Sunday, January 25, 2015

WHY????

In a recent column in The Wall Street Journal, Jason Gay lamented the pathetic New York Knicks. He wrote: "At the moment, the Knicks have a record of 5 wins against 32 losses (it's now 6 wines, 36 losses)...the Knicks have won just one game in their last 23. It is really hard to go one-for-23 at any human endeavor." Of course, Gay has not heard of our JFNA, 0 FOR THE LAST 9...YEARS.

Recently, one of my dear friends, a major philanthropist with unmatched experience in Jewish communal life at the local, national and global levels, raised the following with me:
"With all due respect, it is the failure of the JFNA lay leadership over the years that has been the largest contributing factor to the decline of the national system.  It is apparent  that they have consistently made poor choices, among themselves as well as in choosing professionals.  You know their history and track record as well as I do.  I just arrived at the conclusion long before you!

There are multiple solutions that would probably work should there really be an appetite for change.  However, their implementation would mean abandoning or terminating the entrenched decision makers and a complete re-engineering of the organization.  This kind of turnaround means someone or some group with authority and resources will emerge out of the current malaise to spearhead the effort. As you know some of us have done so in the past with great success but now it is time for the next generation to seize the reins.  So far, they haven't figured out the logistics."
This friend, sadly, walked away from the system when his advice and counsel were consistently ignored; he walked away at about the same time that Michael Siegal, a terrific person with a big and generous heart, a major Federation presence with alleged major direct contact with P.M. Netanyahu (from his days as the national leader of Israel Bonds), was parachuted into JFNA lay leadership with no prior experience or exposure there. The lay leadership he inherited already had their allegiances to others (and to themselves) and have consistently rejected Michael's efforts to reform the organization and focus it on its core purposes and bring the Global Planning Table into and under the JFNA governance. So, like some of his predecessors, while still in office, Michael appeared to wash his hands of any hope of effecting change, and limited himself to signing Briefings, giving impassioned speeches without follow-up and calling federations to plead that they pay Dues. What a waste of what could have been the leader of transformational change.


When, at the birth of the merger, Charles Bronfman, JFNA's first Board Chair, faced objection from the federations over his determination of to whom an Assistant CEO would report -- Charles or the JFNA CEO, Steve Solender -- Charles simply threatened to resign. This occurred on the cusp of JFNA's inaugural GA (in Atlanta, as I recall). So, a group of Federation lay and professional leaders was organized to meet with Mr. Bronfman and (1) apologize and (2) plead with Charles to modify his position. Whether Bronfman prevailed is less important to this narrative than is the fact that he acted as the Board Chair should. In the case of Michael Siegal, any pushback on any initiative he has begun has resulted in...nothing...absolutely nothing. So we can expect that until Siegal's Terms as Board Chair end, that is exactly what is going to happen...absolutely nothing.

The place has been and still is on fire and there is no fire extinguisher in sight -- one cannot even see hope in the distance. Here we are waiting for someone, anyone, to step forward and assert him/her self with a promise to effect change and with the will, so lacking today, to act. But it almost as if that person will have to hide his/her intentions or else their emergence will never be permitted. 

So, while I can ask "why?" I know that the answer will be "why not?" 

Pathetic.


Rwexler

Thursday, January 22, 2015

RIGHTING THE IMBALANCE

These are perilous times in the Jewish non-profit world. In New York City alone the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty has been impacted by the "discovery" that corruption and self-dealing ran rampant among trusted professional leaders; FEGS suddenly "discovered" tens of millions in losses; Yeshiva University is reeling from $100s of millions in deficits -- each has suffered devastating fund-raising and allocations losses. We know, as well, that organizations including Hadassah and the ZOA have experienced lapses in financial controls that cost the former control of its most prized asset and the latter the loss of its 501(c)(3) status (allegedly now restored). Then there are federations which hide fund-raising failures behind transfers from Endowment funds including them within annual campaign figures. 

What the hell is going on? Well, there are probably countless reasons but I lay the bottom-line responsibility on the collapse of the lay-professional partnership across the board. It's not alone a phenomenon in New York City, it's just that it is there that this breakdown has manifested itself in financial catastrophe too often accompanied by organizational corruption. In some instances, Officers and Boards of Directors have chosen to delegate away their fiduciary responsibilities to professional leaders rubber-stamping professional decisions without the requisite inquiry; too often Board members who actually exercise their duty of inquiry and examination go on the blacklist and watch as their services are no longer wanted...ever. And the consequences of "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" have never been more clear. 

Nowhere do we see more evidence of the abandonment of fiduciary responsibility than at the hallowed halls of 25 Broadway where the JFNA Board of Directors blindly rubber stamp incompetence and failure  on a weekly if not daily basis. The motto that should be engraved over its portal is "abandon principle all ye who enter here." Surely, no one has yet has been found to have their hands in the cookie jar, and this Post isn't meant to suggest that; instead, we have seen almost $650,000,000 in Dues, in donors funds, wasted in the aggregate without return on value to the federations who have willingly supplied the funds without either questions or accountability. That may not be stealin' but it ain't good either...and the waste is a lot more, hundreds of millions more, than have actually been found to have been stolen by those convicted of corruption of other organizations. 

Isn't it time to call a halt to the mess we have, by silence and inaction, permitted? Example: last year JFNA elected leaders actually determined to exercise the powers of their offices and take back the arrogation of powers by the Global Planning Table elite; the GPT would become the subcommittee of Global Operations: Israel and Overseas that it should be. But, moving forward, incredibly, the leaders of the GPT and a few federations pushed back and the JFNA leaders dropped it, leaving the I and O Chair to resign and the system in the sorry state we find it today. Where oh where was Jerry I'm-CEO-of-What? Well, I am told he was on both sides when he could be understood at all. There's not much more that needs to be said.

JFNA is a catastrophe...but it's a an even bigger catastrophe waiting to occur. 

Rwexler




Tuesday, January 20, 2015

ANOTHER JFNA SENIOR PROFESSIONAL -- GONE

I think I first met Becky Sobelman-Stern when she worked in the Western Region for the United Jewish Appeal -- thinking back, she must have been but a child -- even though she was already the bright, creative and eager young professional who grew into a major, still young professional leader while at both UJA and JFNA. I loved working with her, challenging her as she challenged me right back. Because of JFNA's policy of "no fraternization with our perceived enemies," I have watched Becky's professional growth from afar with admiration as she rose in the ranks to National Vice-President of Consulting..

At JFNA, working first under the leadership of Barry Swartz in Consulting Services, Becky grew to lead Consulting Services and JFNA's participation in any number of communal planning efforts and a series of mergers (one federation professional leader called that effort "taking two failing federations and putting them together to form one larger failed federation").

Becky had been at JFNA from its creation. Her departure announced just this morning will leave a gaping hole in JFNA's Consulting Services but, like Philanthropic Resources a/k/a FRD, it's not clear that JFNA wants to be in that "business" any more or, maybe, Mark Gurvis will take it over.

Becky has joined the Senior staff at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. She will go from strength-to-strength.

Rwexler

Monday, January 19, 2015

CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE

Here is the list of accomplishments claimed by JFNA's Planned Giving and Endowment Department since Joe Imberman took the professional reins there under the CJF "brand" as recited in Joe's "farewell missive" to the field:
  • the provision of basic and advanced gift planning and compliance services for all
  • the creation of a Bi-Annual Investment Institute and the beginning of a move to establish an investment office at JFNA
  • myriad training and continuing education opportunities for professionals and lay leaders including Endowment Leadership and Professionals Institutes, Senior Advisory council meetings etc.
  • collaboration with our Washington office on matters of legislation and tax policy affecting the field
  • the build out of the highly successful Create a Jewish Legacy model which has raised in excess of $500 million in future commitments
  • the creation of a highly successful Multi-Generational Family Philanthropy program in collaboration with 21/64 of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies
  • the creation of a National Jewish Federation Investment program as well as a national Charitable gift annuity program.
  • annual endowment surveys and corresponding health checks to assist communities in comparing peer performance
  • web based newsletters and Listservs to allow professionals and lay leaders to communicate and learn what the national system has available in this arena
  • development consultation for all on endowment topics
  • an innovative Social Venture Fund for Jewish Arab Equality and Shared Society which has distributed over $6 million since inception
  • a national endowment recognition program entitled Star of David which encompasses 1700 names
  • the management of our own JFNA Endowment fund which makes $2 million of grants per year supporting not only the annual campaign but individual community legacy and other development efforts
  • research on topics that impact endowment philanthropy in the system

I remember when Joe Imberman joined us to lead the professional effort -- he was a strong and respected federation professional who feared that UJA professional and lay leaders would interfere with his efforts to build a national and then continental endowment/planned giving effort. He probably won't remember that I assured him that he had nothing to fear...and he didn't. While many of the accomplishments on the list are due to Joe's creativity, many  of these were initiated by the federations and, as is appropriate, grown by Joe and his lay and professional team.

Joe Imberman just announced his retirement after guiding that endowment and planned giving effort from before the merger and then for the last 15 years within JFNA. Joe was a professional of great integrity while being very conservative in his approaches -- particularly so if he received push back from "the field" (even if it was but a small portion of that "field"). Over time Joe and I had some good discussions about the need for more aggressive leadership on issues that I knew were important to him and the system. Yes, I also remember that Joe proceeded with more than just professional caution -- especially when his federation professional advisory groups pushed back -- and resisted the integration of endowment and planned giving into what used to be campaign. Those were valuable learning lessons.

Joe Imberman's accomplishments for JFNA and to the field were many and he will be missed at a place where a superb professional's departure means the organization is further diminished. We wish him well as he joins an esteemed roster of former JFNA top pros who have moved into federation consultancy. 

May he go from strength-to-strength.

Rwexler

Friday, January 16, 2015

THE DEAFENING SILENCE AND EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION

There is no doubt that there are a variety of reasons that we rarely, if ever, see or hear a comprehensive discussion, let alone criticism, of the growing differential between Federation executive pay and perks and executive performance in so many places. 

Here is how the process works (or, in so many places...doesn't work):

  1. For a newly hired CEO, a sitting Compensation Committee examines competitive salaries for the position, engages a Consultant to "advise" that the amount being considered meets standards of "fairness" and equity, the CEO in negotiation submits the "comparables" -- the compensation being paid others similarly situated (usually by City-size) -- and the parties allegedly "negotiate" a pay standard that the lay leadership believes it can defend. At no point, in most instances, do these Committees consider the reality that this incoming CEO has yet to accomplish a thing; whereas those with whom he/she is being compared probably, hopefully, has.
  2. For a sitting CEO, the Compensation Committee operates in exactly the same way. Given the results listed in The Forward's annual salary study, it is evident that in too many instances compensation is awarded without regard for achievement.
I served on the "Compensation Committees" of multiple law firms in the course of my career; at none of them...not a one...were partners rewarded for anything other than actual performance -- they were compensated for their success that contributed to the success of the Firm. That's true in any business -- but, just look at JFNA where the current CEO compensation has no rational connection to success or performance. He (and his predecessor) were paid according to nothing more than their demands -- G-d forbid if we were to lose them! (I remember when Bobby Goldberg, then the JFNA Board Chair, told me in total incredulousness that Silverman's predecessor had demanded higher pay than Steve Hoffman, his predecessor. When Bobby asked him how he could make such a demand, the response: "Because I am better." P.S., he received the compensation package he had demanded. [And, he ended up being far from "better."])

When an excellent federation CEO left the system to lead FRD for our most major overseas partner, his compensation requirement was simple: that it equal the amount he would have been paid had he remained as his federation's CEO. This was agreed to by the organization's Chairs but came as a shock to many within the organization, some of whom used that compensation as a basis on which they worked in the shadows to undermine the new FRD professional's work from the get-go. My response when asked: "It's the price one pays to get the best -- but be certain you are getting the best before you pay or overpay for mediocrity." (In the instance of this example, the FRD professional has far, far exceeded what I or anyone else could have predicted -- raising tens of millions essentially on his own.) Organizations which have paid far more for far, far less are the ones whose leaders should hang their heads in embarrassment.

In too many instances today, the lay leadership rationale for what was once considered to be "excess compensation" is: "I have comparative numbers that justify this pay level in my file." And, that's it -- not performance, not success, not even competency; just a file that will withstand IRS or State scrutiny and will "protect me.". In the trial of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife for, among other things, public corruption, the Judge gave a seminal definition of "circumstantial evidence" in his jury instructions. The Judge   defined by example: "...awakening after a cold night to find six inches of fresh snow on the ground and concluding that it snowed overnight." This is exactly the parallel evidence that the JFNA Board Chair and his cronies and too many Federation leaders have chosen to ignore in awarding compensation unrelated to performance or success. 

Of great interest in this context is the requirement of New York State non-profit law that executive compensation directly relate amount of pay to achievement. As one New York State Attorney General put it: "the compensation paid must equate with the value of the services received." In other words, a State law requires more of non-profit CEOs and the Boards who hire them than do the lay leaders of the regulated non-profits themselves.

How and when will this stop? When will lay boards and officers stand up and "just say no" to the preposterous demands of job applicants and sitting CEOs who have not demonstrated success? Well, probably...never. Unless at some point there is a court decision determining that "compensation fairness opinions"  and comparative data are insufficient, in and of themselves, to award compensation unrelated to successful achievement. 

In other words...never.

Rwexler

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

OH MY G-D!!!

As I write this my head is about to explode. (I know that some/many wish that would just happen and the sooner the better, but I have more to write before I go.) I just can't believe the latest sorry episode of the sorriest organization in Jewish communal life; yep, JFNA, so feckless as to be beyond feckless.

Let me explain.

It is all about France.

In the wake of the Terrorists' murders in the Hyper Cacher Kosher Market and the fear that we attribute to the Paris and French Jewish community, JFNA leadership, as they always do, wrote some letters -- to French Jewry and to its own constituency. At one and the same time some federation leaders began to contemplate some actions -- yes, actual "actions." My own Federation, in evident anticipation of a true continental effort on behalf of and in partnership with French Jewry, sent a detailed action plan to Chicago's constituency, announcing the creation of a "French Terror and Security Fund" (the "Fund") for the following purposes:
"This Fund will provide financial aid to victims' families, security to Jewish institutions in France and help support the expected additional costs in increased aliyah from France, beyond what our annual campaign provides. French philanthropists and the institutions themselves have committed to 80% of these security costs, and the American Jewish community has pledged to absorb the remaining 20 percent."
And Chicago's leaders announced the first $100,000 contribution to the Fund.

OK so far? And, then JFNA stepped forward -- remember, in the JFNA world "forward" means "backward" and "go" means "stop."

So JFNA, over Michael Siegal's signature, had sent out an excellent "leadership briefing" Sunday evening, summarizing steps to be taken by JFNA. Then, the next morning, yesterday, JFNA convened its Executive Committee and less than 24 hours after that excellent letter, it backed away with a speed unbecoming a Jewish organization at a time of crisis. These are the action steps as JFNA described them:
"JFNA’s Executive Committee met today to discuss the situation and our response as a system and approved three specific recommendations:

1)       That Jewish Federations send their own messages of support to the leadership of the French community and encourage other Jewish organizations and community members to do the same.  We want to ensure the broadest possible expression of support
2)       JFNA will organize a national solidarity mission to France as soon as possible, in consultation and coordination with the French community leadership. 
3)       JFNA will open the France Emergency Fund as vehicle for communities and individuals who are motivated to provide philanthropic support. Funds will be used to address security needs of the French Jewish community, as well as to provide humanitarian assistance to the victims of the terror attacks. You can link to this fund here: http://fedweb.fedwebpreview.org/france-emergency-fund.

       With respect to the last item, JFNA will convene an ad hoc committee to analyze the            needs in this situation and approve the allocation of monies contributed to the fund.

       If you have any questions, please let me know."

Although Michael Siegal's expression of the steps being taken don't need footnoting, let me package them for you even more succinctly: you send letters (yes, adopt the JFNA methodology, send letters, lots and lots of letters, letters are great); you come on a Mission; and you contribute if you feel like it. We'll collect whatever you send and we'll decide how to allocate it. And, what's not in Michael's Memo?

  • No mention of the 80/20 split between French Jewry and North American Jewry;
  • No mention of any "commitment" having been made by...uh, JFNA??...to raise the 20% share;
  • No mention that Chicago and LA have each committed $100,000 to the Fund; and
  • No mention of any commitment to assist JAFI in meeting the needs created by the anticipated increased aliya.*
Maybe they just forgot.

And, if you go the link above, you will find the most pathetic, woeful "ask" I have read in 40 years of fund raising (and the link therein to a JFNA letter [what else?] to French Jewry doesn't connect). We all know that there is a crisis; JFNA just can't express it.

We have reached rock bottom -- but we will probably sink even lower. I'm just guessing.

Rwexler

* Meanwhile the Jewish Agency and JDC are already at work accelerating their own fund-raising to help meet the needs they are trying to meet in France. 





Saturday, January 10, 2015

BUILDING BIGGER SILOS

You may remember that one of the windmills at which the earliest JFNA leaders tilted were the alleged "silos" remaining post-merger in the form of United Jewish Appeal holdovers and those of CJF. In my opinion, these silos were, in the main, a fiction, but it gave leadership something with which to distract themselves from the real issues facing our system. 

Then, over the last decade, JFNA effectively eliminated any remnant of the FRD "silo" by effectively ending the continental system's engagement in fund-raising.  First, critical FRD professionals were forced out of the organization's ranks, one-by-one along with their lay partners; then, in a truly incredible move, the FRD function was subsumed by fiat under Consulting Services; then, the National Campaign Chair position was relegated to JFNA  cheerleader status with a succession of ineffectual Chairs after David Fisher's resignation; and, ultimately, FRD became nothing more than a minor cog in the JFNA bureaucracy "rebranded" as "Philanthropic Resources." Ineffectual to the point of irrelevance, JFNA would still claim, on paper, that 50% of its budget is dedicated to raising money. Yes, the  imaginary "silo" was no more.

That wasn't the end of silos, of course. While ostensibly deconstructing that represented by FRD, JFNA was busy constructing a remarkable set of ineffective silos, one-by-one, accompanied by waste and confusion, the hallmarks of JFNA under this leadership. Let me explain by JFNA acronyms: I and O, UIA* and the GPT and the JFNA-Israel Office. Now and forever. Four silos, accomplishing nothing separately or in the aggregate.

Now, this should not be...but it is. Oh, yes, it is; oh, yes, they are.


  1. Israel and Overseas -- at one time one of the most critical "pillars" of the new JFNA; now, invisible.  Its formal title: Global Operations: Israel and Overseas Coordinating Council. In reality, it coordinates nothing. So ignored with the onset of the futile Global Planning Table that its immediate Past Chair, Miami's Sabi Behar, resigned (only to be "rewarded," if that's what one calls it, with a minor chairship at, vu den?, the GPT, of course). Now chaired by Chicago's David Brown, unless David is given authority over both the GPT and the UIA and the direction of JFNA-Israel -- and, to date, those ain't happening -- he will be the Chair of nothing;
  2. UIA -- this subsidiary of JFNA is actually performing its sole functions -- monitoring the U.S. Refugee Grant, operating its owned properties and the income therefrom in Israel and vetting allocations to the Jewish Agency on our behalf -- very well. Yet, it is lost in its own ambitions and in the restraints placed upon it by JFNA. Two of UIA's leaders were charged by the UIA's current Chair with developing a strategic plan for the "Future" of the organization, approved by its Board and JFNA's and, then, at the whim of UIA's Chair, shelved. Now, UIA is engaged in an attempt to mount an advocacy effort -- Chaverim -- which would deploy 30 trained lay advocates to the communities which will have them solely on behalf of the Jewish Agency. Surely a conflict of interest for the parent company, JFNA, which, were it ever to understand its role vis-a-vis overseas needs must advocate for all of its partners, not just one and that would never be UIA's role...but it would be JFNA's.
  3. The Global Planning Table -- what can one say that I already haven't? This Rube Goldberg joke of an entity has arrogated to itself JFNA responsibilities, one after another -- planning, domestic and overseas, fund raising, priority-setting, among others -- and executed not a single one. It is JFNA in microcosm...and no one is watching the store. If JFNA is a democracy gone bad, the GPT is a kleptocracy (sans financial corruption) gone nowhere. It has been a five year distraction that has driven JFNA closer and closer to the drain.
  4. JFNA-Israel -- an office bloated with staff and budget, a mini-empire within the empire of JFNA, operating with no apparent management by the JFNA CEO, deciding what and where it will focus operate without any regard whatsoever to the priorities of the federations. This is the natural result of having a Global Operations CEO who came to the Office with neither federation understanding nor experience much like the JFNA CEO himself. JFNA-Israel assured itself that it would control the GPT, control UIA, ignore Israel and Overseas and...accomplish nothing.
Now, this remarkable quartet of ostensibly Israel-focused entities within JFNA share one characteristic in addition to their ineptitude...they do not relate to each other. Each is a mini-silo within the huge silo that JFNA has created and, apparently, ignored, letting each flounder to the extent that the totality of our system's work in Israel lacks focus, purpose and coordination. We have been advised that many of these parties have worked over the past weeks to develop "guidelines" for their future work -- we don't know what those guidelines are -- and only time will tell.

If there were a CEO and a Board Chair, this futility would not be allowed to continue. But, this is, after all, JFNA.

Rwexler

* The UIA staff continues to do first class work in its areas of assigned responsibilities.




Friday, January 9, 2015

HUH??!!

A good friend, a great fund raiser and a careful reader of the Israeli press sent me an article --http://www.jpost.com/Israel-Elections/Labor-MK-raises-hefty-sums-from-US-millionaires-387052 -- on the "prodigious" fund raising by (or, in my case, on behalf of) MK Nachman Shai's campaign for reelection to the Knesset. Shai, according to the article, had raised NIS 140,000 in campaign contributions -- at today's exchange rate, that's about $35,000. (It's worth comparing that sum with the reported $11,000,000 raised by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel for his reelection here.)

Anyway, this would all be just a footnote but for the following opening paragraphs:
"Labor MK Nachman Shai succeeded in attracting NIS 140,000 in campaign contributions for next Tuesday's party primary, mostly from prominent American Jewish leaders...
He received  large donations from Minnesota Vikings owner Marc Wilf, Chicago philanthropist Richard Wexler, Milken Family Foundation executive director Richard Sandler, and Ben Gurion University of the Negev executive director Doron Krakow."
I am honored to be on a list with two such generous lay persons and a great professional and I hope their contributions were truly substantial -- my "large donation" was for all of $100, and I wish it would have been more. It's clear that $100 goes a long, long way in Israeli politics, at least to the Post.

I hope Nachman gains a high spot on the Labor Party List in the party vote next Tuesday. Our friendship and my respect for him grew out of his  professional leadership of JFNA's Israel Office, where he provided North American federations and JFNA with the insights of one with his great background and where his interests were always in serving his constituents, not in building an ever-growing silo as has been his successor. 

So, my thanks to The Jerusalem Post for elevating $100 to the level of "large donation" and my best wishes for success to our friend, Nachman Shai.

Rwexler

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

"ONE LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR DOING ANYTHING"

The quotation above is a bastardization of that attributed to the late Massimo Vignelli in the year-end edition of The New York Times Magazine; it might even have read: "One Life is Too Short for Doing Anything...Anything at All. It is clearly the mantra of the do nothing/accomplish nothing JFNA 2015. The organization stands for nothing; it is without passion or purpose; it is so far from where its founders intended that that intent and their/our vision can no longer even be found in JFNA's work or direction. And, it's lay leaders? Either too disinterested or too lazy or too "I can't be bothered" to hold themselves or their professionals (helllloooooo Jerry) accountable. How did we get to this dystopian state? Let me count the ways.

Before the merger "negotiations," UJA leadership took our great leader, Corky Goodman's, counsel to heart -- "we have to trust the federations." By that Corky meant simply that those leaders whom he knew so well could be "trusted" to always do the right thing for our system and for the Jewish Agency and Joint Distribution Committee. From the outset, however, it soon became clear to me and others that the federations' interest in the new entity did not extend beyond the concept of "control" -- merger, I am afraid, to those who contributed the most to the budget of UJA, which until the merger, they supported but did not feel they controlled, was the means of gaining control of those tens of millions of dollars. And, merger, almost immediately, meant that the federations now "controlled" program -- for example, the largest of federations gained no benefit from what was UJA's FRD efforts or those of the nascent JFNA -- so why support those even if they had the highest value in every survey of the totality of the field. And, so, FRD became first a shadow of its former self and, ultimately, cast not even a shadow to the point where JFNA today has failed in every one of its impotent FRD efforts over the past 9 years.

There have certain consistencies over the past 9 years at JFNA in addition to the elimination of FRD capacity:

  • The identification of constructive criticism, any criticism, as treasonous dissent;
  • A JFNA-created growing chasm between North American Jewry and our partners in Israel and overseas;
  • A greater distance between 25 Broadway and the Federation owners;
  • An abdication by JFNA laity of its responsibilities everywhere one looks;
  • An inability of JFNA itself to articulate its vision, its purpose or its goals.
And, one of my least favorite moments of 2014 -- when the total confusion emerged between the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency over which would be responsible for aliya, JFNA issued a strong statement of support for JAFI's continued leadership role in bringing Jews to Israel. Yes, another letter to the Prime Minister for which JFNA has become so infamous -- yes, infamous, because when it came to backing up that support with money, with allocations, JFNA followed through as it always has under this leadership -- with the lowest allocations to JAFI, to the JDC, to World ORT than ever before. Thanks for the support guys.

The legacy of Michael Siegal and Dede Feinberg, two wonderful people and great philanthropists, will be four years of "nothing." JFNA had become the institutional version of the game of Whac-A-Mole, a series of failures, one following the other so quickly that heads spin. 

Rwexler




Sunday, January 4, 2015

MORE CLICKBAIT


Let's start 2015 with a few updates:

1. For those of you who believe that JFNA is bound by federal reporting requirements, consider the Instructions for filing the IRS 990:
File Form 990 by the 15th day of the 5th month after the organization's accounting period ends (May 15th for a calendar-year filer). If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, file on the next business day. A business day is any day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. 
Hello!! The JFNA fiscal year ended on June 30, 2014 (I am talking about 2013-2014) . Yet, JFNA has yet to file its 990 for the 2013-2014 fiscal year -- on its website remains the 2012 990 - that 990 was for the fiscal year that ended on June 30,2013 -- 1 and 1/2 years ago. Yes, JFNA may have sought an extension but, if so, who knows about it and who knows what JFNA is trying to hide?

2. A FOB sent me this: a friend was interested in joining a national Singles Mission, like the ones that UJA ran annually. Checking with JFNA and his federation, they had either never heard of such a thing and certainly had none on the Calendar. Then the friend went to the Jewish National Fund --http://www.jnf.org/travel/missions/singles-trip.html . And, that JNF Mission is headed to Israel. No doubt JFNA will create one headed to Shanghai.

3. Who among all of us knows of Thompson Habib and Denison? No, it's not an obscure law firm; it's a Boston-based FRD Consultant. JFNA hired that firm and in 2012 paid it $162,000 to apparently raise about $684,778. I don't know who authorized this hire and for what purpose but I can tell you that if my federation or yours had a cost of fund raising of 23%, heads would roll. At JFNA, where no one is accountable, that's just fine. 

4. While the JFNA leadership was no doubt still patting themselves on the back, they no doubt were caught mid-clap by the op-ed in ejewishphilanthropy on December 1 -- Fear, Fearlessness, and Forward Thinking -- written by "a Jewish professional living in Brooklyn" and a Wexner Graduate Fellow, Naomi Adland. I won't paraphrase this superb and incisive coda to those whose highest praise for  this GA that I heard was "the Plenaries were well-organized and managed." Read the entire article at  http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/fear-fearlessness-and-forward-thinking. I perceive the author as what should have been JFNA's audience -- maybe they will invite her to the next Festivus. 

Given the self-congratulatory "wasn't our GA great" added to "wasn't our TribeFest great" added to " wasn't our (fill in the blank) great," I call your attention to a tremendous and relevant cartoon in the December 8 The New Yorker. Picture this: a king, bow in hand, a quiver filled with arrows over his shoulder is examining a wall with many arrows stuck therein at random and a serf painting a target centered on each mis-aimed arrow." In our era...it's JFNA of course. 

5. I was mourning the University of Michigan's annual loss to The Ohio State University when Michigan announced that its pathetic football Coach who, after four years, had a winning record, was fired. That happened shortly after the University of Nebraska fired Bo Pelini, its football Coach, after years of success, averaging 9 wins per season. Both were let go because they hadn't done well enough. Both came to these universities well-schooled in coaching, in the training of men, in building football programs elsewhere. Of course, those terminations caused me to reflect on the extension of Jerry Silverman's contract after five years with no victories...none, not one winning "season' in five. My opinion is that those who participated in the decision to grant this CEO more years because they just could;t be bothered to search out and engage a truly visionary, experienced leader breached their fiduciary duty to the federations and to our donors.

Rwexler