Thursday, June 28, 2018


A few weeks ago an apparently well-meaning Anonymous correspondent raised questions in response to the JCCA summons to our collective responsibilities -- questions that really depressed me. Here they are:
"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?"
The correspondent is one who, sadly but quite clearly, rejects the core values on which federations have been built; values which are required for their strength. If this person is representative of what passes for federation leadership today, I repeat...oy vey.

Back in the day, the United Jewish Appeal basked in the rreality that, as UJA put it, "No gift touches more lives." UJA's Campaign marketing materials for the federations reflected this -- what was then a reality. JFNA has picked up the mantra but, by inaction, made a mockery of what was once the reality. 

The correspondent above asked essentially, does the federation hold some monopoly on "klal israel or Jewish collective giving?" And, the answer is, must be --  no. There are more and more Jewish charitable vehicles for expressing the solidarity of the Jewish People; fewer are those which are engaged in the collective. If one looks at current communal philanthropic trends, we are seeing far more examples of "bowling alone" than of collective response -- and we have a vehicle -- JFNA -- that should be leading us to greater collective impact but has proved unable or unwilling to do so.

Yet, were JFNA leadership capable of understanding its responsibilities, the so-called "value proposition" that are its building blocks, certainly one would be that our greatest strength is evidenced when the communities come together " fully express responsibility for all Jews" through its collective actions. Absent the collective, my friends, JFNA becomes "just another charity." And so do the federations. 

More and more we have seen community after community decide that the community will go it alone. In Israel the proliferation of "federation offices" has often, but not always, resulted in communities individually funding Israeli NGO's with minimal dollars and even more minimal returns on investment. And, JFNA, with its bloated and ineffective Israel Office, seems  not to understand that one of its functions must be to idntify programs for collective response. This must change.

Even if it is determined, after a 6 month consultant study, that JFNA should be nothing more than CJF with an FRD function, it will fail, as it has failed since the merger, if JFNA, not your author, is unable to respond to our correspondent's questions above. And, that will require a whole new leadership cohort.


Monday, June 25, 2018


"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
I am certain that we all know the truths uttered by Pastor Martin Niemoller before he was ripped from his Lutheran flock and incarcerated in a Concentration Camp until the Nazis killed him.

Who is there today to speak for the 1,000s of children crying out for their parents from whose arms they were torn -- crying from cages within American Detention Centers -- views from inside these Centers resonate with me as nothing more than cleaner Concentration Camps -- in 2018? Some will say that this horrific anti-American action is "too political" on which to comment; others will argue that this has nothing to do with "us" even as it has everything to do with us, with the values we have claimed as American Jews, most of us the descendants by one generation or more of the "wretched refuse" who made it possible for us, our children and the generations to come to live protected by the very freedoms which are being denied to children, to babies...on our watch. On our watch.

So, what has the organized Jewish community had to say on this anti-American governmental action? Well...
"June 12, 2018

The Honorable Jeff Sessions
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington, DC 20530

The Honorable Kirstjen Nielsen
Secretary of Homeland Security
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Nielsen,

On behalf of the 26 undersigned national Jewish organizations and institutions, we write to express our strong opposition to the recently expanded "zero-tolerance" policy that includes separating children from their migrant parents when they cross the border. This policy undermines the values of our nation and jeopardizes the safety and well-being of thousands of people.

As Jews, we understand the plight of being an immigrant fleeing violence and oppression. We believe that the United States is a nation of immigrants and how we treat the stranger reflects on the moral values and ideals of this nation.

Many of these migrant families are seeking asylum in the United States to escape violence in Central America. Taking children away from their families is unconscionable. Such practices inflict unnecessary trauma on parents and children, many of whom have already suffered traumatic experiences. This added trauma negatively impacts physical and mental health, including increasing the risk of early death.

Separating families is a cruel punishment for children and families simply seeking a better life and exacerbates existing challenges in our immigration system. It adds to the backlog of deportation cases and legal challenges in federal courts, places thousands more immigrants in detention facilities and shelters, endangers the lives of more children, and instills additional fear in people seeking safety in our country. In addition, those seeking asylum or other legal protection face numerous obstacles to making a claim, especially from detention. Separating family members at the border would force families into two or more immigration cases instead of a single case for each family, harming their ability to present a successful case.

Our Jewish faith demands of us concern for the stranger in our midst. Our own people's history as "strangers" reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today and compels our commitment to an immigration system in this country that is compassionate and just. We urge you to immediately rescind the "zero tolerance" policy and uphold the values of family unity and justice on which our nation was built.


American Conference of Cantors
American Jewish Committee (AJC)
American Jewish World Service
Anti-Defamation League
B'nai B'rith International
Bend the Arc Jewish Action
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Labor Committee
Jewish Women International
Men of Reform Judaism
National Association of Jewish Legislators
National Council of Jewish Women
Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies
NFTY - The Reform Jewish Youth Movement
Rabbinical Assembly
Reconstructing Judaism
Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association
The Workmen's Circle
T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights
Union for Reform Judaism
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Uri L'Tzedek, The Orthodox Social Justice Movement
Women of Reform Judaism"
This is a statement of our values -- the members of every organization which joined in this Statement have a right to be proud.

In his transmittal of this Statement, Rabbi Alan Silverstein, for the Conservative Movement, emphasized that this Statement "is the collective hope and prayer of virtually the entire organized Jewish community nationwide..." Is it fair to ask where the hell was/is JFNA? How can our -- the federation system's -- vehicle for expressing the sense of the American Jewish communities remain silent when the values we have historically espoused, that are part of our very n'shama, are being violated as children, babies, are being forcibly taken from their parents to be housed in metal cages? 

And, while JFNA remained silent, consistent with past practice may have also preached a message of silence, the President of the Board and the CEO of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, spoke out on our institutional responsibilities at times like these:
"Every day at Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center we teach about the dangers of intolerance and indifference through the lens of the horrific history of World War II and the Holocaust.  Our Museum was founded by Holocaust Survivors who keenly felt the confusion, pain, anxiety, and fear of being separated from their families, a trauma that haunts them even today. 
While the current immigration situation is not comparable to the Holocaust, when we see forcible separation of families at our own nation's border, we must speak out.  America was founded on shared values of democracy, respect for human rights, the importance of family, and compassion.  The separation policy did not reflect these values. Today President Trump responded to public pressure andsigned an executive order to end this troubling policy.
History shows us that when we identify, ostracize, and cast as "other" our fellow human beings, we begin a process of dehumanization. We do not believe we are heading down the road of the atrocities we saw in the 20th century because of the rights we hold dear - free speech, holding officials accountable, and having a system of checks and balances.  We are proud of these structures and institutions and must work to maintain them.  And sometimes this requires speaking out.
 As Rabbi Joachim Prinz said at the March on Washington in 1963, "When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence. A great people which had created a great civilization had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality and in the face of mass murder. America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent."
Today peoples' voices have been heard.  The pressure of citizen constituents was felt all the way to the oval office.  Going forward, we must continue to be Upstanders and remain diligent in defending our common humanity."
Did JFNA leaders believe that speaking out would violate some unwritten rule that demands our silence in the name of "Jewish unity?" If so, apparently every other national Jewish organization, every religious movement, must have a very different definition of "Jewish unity" than does JFNA as led by Richard Sandler, who has written most recently on this subject of such importance to him. It was Dr. Martin Luther King who once said: "Silence is betrayal." JFNA's silence on this issue was a betrayal -- of our values and this organization's fiduciary obligations.

I don't know about you, but I am sick of the cowardice that underscores our organization's silence. 

At this time, with the sounds of caged infants cries echoing, this is organizational criminal negligence plain and simple.

A brilliant U. S. Senator, herself an immigrant, pointed at those responsible for taking children, babies, from their parents and placing them in cages and said: "they have lost their souls." Have we, by our silence, lost ours?


Friday, June 22, 2018


We recently focused on the need for the best and brightest to step forward and be elected JAFI CEO through the legitimate codified Jewish Agency process in "Leaderless -- A Plea." Today, we will turn our attention to the equally important step in Jewish Agency's "processes" -- the nomination and election of the next Chair of the Jewish Agency Executive.

12 years ago, a group of important Continental leaders led by Past National JFNA Chair, Charles Bronfman, and several prominent lay leaders of JDC (purely a coincidence, I'm certain) attacked UIA (which I chaired at the time) and JFNA for their alleged placing the tax deductability of allocations to JAFI at risk as these leaders claimed the deductions were fatally tainted by JAFI's "politicization." JFNA and UIA vigorously responded and, ultimately, brilliant lawyering by our counsel and staff professionals led by JFNA's then CFO, Sam Astrof, offered convincing arguments that rebutted the philanthropists' allegations. 

I thought of those times as I read the newspaper articles reciting the totally politicized process that will lead inexorably to the Prime Minister naming his choice to the position. There have been moments in the past when the federation system stood tall, rejecting the PM's nominee for another. For example, there was the nomination and election of Avraham Burg -- so enthusiastically endorsed by Brian Lurie, then the CEO of UJA, and most if not all of the Federation chief executives that they even overcame our communal patriarch, Max Fisher's, z'l, initial misgivings (most of which would ultimately prove true). As it turned out, Avrum was about as "political" a Chair as any other, always seemingly calculating whether a given decision would impact on his then political aspirations. 

If there was a question as to whether Diaspora Jewry would stand tall in 2017 -- well, asked...and answered.

Then, in the run-up to the succession process 2018, it was as if the powers that be wanted to confirm Bronfman and his associates' arguments. First, the "lists" emerged. One of those allegedly came from JFNA but appeared to have been drafted by the Office of the Prime Minister. The "names" suggested included politicians who were under investigation in several of the matters that threaten the Prime Minister and, also, some with superb relations to the Diaspora -- most notably, Labor's Boogie Herzog, our great friend, MK Nachman Shai, and Ambassadors Ron Prosor and Michael Oren. But the politicization was clear: Bougie Herzog was publicly "rejected" -- 

Compunding the politicization the Agency named World Zionist Organization Chair, Duvdev
Duvani, one of the most shrewd of political operatives who has steered the WZO
into direct competition with JAFI, as Chair of the Nominating Committee.

Then, BOOM, we received this advisory from the UIA Board Chair, Andy Groveman, on
the very cusp of the JAFI Board of Governors meeting:
 "The Leadership Nominating Committee of the Jewish Agency for Israel will recommend on Sunday to the Jewish Agency Board of Governors the election of MK Isaac Herzog as the next Chairman of the Executive for a term of four years. MK Herzog will assume office no later than August 1, 2018."
Read all about this choice in

Isaac "Bougie" Herzog -- the Prime Minister's choice was rejected -- something that hadn't happened since that Burg episode. An excellent choice; a good man. 

I offer congratulations to JAFI Board Chair Michael Siegal and forgive my well-earned cynicism. is Israel after all. Things can change by the hour. I, like you, will soon learn where this is will end. Will JAFI emerge with strong,
 new leadership -- or will it emerge "leaderless?" 

And will this decision make a difference?


Tuesday, June 19, 2018


Perhaps JFNA has proved, approaching 20 years since the merger that created it, that we don't need a national. let alone a continental, organization after all. Yes, I know the mantra, it's one that I've uttered at least as often as anyone: "If we didn't have a JFNA, we'd have to create one." Well, we don't have the JFNA we expected or needed.  

While constantly kvetching that it doesn't have the resources to perform its ascribed responsibilities, JFNA leaders have done nothing to focus the organization on ites core purposes while it strips away program after program that woud benefit the communities which own it, preserving those like JFNA-Israel which have offered no appreciable return on investment.

What do I mean? Consider:

  • The newly approved Budget will eliminate the JFNA Speakers Bureau -- an effort that has been of great benefit to the Intermediate and Small Federations and, actually, to all federations which have used the Speakers Bureau;
  • JFNA eliminated its CEO Search function leaving the federations to seek out and employ, at significant expense, Search firms for its chief professional officer searches;
  • FedWeb will be "outsourced"  -- another federation benefit...gone:
  • JFNA eliminated the internal professional resources that used to respond to federation professional inquiries on a myriad of topics, directing them instead to the links of FedCentral;
  • The GA, which today barely attracts flies, will be so pared down by the time that it arrives in Tel Aviv this November that the Plenaries sound as if they will be the equivalent of "Open Mic Nights" at the Comedy Clubs. Admitting defeat, the General Assemblies may (and probably will) move to a Biennial event (with a "by invitation only" thing in the off years);
  • The FRD Consulting function, in the hands of a team of 9 experienced, remarkably credentialed, part-time consultants and the few full-time Financial Resource Development professionals, was created as a focused effort, assisting communities in their campaigns, or more generally, with FRD. It is now a comprehensive community consultation effort, so diluted in that the consulting team is spread so thin that many of them can't possibly offer the in-depth consultation that was once-promised (one Consultant has been assigned 68 communities, another only 23, another 24) -- there seemed to have been a determination at JFNA that the smaller the community, the less in consultation would be needed; that determination is just so without merit;
  • JFNA eliminated the struggling National Agencies-Federation Alliance after not just failing to offer the National Agencies any support but actually after stealing over $1 million from the National Agencies Funding Pool for its own internal budget purposes. This left the National Agencies adrift. JFNA? Its leaders just shrugged;
  • JFNA's lack of support was the most significant factor in the demise and elimination of JESNA, the entity created by the system to lead a continental support effort for Jewish education. After JESNA's demise, JFNA decided to create its own internal Jewish Education and Engagement Office (once a "Unit," now an "Office," no doubt soon to become a "Desk"). At JFNA this is called "Planning;"
  • JFNA will no longer offer technology services to the Federations
  • And, add to this list JFNA's continued silence in the Public Square
Oh, there's more, so much more. 

In its recent explanation of its Priority Focus and Budget Planning, here's how JFNA rationalized its "Narrowing Priorities:"
"...the discussions over the past year have reinforced the degree to which the national system, having been through successive waves of budget reductions*, is already largely focused on areas where there is a high degree of consensus about their importance...JFNA should exit or outsource current programs and services that don't align, and/or where we don't bring unique added value to the Federations." (emphasis added)
To which I would respond simply: bullshit. For the reality is that JFNA has consistently reached its  programmatic and service decisions without first consulting with the very Federations they claim to serve. This top-down approach has led to disengagement and the deconstruction of the continental effort.

And, that's where JFNA has led us -- in the deconstruction of the continental effort.

And continues to...


"...waves of budget reductions?" Total fabrication. The JFNA Budget has remained a constant over the years. What has been decimated -- JFNA support for the federations.

Saturday, June 16, 2018


Michael Siegal
The Jewish Agency for Israel

RE: The Next Director General of the Jewish Agency

Dear Michael,

It's been a long time since I have written you -- then it was in your capacity as Chair, JFNA; now, Chair, JAFI. This letter will parallel those I wrote you on JFNA -- parallel in that this correspondence, like those, is about professional leadership, this time with regard to Alan Hoffman's successor upon his retirement.

One article, Judy Maltz's in Haaretz, stipulated that at year-end, with Natan Sharansky's and Alan's respective retirements, the Agency would be "leaderless;" another, Gil Hoffman's in the Jerusalem Post, stated, at its end, that the long-time JAFI Secretary-General, Josh Schwartz, had already been named CEO, further, speculating that Josh would be the professional leader to succeed Alan. 

If Gil Hoffman was correct, Josh would be appointed Director General without regard to JAFI's By-Laws. (As an aside, there would be a certain consistency to this lack of process: when one prominent American Jewish leader had exhausted her terms as a JAFI Board Member, she demanded that Josh assure her that she would continue as a member of the JAFI Executive -- a most peculiar request. Josh assured her continued Executive Committee service. So I wrote Josh requesting the same treatment...NOPE, no special treatment for you.) 

Those JAFI By-Laws provide a process:
"a. Selection

1. The principle underlying the appointment of senior staff is to ensure excellence in carrying out the responsibilities involved.

2. The senior staff members are the Director-General of JAFI, the Secretary-General of JAFI
, the CFO, the Legal Advisor and the Deputy Directors-General of JAFI.

3. The Director General of JAFI and the Secretary General of JAFI shall be appointed by the Board of Governors upon recommendation of the Executive following a formal search process based on a written job description."
I know that you will demand that this process be followed.

And, Michael, it's on you to assure that the absolute best professional succeed Alan. If not the irony of the title to Judy Maltz's article will be realized. JFNA cannot be allowed to become truly "leaderless."

Michael, please reflect on this JAFI reality -- I, and so many others, have had the privilege of working with a succession of Directors General who were assuredly among Israel's best and brightest: Shimshon Shoshani, General Giora Romm, Aaron Abramovich, Moshe Vigdor and Alan himself. Of these great men only Alan Hoffman came from within the ranks of JAFI professionals -- and Alan's achievements within the Jewish Agency as its Education Department Director General were recognized worldwide. I know Josh Schwartz to be a good professional; he's demonstrated that he can work well within the JAFI bureaucracy, Josh knows the JAFI lay and professional leadership well and he really wants this job. 

But, Michael, what JAFI requires in 2019 and going forward is a chief professional officer of the preeminence of all of the Directors General who preceded he or she who will succeed Alan. If not, JAFI will truly be "leaderless."

Ein breira, Michael. Be strong.



Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Bob Hyfler, one of the true thought leaders in the federation movement, recently wrote us commenting on our recent Post -- Bruni on 'Leadership:'

"What ails the federated Jewish world is not the absence or quality of leadership. It is the absence of an informed, sustained, multi-generation conversation among the many on our collective challenges and directions.

By seeing our future only from the top down we will simply recreate a failed system where hasbarism has replaced a truly honest 21st century engagement with Israel and where our domestic agenda is overwhelmed by foundation- funded outreach and continuity initiatives predicated on the thoroughly insulting notion that Diaspora Jews neither care or (sic) understand what it means to be Jewish.

How we create local structures responsive to the grass roots and imbued with a radical notion of inclusiveness is a task that goes beyond the question of who our next generation of gurus might be, or who have what lay and professional titles moving forward."
I recalled Bob's eloquent and insightful thoughts as I read JFNA Board Chair Richard Sandler's plaintive message to his constituency a few weeks later: "Let's Not Stop Caring About Each Other." I mean -- who can argue with that? This is how Richard closed:
"We have survived and made a significant difference in this world for over 3,000 years because of our common values and tradition. It is also what propels us to do the sacred work of caring for people in need all over the world. The very best in us is imperiled when we let grievances and disagreements rise to the level of disrespect and enmity. Our people look to us as leaders to guide them through this wilderness. Let’s be true to our task of being a light unto the nations – and to our own people."
Yes, of course, and by all means, let's care about each other. However, shouldn't we be hearing from JFNA's leader just what steps JFNA will take to bring us together? What steps JFNA will take to move us forward...on anything? 

Bob Hyfler outlined some, but certainly not all, of the challenges we need JFNA's leadership to confront, if not to solve, to take us down the path toward developing solutions. And, what do we get: a plea for the "unity" that eludes us and nothing more.

Were JFNA more than a virtual organization; were it a vital one, Sandler's plea  would immediately be followed with a series of steps from JFNA that would drive us toward "unity." And those steps would be debated by federation leadership. And from those debates might emerge an actual plan the implementation of which would be managed by JFNA. 

But, friends, as has been too often the case, Richard's well-articulated plea is once again nothing more than a one-off without thought of how to follow up.

It's JFNA.


Sunday, June 10, 2018


Soon there will not be sufficient space on JFNA's 990 to list all of the Consultants that the organization has hired. As we have written before, the engagement of consultant after consultant paired with JFNA's leaders refusal to disclose the nature of their work and their compensation under a fictitious claim of "confidentiality" compounds the felony.

And, now...this:

"Incubated at Bain, The Bridgespan Group brings Bain-quality strategic thinking to the nonprofit world. The Bridgespan Group is the preeminent consulting firm of its type, and serves nonprofit organizations, foundations and philanthropists. As a nonprofit organization itself, Bridgespan collaborates with mission-driven and philanthropic leaders to help scale impact, build leadership, advance philanthropic effectiveness and advance learning. Its roster of more than 1000 clients served includes organizations such as Harlem Children's Zone, Youth Villages and KIPP, as well as several major foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Omidyar Network."

Maybe the thinking at JFNA was: "if we hire Bain's Bridgespan Group, we're really as important as we think we are." Maybe they didn't have a clue. Perhaps, I am the last to know that these consultants (and if one looks over Bridgespan's team of Managers, Directors, etc., it is a very impressive group), perhaps, everyone in the JFNA food chain knew of this hire and the purposes for which Bridgespan has been engaged and how much Bridgespan is being paid. But, I doubt it.

Much has been made of Bridgespan's experience with "other large network organizations" that will bring that experience to bear on reorganizing JFNA in so many ways. 
The Bridgespan Group has been engaged by JFNA for a six-month consultancy on JFNA "reimagining itself!!!!!" through some form of strategic planning and reorganization -- " an external resource for a review of the National System." OMG!! Six months.  Should be so interesting -- a reimagination? Shouldn't there first have been an "imagining?" Bridgespan was introduced to the JFNA Board at its June 4 Board Meeting where the "reimagining" continued (we're told that this "process" began at the January Board meeting. No one but leadership seemed to remember this; and no summary of the Table discussions that took place there have been distributed.). And, of course, there will be a JFNA Task Force to work on this -- but not yet???

As it turned out, it appears that the Bridgespan consultancy had begun before the June JFNA Board meeting. (We can't be sure when inasmuch as the contract was never processed through the JFNA Board.) Here's what the assignment may be:
" ~ Sharpening focus on the most critical areas of functional support for Federations.
            ~ Conducting a zero-based budget process aimed at ensuring that our financial     resources are focused on our most important priorities, maximizing all possible efficiencies and economies; and
  ~ Beginning a strategic review with support from an outside consulting firm to take a critical look twenty years post-merger at JFNA's value proposition and to devlop a new revenue model to ensure sustainable operations in the future."
If this be "reimagination," I've lost my imagination.

Not that "reimagination" can't help.  Anything would. But...$450,000 to Bridgespan* for 6 months? Really??

But...doesn't JFNA's leadership remember that it was only a few weeks ago that Richard Sandler announced Silverman's "retirement?" Is this the appropriate time, then, when JFNA is truly without a CEO and will be until a new CEO is hired and onboarded? It's possible that the answer to this question can be discovered in JFNA's own history.

"Way back in 2001, frustrated by the lack of attention to federations' needs, the then "Pillar" Chairs -- the United Jewish Community Chairs of all Standing Committees -- created a Strategic Planning and Priorities Committee to develop programmatic priorities and to then submit them for debate and approval of the appropriate governance vehicles. After months of study and debate, this "SPP Committee" found itself unable to achieve consensus; and JFNA's Chair and Co-Chair offered no leadership in the process. Then, as the SPP Committee continued to attempt to find consensus, Steve Hoffman became the CEO, and, for a variety of stated reasons, Steve let it be known that he did not endorse the Pillars' 'Big Ideas' and wanted the whole matter 'set aside.' (Some suspected that an unstated reason was that Hoffman was not 'in the room where it happened.')
And, once again, rejecting Santayana's warning, JFNA has engaged a Consultant to help it "reimagine" itself while simultaneously in the Search process for a new CEO. If the idea -- "reimagining" the organization -- is an excellent one, the timing is so, so wrong.

So, so wrong.

Only at JFNA.


* My apologies -- in the original publication of this Post, I referred to Bridgespan as "Bridgestone," the tire company. I have corredted my error.

Thursday, June 7, 2018


Waxing nostalgic...

1. Last April, on the cusp of the celebration of Israel's 70th in Jerusalem, the New York Times and Israeli media reported on the chaos that erupted there over who would "star" in the public ceremony, the Speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelstein, as had been traditional, or the Prime Minister. Ultimately, as it was reported, there was some agreement that the Speaker would utter 700 words, the Prime Minister, 500!! 

This reminded me so vividly of events surrounding the Israel 50th Anniversary celebration spearheaded by Charles Bronfman at the time of the CJF-UJA Partnership, z'l. The CJF Chair and I for UJA, as the Partnership Co-Chairs, were scheduled to deliver greetings at the Opening Ceremonies. Harold Cohen, the terrific UJA senior professional (now the JNF COO), had been given the responsibility to team with CJF professionals in the planning process. Harold told the UJA folk at a meeting a few weeks before the conclave: "Richard, you won't believe this: the CJF Chair is counting the words in your remarks and has demanded that they not exceed the number of words in his." I, incredulous, just said "Sure," knowing that I would follow the CJF leader...

For some reason, I sense, don't ask me how, that the dispute between Yuli Edelstein and Bibi Netanyahu is more serious.

2. Perhaps you remember that last month, landscapers (or the Secret Service) discovered a sinkhole in the White House Lawn. And I remember when JFNA wasn't a sinkhole. Do you?

3. Perhaps, like me, you remember when you could call CJF or UJA or, untila decade ago, jfna itself, to ask a question and the resources at the organizations were tapped to provide or find answers. Well, that was then. Today, apparently, if you have a question, turning to JFNA for an answer...well, here is an example of what passes for an answer: JFNA passes your question on to...FedCentral. Example: Renee Rothstein's:
"are you familiar with any federation folks who have installed large, publicly-facing monitors on which to display images/video/messages that support the organization’s overall branding/message? JUF is investigating best practice, and potential services ?"
("JUF" -- the Jewish United Fund -- is the FRD arm of the Chicago federation.)

The question garnered a few responses, the only one on point, came from a senior pro at... the Jewish Federation of Greater Chicago.

4. And, I remember in the first year of what is now JFNA, I went to our great partner in the merger, the brilliant Dr. Jeffrey Solomon to lament (as you, faithful readers, would understand, I do that from time to time) the then sorry state of UJC for one reason (!!) or another. Jeff comforted me: "Richard," Jeff said, "Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint." And, I was pacified -- for a day or two. I know that a number of you interact with Jeff in your work or socially; for those of you who do, please ask Jeff: "Is the f'ing JFNA marathon over yet?"


Monday, June 4, 2018


I became acquainted with something new and different in story after story about the corrupt enterprise being run by the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Donald Trump's appointee, Scott Pruitt: "SCIF." yes, the "Sensitive Compartmented* Information Facility" where, at unheard of expense, Pruitt could be assured that his discussions took place in absolute secrecy. Pruitt's SCIF cost an astonishing (only in the sense that the cost was not properly approved in advance [and, probably, would not have been]) $43,500. 

Our own SCIF -- for that is what JFNA has become for the last decade -- is JFNA itself. Our institutional SCIF. Yes, at a cost of $53,000 per year, we have built the ultimate institutional "Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility" for one and all. Insiders have access to information that no one else down the JFNA food chain can access. Questions are looked upon with disdain, answered with either a "I'll have to get back to you" which, when you hear it, you know no one is getting back to you. The harder you push for answers, the greater the likelihood is that you will be viewed as somehow traitorous and you will be shunned.

And, then, in 2016-2017, we...those of us on the Board but outside of the inside...we began to get some insights, some information, heretofore denied us. Over Richard Sandler's transmittal, JFNA began to publish Mid-Year and Year-End Progress Reports -- these were revelatory; not of progress but of the total lack thereof.

My intuition informs my conclusion that Board Chair Richard Sandler (a) read these Reports  (which bore his name), (b) noted that the CEO did nothing to either effect "progress," or effect "change;" and (c) like the superb lawyer he is, concluded that the only way to achieve "progress" and "change" would be to end the Silverman regime. We don't know this for sure because Richard, to date, has adhered to the story that Jerry decided to "retire;" and, that's fine, so long as JFNA pays Jerry off to secure his early albeit not early enough retirement...NOW.

One of you recently questioned why no one has received an accounting of how emergency and special campaign funds have been spent by JFNA:

"Richard, could you please post the distribution report published by JFNA from any emergency?

I have searched high and low and cannot find one.

The first time I looked was the First Lebanon war and I was told that JFNA hired someone to prepare the report. I am still waiting. 2nd Lebanon war. Katrina and every subsequent disaster, still no reports that I can find.

It seems that JFNA is really good about announcing how much money we “raised”, but reporting, not so much....

Curious that in essence JFNA has gone out of the campaign business and has become the national allocations committee of all disasters. One might think that at least they would report where are money went.

When there is no publication of such results it requires one to wonder why.

What is it that they are hiding?

I, for one, won’t be giving any more emergency funds to them without available reports after the fact."
Is JFNA so hidden within its SCIF, that it believes that its work is beyond scrutiny and that it has no responsibility to be accountable?

Are these questions too much to ask for starters?


* Yes, I know that "Compartmented" is not a real word.

Friday, June 1, 2018


Accusations of "defamation" have been flying among certain non-profit members of the Conference of Presidents -- the ADL, HIAS and the National Council of Jewish Women on one side, and the Zionist Organization of America on the other. As reported in JTA, the claims and counterclaims batted back and forth will be (or "has been" -- it's a secret process after all) the subject of a closed hearing convened by the Conference.

Here is a succinct explanation of "defamation" in the non-profit setting: 
"A corporation is defamed if material is published about that corporation that would tend to negatively impact its standing in the business in which it operates. Although a company or corporation is not considered to have a reputation in the sense that an individual does, statements that would impact the public’s view of a company’s financial soundness or managerial integrity are generally considered defamatory to a company’s business reputation. A company or corporation may sue for defamation if such statements would tend to deter others from dealing with it."
Hypothetically, then, would it be defamatory if Non-Profit A were to state publicly that Non-Profit "B" had lost its 501(c)(3)  -- simply stated, were the allegation true the statement would not be defamatory (truth being  an absolute defense); were the statement untrue, Non-Profit "B" might have a defamation claim. 

Or, another pure hypothecation: Non-Profit "C" states publicly that Non-Profit "B" serves no valid non-profit purpose other than as a vehicle for promotion of its CEO. Again, were the allegation true, the statement would not be defamatory in law; were the statement demonstrably false, Non-Profit "B" might have a claim.

And, what exactly happened here? Well, according to the JTA (the article is must read) ZOA has issued statements in the recent past accusing HIAS and the NCJW of being "far left" and its leaders "extremists" and the ADL of supporting Black Lives Matter, which it does not do. I am not sure from the article what the basis of the ZOA clounterclaim might be.

And, what might the Conference of Presidents role be? Under the Conference governing principles, the parties have agreed to non-disparagement of each other. A closed hearing may be demanded by an offended party. and, that's where we are.

The ZOA CEO as reported by JTA: "What kind of ruling (is that), that we can't say whatever we think is right? I'm not going to agree to be restricted from saying what I believe."

I was sure that in the era of leaks, we will all know everything pretty soon after the "hearing." Uh huh. Immediately after the "secret" Conference "hearing," JTA reported:
"On May 2, the committee met, in strictest confidence, to hear three complaints. The session, all parties agree, soon devolved into insults, ad hominem attacks and name-calling — and without a decision or definitive plans for what happens next."
I sense some sarcasm, yes? Maropost&utm_campaign=JTA&utm_medium=email&mpweb=1161-4330-27384

Then JTA reported -- These Jewish Groups Are Fighting -- -- Even Physically, According to Some...-- getting quotes from the ZOA and ADL "representatives" from the supposedly confidential hearing. Read the lengthy article at

And one of the parties continued the public insults of another post-hearing.

Can't wait to learn what happens next.


 * I note the confusion of"we" and "I" in this quote.