Monday, September 24, 2018

TIME FOR DRAMATIC CHANGE

The "Estimated Unrestricted 2018" Allocations to JAFI/the Joint Distribution Committee/WorldORT have not just reached the lowest point in history, they are so low that they assure that the great needs that these three "partners" are charged to meet, will not be. And that reality is beyond sad, it is tragic.
JAFI          $81,500,000 
          JDC            31,000,000
ORT              2,400,000
These horrible results (a reduction of almost $4 million from the dismal results of the prior year) are now accompanied by a footnote (apparently repeated and to be repeated annually):
"*Note: This estimate reflects a decrease from 2017 allocations. JFNA/Federations will pursue all possible avenues to increase the available amount." (emphasis added -- and I would add, bullshit)
The individual allocations are (or should be) humiliating to JFNA, the aggregate total, $115,000,000, beyond embarrassment...or should be. Think of it: in the first years of JFNA, the allocation to JAFI alone was $185,000,000 -- while federation campaigns have stagnated, even fallen off for some, they stand at $933,000,000 year-to-date -- 12% -- a percentage that will surely fall by 2018 calendar year-end to about 7%.

So, after the toilet-training advocacy offered by JFNA -- Envoys, Ambassadors, whatever -- the end result reflects a system in denial that it no longer is a partner in 2018 in the work of what were our partner organizations. The denial is so gross that after the Board meeting, outgoing Board Chair Richard Sandler wrote:
"We look forward to continuing to work with our overseas partners to improve on these results."
Nice, but, of course, there is no "how" because JFNA never has a"how" -- but the reality is that under JFNA's benign and inept "stewardship" the allocations have cratered.

OK, that's the environmental scan, as it were. What should be done, or, at the least, what could be done. As I proposed 15 years ago to JAFI and JDC -- and which the Joint leadership declined after serious internal discussion -- the JDC, JAFI and ORT should take over the total responsibility for their own advocacy for core allocations. This would not be a joint venture that would preclude the on-going financial resource development by the individual organizations, it would merely locate the responsibility for advocacy to the beneficiaries themselves working together in their common interest...where that responsibility should lodge given that JFNA has evidenced over the past decade that the organization has neither the interest nor any sense of moral imperative to do so. That's a shame, but it's also the reality. When it comes to advocacy for the core allocations, jfna has offered lip service.

Here is another reality that must end -- the Joint and the Jewish Agency continue to fight over percentages -- as if this were 1998. The JDC takes umbrage that it receives such a small slice -- 27% -- of an ever-smaller pie. The JDC will not acknowledge that it is doing quite well in reaching to its own Board members and to the federations for project giving that rights any imbalance. 

Advocacy should no longer be about the "split," but, instead, about increasing the aggregate pie benefiting all of the partners. At one point in JFNA history, JAFI and JDC had agreed to a new formula that would have awarded "new money" allocated to the two partners 50-50. Without reason or judgment, the then JFNA Board Chair rejected this compromise. She is no longer around -- isn't it time for the parties to return to their agreement and move forward together

The "split" percentages argument, as it has been for years, maybe decades, is the classic movie MacGuffin -- a distraction designed to take an organization's (or two) eyes off the ball. It's a distraction like a Trump Tweet. The fact  that there continues to be an argument over nothing (or almost nothing) reflects badly on all organizations. Let's focus on substance, the MacGuffin be damned.

For JAFI/JDC/ORT to leave advocacy to JFNA after decades of its neglect and failure and lack of passion, would be a shame. The partners need to leave this failed "partnership" and bring their passion for their work and purpose directly to te communities -- and they need to do so...NOW!!

Rwexler

Friday, September 21, 2018

HUH??

I retrieved a bizarre e-mail from my Spam folder at the end of August from something called "Jewish Federation." 

Here is how it read:

"Hello All,

Receiving this e-mail insinuates that you are an alumni of one Jewish Association or another. There is a debate going on globally and your opinion and worldly contribution is necessary if not compulsory.

Attached is a confidential document shared via DocuSign FYA, Kindly download the attachment and, login with your respective e-mails to access the PDF document and process your feedback.

The content of the attachment would have been discussed openly but the loopholes in cyber security is alarming lately.

NOTE- Don not open attachment if you are not an alumni of any Jewish Association or if you think you received this e-mail in error. This e-mail list is acquired from the JFNA database


Thank you all for the audience.

Jewish Federations"
"Insinuates?" "one Jewish Association or another?" "audience?" Multiple punctuation and grammar errors. So, of course, it could have come from JFNA couldn't it? 

I didn't think so -- especially the sentence: "The content of the attachment would have been discussed openly but the loopholes in cyber security is alarming lately." No, not even JFNA could have conjured a sentence like that one.

I forwarded this email directly to Jerry Silverman knowing that he would want to alert the JFNA Board of this phishing expedition. He didn't; I was wrong...again. Never a warning to the Board: another "this is none of our business, we're not getting involved." Or...something.

So, I will never know whether this fake email was Russian hacking, someone(s) phishing expedition or worse. 

Probably worse.

Rwexler


Thursday, September 20, 2018

IF TRUE...LETTER FROM A PRISONER

On Yom Kippur I received and published this Comment to our Post on the upcoming GA -- although the Comment was much more focused than that Post:




"Anonymous said...
On this Yom Kippur, those of us who work on the sinking ship known as JFNA, must say the prayer that best describes what our employer does every other day of the year. I too have a hand in this deceit. It is what the boss demands. Thank gd he is leaving, but you lay leaders who allow him to remain in the building cannot say your Al Chet until you right the wrong by removing him. Then you can begin the teshuva.

He has destroyed everything that was good in CJF and UJA. All that is left that works is Washington Grants, the Bond Fund and UIA

The Al Chet of JFNA

For the sin which we have committed before You under duress or willingly.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by hard-heartedness.

For the sin which we have committed before You inadvertently.

And for the sin which we have committed before You with an utterance of the lips.

For the sin which we have committed before You with immorality.

And for the sin which we have committed before You openly or secretly.

For the sin which we have committed before You with knowledge and with deceit.

And for the sin which we have committed before You through speech.

For the sin which we have committed before You by deceiving a fellowman.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by improper thoughts.

For the sin which we have committed before You by a gathering of lewdness.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by verbal [insincere] confession.

For the sin which we have committed before You by disrespect for parents and teachers.

And for the sin which we have committed before You intentionally or unintentionally.

For the sin which we have committed before You by using coercion.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by desecrating the Divine Name.

For the sin which we have committed before You by impurity of speech.

And for the sin which we have committed before You by foolish talk.

For the sin which we have committed before You with the evil inclination.

And for the sin which we have committed before You knowingly or unknowingly."
One of our comrades described this Comment as a cri de coeur -- and it is certainly that. It is the deepest expression of pain, isn't it? 

Al chet -- loosely translated to "on account of this sin..." Well, chevre, as our correspondent makes clear in his/her charge to us, there is a cntinuing sin in doing nothing, saying nothing while JFNA does nothing.

It's bad.

Rwexler

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

THE GA AND THE DEMISE OF THE CONTINENTAL ORGANIZATION

Friends, here is the seminal question: 
At long last are the Jewish federations of North America prepared to take over the Jewish Federations of North America?
What brought this on, you ask? Well, I just saw the GA "Program Highlights" released by JFNA just a couple of weeks ago -- "Highlights" being hyperbole to the extent that I thought this was some form of Purim shpiel.  (It wasn't; it is the Program.) It was reported that a week ago lay registration was at 604 (that's based on a "hand count" of 784 total NA registration times 77% [Don't ask; it's Jerry-math.) -- as if this were a good thing. 

You can review this thing for yourselves at generalassembly.org -- if you dare. 

The Plenaries will contain a mixed bag --the good, Andy Tisch, in his role as Founder of the Tisch Center for Jewish Dialogue, will be on a Plenary Panel; there will be speeches by the Co-Vice-Chairs of the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, Bougie Herzog will offer his first address to the federations as a whole (or such as may be there) as Chair of the JAFI Executive; and the Prime Minister will address what appears to be the Closing Plenary.

There is the bad: Jerry Silverman will speak (not certain why Richard Sandler has not yet been scheduled); some "outside the box" Israeli entrepreneurs; there is no "scholar in residence" to tie the Plenaries together;; there is no continuity.

There are a whole bunch of Breakouts, Rooftop Raps and Dialogue Dens (again, don't ask), some of which appear to have value, and something called Deep Dives: Dialogue in the Den.

And here is my absolute favorite: The Knesset Event --
"We can't tell you what it is yet, but we promise you won't be disappointed. Stay tuned for more details on this exciting event in Jerusalem!"
I'm not making this up -- it just sounds like it. (And, N.B., RSVP Required)

The GA "planners" have scheduled three Prime Minister's Council events from which most, nearly all, will be excluded: "Home Hospitality with "Israeli leaders," A Seminar "with HealthTech Trailblazers" (not to be confused with the Portland Trailblazers); and an Ambassador's Reception at the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem "with Ambassador David Friedman" (have a great bus ride from Tel Aviv).

To paraphrase the Marketing/Communications professionals who appear to be driving this GA -- federations, This is why We Need to Talk. It appears clear that the Program for this GA is driven by nothing more or less than...austerity. It's GA Lite; it's GA On the Cheap except for the Registrants for whom this will be an extraordinarily expensive General Assembly. 

I would hope that those of you going to the GA take a Deep Dive together into the swamp that is JFNA and vow to fix it...NOW.

Vayezmir. It just goes  from bad to worse.

Rwexler

Sunday, September 16, 2018

SCAM?

On the New Year, ejewishphilanthropy published an op-ed over the "by-line" of A Senior Israeli Nonprofit Consultant, https://ejewishphilanthropy.com/is-the-ga-scamming-israeli-nonprofits/?utm_source=Sept+12,+2018&utm_campaign=Wed+Sept+12&utm_medium=email.

The article saddened me so much, and, then, sadness turned to outrage. Is the GA Scamming Israeli Nonprofits? is an excellent question; given that JFNA has been scamming its own owners, the federations, and its former "partners," JAFI, JDC and WorldORT for over a decade, not so surprising. Essentially, the author, who clearly has a keen insight, states forcefully that small (and, for that matter, large) Israeli NGOs are paying an exorbitant price for a booth -- for visibility -- at the upcoming Tel Aviv GA. As Chicago's Caryn Adelman, commented:
"Standing behind a table giving out pamphlets and free candy is not relationship building...meeting on common ground, sharing ideas and values are what it's all about.
Donors are smarter than you think." 
Israeli non-profits don't realize, but, if they rent a booth, they soon will, that JFNA GAs are nothing more than a numbers game for the convener, JFNA. Facing annual deficits from the failing General Assemblies, and an ever-reducing number of quality sponsors, the pressure is on to "sell" more booths without any sense of responsibility to the NGOs to advise them, as has the anonymous author, that they expending more for less in terms of return on investment -- more, in many cases, than the NGOs can afford or should expend. The same numbers game has driven JFNA to offer steep registration discounts for Israeli professional staffs of American organizations operating in Israel.

And, of course, as is their way, JFNA will soon be inflating the number of lay registrants for the TAGA -- in mid-September lay registration stood at less than 700 -- a shocking number that confirms the need to use 2019 to undertake a long and fresh look at the value-added from an event that has lost what it once had. It would have been great if the GA were still what the author of Scamming recited:
"The GA is the gathering of all of the staff and lay leadership involved in the Jewish Federations across North American whose primary purpose is to support Jewish life, community, and identity in America. heir Jewish identity and increase their participation in their home Jewish communities."
Oh, if only it were so.

G'mar hatima tova.

Rwexler

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

THE VOID

At some point, my friends, more and more leaders -- especially communal professionals -- have to start asking -- "what, exactly, do I and my community get in return for the outrageous Dues we pay to JFNA?" One of the answers has to be "next to nothing;" another, "less and less and less."

Instead of a continental organization that partners with them, providing the expertise for federation CEO searches, federations are on their own; instead of supporting its own FedWeb initiative, federations are on their own; instead of the continental Speakers Bureau, federations, for the first time, are on their own...and so it goes, Dues remain the same, federations return on what was once an "investment" -- on their own.

And, mentoring new CEOs across City-sizes, I am reminded...

  • A few years ago, one then new CEO told me of the time shortly after he joined the system that he spoke up at a Large City Executives meeting of his need for help, to which one of the renowned long-time LCE responded: "We have to get ____ a mentor." The CEO looking for guidance responded: "You were assigned to help me."
  • Another new CEO, well-trained in our federation system, told me that instead of a mentor, he received a sheet of "Q and A's for the New CEO" or some such, nothing more.
The void that has been created by JFNA walking away from its obligations to the profession and the federation system, can be found in a single "edition" on FedCentral, the web-based device JFNA has substituted for its own lack of capacity to respond even to the most basic questions from the communities. For example, in the FedCentral edition, August 6-12, the questions:
  • Who should we get as a Major Gifts "inspirational speaker;"
  • What platform should we use for on-line donations;
  • Does your community include a "honey stick" with Rosh Ha'shana cards;
  • Should we have a communal Social Media policy;
  • Does your federation use Instagram;
  • Super Sunday text to pledge;
  • How to increase teen travel to Israel;
  • And...more
This is in no way a criticism of the questions: it is an observation on the extent to which JFNA has left the field to its own devices. And, then, charges the user for the privilege.

And, while the abandonment is on-going, JFNA leaders are pleading that Dues are inadequate, that they need more and more and more.

This isn't going well so there is no reason to believe that this will end well.

Rwexler



Sunday, September 9, 2018

5779

Dear Readers, Dear Friends,

Wishing all of you the happiest and healthiest of New Year's.

A shana tova u'metuka.

YOUR COMMENTS

Thanks to an insightful reader for this Comment to our Post, COMPARE AND CONTRAST...AGAIN:
"Once upon a time there was an organization called the United Jewish Appeal. It was then "merged" into what is today called JFNA. Actually, rather than being "merged" into JFNA, it was taken apart and thrown away.

Today, JFNA has no collective campaign - only FRD consultants and advisors.
Sometimes we decide to open a mailbox - usually not. Passively opening a mailbox is not the same as running a campaign but that seems to be all that is left of what once was.

Is there anybody out there that doesn't think that we have failed miserably aa an umbrella organization?
We have become an umbrella that is incapable of opening up to stop a drizzle, never mind a heavy rainfall.

We have become a useless but expensive umbrella. We have lost our way, lost our vision, lost our mission, lost our value to our federations, our partners and our people."
Our correspondent offered some telling points. To me the most telling is that what we have "...seems to be all that is left of what once was." The years of this Blog have been my attempt, feeble though it has been and is, at atonement for my role in the creation of what is JFNA.

There have been points along the way in this tragedy where strong intervention by those of us who knew better might have made a difference but we were restrained -- restrained by our natural inclination to offer constant, even unquestioning, support for our leaders. I will offer one example: we structured the merged entity to strike a balance between our national responsibility for financial resource development and other services to federations. After the first five years of operations, the professional head of FRD felt threatened by a new CEO. Seeking to gain the CEO's favor, the FRD pro and the Campaign Chair agreed to reframe JFNA (then UJC) as a support function to the rest of JFNA, rather  than retain FRD's status as one of the "pillars"of JFNA. I/we wanted to support the Campaign Chair and the FRD senior professional -- that was a terrible mistake, both short-term and long-term.

BTW, whatever "favor" this act of altruism and self-sacrifice gained the FRD senior pro was short-term -- very short-term. She was soon forced out after months of agony. 

A "useless but expensive umbrella"...indeed.

Rwexler

Thursday, September 6, 2018

THE 990 -- HIDING TRUTHS IN PLAIN SIGHT

I don't know the exact date that the 2017 JFNA IRS 990 went "public" -- you know the annual filing that JFNA wouldn't make if the IRS didn't require it. In all events, the most recent 990 reveals almost nothing about what JFNA is doing and little about what JFNA did during the Fiscal Year 2016-2017.

What it did disclose was just more of the same:

  • Consultants -- it should be hard for me to criticize JFNA for being the full employment organization for Consultants inasmuch as I am one myself (though not for JFNA, sad to say). But...JFNA makes it so necessary...
    • The organization reports that it retains 29 Consultants who were paid more than $100,000 in FY 2016-2017;
    • Among the itemized Consultants are 2 which appear to have been retained for "producing" the GA to the tune of $1.2 million -- money well spent??
    • How many Consultants paid less than $100,000 served the organization in 2016-2017? 
    • And what were al of these Consultants doing for the federations? That's "CONFIDENTIAL"
  • Professionals -- see if you believe that there is accountability at JFNA when...
    • 11 professionals earned were paid in excess of $200,000 in FY 2016-2017
    • Of those 11, 5 were paid in excess of $300,000 in the fiscal Year
    • And, the highest 3:
      • Silverman -- $692,000
      • Gurvus -- $400,000
      • Caspi -- $353,000
For any of you who believe that federations are receiving a return on these "investments," I have a bridge to sell you.

Are there examples of JFNA's "excellence?" Of course -- JFNA is great when acting as a conduit. For examples...

  • Millions in Holocaust Grants (although there was no disclosure of the criteria used in awarding the Grants to 10s of local agencies); or
  • Emergency Grants for, e.g., Hurricane relief
I hate to be picky but: 
  • Why doesn't JFNA publish its 990s by sending the link to them directly to its Board members? 
  • What standard has been codified to determine that a list of consultants and the purposes of their engagement ARE "Confidential?"
The 990, for any charitable organization is an opaque document; perfect for an opaque organization.

Rwexler


Monday, September 3, 2018

JUST WHEN YOU THINK THINGS CAN GET NO WORSE...

1. In Westchester County, JTA reports, a 71 year-old "caller" is alleged to have "fixed" synagogue-sponsored bingo games..https://www.jta.org/2018/08/13/news-opinion/man-charged-with-fraud-for-fixing-synagogues-bingo-game?utm_source=JTA Maropost&utm_campaign=JTA&utm_medium=email&mpweb=1161-5625-27384

2. Did Jeremy Corbyn, the head of Britain's Labor Party, really lay a wreath in memory of the Palestinian terrorists who slaughtered Israelis at the Munich Olympics? Is he the highest-ranking current political leader in Western Europe to evidence anti-semitism beyond anti-Israeli sentiments? Or is he the symptom of a spreading disease?https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/268491/jeremy-corbyn-will-lay-a-wreath-for-plo-munich-murderers-but-not-for-dead-jews-at-yad-vashem?utm_source=tabletmagazinelist&utm_campaign=94b8cf93cc-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_08_13_08_33&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_c308bf8edb-94b8cf93cc-206560494

3. With all of the issues swirling around Israel, The Times of Israel recently reported that the country is now confronting...a crocoidile crisishttps://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-faces-crocodile-conundrum-with-stranded-reptiles/  700 of them isolated at a defunct "tourist attraction." As one observor pointed out: "a loose croc in the Jordan River could spark an international incident." OY!!

4. JTA reported that a moronic (my description) GOP candidate for Governor of California publcly compared waiting in line at the DMV to the Holocaust. Enough said about that guy.

Rwexler