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...


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rich, inasmuch as Silverman is going, going....he should be gone now; pay him off so he can do no further damage.