brand," with neither background nor experience in the organizations -- the federations -- he was engaged to lead, what would one reasonably expect beyond "selling the brand?" I don't know, maybe nothing? Because that's exactly what we, the North American Jewish polity received -- NOTHING. 

And, in the midst of this nothingness, a leader who stepped forward to effect change after seeing the void, Michael Siegal, threw in the towel when there was push back from those who had hired Silverman in the first place. Not only did Michael back away, somehow he was convinced (maybe some day we will learn how this could possibly have happened) to renew Jerry's contract for another 5 years. (and, in doing so, Michael was unable to offer a single example of success over Silverman's first contract term).

So, the attempted (and, ultimately, failed) "building the brand" continued into another term of employment. Now, it could be argued that had JFNA dedicated itself to building the federation brand that might have been an important pursuit; but how could JFNA have done so when the vast body of its professional and growing consultant corps had never worked in a federation. As it evolved, under Silverman, JFNA would frequently call itself Federation as if were one/all when it was none.

As Gertrude Stein wasn't observed: "There's no there, there." Stein might have been referencing JFNA, the ultimate no there, not anywhere -- no distinctive identity, no significant characteristics. Nothingness. In JFNA's case the Brand became everything and everything became the Brand. And the Brand was nothing more than a Potemkin Village; a facade behind which...nothing. (Well, not "nothing" after all; there was/is JFNA-Washington. No small thing.)

One of my friends, who knows JFNA from its birth to its current state of worthlessness, observed in the aftermath of Silverman's "retirement:" "I hope there’s a serious search process that is far reaching. (JFNA) needs a total rethink and re-engineering." Many of you have expressed the same need underscoring that it is time for Jerry to depart -- not in late 2019 upon the expiration of his contract, but now.

As one of you commented:
"Yes, better late than never and yes, thank you. But why a whole year and a half at a direct cost of one and a half million Dollars - not to mention the indirect cost of letting this continue for another 18 months before there is even a chance of fixing what is so very broken? If the realization is finally here, how can doing nothing for such a long time and allowing this to continue be justified? When the leadership was in denial or didn't realize that things were so bad it was easier to accept the situation than it is now to let it slide for another year and a half!"
This is a task that must be started now, the Brand be damned.

It is already late...


Friday, May 11, 2018


On the cusp of Shabbat here we received this announcement:

"Dear Colleagues,

I’m delighted to announce that the JFNA Nominating Committee (chaired by Sharon Janks of Los Angeles) will nominate 3 exceptional individuals to serve in the following top leadership roles:

Chair of the Board: Mark Wilf of Greater MetroWest NJ
Vice Chair of the Board: Jodi Schwartz of New York
Treasurer: Harold Gernsbacher of Dallas

These nominations will be brought to the JFNA Board of Trustees for action at our annual meeting at the General Assembly, which will be held this year in Tel Aviv from October, 22-24.

Mark Wilf will be an outstanding chair. In business, his accomplishments are many. He is an attorney and a partner in Garden Homes, a real estate development firm, and owner/president of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. As a philanthropist, his generosity is matched by few.

Mark’s parents, Joseph, z”l and Elizabeth Wilf, philanthropists whose impact across the globe was immeasurable, were great role models for Mark. Drawing on their experiences as survivors who found a way to thrive, Mark has demonstrated a profound commitment to advocating for the needs of the Jewish people. The entire Wilf Family has long played an active and significant role in local, national and global efforts to ensure the welfare and vitality of the Jewish community.

Mark has held numerous leadership positions, both nationally and locally, including National Campaign Chair, National Young Leadership Cabinet Co-Chair, and President of his community’s Federation. Currently serving as Co-Chair of our National Holocaust Survivors Initiative, Mark has helped raise millions in funding, which will enable many survivors to live their remaining years in dignity.

Mark will have the support of a terrific team who share his philanthropic commitment and high level of professional acumen and Jewish communal experience.

Jodi Schwartz, from New York, who will be nominated as Vice Chair (she is completing her current term as Treasurer), is a Partner at Watchell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. She is one of the world's leading lawyers in the field of taxation. Harold Gernsbacher, from Dallas, who will be nominated as Treasurer, is CEO of In Step Foodservice. Harold is the immediate past National Campaign Chair and current Chair of Secure Community Network (SCN). Rounding out the team is Suzanne Barton Grant, from Delaware, who will continue to serve so well in her role as National Campaign Chair. 

My thanks to Sharon and her Committee for conducting such a serious and obviously productive nominating process.

Shabbat Shalom.

Richard V. Sandler
Chair, JFNA Board of Trustees"

Sharon Janks and the JFNA Nominating Committee could not have chosen a better leader or a better person to succeed Richard Sandler. Mark has demonstrated through all of his leadership roles a passion for Jewish communal life and for Jewish Peoplehood, to those of our People most in need wherever they may live.

Kal ha'kavod to all of those who participated in this process; and a yasher koach to Mark and his beautiful family.

Shabbat shalom.



Only the most delusional could possibly find comfort in the Israeli Prime Minister's targeting of the New Israel Fund as the organization somehow "responsible" for Netanyahu's abandonment of the refugee deal he had agreed to with the United Nations on Israel's behalf. See, e.g.,https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/244001 -- Netanyahu Launches Commission of Inquiry Against New Israel Fund. I offer no brief for the NIF, but...really? 

It is obvious, as in all things, after the PM reached a "deal" -- this time on the deportation of foreign workers -- dire consequences were promised by Netanyahu's coalition partners (this time, and not for the first time) led by Minister Naftali Bennett) were the "deal" to proceed and, voila, Bibi not only killed the "deal," he somehow conjured the New Israel Fund's invidious influence with...Rwanda...for forcing the breach. (Perhaps, the Prime Minister will now blame the NIF for other deals he has blown up over coalition politics, like, for example, the egalitarian prayer space deal, or the Conversion Bill deals. Just kidding, of course.) As it turned out, the Government wisely abandoned its deportation decision, at least for the moment.

It was a little over one year ago that the NIF COO, a former Federation Chief Executive, was held for 90 minutes and interrogated at Ben Gurion Airport before she was allowed into the country solely because of her position with the Fund, an American 501(c)(3). One of my mentors in Jewish organizational life, Brian Lurie -- the former CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Francisco, The Peninsula...and the United Jewish Appeal, before he revitalized the NIF first, as its CEO and, then, as its lay Chair -- Brian Lurie whose love for Israel knew/knows no bounds; to accuse any organization of which Lurie plays a leadership role of disloyalty to a democratic Israel is blasphemy. 

Yes, the New Israel Fund falls on the left wing of the political spectrum; and, yes, the NIF has funded Israeli NGO's intermediating with Palestinians -- it has been doing so, generally in very small allocations, for decades. On the very negative side, NIF's significant funding of B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence and Adalah,  Israeli NGOs whose activities are often anti-Zionist in the extreme, https://www.algemeiner.com/2018/04/17/another-week-another-new-israel-fund-scandal/, so much so that it makes it difficult to defend NIF. Yet, NIF is perfectly capable of defending itself.

And, this is the Fund's Mission:
"Achieve equality for all the citizens of the state regardless of religion, national origin, race, gender or sexual orientation;
Realize the civil and human rights of all individuals and groups through the protection of Palestinian citizens and other marginalized minorities, including the advancement of collective rights, and opposition to all forms of discrimination and bigotry;
Recognize and reinforce the essential pluralism of Israeli society and tolerance for diversity;
Protect the access of minorities to democratic channels for the expression of their interests and identities and the promotion of their rights"
It strikes methat this Mission statement is in support of Israel's democracy and civil societyOh, and here is the New Israel Fund's position on BDS:

"The NIF does oppose the global (or general) BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as counterproductive, and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland."*
There are those who find the NIF Mission "too liberal," "too left wing," "anti-Israel." It is clearly a Mission so out-of-step with the current Government's position on so many things. But have we, in the Diaspora and those of our extended family in Israel, moved so far, are we now so illiberal, as to agree to the propriety of the subjection of the New Israel Fund and, presumably, its leaders, to an Israeli "Commission of Inquiry" with regard to its alleged invidious influence with the Government of Rwanda? 

Does this make any sense whatsoever?

Throughout its long history, the NIF has always been an organization whose leadership has included, un-apologetically, American and Israeli women and men on the left of the political spectrum. The Fund has provided Grants, most of which you and I would consider small individually and  in the aggregate, to organizations among which are those which promote activities anathema to the sitting Prime Minister...but, this total misrepresentation?
"The ultimate objective of the fund is to erase Israel's Jewish character and turn it into a state of all its citizens, alongside a Palestinian nation-state that is free of Jews on the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital,"
Adding to this pathetic and unsupported conclusion from the Prime Minister himself -- so McCarthyite in its "substance" -- Netanyahu threw in George Soros as the master manipulator of the NIF "plot."

Under the Law of Unintended Consequences, the NIF reports that these attacks have resulted in what it calls a "BiBi Bump" in its fund-raising. This article included the words of the Fund's CEO, Daniel Sokatch, another of the San Francisco past CEOs in Fund leadership: "We had nothing to do with pressuring the Rwanda government, it's an absurd claim." Underscoring that absurdity were the observations from Dan Meridor, once a Deputy P.M. in the Netanyahu administration:
"This whining and this wild attack on the New Israel Fund is a strange and serious phenomenon. First of all, does anybody know who NIF is...And , yes, they want a country that is just and that is equal. Most of them are outstanding Zionists their entire lives."
Oh, that.

And, after all of this, as reported in JNS: "New bill aims to cancel all government cooperation with the New Israel Fund." https://www.jns.org/new-bill-aims-to-cancel-all-government-cooperation-with-new-israel-fund/  As the article (written so poorly that to often defies understanding) discloses, that the right-wing NGO Im Tirtzu, characterized as a "Zionist organization" in the article, "...called on the government to cut all ties" with the NIF and a Knesset member responded with a Bill that offers neither fact nor due process.

I have always presumed to understand Israel's democracy; that presumption is wholly rebutted by "stuff" like this outburst from the Prime Minister, and, thereafter, by Knesset legislation. Outrageous. Next, will there be a Commission on Inquiry for Israeli-born Natalie Portman?


* Sadly, the NIF reserves the right in its policies to join in boycotts of goods produced beyond the "Green Line"

Tuesday, May 8, 2018


OK, friends, if I haven't been clear to date, after 9+ years of this Blog, let's talk some tachlis. History asks: "Which side were you on?" Were you a silent bystander to the debacle that JFNA is now and has been for years and years? Were you an active participant in support of the debacle? Or, were you for lack of a better term, part of the "resistance?" At one and the same time, we can see change in Jerry's retirement letter and understand that the same leadership who tolerated the lack of purpose or achievement finally screamed "ENOUGH" and it is they, whomever they are who joined the Board Chair in this change proces, whom I congratulate today.

This same JFNA leadership -- and you know exactly whom you are -- this leadership once sensed itself  so entrenched as to be immobile; unable and (NB, not "or," "and") unwilling not just to change themselves but to inspire positive change in others. They appeared to be frozen in amber. They were the masters of lese-majeste. And, yet, they, in the past weeks, months, they changed all of these descriptive phrases to past tensemonths, have seen a light...and have acted in a manner that can transformationally change JFNA and the system..

So, who will perform effect change going forward for JFNA? For a decade at least, I was certain that it wouldn't be the folks in power, for they appeared by inaction to have washed their hands of their responsibilities to the organization even while they were charged to lead it. These are the men and women who I thought vewed JFNA through a Panglossian prism that so distorted daily failures as to make them appear successes. And, yet, now, they have taken the reins and they have done something I thought would never happen.

Friends, all of you who read these things know that I have been unable to discern a guiding sense of purpose at 25 Broadway for almost a decade. Any sense of purpose? Anything at all? Now, though I don't know all who were responsible for change but change is happening...and, given my age and infirmities, I just wanted and want it to happen more quickly.

Richard Sandler...oh me, Richard Sandler...wrongly assumed from the jump that the strengths as he saw them that delivered his successful Federation Chairmanship in Los Angeles (where he had worked in partnership with a CEO dedicated to change with the strength to deliver it), would surely transfer 3,000 miles away to 25 Broadway where he assumed that Jerry Silverman was or would be a strong CEO and, it appeared from my distance from the decision-makers that Richard refused to believe that he was wrong. Both before and after a personal visit with Richard at his LA offices before he began his terms I felt, as I was told by those who knew him well, that Richard "did not and would not suffer fools," in fact, he did...and, now, he no longer does. Inasmuch as I know that the change that is occurring at 25 Broadway wouldn't have happened with the Board Chair, my normal question would be: "what took you so long?" is now "Thank you." 

 I sense that as it's Richard's name that has appeared on the transmittal of the so-called JFNA Mid-Year and Year-End Progress Reports (more new oxymoronic titles), he grew to realize, he grew to understand that they reported failure after failure. And, he decided to act.

From your Comments it is evident that amcha caught on and amcha was fed up. The realist in me senses that the action taken to date is not revolution. Whether it will be enough is on you, it is on us to assure.

It's time for those who could influence change at JFNA to answer the question with which I began this Post: "Which side were you on?" The forces for change are aligning. We can all be on the side of real change.

We are at the very beginning of something that could be/must be transformational; the end is not yet in sight. That light I see at the end of the tunnel may be the sun...or it may be a train coming at us. Let us hope for real change...and all of us need work to assure it happens.


Saturday, May 5, 2018


Frank Bruni recently articulated a strong condemnation of perverted leadership in an Op-Ed in the New York Times. What Bruni wrote resonated with me as I hope it does for you. In pertinent part, he wrote:

"A leader articulates a clear vision and set of principles, which become  a well-lighted path that well-intentioned people can tread.
A leader takes some share of responsibility.
A leader attracts top talent.
A leader knows whose counsel to seek and whose to be wary of. 
 ...a leader should...challenge himself -- and the rest of us -- to be bigger."
JFNA is now on the cusp of leadership change. The seminal question is whether the organization's Nominating Committee now and Search Committee in the near-term future (please G-d) will ask the right questions, make the right demands so that the next organizational leaders will be those JFNA needs so desperately.

There is a tendency in failing organizations for its leaders to look around, sing Kumbaya, and assume: "inasmuch as we are the leaders, everything must be OK." This has clearly been the case at JFNA for a decade and more. True, Kathy Manning may have been "well-intentioned" when she  "articulate(d) a clear vision" but the Global Planning Table wasn't just one devoid of principles, it proved to be incoherent and turned JFNA away from its purpose to drive the system up the road of collective responsibility. Since then, her successors have either thrown on the table beautiful pipe dreams not thought through like Siegal's "free" Jewish education or Sandler's NextGen thing -- both wonderful ideas for sure. (At some point both of the Chairs must have come to realize that the CEO was unable to execute these dreams -- or maybe they didn't/don't to this day -- yet, I see the imprint of both Siegal and Sandler on Silverman's "retirement." So, there's that.)

Frank Bruni offered some excellent guideposts for "leadership." Ya' think anyone at JFNA might follow them? Please?

Just asking.


Wednesday, May 2, 2018


For the last 9 years we have observed and commented on these pages on a veritable tsunami of failures. Failures driven by a disengaged lay leadership, a flummoxed CEO so overwhelmed by a job he has never understood that he should have resigned after Year 1, and a group of CEOs of all City-sizes who just kept their communities feeding the meter with millions in Dues year-after-year.

And, so, friends, here we have been with an organization obsessed only with rationalizing its 0own existence. We are now at the ultimate tipping point -- Silverman's retirement has already been announced. What's next?

Well, travel back with me 9 years ago. Kathy Manning created a Search Committee to identify a successor to Howard Rieger. Nice Job Description, nice group of leaders appointed to the Committee. And, then, that Search Committee followed the demand by Manning for someone "outside the box" and that "nice group of lay leaders' became "sheep in sheep's clothing," foisting on the system one whom by education and experience was singularly unprepared for the position he would then keep for almost ba decade.

And, now, a new Search Committee will be formed; and I am certain that that Committee will include not only Manning but a number of those who served so poorly back then. Why? That's the question. Were I asked I would argue that anyone who served the Search that chose Jerry -- as I recall because (1) he gave a great presentation to the Committee and (2) he wasn't a Federation CEO -- is prima facie disqualified from further service. Thank you very much. As agroup of lay and professional leaders came to the conclusion that change...real change...is needed; they, whomever they are, need to stand strong and assure that the next CEO is exactly what the times and the system demand.

BTW, my sense of how wrong the CEO decision is not 20/20 hindsight. It was so evident from Day 1. Yet, when I expressed my serious concerns to those on the Search Committee then, I was invited to either "shut up" or to resign my Board position because, as one "friend" told me, "...either support Manning or get out of the way." When I explained that each Board member's obligation, each Board Member's fiduciary responsibility is to the institution, not to Kathy Manning, this leader just walked away and has spent no small amount of time over the past decade telling all who might listen and whenever possible what a terrible person I am.

If we didn't know it before, Jerry's basic and constant ineptitude joined at the hip with JFNA's comatose condition, have proved absolutely that a strong, smart, experienced CEO is a/the sine qua non of a strong, smart, purpose-driven organization. How might that happen?

  • Populate the Search Committee with  new faces, men and women who have demonstrated that they are willing to speak truth to power;
  • Staff the Search Committee with professionals who know our system -- let the JPRO Network assign the staff or retain John Ruskay or Steve Nasatir to lead the Search process;
  • Don't spend weeks drafting a Job Description; the one in place and ignored in the last process was fine;
  • If the optimal candidate says "no," ignore her/him and bring the full weight of leadership, lay and professional, to bear on that candidate's decision --that's worked before
For those of you who remember (and you can find it even today on YouTube), the brilliant Martin Short appeared in a skit on Saturday Night Live in which he played a synchronized swimmer who could not swim. That is JFNA today and for the past nine years. That must end NOW.

Remember going forward that there is at JFNA a small leadership cabal who have been in the aggregate an insuperable obstacle to change. They must step aside or be sidelined if JFNA is ever to succeed. I have come to trust that change can happen...as it must.