Friday, June 28, 2019


"The obligation imposed by law or lawful order or regulation on an officer or other person for keeping accurate record of property, documents, or funds. The person having this obligation may or may not have actual possession of the property,documents, or funds. Accountability is concerned primarily with records, while responsibility is concerned primarily with customers." The Free Dictionary
In the approved JFNA 2019-2020 Budget -- that epic work of fiction that we reported on in You Can Fool All of the People All of the Time, JFNA decided to deploy the concept of what the authors termed accountabilities. This is a word with which I was not familiar -- I wager whomever decided that this word would apply to anything JFNA did/does/would do had no idea what it meant either. In fact, there has been no accountability anywhere at JFNA over the past decade: not to the federations, not to their donors, not to the Board, not to the professionals across the Continent. Nowhere. No how.

So, friends, if there is no accountability (let alone accountabilities, whatever they are), there is no responsibility -- not as fiduciaries, not to the institution, not to our values, NOT TO A DAMN THING. How could there be when leadership doesn't understand the difference between the two. Be assured of this reality: at JFNA, for the past decade at least, no one has been held accountable for anything.

Think about the number of times, year-after-year-after-year, that the approved Budget recited that millions of dollars of programs would be evaluated -- that is to say that there would be accountability -- and, then, there was none...absolutely none. And, never was heard a discouraging word...

Was, for example, JFNA-Israel ever seriously evaluated? And, if so, who actually saw, read, absorbed the "evaluation?" Was the CEO ever seriously evaluated? And, if so, who actually saw, read, absorbed the "evaluation?" Seriously? Seriously. And right on down the line -- from programs to professionals to consultants. "Business as usual" at JFNA was the business of irresponsibility. A total lack of accountability.

Millions wasted on folly -- e.g., TribeFest was a failure, so let's do two more -- after all no one but some schmuck with a Blog asked any questions  Millions wasted? Who knows? Who remembers? Same with #ish. Then there was the Rube Goldbergian Global Planning Table -- wasting how many millions. how many thousands of hours of professional and lay time on a thing that arrived DOA; yet survived comatose or dead for years until Michael Siegal buried it -- offering a mercy killing to the already dead.

And millions just wasted. For example, leadership's dotty decision to continue to compensate Jerry Silverman as if he were a fully performing CEO after the determination  to eliminate his management responsibilities as CEO. Thus, for the last 6 years of Jerry's tenure, JFNA was not only paying him in full for 1/2 or less the responsibilities, it was paying Mark Gurvis as well to run the operation. Brilliant? Not so much.

And, now? Well, after a decade of no accountabilities and no responsibility JFNA once again says/dictates "trust us." Yes "trust us" to be accountable, to measure our successes and our failures; and ignore that we have promised you these before and never delivered. In fact, one of the "deliverables" under the new Budget is a new Department, and three new FTE's just to measure federation performance; not, G-d forbid, JFNA's.

I think Eric Fingerhut will be a success; certainly relatively and, based on past successes, absolutely. He has an incredible task ahead of him. I join with all of you in wishing him great success, and through his leadership, JFNA's. He is, after all, the last great hope that we have.


Sunday, June 23, 2019


Like many of you, I received a Memo from the JFNA Board Chair with the June 2019 (Board) Meeting Notes & Jerry Silverman Professional Development Fund. Rendered speechless, all I could do was mumble "Huh?" until I was slapped in the face.

As Mark Wilf wrote:
"...I announced the establishment of the Jerry Silverman Professional Development Fund in honor of Jerry's decade of service to the Jewish Federations of North America and the broader Jewish community."
Mark invited contributions and added: "The funds will be used to support professional development experiences for associates at JFNA and in the Jewish camping world -- two groups that are close to Jerry's heart.

I assume that had JFNA any accomplishments to cite over Jerry's decade of service, those might be funded, but, really, have there been any? Might Jerry wish to kick-off his Fund with a major grant from the $6,000,000(+) he was paid over that decade?

So, really, isn't this just another farewell gift recognizing, as a close friend reminded me, that Jerry " a nice guy and a good, caring Jew." So, there's that.

Two of you offered Anonymous Comments on the Fund:
 "I saw the recent minutes of the Board Meeting and the announcement of the Jerry Silverman Professional Development Fund.

Proving once and for all that timing is everything. 

It’s too late.

Nothing can train him.

You can reach it here: 
 I tried putting in a negative number to get some of my money back, it didn’t work.

The village called, they want their idiot back.."
Or, another:
"The 'Jerry Silverman Professional Development Fund?' How ironic since he led the charge to decimate the Mandel Center a few years ago leaving the feds unsupported in professional development, career coaching and staffing."

Nothing needs to be added.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019


I served on the JFNA Budget and Finance Committee for the first 8 years of the post-merger organization after serving on the CJF Budget Committee for a decade or more and serving and, ultimately, Chairing, the United Jewish Appeal Budget and Finance Committee. The JFNA Committee over those 8 years had a certain integrity baked into its membership. Questions appeared to be welcomed back then...and, then, they weren't. Budget meetings, from the eras of both UJA and CJF, were multiple day affairs, now they became a few hours long (including breakfast and lunch) -- they were once serious hearings, and, then, they became farce.

But, as bad as the JFNA Budget "process" had become, nothing could possibly match the 2019-2020 Budget for the Three Card Monty game that JFNA leadership is playing right before our eyes. The organization has now reached depths not even this writer thought possible; these are depths apparently to be repeated ad infinitum. And, today, JFNA professionals assert that somehow the 2019-2020 Budget is different -- it isn't.

Sure, there's a new Budget and Finance Chair, the reliable/pliable Harold Gernsbacher (in the new tradition at JFNA, Harold is also the Chair of the Secure Community Network and just completed his service as Chair of two Task Forces on Overseas), but, until Eric Fingerhut joins the staff and Mark Wilf asserts himself, all else remains the same. And "same" equals obfuscation, distraction and painting the old failures as the alleged successes of today and tomorrow. Challenge the farce at your peril.

But, challenge it we must because this Budget, approved at the June JFNA Board and Member meetings, is nothing more than the annual shell game writ large. This, a Budget of $50,790,000 allegedly based upon a "Strategic Review Process" that must have been folded into the Bridgespan Group consultant study and, thereby, became a secret. So you can join me in the guessing game as to what the hell is intended by the "...launch (of) an ambitious marquee initiative to engage the next generation of Jews" -- this from an organization that has watched with apparent disinterest as literally hundreds of thousands of donors have left the federation system on JFNA's watch. Yes, the organization that has proved to be unable to engage the current generation of Jews will now focus on the next. What are we missing here?

The authors of the Budget document clearly believed (and were rewarded for their belief with a unanimous vote in favor) that throwing out stuff like the following would blind the JFNA Budget & Finance Committee and the Board from the reality that the Emperor was not wearing any clothes -- that this was all flash and no substance. "Stuff" like these: 

  • "an ambitious marquee initiative"
  • "a movement-wide collective initiative"
  • "position the movement as relevant and impactful"
  • "the existential issues facing our community around engaging future generations"
  • "meaningfully affect the trajectory of Jewish life"
  • "recommendation points to JFNA leading a process through which the Federations can conceptualize an audacious goal"
  • "we want to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge"
And, there was also the annual lip service to "zero base budgeting." It appears that no one at JFNA knows or cares what the term means. Here is a textbook definition:
" Zero-based budgeting is a method of budgeting in which all expenses must be justified for each new period. The process of zero-based budgeting starts from a "zero base," 
But, of course, nothing...nada, nil, zip...about this JFNA Budget meets the definition. It's merely words; it is rendered meaningless at 25 Broadway. 

Oh, BTW, the Budget document reveals that JFNA has engaged another Consultant -- "a consulting resource" -- Third Plateau -- to run the "process."

I am not making any of this up.

At least the Budget reveals what we reported when it happened -- JFNA admits in writing that, beginning 4 years ago, it absconded with hundreds of thousands of dollars from the National Agencies Funding Pool, and has now exhausted that ATM and must raise $606,000 "...for the Jewish Education and Engagement Unit as a foundation for undertaking the Marquee Initiative" -- an "Initiative" in its "developmental stage" but about which there is no further information. You see:
"JFNA will provide leadership to convene and align Federations around an audacious goal and raise significant resources for the system to scale high-impact strategies."
Yes, there is a smell emanating from these pages, friends, and it's a bad one. It's JFNA, once again, telling the federations "trust us"...details to follow...maybe. And JFNA will now fund raise to support this effort!! 

Simply stated: there is no Marques Initiative...send money. 

Oh, that's not all, of course. Your federation is being asked to fund "...a new 3 person Business Intelligence collect, analyze and share performance data back woith the Federations." That's data the federations, not trusting JFNA, currently do not share with JFNA. 

And, there is a further "reorientation" planned of "services and support," moving JFNA out of the business of directly supporting federations and leaving it to federation-to-federation "self-help." You must begin to question: what the hell does JFNA do for $50,790,000?

Well, there will be no GA substituting in 2019 something called FedLab that will convene a small group of "top leadership from Federations." These leaders will " together on three major issues facing the Federation network and Jewish world." These "major issues?" Don't know. Not disclosed." 

Oh, there's more -- JFNA will "stepping out of or scaling back:" support of Community Mission, national affinity-based Missions and programs, memberships in national/international organizations, production annual campaign marking "collateral" (JFNA's word) and streamlining UIA structure and process. 

For all of this JFNA's annual expenses will increase by "about $700,000 per year."


Three card Monty doesn't cover it.


Friday, June 14, 2019


While at JFNA celebrations and self-adulation accompanied the white puffs of smoke that announced the succession of Eric Fingerhut to the diminished role of CEO at 25 Broadway, a parallel announcement appeared on the pages of ejewishphilanthropy with the story of the collapse of the Jewish Federation of the East Bay and the "absorption" of that community's functions into the Jewish Federation of Greater San Francisco. East Bay Federation to Close, San Francisco Federation to Take Over.

Coasts apart, the twin announcements were in parallel, sounding in so many ways the death knell of a once proud system -- (1) the self-immolation of a professional cadre that were at the forefront in building the federation system, now, willing to be mere bystanders while the bricks are pulled out one after as another; and (2) the burial of a community of such great and continuous unrealized potential while the national system could only look away...impotent.

For ejewishphilanthropy the story of Fingerhut's appointment was but a minor one, same for jta. These were page 2, under the fold -- mere mentionsThe major story in the former was East Bay's collapse. 

The Jewish Federation of the East Bay was over a century-old when it decided to go out of business on July 1, 2019. And the Jewish Federation of Greater San Francisco wanted everyone to know that there will be no merger -- just a matter of figuring out "how we can work together" according to Dan Grossman, the San Francisco CEO. Or, as the FedWorld rag put it: The Jewish Federation of the East Bay comes together with the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund. (Whatever that meant.)

And, to further confuse matters:
"East Bay Foundation Director Lisa Tabak said key community priorities such as Jewish summer camps and youth Israel trips can continue to count on Financial support. 'All our designated and special interest funds will be honored."
Uh huh.

As we have observed on these pages, back in the days pre-Silverman, JFNA had a major, experienced Consulting Services Department that, among other things, helped communities through matters just like these. (In fact, at one point during Silverman's predecessor's term as CEO, Consulting Services was designated to run the Continental; FRD function -- one of the more idiotic assignments in institutional history given that the Consulting Services professionals were not fund raisers, among other things.) Now, San Francisco and the East Bay remainders will apparently work it out for themselves. 

What is especially sad is that the JFNA leadership fail to understand their own irrelevance -- that's what happens when you operate within a bubble of your own making -- the Jewish communal version of Get Smart's "cone of silence." A short time ago a JFNA leader was interviewed by leaders in a SE Florida community: it was hard to watch this leader squirm when asked a softball question about JFNA's roles and purpose: "Jewish unity, bringing people together, yada yada yada." Twenty years after the merger...and...nothing.

Welcome to JFNA, Mr. Fingerhut.


Monday, June 10, 2019


What follows was not jiust predictable, it was absolute certainty. The vindictive acts that follow are the most immediate outcomes of the deconstruction of the United Israel Appeal and the direct result of delegating more power to those who have proved to be least capable of exercising it.

As you read this Post, know that Israeli employment law is far too Byzantine for this defrocked real estate lawyer's feeble brain -- but that that law played right into the hands of those least responsible to execute it; those who demanded the accretion of greater power after over a decade of failure compounded by failure. 

As we examined JFNA leadership's demands that the United Israel Appeal Board be purged, the lay leadership reduced by 60% and the UIA professional leadership in Israel (actually, wherever) be subsumed under the direction of Becky Caspi, probably, if history be prologue, the professional "leader" least equipped to exercise it. This was literally the "perfect storm" for what we predicted on these pages would happen: inasmuch as UIA was performing at the highest levels of professionalism, JFNA would take it over and break it. "If it ain't broke, we'll break it."

And, the breaking didn't take long...not long at all.

Within weeks of that JFNA Board meeting, JFNA-Israel, with what must have been the blessing of 25 Broadway, went forward to deconstruct UIA's professional leadership -- after all, the excellent performance by UIA professionals was making Caspi's JFNA-Israel operation look bad in both relative and absolute terms. Further, Mike Rosenberg, who, after significant leadership roles at JAFI had led UIA-Israel for the past 5 years, through an organizational quirk was, at the least, Caspi's peer, and, at best, her superior. Mike clearly had to go; he could no longer serve as Director, UIA-Israel Office: he was making Caspi and her self-perpetuating Israel staff look really bad in comparison with the excellence of UIA's. Knowing that Silverman had been removed from management responsibilities years earlier, one can assume that this purge was directed by Caspi with Mark Gurvis, JFNA COO's, consent if not enthusiastic approval. (I'm betting on enthusiastic approbation.) 

The message was clear -- if you want to keep your job, you had best keep your mouth shut unless pledging eternal fealty to Caspi. And Caspi's lay leadership -- at every opportunity, they just looked the other way while things like this happened: JFNA-Israel has employed a full-time over-compensated CFO whose job appeared/appears to be supervising payroll for 12-15 persons -- and that's it. No questions asked about that professional or any other in the Jerusalem office. 

This purge was not about making UIA better; it was a power play, pure and simple. Mike Rosenberg was in Becky Caspi's way; he would have to go. And Israel's employment laws played directly into JFNA's hands. Rosenberg received an "Invitation to Termination Hearing" that asserted that this Termination was intended to implement the JFNA resolution that would "integrate" (!) UIA:
"...into the JFNA finance operation with day-to-day oversight provided by the SVP, Israel and Overseas."
Of course, that SVP, Israel and Overseas has demonstrated no oversight ability -- so that function will be delegated to another. And, it is so stated in the "Invitation to Termination" --
"A Managing Director, Finance with appropriate professional credentials and experience will be hired to work under the direction of the SVP, Israel and Overseas and JFNA's CFO."
That "hearing" would be conducted by those who had already determined that Mike must go. If any of this makes any sense to you, dear Reader, please explain it to me -- this is the JFNA implementation of "zero-based budgeting." Of course.

(Terminating Rosenberg was not the only purge. Simultaneously, Ronit Dotan, who had served first the United Jewish Appeal and then JFNA as the head of its Israel VIP Missions and Services, was similarly terminated. Ronit, a terrific professional, who brought incredible enthusiasm and joy to her work with the system's major donors, appears to have received her "Invitation to Termination" because JFNA has gone out of the FRD business. "Zero based budgeting" you know.)

None of this should have happened. Fingers can be pointed in multiple directions: to feeble lay leadership at JFNA and UIA who rationalized the serious damage done to UIA without examining the facts while focused on their own "career advancement"; to a lack of any meaningful evaluation or professional oversight of JFNA-Israel; a new set of leaders at JAFI who were overwhelmed by what must have been a tsunami of misrepresentations by JFNA leadership; and a UIA lay leadership willing ultimately to just roll over. 

This purge is only the beginning. With so many lay and professional leaders in the mix looking out for themselves, the institution that was the United Israel Appeal, and the lay leaders who self-immolated, are now nothing more than road kill. Once again, what was a mighty system has been weakened beyond recognition.

And here is the only possible conclusion: in your pursuit of power you have done incredible damage. Sadly, that seems to be JFNA's message in all things.


Thursday, June 6, 2019


1. Upon the resignation/retiirement/return to Law School of the Joint Distribution Committee's latest CEO (the third in, what, 6 years?), I took a look at the most recent publication/revelation of JDC's executive compensation -- and all I can say is: WTF

How does a public charity pay its EVP/CEO $919,088? To a person who never had worked in Jewish Communal Service before...had no track record in Jewish FRD? And, why is Jack Habib, a venerated JDC professional leader paid $853,288 to lead JDC-Brookdale? (I would wagher we will hear that Habib's compensation reflected retirement benefits and stuff.) These are terrible examples of compensation overreach...egregious!! Is anyone paying attention? Someone write us and justify this kind of compensation. 


Even if that now former CEO raised the tens of millions he claimed over his limited service, the JDC Board has some explaining to do. A lot of it. JDC's new tagline -- JDC is the Global Jewish 9-1-1 -- has been given new meaning. Someone needs to dial 911.

2. The Jewish Agency for Israel is convening its Quarterly (soon to be "thirdly") Board Meeting June 23-June 25. Rest assured there will be the perfunctory Committee Meetings and a "Global Strategic Consultation" but these are just the cosmetics for the true purpose for bringing hundreds to Jerusalem -- celebrations of service:

  • An Opening Board Plenary honoring retiring Keren Ha'Yesod Board Chair, David Koschitzky, and Dr. Nachman Shai, the outgoing Chair of the Knesset Caucus on the Jewish People;
  • A Dinner honoring the "Steves" -- retiring/retired Federation CEOs Nasatir and Hoffman; and
  • A Closing Board Plenary honoring retiring UIA Chair, Andy Groveman, and Jerry Silverman
Ahhhh, JAFI...Na'Aseh v'Nishma.

3. The inexplicable.

        A. Unfortunately, the JFNA Board Meeting convened to ratify the Search Committee's decision to hire Eric Fingerhut was nothing more than Kabuki Theatre. So instead of a Board Meeting open to all, JFNA did something called "polling the Board" and announced the unanimous decision that would have occurred in any event. 

The JFNA Board Chair announced to the "JFNA Trustees and Guests" ("Guests" is an undefined term BTW) that Eric Fingerhut was unanimously elected the new CEO in a Board Conference Call on May 16. As a Past UJA Chair, I serve ex officio on the JFNA Board. Until now I have received every notice of a Board Meeting...yes, until now. Who else was among the uninvited? 

      B. I attended a dinner event last week. One speaker identified follows: "when I first met him, in the first weeks after I became the President and CEO..."
Really, who talks about himself like that? 

Asking for a friend.

4. As we predicted on these pages, JFNA determined that the new "slate" of UIA Directors would contain some excellent leaders but, more, a larger group of leaders who have had no experience with, interest in or advocacy for the Jewish Agency. (The UIA is organically the principal to the JAFI's agency.) Yes, JFNA will "fix it" by destroying it. 

And, the draft JFNA 2019-2020 Budget discloses that the "savings" that will accrue because of the deconstruction of UIA will mainly inure to th4e benefit of the Jewish Agency. 

Ahhh, JFNA...Na'Aseh v'Nishma.


Sunday, June 2, 2019


A keen observer of JFNA noted in a Comment 6 days before the JFNA Board Meeting:
"The JFNA Annual board meeting will be taking place this coming Sunday-Monday in New York.
Even though the meeting has not yet taken place, the minutes have been posted on Fed Central and clearly refute your claim that there is no fiduciary responsibility being exercised by our lay leaders.
Below are the minutes in full:
'AYE! - no against - no abstentions - no questions asked!'"
Even for JFNA, this is a new low.