Wednesday, October 31, 2018


A colleague in some degree of shock sent this to me:

"To:         UIA Board of Directors

From:    Andy Groveman, Chair
               David Mallach, Executive Vice chair

RE:         UIA Board of Directors

DATE:    October 12, 2018

Customarily at this time of year, you would be receiving a letter from UIA regarding your future status as a member of the UIA Board of Directors.  As discussed at a number of our meetings over the past 7 months, JFNA established a committee to examine the entire area of its global operations, including the relationship between JFNA, UIA and the Jewish Agency. In the deliberations of the Global Operations Review Committee, many issues have been examined which could have implications for the structure and governance of United Israel Appeal, Inc. The UIA Board will have ample opportunity to review and comment on the report before it is presented to the leadership of JFNA.

In the context of these potential developments, the UIA Nominations Committee met. It recommended that the current Board and Officers of UIA remain in place until the January 2019 meeting of the JFNA Board of Trustees, at which time it is likely that the final recommendations of the committee that are ultimately agreed upon will be presented to the JFNA board for formal action.  At that point or during the few weeks prior, we will have an opportunity to decide on how best to respond to whatever decisions are taken.

At the meeting of the UIA Executive Committee on October 10, 2018, it was unanimously voted to accept the recommendations of the Nominating Committee and leave the current Board members and Officers in place at this time and we hope that you will agree and continue to serve as a member of the UIA Board of Directors until there is a resolution on the governance structure going forward. As stipulated in the UIA Bylaws, if no board members are chosen by the JFNA board and no new officers are selected by the UIA Board, then the current ones remain in place until such time as they are replaced.

We believe that this approach is in the best interests of the UIA, JFNA and the Jewish Agency at this time and hope that you will agree to continue to serve as a member of the UIA Board of Directors..."
There can be little doubt that the UIA Chair is fully familiar with the terms of the "Global Operations Committee Report;" yet, true to JFNA "tradition," it's "confidential" until JFNA determines in its sole discretion that it's not. 

One has to ask: given its abysmal results, whom in their wisdom would willingly permit more power to accrete to JFNA after the secrecy, the waste over the past decade? Well, we'll soon know. Recall that UIA secured and has well-managed the US Refugee Grant that has meant tens of millions to JAFI; that its Israel staff has performed with excellence (both absolutely and in contrast to rest of the bloated, failed JFNA-Israel operation); and, probably unknown to the current group of JFNA leaders, half of the UIA Budget is reimbursed to JFNA-UIA by JAFI. So if this is about UIA's cost, this Global Operations Study thing ought to be spending all of its time studying the stultifying waste of JFNA-Israel.

Both JFNA and UIA have done a terrible job over the past five years at least in explaining the value added provided by UIA -- value-added that far exceeds UIA's "cost" to the federation system. Put this in the same category as JFNA's failed advocacy on behalf of JDC/WorldORT/JAFI -- a failure of responsibility.

Since the merger almost two decades ago, a succession of United Israel Appeal Chairs -- Jane Sherman, yours truly, Bruce Arbit, Rich Bernstein -- had been forced to step forward to defend UIA's role as principal to the JAFI agent and to defend its fiduciary responsibilities under a series of IRS Revenue Rulings against periodic attempts at JFNA usurpation. None of us wished to be in a position adverse to JFNA's. (Before my first meeting as UIA Chair, I was interrogated by JFNA's Chairs seeking assurance that I would "cooperate" in ways that they perceived Jane Sherman had not. I assured Joe Kanfer and Kathy Manning that they would have my support so long as they did not usurp UIA's functions. It took them all of two weeks to violate that assurance. Matters got worse from there.)

If does not take a seer to read between the lines of UIA Chair Andy Groveman's Memo to the UIA Board -- the end result of this "process" will not serve the interests of JAFI, UIA, JFNA, the federations or our donors.

A far more perceptive reader, commenting Anonymously to our Post, Questions Abound, spelled it out perfectly:

"So the task force that was set up to study JFNA operations in Israel and related activity has its recommendations ready, although they are not yet being released for now so as not to spoil the GA (as if it would matter).
One wonders what this document is going to suggest, although there is probably very little room for optimism. 

Since active lay involvement is something that is not appreciated by the powers that be, we can expect yet another attempt to destroy UIA and to make it just another department operationally and to crush its ability to really include any meaningful proactive lay leadership and advocacy functions. Having gotten rid of UJA after the merger, there will almost certainly be an attempt to finish the job by 'merging' UIA into the 'professionally' led wasteland where lay leadership have no real role.

As for the operations of the JFNA 'Global' empire in Israel, they probably won't touch the untouchable and will allow the empire-building trend of the past decade to continue unscathed, wasting our resources and accomplishing nothing at all that could be considered as being a positive contribution to the federations, to Israel or even to JFNA itself. That is unless one takes into account the wonderful feeling and illusion that we are overseeing the Knesset and the Israeli Government, while creating new and innovative programs and alliances to further philanthropic causes in Israel (Gee, that really sounds impressive!). The only important function of an Israel and Overseas department or unit should be advocacy in North America and the providing Israel and Overseas programming resources to federations, not trying to run its own lobbying and programming activities in Israel.

So, after the GA circus we will be seeing the task force report and recommendations (if they decide to really share them). Maybe we will be pleasantly surprised but more likely not. The big question is whether we will stand up and fight or just sit back and watch the continued irreversible destruction of any meaningful collective continental communal organization.  

Then again, maybe it will just be a wonderful report and we can all just say 'aye' to it. Or maybe it will be a disaster and we will all say 'aye' anyway so as not to make waves and rock the boat.

Time will tell."
In the negotiations of the merger that ultimately subjected UIA to subsidiary status, Shoshana Cardin, z'l, UIA Chair  and Danny Allen, then UIA Executive Vice-Chair (for the first time), fought with incredible passion to preserve UIA's critical role as interface between donors, federations and the Jewish Agency. In my role, I helped to force the merger upon UIA -- for which I have constantly apologized and attempted to atone. I am proud of the resistance that my predecessors and successors as UIA Chair* demonstrated in asserting that UIA's role would not be diminished any more than it already had been. 

The question now (and for the past two (is that all) years is whether the current United Israel Appeal leadership has the strength and tenacity to assure that UIA's roles -- those that they have fulfilled so well -- are protected. 

All signs point to "no."


* My own private, then public, "resistance" so offended JFNA's leaders that I was forced out as Chair.

Monday, October 29, 2018


"Trust us" appears to be the operational philosophy at JFNA. Why anyone would is the question of the day. And, here's why...

During Operation Protective Edge, rather than a focused special campaign, JFNA, as is its practice, opened a Mailbox collecting undesignated funds which it then designated for Victims of Terror. I have no doubt that the funds were  then distributed to appropriate Israeli NGOs to provide care and comfort across Israel. Then, as the conflict itself came to an end, came the issues: the need to serve Victims of Terror did not end; JFNA merely determined unilaterally that it would set aside the millions left in the Fund for future use. Donors were certainly never consulted; perhaps a few federations were. There was no vote by the JFNA Board.

And, over the past 4 years, JFNA has doled out dollars from the Victims of Terror Fund raised during Protective Edge for the current crises. Who's watching; who's reviewing; who's approving? What are the criteria; what are the standards?

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the JFNA did engage in critical follow-up.There was a sense of pride at the professional and lay levels in the accomplishments in partnership with the beleaguered and remarkable Houston Jewish community. This was JFNA at its best. There was a playbook for meeting future emergencies. And, then, the future emergencies became more frequent. And each one was treated as sui generis, the playbook rewritten each time; staff borrowed for each emergency --a seeming unwillingness to acknowledge that with climate change has come a continuing string of weather catastrophes assaulting our cities, our Jewish communities large and small.

These are but two examples of many where JFNA shoots itself in the foot even as it strives to do good -- through a continuing lack of leadership, lack of process, lack of continuity. This inability to remain focused is one of JFNA's most terrible flaws; a leadership distracted by the next shiny object --  away from its core functions, away from its sacred obligations.

You will remember that early on in Silverman's terms, the then Board Chair embraced, without plan or process, what would have been the billion dollar fantasy of a free Jewish education for every child -- a beautiful idea, too bad it was run up the flagpole without prior discussion or thought. So Silverman (who by that time had already embraced, #ish, the Global Planning Table, 3 TribeFests and other "plans" soon left in the dust after the waste of millions...millions) embraced the "free education fantasy" until someone told him to stop. 

Then there was the JAFI/Government of Israel/World Jewry Initiative. You remember, five years ago, a bold engagement plan emerged out of a series of think tanks convened by JAFI. And, then, as we wrote:
"As was related to me, the Jewish Agency Executive was advised that one Ayelet Shilo Tamir was recruited from MASA to "free up" Alan to work on what would be the moribund Government of Israel/JAFI Initiative. This appeared to many to be a real attempt by Natan Sharansky to have someone near the top of the JA bureaucracy who actually knew how to manage within the organization. But on her arrival, Hoffmann, who plays the bureaucracy like a chalil, appeared to go into a protective shield, and hired Yael Weiss Gadish to direct the work of the Initiative. Garish, who is said to be sorely lacking in the trust of the Agency staff, almost succeeded (and still might) in a plan that would, if implemented,  sell out the Agency to Diaspora Affairs Director General Dvir Kahane, aiding Hoffmann, her sponsor, in the creation of an alternative to the Jewish Agency, the GOI Initiative's "Public Benefit Company" known sarcastically in Israel as "Sochnut B" -- a way too transparent effort to break the JA/GOI partnership that was engineered, incredibly, by the Jewish Agency itself. As the entire Initiative has apparently collapsed, Hoffmann has created a new position at JAFI for Gadish -- "Director of Strategic Planning" -- swelling the top of the bureaucracy even as the brain drain is on-going."
And where was JFNA during the collapse of an Initiative that, had it been implemented as planned, would have fully engaged our continental organization, JFNA sat silently on the outside not even looking in.

No follow-up, no nothing.


Sunday, October 28, 2018


Josh Nathan-Kazis writing in The Forward has disclosed what happens in the darkness in his article disclosing that an obscure Israeli psy-ops group reached out offering its clandestine services to disrupt and attack, even physically, those in the BDS "business."

We had written about the institutional protectionism at 25 Broadway as JFNA claimed a false "confidentiality" about a $1 million consultancy the purpose of which JFNA refused to disclose to me, thus:

"We have already written of the strange case of the 'confidentiality' attached to a $1,000,000 conduit through JFNA to the SS+K firm, identified on the 990 as an 'Independent Contractor,' in Shepardson Stern and Kaminsky LLC -- Who Are These Guys? The question remains after JFNA asserted 'confidentiality' as to the contract between a secret donor and SS+K for a secret project. And JFNA lay leadership has apparently supported the claimed confidentiality."
A connection between Nathan-Kazis' revelations and JFNA's hidden $1 million conduit of a secret donor's funds to a public relations firm for an undisclosed purpose? We'll never know unless an investigative reporter like Nathan-Kazis or Haaretz's brilliant Uri Blau or the New York Attorney General's Charities Division pries open the door of non-disclosure, the secrets hidden behind the false claims of  an ad hoc "confidentiality."

Anyone who believes that there is nothing wrong with hiding the people's business from the people merely need look at the public scandals impacting multiple Federation-supported Jewish agencies in New York City over the past decade; or the deployment of charitable dollars to Canary Mission and others while federation folks either looked the other way or just lacked the will to inquire. 

What federation leaders must know is that the Federation qua Federation suffers the ultimate consequences of agency corruption. For Federation is viewed as the ultimate steward of communal funds. When trust in the "system" breaks down, it is Federation that pays the ultimate price; and trust is not easily rebuilt, if it can be rebuilt at all.

Here's the trend that must be arrested -- and arrested now, not tomorrow, today -- it is the trend in community after community of lay leaders exhibiting a willingness to "just let the professional do it." It is the leadership philosophy clearly articulated by Richard Sandler even before he took office as JFNA Board Chair, one that he lived by while the Chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and continued during his three years in that seat at JFNA -- ending only with his late realization that a new CEO was vital to any success that JFNA might achieve. 

Sandler came to his leadership philosophy in good faith, I have no doubt. But it has led to three years of no professional accountability. It has led to a sense of entitlement among JFNA's most senior professionals that has seen, among other things: the implementation of the JFNA-JCPA  Israel Action Network as an almost total professional effort with only a lay chair (the IAN website links to its "Leadership and Staff" and then conflates the two -- just staff); or, with neither process nor thought, directing a community to "just write off" a 7 figure debt owed JAFI, JDC and WorldORT with no lay authorization (and no understanding that the debt was really the property of, owned by, JAFI, JDC and WorldORT). 

Secrecy is so dangerous, my friends. It was Justice Louis Brandeis who observed: "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman." If our organizations continue to demand darkness, a policeman may soon appear.

We can no longer permit the blinds to be drawn and the doors locked.


Saturday, October 27, 2018


In the aftermath of the horrifying, murderous attack on the congregants of the Tree of Life Synagogue, I offered  my condolences and prayers to the victims and the congregants and the community, as I know you do as well.

A friend wrote me out of her pain and I responded:
"Like you, I am sickened by what happened in Squirrel Hill this morning, by the further terrorist acts of this mad bomber this week, by President Trump’s response suggesting that what’s “needed” are more guns — in schools and, now, in synagogues — while his Secretary of Homeland Security is at the Mexican border to 'protect' America from an 'invasion' by 1,000 beset Hondurans/Nicaraguans. President Trump, with the acquiescence of his sycophants, has unleashed the darkness, and though his comments today at another rally were wholly appropriate, I don't believe that he has a clue of where to look to find the light."
Too many, too many Jews, for reasons known only to them, have chosen to ignore what has been and is happening right in front of our eyes, on our own streets, in Charlottesville, now in our own synagogues, turning away from the anger and hate spewed out at every rally, a daily dose of vituperation toward the press, the media, the "other." Hell, it wasn't about us, was it? 

We thought what has now happened to us, could only happen in Paris or Brussels or London -- somewhere else but never here. Yet here it is. 

Friends, we have forgotten Pastor Niemoller's admonition and Santayana's maxim: those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.  We are a People committed to "never forgetting" and, yet, too many of us have forgotten. We must commit to finding the means to ending the incitement, wherever and whenever we see it.

I despair even as I know that we, as a People, as a Jewish People in America, are strong, stronger than we have ever been -- but only if we can find our unity, only if we can find that unity. Who will rally us? How will he or she do so? Where will we find the words, the actions to rally our partners of all religions and races to join in common cause?

We must commit that we shall never forget those who perished today gathered in a synagogue in Pittsburgh while celebrating Shabbat and a bris -- perished at the hands of a virulent anti-semitic home grown terrorist. 

We are already late.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Haaretz' columnist, Chemi Shalev, let JFNA's leadership have it in the sharpest terms in his closing column on the soporific GA in Jewish General Assembly's long-awaited confrontation with Netanyahu yields self-defeating humiliation instead -- GA 2018.


What Shalev was referring to was outgoing JFNA Board Chair, Richard Sandler's, obsequious "questioning" of the Prime Minister at the GA closing plenary today. Citing Sandler's "fawning admiration" of the Prime Minister as evidence of how out of touch JFNA is with the American Jewry it is supposed to not just represent but lead, Chemi lamented the "uncritical adulation" embodied in Sandler's nodding head and expressions of thanks to Bibi even as Richard had to have realized he and his audience were not getting any real answers to any of the hard questions.

Readers may remember the same episode at last year's GA in Los Angeles where Bibi appeared on-screen from Jerusalem. It was in that filibuster that the Prime Minister completely dissembled when describing the breach of his Kotel Agreement and Sandler, our Chair, responded "thanks for the clarification." This time, as Shalev put it so well, Sandler "...allowed (the PM) to spin his fantasies without interruption" or even respectful challenge. In his obsequity Sandler, for JFNA. "undermined their own demand for a new kind of conversation between Israel and American Jews."

This GA ostensibly a demand that "We need to talk" was about everybody listening without critical commentary, as always; or, as Chemi Shalev put it "The show must go on."

"Thus," he wrote, "the organizers of the GA failed to represent their own constituencies."




While the TA GA grinds on to its Closing....

1. While the GA had 750 (+/-) lay registrants on hand in Tel Aviv, there were 7,000 Evangelical Christians in Jerusalem for their conclave. When Prime Minister Netanyahu describes Evangelicals as "our greatest allies in the United States." Why might that be? Do we all? The Tuesday Plenary saw rows of seats removed while the audience was significantly reduced (many Israeli attendees on Day 1 appeared to have gone back to work.

2. Speaking of the Prime appears that things are about to get very real with President Trump. Axios reported (October 22, 2018) that Trump discussed his Mideast "peace plan" with French President Emmanuel Macron and told him that:
"...he will be willing to pressure Netanyahu, if needed, when the moment comes...Trump added that he has given Netanyahu a lot -- like moving the U.S, embassy to Jerusalem. Trump even mentioned that every year the U.S. gives Israel $5 billion in military aid."
No surprise that the President got the amount of aid wrong -- it  was not $5 but $3.8 billion. The President continued: "I can be as tough with Bibi as I have been with the Palestinians." Who among us could have failed to predict that this day would come? 

This has the probability of rapidly becoming as ugly as it was wholly predictable. 

3. Next year there will be some minor gathering (although it would be fair, I think, to characterize that that is exactly what the GA has become under this leadership over the past decade) -- probably for professionals only. Then, in 2020, the GA will return to Chicago where,as we all know, this community will produce 1,000 lay registrants itself. This will also give JFNA time to reorganize for an effective, inspirational General Assembly with real take home value for professional and lay leaders. Suggestion: create a GA Program Planning Committee of lay and professional leaders -- appoint it now and let it get to work.

4. Haaretz' brilliant reporter, Judy Maltz, scored an exclusive when she discovered that:
"In an effort to resolve the crisis with Reform and Conservative Jews in the United States, the Israeli government is bypassing the movements’ leaders and reaching out directly to congregational rabbis..."
Apparently engineered by Israel's Ambassador to the U.S., this "effort" has already coopted Rabbi Ami Hirsch and others. We'll leave it to the Movements to determine if this subversion will work. 

Just another week...


Tuesday, October 23, 2018


You may be aware of the baseball thesis that if both teams are disgusted with an umpire's calls, the ump must be doing a great job. Now, the GA in Tel Aviv where everybody...that's everyone...has found fault with JFNA, the GA and/or the federations. 

And, by everyone: the Minister of the Diaspora, by his non-attendance (due to the tired excuse of "scheduling conflicts") testifies to JFNA's irrelevancy in Israel; Women of the Wall whose criticism more directly to JFNA's abandonment of a cause they claimed to embrace to the extent that Silverman led a march with them at the last GA in Israel -- a March, you will recall,was hardly attended; a general recognition that the specious tagline of this GA -- "We Need to Talk" is all about JFNA having nothing to do with talking with let alone listening to Israelis (other than those on the left and even very few of them). 

If the GA were truly an attempt at the expression of the unity of the Jewish People -- you know "there is more that unites us than divides us" -- no organization could have made a greater mess of things than has JFNA. I know that some of you think I will blame this on JFNA's version of Inspector Clouseau, the honorable Director General of JFNA-Israel, Becky Caspi, to whom responsibility for this GA was delegated by Renee Rothman herself. And, of course, you are correct -- but not Caspi alone, there is Rothman and, ultimately, that lamest of Lame Ducks, Jerry Silverman himself.

There was some good news...or bad news presented as good. First, attendance was announced to the press (which, as always, lapped it up like a cat and a bowl of milk) attendance of 2,500 ("divided equally between North American and Israeli") instead of the annual hyperbolic 3,000. Then, to give it a real Israeli flavor, the Board was honored with the presence of the Governor of New Jersey (don't ask!! This is not a joke.). I wish there were more. 

The GA got off to a good start with the descendants of Max Fisher and Moshe Sharett speaking (very briefly) to their inheritance followed by a Russian-Israeli who spoke to her life experiences ending in life in a UIA-owned Amigour experience; songs and dance. Then, what might have been compelling speeches from Israelis and North Americans marred only by their reading. (Note to whomever: have you heard of teleprompters -- their use may have allowed a series of presenters on important and emotional topics to have made a greater impact on the audience.) At the end of this almost 2 hour Opening Plenary, I understand that the GA theme has morphed from We Need to Talk to Just Sit and Listen.

Promotional materials and videos for the GA made it clear that Tel Aviv would be where "we" would "discuss the issues that matter most." Uh uh. Those issues didn't have a chance. 

It needn't have begun or ended this way.

JFNA's lay and professional leaders, acting behind their usual wall of secrecy, have decided that the organization must avoid controversy at all costs -- take no positions, make no is the sha sha JFNA...hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil...unless it's really, really safe: like "we support Motherhood" (and, maybe, not even that). Thus, in the midst of the Kotel egalitarian prayer space controversy, after the Prime Minister's specious "it's all well, trust me" video address to last year's GA, all that the Board Chair could say in response was "thanks for the clarification."

So, anyone who expected that JFNA leaders would entertain discussion of anything of substance at the recently concluded TA GA, hasn't been paying all. And, know this: what was for decades a GA planned by federation lay and professional leaders with those of CJF and, in its first years, JFNA, is now an "event" in the hands of professionals like Silverman, Rothman, Caspi -- none of whom ever led or worked in a federation. It shows. 

Friends, it wasn't just the Minister of Diaspora Affairs who found no reason to adjust his "schedule" so as to attend the GA; federation lay leaders couldn't/wouldn't make it wither. The best estimates of lay attendance were that about 750 North American lay leaders registered for this annual event. What once was the greatest event on the annual Jewish calendar is now an event most avoid. It is great no more. Once JFNA professed its partnership with Women of the Wall, this year that organization's Chair, Leah Aaron, harshly critical, wrote: The Federation's General Assembly -- A Squandered Opportunity 

It's all so sad. JFNA is the institutional embodiment of Murphy's Law: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong."

So, long.


Monday, October 22, 2018


Friends, there will be a lot written about the 2018 General Assembly now convened inTel Aviv, including on these pages. I would wager that the following piece, authored by Gidi Grinstein,  the Founder of the Reut Group, GA: Let's Raise the Temperature, in today's ejewishphilanthropy, will be the most important:,+2018&utm_campaign=Mon+Oct+22&utm_medium=email
Please read this...and please think about it.



A few weeks ago in a Post titled Who's In Charge...And Why? I lamented what appeared to be the imminent demise of the Jewish Agency International Development ("JAID"), the Jewish Agency's fund-raising arm. This sad state has been dictated by the retired JAFI Director General, Alan Hoffmann. It seemed evident to me, both by personal experience and by observation, that Alan resented JAID's apparent independence (it really was/is in no way an independent body given that its sole purpose was/is to raise significant dollars for JAFI) and its locus -- at offices in Mid-Town Manhattan far from Hoffmann's clutches.

Well, as it turns out, things are worse than I reported on September 30, much worse. I still don't know if the last JAID CEO, Josh Fogelson quit, was forced out or just plain terminated (perhaps a distinction without difference) last month. But, I have learned that the entire fund raising staff in North America are also gone. Great pros dedicated to JAFI and their work on JAFI's behalf...gone. And this at a time when core allocations to JAFI from the federations have reached an all-time low and will, by calendar year-end 2018 reach new depths.

One insider Commented anonymously:

"I am not certain of the personal and/or professional reasons for Joshua Fogelson's departure as CEO of JAID.. However, as a Jewish communal professional who had the privilege of working with him at the Agency I can speak directly about the work environment and his leadership. On the former, very challenging. Working for an Israeli based non-profit is very different and more difficult than U.S. based organizations, the limitations imposed by the governance model, our U.S. based partners, as well as the inter-departmental battles and competition created anxiety, confusion, mixed messages and ultimately less than optimally effective fundraising. Even within this unusual, to put it mildly, model, Joshua was a strong, focused and principled professional leader. He had high expectations but didn't demand more of us than he did of himself. He did his best to shield his Israeli and American staff from the unhealthier aspects of the organization's culture. And, despite the pressures he faced, he consistently defended the Agency, spoke passionately about its mission and pushed as much as possible to advance all areas of financial resource development. Given his his sudden departure as well as the experiences of his immediate predecessors, I imagine JAID may be hard pressed to find another top flight pro willing to risk taking on such a position."
This is a sad situation. Literally, on his way out the door, Alan Hoffmann deconstructed JAFI's FRD function...totally. And, he did so at the worst possible time historically and on the Jewish FRD calendar. He must have convinced the JAFI Board Chair, Michael Siegal, and the JAID Chair, Richie Pearlstone, that somehow JAFI and JAID would be best served to have no external fund raising arm, because that's exactly what Hoffmann, by these ill-considered actions, has created.

Michael Siegal and Richie Pearlstone are wonderful philanthropists, excellent proven leaders and nobody's fools. Perhaps, someday, they will be able to explain why they allowed Hoffmann to run amok (for lack of a better phrase) if not violating his fiduciary responsibility, something very close to it. It's not possible to contemplate that JDC or WorldORT or any responsible international organization would erase their fund raising staff in one fell swoop, the consequences be damned.

Any one who believes that this was some aberrational isolated event, consider this: in 2002, David Sarnat, the founding Jewish Agency North America (which would morph into JAID 10 years later) CEO and I (in my role as JAFI-NA Chair), traveled to Jerusalem where we met with each and every JAFI Department Head, the Agency FRD staff, and with the then JAFI Director General, Giora Romm. Our message: JAFI was damaging its own resource development results by sending FRD emissaries from every department to North American federations with no coordination, often in competition with one another, for funding of their departmental activities. I related being at a meeting with the then Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles CEO, who told me: "I am constantly getting requests from one JAFI Department after another. Why don't you get your act together." 

David's and my message: "Be One JAFI. Let us manage the FRD within North America, all JAFI Departments will benefit." There was an enthusiastic receptivity...but for one. I met with the then Director General of the JAFI Education Department, Alan Hoffmann. Here's what Alan told me: "Your message is a nice one, Richard. If you and Sarnat want to guarantee my Budget, fine. If not, we're not changing."

Sarnat and I returned to the States knowing that the hope for a coordinated, single FRD message from JAFI would not happen. 

Then, before the ink on his contract was dry, Misha Galperin, Fogelson's predecessor as JAID CEO, was being undermined by Hoffmann. And even as Misha was delivering significant dollars to JAFI, Hoffmann continuously worked to undermine his and JAID's efforts.

Now, as he literally walks out the door, Alan Hoffmann has turned back the clock. 

And no one at JAFI or JAID has pushed back while Alan Hoffmann has been interviewing Search firms -- to search for what, exactly? Only Alan would know.


Friday, October 19, 2018


Some questions:

1. JFNA announced (in the ever-stranger rag, FedWorld) that it had "created" the Hurricane Relief Fund 2018, another Mailbox ' help victims (of Hurricane Florence) recover." This is a sacred purpose -- but:

  • It was only after the public announcement, the JFNA Emergency Committee learned of the Fund thereby contributing to the well-founded belief that to JFNA's professional leaders, lay leaders are an after-thought; and
  • Just how will the funds raised be spent?
2. In the same edition of FedWorld (and, please remember, I have been deleted from the world of FedWorld distribution list -- I am grateful that you send me a copy), the editors announced in a front page box that: "FedWorld is going on vacation for the holidays." Returning for the GA. Maybe, just maybe this is the end of FedWorld. Oy!!

3. Off-line, several of you have asked why Jerry remains on the bloated payroll of the bloated JFNA as it appears to all of us...that he is on some kind of hamster wheel farewell tour of the federations which will have him. "Why should the federations pay for this ego trip?" one of you wrote echoing the common sentiment. Another of you commented -- "Silverman has been on a farewell tour since he signed his first contract, he certainly hasn't been a CEO." So it continues...

4. In the "almost too sad to be believed category," the Reform Movement has been reported to "take unprecedented precautionary measure(s) after repeated instances of liberal Jewish visitors held for questioning by Israeli authorities" at Ben Gurion Airport. . #sadder

5. If, as Judy Maltz reported in Haaretz, Orthodox groups are organized to block access to even the modified "egalitarian prayer space" at the Kotel, where is the voice of the Prime Minister who offered this "space"as a compromise to that promised in his original agreement now just a distant memory? And, as is the usual question, where is our voice on the subject?

6. As reported in Haaretz, three top pros, including the CEO, at the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, have left...together. at the same time. No one seems to know why, and those leaving aren't saying. Yechiel Eckstein, the IFCJ Chair for Life, was dismissive -- he was quoted that he won't even bother to replace the three. What a guy!!

7. Finally, maybe you received this sequence of direct mail appeals from a national Jewish organization (which shall remain nameless here): first an appeal, offering few (none) compelling reasons to support the organization, over the signature of the entity's fund-raiser. Then came a "follow-up" from the entity's Board Chair "hoping" I/you received the fund-raiser's letter asking for a response. We've written enough about substituting direct mail solicitations for tachlis fund raising -- you know, like face-to-face FRD -- but organizations like this one, which suffered a high six figure reduction in financial support with the collapse of National Agency/Federation Alliance, are heading toward resource Armageddon. Best of luck to them.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Ronald Lauder, the great philanthropist recently wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times that began as follows:
"For many Israelis, Jews and supporters of Israel, the last year has been a challenging one. In the summer of 2017, Israel’s government withdrew from an agreement that would have created an egalitarian prayer area at the Western Wall and proposed a strict conversion law that impinges on the rights of non-Orthodox Jews. This summer the Knesset passed a law that denies equal rights to same-sex couples. A day later came the nation-state law, which correctly reaffirms that Israel is a Jewish state, but also damages the sense of equality and belonging of Israel’s Druze, Christian and Muslim citizens.
Last month, a Conservative rabbi was detained for the alleged crime of performing a non-Orthodox wedding ceremony in Israel. In several municipalities, attempts were made to disrupt secular life by closing convenience stores on the Sabbath. 
These events are creating the impression that the democratic and egalitarian dimensions of the Jewish democratic state are being tested."
This was Lauder's brilliant cri de coeur. From a Zionist leader whose love of Israel is reflected in his philanthropy, and in his leadership roles at the WJC and the Jewish National Fund-USA, among other organizations. And, of course, Lauder was attacked by too many in the American Diaspora who believe that there can never be uttered a discouraging word about Israel -- it is sha sha, "if you want to criticize Israel, go live there," and similar.

Sometimes the attacks on those in the Diaspora are just plain silly. For example, I distinctly recall the failed Israeli politician, Yossi Beilin, who, during the height of his support, even co-authorship of the "Oslo Accords" peace plan, explicitly and publicly demanded that American Jewry endorse the plan while at the same time admonishing us for complaints about certain actions of the Government. 

So, I applaud Ron Lauder's articulate pained plea for justice, for compassion, for civility -- a plea made out of love for Israel and its People as was that of Charles Bronfman on the same subject. These were not, as some claimed while condemning the authors, political statements (although they could have been); they were the passionate, heartfelt messages of those who love Israel.

I have no doubt that Ron Lauder knew that he would be attacked; it is a tribute to his courage and his passion that he did not care.


Saturday, October 13, 2018


One can almost always read a Caroline Glick column on any subject and discover a false premise leading her right down an Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole. She may have outdone herself this time -- in Column One: Jewish Federations, we need to talk -- you really must read it for yourself.

Here is all you need to know -- Ms. Glick, so far to the right  that she's almost left -- premised her screed on the following:
"At the end of the month, the Jewish Federations of North America will hold their annual General Assembly in Israel. And while the Federations’ decision to hold their annual conference in Israel rather than America seems at face value to be a statement of solidarity with Israel, in this case, it isn’t."
"Five months after US President Donald Trump moved the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv in an extraordinary act of friendship, the Jewish Federations of North America chose to hold their annual General Assembly in... Tel Aviv." (emphasis added)
Totally wrong. Does the Jerusalem Post lack a fact checker?

To make her point Glick has assumed that JFNA chose Tel Aviv as the venue for the GA because President Trump chose to declare Jerusalem Israel's capital and to move the U.S Embassy there. But, Glick once again builds her "case" on her totally false premise.

As a fairly constant critic of JFNA, I am a believer in fair criticism, but JFNA deserves no criticism for its choice of Tel Aviv as the venue for GA 2018. You see, the GA location choices are made years in advance, not weeks or days. Tel Aviv was selected as the site for this year's GA at least five years ago, maybe more.

Undeterred by these facts, Glick built her column without regard for them. For example, Ms. Glick's misplaced anger:

"Why did the Federations choose to insult Israelis by holding their conference in Tel Aviv rather than Jerusalem five months after the US government finally moved the US embassy to Israel’s capital? And why are the Federations demanding that Israeli Jews give them an accounting for the longstanding disparities in the outlooks of the two communities?"
 The only possible response to this screed seems to be -- huh? What the hell is she talking about? 

And, it only gets worse. For from there, Glick spun off into a diatribe about opposition to the Kavanaugh nomination, which, apparently, she blames on the same American Jews who (she believes) moved the GA to Tel Aviv. They are also known as "Democrats." She also spins her web to include American Jews opposition to Donald Trump.

Caroline Glick returned again and again to her false premise -- that the federations chose Tel Aviv because of the Embassy relocation. Nothing could be further from the truth.

But the truth is of no matter to Caroline Glick.

And a few days ago, JFNA Board Chair, Richard Sandler, sent the Board and others, a copy of Gil Troy's fine article, also in The Jerusalem Post (!) responding to Glick from the perspective of an Israeli presenting at the upcoming GA and enthusiastically embracing the GA theme.

I  assume that Richard's transmittal of Troy's piece has to stand as JFNA's response to Caroline Glick. As usual, JFNA doesn't have much to say for itself. "Let's talk," indeed.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018


I hope that all of you had  meaningful Days of Awe and that you and your families have been inscribed in the Book of Life for 5779 and beyond.

And, then...

...there they were again.The couple, aging as we are, sitting a couple of rows in front of us at Kol Nidre services. They aren't at services very often, even less often than we -- so, giving them the benefit of the doubt, I thought, hoped, that this time itwould be different.

You see, this couple, society folks BTW, in every prior year, came in, sat down, and began popping chewing gum as if gum were the staff of life -- he, a few pieces less than she. Five, six, maybe seven pieces each, their cheeks inflating like small balloons. We were annually transfixed and disgusted at this display, But it didn't end well.

He was a quiet chewer, his jaws moving imperceptibly; she, however, chewed her gum at a pace never before seen, lips open, the smacking noise continuous. I sensed that the echo from the "smack, smack, smack" was reverberating off the walls of the sanctuary. In our section, all eyes were on this grotesquerie. You couldn't help hearing the noise; soon the choir was looking around, then the Cantor,the Rabbi.

But no one did anything, no one said anything. God knows if one's kippah fell off unnoticed by the wearer, 15 men would be on you in a nano-second; smacking gum on Yom Kippur...we are embarrassed into silence for this couple. Finally, at my wife's urging -- "DO SOMETHING" -- tapped the fellow on the shoulder: "It's Yom Kippur, please?" He had not a clue what I was talking about. OK, good. "You can't chew gum in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur." His wife couldn't hear me over the sounds of her chomping.

And as a few minutes passed, the gum-chewing slowed to a crawl as the couple lapsed into deep sleep. Now the sounds of gum-smacking evolved into loud snoring. 

Can't wait 'til next year.


Sunday, October 7, 2018


Who hasn't heard the mantra: If JFNA didn't exist, we would have to recreate it? And maybe...just maybe...that mantra comes with its own solution -- JFNA is in need not of a $1,000,000 Consultant study; it is not in need of needs a real recreation. It needs to start anew. And, it needs to do so...yesterday.

There were many insightful albeit Anonymous Comments to our Post -- The Void. Here is one:
"The point is that there is no possible justification for $30 Million (Dues Budget)- probably not even for $10 Million. A $1.5 Million reduction is a joke. An organization that has stopped functioning and doing what it is mandated to do cannot expect to maintain the same level of funding as before. Why anyone in their right mind would be willing to keep the funds flowing is beyond comprehension. Either the organization gets back on track or it crashes. The way things look now, the latter will be the case." (emphasis added)
And, another:
"I...started this recent chain. Don't misunderstand. I fully agree that there is no justification for a $30 mil budget given the value (lack of) received for that $30 mil. As a person who previously served on the budget committee of UJC and CJF before that in various years I have little doubt that they present a balanced budget each year. My experience in those days was that each year the actuals were close to budget on the expense side and the income typically was less than budget based on the decisions made by individual federation to pay less than their "fair share". This is what caused future budget projections to be lowered which then again weren't met by federations on the income side. At the end of the year JFNA and predecessor organizations would "rob Peter to Pay Paul" such as taking money from Network communities for the budget instead of using it for the partners, etc. And unfortunately the board in recent years (and by implication the committees) allowed this process to proceed unabated. Richard has pointed out these tricks over the past many years all of which have gone unanswered by JFNA."
The growing Federation "resistance" (there is probably a better descriptive word) to JFNA's Dues demands is not going to be stemmed by an approach to JFNA's isolation from its owners that suggests a bandage when major surgery is the only answer.

And, so long as those who stood by and watched as JFNA just kept walking the organization backward from its responsibilities to the federations, walking backward and never seeing the precipice into which it was long as those lay and professional leaders remain in charge. the needed dramatic change isn't going to happen. For G-d's sake, it took these lay leaders almost a decade to realize that the organization had only a faux CEO, and, even now, that CEO remains in office while the times call out for an Interim CEO as we have suggested for months...years.

Time's a-wasting, friends. There is a rising call, from federations coast-to-coast, for deliverables, for actual proof that JFNA exists for more than its own self-interest but in the interests of the federations which own it. The organization is almost two decades old,20 years over which so much that could have been accomplished but hasn't. Millions wasted on an Israel Office of not a single accomplishment over at least a decade; millions wasted on what purports to be a financial resource development effort while annual campaigns are in stasis, where the numbers of donors have dropped by 100's of 1,000's...millions just plain wasted.

It's beyond the time where federations contemplating not paying Dues, or demanding that Dues be significantly reduced will be dissuaded by the argument: "you can't do it, because if you do, your federation will be responsible for the collapse of the system," or "if JFNA didn't exist, we'd have to recreate it." No, real change, a real recreation is the only chance JFNA has going forward.

The only chance.


Wednesday, October 3, 2018


I'm certain that if I Google "#MeToo +Jewish men" I would find multiple analysts who would attempt to explain this horrible phenomenon of so many Jewish men accused/guilty of assaulting (for there is no better word for it) women over whom they hold power -- sometimes over decades. As the names roll out weekly (if not more often) it seems Jewish men appear to, if not predominate, disproportionately appear in this terrible chapter. To paraphrase the title of an insightful MIchelle Goldberg Op-Ed in The New York Times (Sunday, September 16, 2018), it's "The Shame of the Jewish #MeToo Men."

When the Managing Partner of my Law Firm 25 years ago, I introduced sexual harassment training and a Zero Tolerance Policy, those actions were both scorned and necessary, never in my wildest nightmares would I have thought that we would see an avalanche; now, if any Jewish organization isn't doing both, they had better to do so...yesterday. 

On the cusp of Yom Kippur, the wonderful ejewishphilanthropy published:,+2018&utm_campaign=Tue+Sept+18&utm_medium=emailThis is an important read, a comprehensive analysis from Dr. Elana Maryles Sztokman. Her insights are far better informed than mine.

We've seen Jewish politicians, academics, movie and television network moguls, among so many, self-immolate in the flames of their own assaults on women.

There have now surfaced women's complaints against Michael Steinhardt and an attendant Hillel investigation first reported in the Times of Israel and, then, more expansively, in the New York Jewish Week in, and in Sztokman's ejewishphilanthropy piece. If you have been engaged in Jewish philanthropy in the last decades, you know Michael Steinhardt as a brilliant visionary philanthropist, always outspoken, sarcastic, sardonic and, in a different age, he could be laughed at for his language and conduct. Michael always challenged those in his presence to truly think outside the boxes as he himself did; and, cited conversations, encounters and speeches, he lacked any filter. While we may live in a different age today; it doesn't appear that Michael Steinhardt does.

Based on the allegations of women who were affected and affronted by Steinhardt's sorry attempts at, can it be called "humor," often profane and scatological, sometimes bizarrely so, Hillel has taken his name off its Board list and is now "investigating" his behavior. Assuming Hillel determines that all or any of the allegations are true, what might Hillel's (as opposed Michael's accusers') remedies be? Steinhardt is, after all, a volunteer as well as a major donor. Will Hillel refund Steinhardt's contributions -- they are in the millions? Will he no longer be welcome on their dais? No longer invited to their events? And, is it ever appropriate in today's environment, to note that Michael Steinhardt's abusive language appears never to have gone beyond that?

This is a tough decision for any non-profit. Issues of lay leader harassment and worse have arisen in the past. Precedent exists. Clearly, Michael Steinhardt must enter counseling. Perhaps, Michael should fund a study of #MeToo in the Jewish community. And Hillel needs to assure that it has in place appropriate policies to protect its employees, if not already codified. 

And, we need some national organization to take the lead on this issue -- form a consortium, bring Rabbis into the conversation, engage in a serious introspection about ourselves...and answer the unasked questions of "why so many of us?" and what can be done about it?