Tuesday, January 8, 2019


In a move both curious and bizarre, someone(s) at JFNA resolved, after the decision to non-renew Jerry Silverman's contract had been made and before Mark Wilf was installed as Board Chair,  to hire The Bridgestone Group on a major consultancy. To my knowledge, The Bridgestone Group (hereafter "TBG") has no experience with the federation system in all of its complexity -- hiring TBG was the consultant equivalent of JFNA hiring Jerry Silverman.

So it cam to pass, that TBG made its first presentation to the JFNA Board summarized as follows:
"“TBG then facilitated discussions focused on how Federations might work together to solve the major challenges facing the Jewish world and Federations. Board members reported back thoughts and suggestions as to which challenges JFNA might be able to address for the system: (1) engagement with interfaith couples and how to successfully integrate them into the federation community, (2) young adult engagement and giving including a national conference, (3) professional talent recruitment and development, (3) legacy giving, endowment and the transfer of wealth, (4) Jewish affordability, particularly for day schools, (5) sustaining global partnerships inside and outside Israel, (6) creating and sharing strategic fundraising and marketing plans including compelling fundraising stories, (7) building a value proposition for giving to Federations, (8) creation of a national curriculum for community and Sunday schools, (9) connecting the disparate Israel education programs so that donors can move through a continuum of Israel education and engagement programs."
This entire thing reminded me of the moment in the aftermath of the UJA-CJF-UIA merger when one of the newly-elected Chairs foisted on the organization Louise Stoll as COO --someone with no knowledge of what federations were all about, whose presentations were a series of "revelations" -- to her -- of everything federation. "Wow." She was soon gone.

Then, the TBG report continued:
"TBG also presented alternative revenue models from different networks with which they have worked such as the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the United Way. Ms. Shapira noted that JFNA will create a task force to guide the strategic review with the assistance of TBG and present recommendations to the Federations and the Board in about 6 months.”
Friends, only those who know nothing of our system would suggest any possible relevance of the "Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the United Way" as possible comparative and compatible revenue models for JFNA. 

This whole fiasco is consistent with JFNA appointing not one but two -- yes, 2 -- Global Operations Committee Task Forces both of which overlap and duplicate the work for which TBG is being paid a princely sum.

You've got it, I'm sure: but just in case you cannot follow this Three Card Monte, let's review:

  1. JFNA hires TBG at great expense, to consult on all organizational matters
  2. The JFNA Board convened to learn that in its work to date TBG had discovered that there is a federation system doing things (things woven into the fabric of federation activities and of which they were fully aware;
  3. JFNA simultaneously appointed two Global Operations Task Forces whose work conflicted with and duplicated the work for which TBG was/is being paid.
  4. Then there will be a new CEO and if past practice holds true (as happened when Steve Hoffman succeeded Steve Solender and, then, when Howard Rieger succeeded Hoffman) whatever "plan" emerges from the work of TBG, it will be rejected. (This is known as the "wash, rinse, repeat cycle" in Jewish organizations.)
And, soon, this will start all over again.



Anonymous said...

Interesting assessment except your Exec is front and center on this task force!

RWEX said...

Sorry, Anon.,Chicago's CEO is not a member of the Task Force that recommended the evisceration of UIA.