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 Unit...to 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 "...work 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.