Wednesday, October 7, 2015


When the Israel Action Network was created in 2010 to combat the then nascent Boycott/Sanction/Divestment movement as a joint venture of the JFNA and JCPA, with an excellent lay Chair, we expressed our doubts -- precisely because it was formed by two organizations characterized by their exceptional institutional ineptitude, JFNA and JCPA. For JCPA, which saw the $2,000,000 in annual funding from JFNA as a life-saver for the organization (and not necessarily for the anti-BDS effort JCPA would staff in part), going operational was not something with which it had demonstrated success; for JFNA, it was to be chance to get its hooks into something that might elevate the brand (always the brand) while requiring nothing more than money -- the federations' money. Then a funny thing happened: the federations' insisted that JFNA fund the IAN out of its budget -- perish the thought -- and JFNA was forced to agree!! Two years later, JFNA pled with the federations that they fund it -- JFNA could no longer "afford" it. (No one asked "why not?") The IAN, conceived as a separate legal entity, appears on its own website as no more than a "Committee" -- of what, JFNA or JCPA? It apparently files no 990 with the IRS. What exactly is it? 

With an excellent staff, this "Committee," this IAN, has worked with a sure focus and some positive results (the latest, a Pittsburgh federation-inspired "Israel Action Lab" effort to assist Jewish college students deal with BDS), but any campus effort has been overwhelmed this school year by the well-funded BDS campus activists. The IAN budget of $2 million per year plus some assorted additional donations had to be divided to fight on a broad front against a well-funded enemy; fighting the battles of the campuses was but one part of the IAN effort. By 2015 exceptionally well-funded campus efforts emerged -- the "Campus Maccabees" of Adelson/Saban with apparently unlimited means; and the Jewish National Fund's campus effort the catalyst for which was a $100,000,000 contribution; and Hillel, funded by the federations, with its broad campus representation, also paled in comparison. Meanwhile, JFNA, of course, had once again ignored even the possibility of raising significant funds for the IAN leaving it so weakened financially and, from press reports, perceived by the newly formed anti-BDS community as "left-leaning," as to be excluded from the more well-financed campus efforts. When one considers how underfunded the IAN has been, its staff should be congratulated for their efforts on our behalf.

For whatever the reason, one thing is very clear -- the organized Jewish community's anti-BDS vehicle has been relegated to the sidelines while the on-campus efforts will be led by others. Neither JFNA nor its IAN will even have the status that JFNA treasures in all things -- it will neither be the "convener" nor the "co-convener" of this critical on-campus effort. And, it seems like only last Spring that JFNA was claiming the fiction that it was the on campus champion claiming to be the coordinator of all organizational on-campus anti-BDS efforts.

So, here you have the Israel Action Network with a terrific lay Chair (Is there a Board? If so, you can't find it on the IAN's own website.) and an excellent professional staff (what exactly does JCPA contribute to this effort? Back room assistance?) that needs no help from JCPA. There is so much it might accomplish. But the IAN is so woefully underfunded as to be on the cusp of irrelevancy...leaving the IAN in the same position as its founding organizations...

Irrelevant. We can't let that happen.


Sunday, October 4, 2015


Speaking of having no "voice" on our behalf...

1. And you thought JFNA had no opinion on the Iran deal...On September 9 the forever useless FedWorld "announced" in its preface: "JFNA chair Michael Siegal discusses why so many in the Jewish community are wary of the Iran nuclear agreement" citing a nonsensical "analysis" by the JFNA Board Chair that appeared in JNS. So here is that insightful aid provided by our Chair:
“Viscerally, when some regime says ‘Death to Israel,’ and they say, ‘death to America,’ and in many case say, ‘Death to Jews,’ our history does not allow us to ignore it,” Michael Siegal, chair of the board of trustees for the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), told
JFNA has refrained from taking a position for or against the deal, instead choosing to facilitate the efforts of the more than 150 local Jewish Federations under its umbrella."  
What can one say other than, thanks a lot Michael for the brilliance...the insight...and the "facilitation." JFNA speaks...and says...nothing at all. There's no sense of shame there; in fact, reading the New Year's bloviation from CEO Jerry, made me reflect upon this fact -- every conference call that JFNA co-convened featured exclusively a supporter (or framer) of the Iran Deal (other than Dennis Ross who "cautioned" against the Deal and Robert Satloff who clearly was warned to not state his own opinion of it). Was this done because JFNA was told that if JFNA came out against the deal, it would be "punished" by taking away its "co-convenor" status? That Siegal wouldn't "question" the President on one of those calls? That Jerry's multiple invites to the White House might cease? Or am I being just too cynical?

2. And then there's JCPA. A long, long time ago, as I served as Chair of my community's Jewish Community Relations Counsel, and for a while thereafter, when I served on the Board and Executive Committee of what was then the NJCRAC, now the JCPA, I grew increasingly frustrated and impatient (surprise, I know) with the seemingly endless processing of every issue, the seemingly constant parsing of every position back then. Dear friends and lay leaders whom I venerate to this day -- Shoshana Cardin, Maynard Wishner, z'l, Jackie Levine, Arden Shenker and many others -- guided me through the NJCRAC maze. And I developed a great friendship with one of our system's best professionals, the late Al Chernin, z'l,  a pro's pro, with whom one could disagree in the search for common ground without alienation.

Then, there's today. There seems to be no process at JCPA: its chief professional signs petitions the subjects of which may be inconsistent with national consensus; votes are made (at, e.g., the Conference of Presidents) which may not represent the organizations that are its constituency; and its President, at least, appears to have an opinion on every issue, always available to the Jewish press. What used to be a cumbersome, lengthy deliberative process now appears to be no process whatsoever. Yet, on the most critical issues that confront our system today -- silence.

Here is the JCPA Mission Statement:

"The Mission of the JCPA

The mission of the Council is to serve as the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community in addressing the principal mandate of the Jewish community relations field, expressed in three interrelated goals:

  1. To safeguard the rights of Jews here and around the world;

  2. To dedicate ourselves to the safety and security of the state of Israel;

  3. To protect, preserve and promote a just American society, one that is democratic and pluralistic, one that furthers harmonious interreligious, inter ethnic interracial and other intergroup relations."
When a diligent researcher took a look at those who enjoyed the most visits at this White House, you should know that JCPA's then President was right up there with the other "most important people." If only the White House knew.

Then, there's money. JCPA is a member in good standing of the Federation-National Agency Alliance, that most woebegone of entities under the JFNA umbrella. It receives one of the largest allocations of federation dollars of any funded national agency and, in addition, it has been the recipient of millions in its role as JFNA's operating partner in the "Israel Action Network." There would be an excellent place for a rigorous audit of how our communal dollars have been spent. Yet, with all of these fund sources, JCPA today has begun a search for an FRD Director apparently to raise funds from within the federation system that currently provides it with its resources. Does JFNA know anything about this? Do the federations? Does anyone bloody care?

Rabbi Steve Gutow served JCPA as its President with distinction for a decade  and announced his retirement a while ago. Steve's liberal background appeared to serve his similarly leaning leadership as they had wished. Yet, as the community relations field, along with our Jewish polity, moved from left to center and, now, evermore toward the right of center, JCPA seemed not to be able to move with it. It will be interesting to learn of the results of JCPA's search for Gutow's successor.

Is JCPA fulfilling its role? And...what exactly is that? Rhetorical questions. BTW, JCPA couldn't even claim Michael Siegal's insights with regard to the Iran "deal;" had they, it's fair to ask, would Rabbi Gutow have been appointed just days ago by President Obama to the President's "Faith Council?" Just asking.


Thursday, October 1, 2015


Using the Mandel Center for something good, JFNA initiated a lay leadership development program called Yesod. (Or, more likely, Mandel is using JFNA for something of potential value to the federation system.) With a curriculum designed for the Melton School by Dr. Erica Brown, whom people in whom I have the greatest confidence tell me is "fantastic," Yesod already has "rules" for any federation seeking to participate:
"Communities must agree to full participation in the program as described below.
  • A minimum of 20 participants is required.
  • For smaller communities, there may be an option of doing a regional program with other nearby Federations; please contact Julia Malkin at or
    (212) 284-6636 for more information.
  • Qualified faculty from the community must be identified to teach. Faculty must be approved by Melton, our partners in this project, and they must be knowledgeable about the Federation and able to facilitate high-level discussions about Federation leadership. 
  • A local Federation staff person must be assigned to oversee the program.
  • Training for Yesod coordinators and faculty will take place Monday, October 26th in Washington, D.C."
Remember, the participating federations pay JFNA Dues as we review the costs:
  • There's something called the "Curriculum Fee" of $2500 that JFNA is "absorbing." This may sound generous but for the reality that JFNA (that's you, of course, but JFNA may not remember) pays the Mandel Center $100s of $1000s annually for just this kind of creative programming;
  • The Federation participants choose (and, apparently, pay for the "[Q]ualified faculty" (who must be "approved by Melton"). The "qualifications" are significant, the costs could be high. For a program this creative and important, JFNA should be absorbing these costs from its bloated Budget.
JFNA should be applauded for a program of this significance, duplicative though it seems to be of the now 30 year old Wexner Heritage Program...duplicative in its entirety, by the way. Already, in its constant need of overstatement, JFNA has written:
"Yesod has empowered new members to assume leadership roles, rejuvenated lay leaders and re-attracted inactive members..." 
"Reattracted" is good even if it isn't a word. 

If JFNA had a professional staff -- you know, the kind of staff a $30 million Dues budget should provide but doesn't -- wouldn't you think that Yesod would not have to be delegated away. In fact, just a few years ago, JFNA had an Executive Development Program developed by...Mandel!! Recruitment then was led by JFNA's own excellent staff members at the time, but this Program was deconstructed by the Federation CEOs demands that the program be populated by those of their choosing pro rata according to the federations' financial contributions. (More on that in a future Post.) Today, without staff, farm it out.

Would it be great if Yesod were to succeed? Absolutely. Will it? Well, I subscribe to Santayana: "Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon."

If JFNA and Mandel want Yesod to be the success that Wexner has been and is and hopefully will be, then JFNA and Mandel should absorb the totality of the costs of Yesod as Les Wexner, through his incredible philanthropy, has done...certainly there is room in a $30 million (+/-) JFNA budget for a program of actual importance, isn't there?

Isn't there?


Monday, September 28, 2015


Among the sure things in Jewish organizational life that you can count on: if he hasn't been mentioned in the Jewish media for more than 30 days, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, the Donald Trump of the charity world, will reappear to (a) trumpet his personal achievements and (b) kvetch about the organized Jewish communities refusal to recognize his triumphs and (c) appear in a posed photo with a refugee or impoverished Israeli or Holocaust Survivor. And, sure enough, as the chagim approached, there he was again in an article in The Jerusalem Post -- (September3, 2015) -- yes, IFCJ's Eckstein Decries Failures of Jewish Charities. I can picture the moment in the press room of The Jerusalem Post: "Hey, it's the IFCJ calling again. Get out the annual Eckstein article and print it."

Nothing herein is to deprecate the good works that the IFCJ starts (and, even sometimes, finishes) or Eckstein's fund raising acumen. But always...always...Yechiel's ego begins to creep in and, as in the case with JAFI (where his demands, among others, of a co-equal space on the JAFI letterhead with Keren Ha'Yesod and the Federation system -- even as those over their history have allocated hundreds of millions to JAFI -- were turned down), eventually led to a public argument and a public split. It appears that all Eckstein institutional relationships end up shattered.

Earlier this year, you will recall, Yechiel attacked the Jewish Agency upon withdrawing the IFCJ funding of Jewish Agency activities and, instead, setting up his (and I use the pronoun "his" with precision) own IFCJ small scale aliya program in the Ukraine -- a program he has since expanded. I have always wondered how the Fellowship's decisions are made -- there is a Board out there somewhere but it certainly appears that, the many staff members notwithstanding, this is a one man show -- and Yechiel assures that that "one man" will be...Yechiel. Now, he has expanded the scope of his wrath beyond JAFI to "Jewish charities."


Well, it seems that "organized Jewish charities" -- viz, federations and their ilk -- may not share Rabbi Eckstein's stated and unstated goals. And, to Rabbi Eckstein, they are, therefore, ignoring their responsibilities. So, what's Yechiel upset about now?
"Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Eckstein said that mainstream Jewish philanthropy was not adequately addressing issues such as the security of Jewish institutions in vulnerable countries, the welfare of Holocaust survivors in both Israel and the Diaspora, and bringing Jewish Ukrainian refugees to Israel."
Of course, as Eckstein well knows (as he serves or has served on the Boards and Executive Committees of the Jewish Agency and the JDC) the federation system's partners (at least those JFNA calls "partners") have continuously "addressed" these matters. And, through the efforts of the Claims Conference has been allocating hundreds of millions over the decades focused on Holocaust survivors and, with the JDC, rebuilding Jewish communities "in vulnerable countries." And, one can question whether Eckstein would be complaining about let alone operating his own aliya operation in Ukraine has the Jewish Agency merely capitulated to his multiple-paged list of demands that he nailed to the Sachnut door.

Yes, I have decried the federations and JFNA's abandonment of their overseas responsibilities reflected in the lowest allocations to the core budgets of JAFI and JDC, but I also have long experienced the disingenuous attacks of Rabbi Eckstein on the system when it serves his own purposes. So, when I read something like this in the Post, I can only laugh:
"He also criticized such charities for having excluded the IFCJ from public collaboration with them"
Sorry, Yechiel, but the reality is quite different, isn't it? And that reality is that it is Yechiel Eckstein who has serially killed his and his IFCJ's collaboration with: the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, the United Jewish Appeal and, most recently, the Jewish Agency -- each time with anger and wholly imagined slights. Could the JDC be next?

Well, probably not given that the Joint is willing to stoop as low as institutionally possible to maintain its relationship with the IFCJ. Example? On the day after we observed Rosh Ha'Shanah 5776, the JDC bought an ad in at least The Jerusalem Post celebrating not the Holiday but...
"The Joint...wishes the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, under the leadership of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
                     Shana Tova -- a sweet and happy New Year
JDC is a proud operational partner of IFCJ, providing food and medicine to needy..."
Maybe that ad will buy JDC another year of peace with the IFCJ, but the Joint's leaders must know that you can't buy Yechiel's eternal partnership, as said about others you can only rent it for a while. And, when it all falls apart, as inevitably it will, it will be the Joint's fault for sure.

Again, none of this is to deprecate the often wonderful work the IFCJ has led, the important contributions Yechiel has made to the creative survival of our People. But every contribution seems to require being accompanied by public whining and the constant need for coddling and supplication. And that's never going to change.


Friday, September 25, 2015


I congratulate our friends at the wonderful ejewishphilanthropy for another prodigious achievement -- this time publishing a series of interviews by the brilliant professional leader, Misha Galperin, who posed a series of questions  to federation/system leaders. And, it is to Misha's credit that, like any good reporter, he just let these leaders speak in their own words without the necessity of commentary or observation. But...I will offer some...

  • The current JFNA Board Chair, Michael Siegal, is a mensch. And I know that it was not long after he assumed the Board Chair position (yes, my choice of wording here is poor) that he realized that if there were to be any chance of moving JFNA forward during his three year Terms that two actions at a minimum would have to occur: (1) there would have to be a change in the CEO/President position; and (2) the waste that was the Global Planning Table would have to be ended. He began these two processes with all good intentions by first creating professional "bench strength" under Silverman in the persons of Mark Gurvis and Renee Rothstein whom Silverman was told to hire and, then...well, stuff happened. There was organized pushback from Kathy Manning and her claque (after all this hire was all she "accomplished" over her three years; and there were no experienced candidates who would agree to succeed Silverman (and there were those who were asked). As to the GPT: it self-destructed as any top-down dictated mess would have been -- but, on Michael's watch (again over the objections of Manning), it's over. It took too long and wasted millions...but, it's over.
  • But, now, as the end of Siegal's terms are upon us, he appears to be living in some virtual  Alice in Wonderland world -- a place of tiny bubbles and unicorns, the only place where JFNA is successfully leading a whole bunch of successful federations, where all federations are willingly paying their Dues, a place where Jerry Silverman is a successful CEO. In other place on this earth. I mean, Michael, really? When Michael cites that "[L]eadership requires decisions and accountability for those decisions," was he speaking to his own "accountability" for the decision to extend the JFNA CEO's contract? If so, "accountability" would have required Michael to resign, wouldn't it? Then, Siegal writes about that which JFNA and the federations should be without for a second reflecting on the reality that they aren't...and that a major part of the reason they "aren't" is the organization he was elected to lead.
  • Then there is the incoming Board Chair. I have heard so many terrific things about Richard Sandler; I am eagerly awaiting his installation in November. While I have read his narrative, his vision, of a lay leader's and a Federation's responsibilities in ejp, I choose to believe in the Richard Sandler as I and others have come to know him -- as a decisive leader who doesn't suffer fools. To Richard Sandler Federation should be a kinder/gentler place (never a bad idea) that he apparently believes they are not now -- a "partner/convener...touching and working with all other organizations" and,  thereby "...strengthen(ing) the Jewish community based upon Jewish values." He sees federations as "think tanks" identifying the organizations that are best meeting communal needs and funding those. (In my community and yours, isn't that what federation allocations have always done?) While Richard rejects the premise that federations are general "fundraising organizations," he went on to state in response to Misha Galperin that "Federations raise funds for a purpose and that purpose needs to be clearly defined." As the Board Chair of our second largest community, he has demonstrated in deed -- not in word clearly, but in deed -- that he understands and appreciates the strength and value of the lay-professional partnership; he values a strong and thoughtful and creative professional leader. Further, unlike his predecessors as Board Chair, he will not sit idly by and merely pretend that all is well when it isn't.

Holy shit!! Up to the moment of Richard Sandler's election, for the previous three times. the selection of the JFNA Board Chair appeared to have had to be, as The Wall Street Journal's Jason Guy described the selection of the new quarterback(s) of the once woebegone New York Jets football team: " pulling a ticket at the deli counter of failure." No, it doesn't have to be that way, of course. It just was; I believe that with Richard Sandler's election, it is no longer.

To this point in time our ultimate leaders have too often been either those parachuted into continental leadership who remain bewildered for the three years of service or they come in like a Manning, with a personal agenda that ends up trumping their responsibilities to the federations -- they exemplify just why our continental organization has sunk like the Titanic. Richard Sandler can be the leader we have been waiting for for so long.

He had better be.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015


1. In the latest release of Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's e-mails, one, critical to the on-going investigation was Secretary Clinton's inquiry "where are we on this?" with regard to "gefilte fish." Known in some circles as "the mysterious gefilte fish e-mail;" we don't know the yet.

2. When our sitting JFNA Chair announced his (their?) decision to extend CEO Silverman's contract, he privately explained that he didn't want JFNA "distracted" during the last year of his term by a search for a new CEO. Instead, Michael, for all intents and purposes right now it's as if JFNA has no CEO. Really, how is that decision working out for us (or for Michael Siegal)? Best I can tell, there's just Pat McNamara, Mindy Hepner, Karen Strauss, Mark Gurvis, Renee Rothstein and, lonely in D.C., William Daroff.

3. More GA nonsense. In a September 2 "promotion" of the GA, JFNA prominently promoted a session that will ask the following question:
"What is the role of Federation and other Jewish communal organizations in a time of crisis? Where does community end and leadership begin? Examine these questions and more in this session led by Dr. Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute."
Yes, just consider the highlighted question. You just shake your head in shock and awe.

4. Follow the bouncing ball at 25 Broadway: The usually invisible JFNA COO, Mark Gurvis, suddenly appeared in an e-mail last month announcing two staff appointments. One, the professional who will "lead" the new Jewish Education and Engagement Unit -- you remember, the Unit created out of whole cloth out of a consultant report allegedly commissioned by the Federation National Agency Alliance, funded with $500,000 per year for at least 4 years (that's $2,000,000 by my count) allocated by most federation Alliance members to enhance the work of National Agencies diverted without challenge to the budget of JFNA and whose work will be devoted to implementing the underfunded now (as always actually) moribund Global Planning Table"voluntary Initiative" of the now defunct Global Planning Table. If you can keep up with this Rube Goldberg path of your federation dollars at work, please know that the remaining senior GPT professional at the end of that dismal day, has been reassigned to the Jewish Education and Engagement Office

5. The biography of a successful candidate to move up from Federation CEO in Federation B to Federation A included the following in his list of "achievements":
"________ consolidated all Federation staff to underused space in the JCC building, then led many significant upgrade projects including: construction of the lobby lounge and upgrade to the Patio Gallery, the 2011 __ Volunteers project that created the intergenerational garden and gaga (sp) pit and addressed many maintenance needs throughout the building, and replacement of many roofs, HVAC units and other capital repairs made possible through the agency’s improved financial performance."   
Must have been the creation of that ga-ga pit that sold Community A on this candidate's credentials.*

6. Let's close with this: JTA reported that to cool down visitors this Summer, showers had been installed at Auschwitz. 
What else is there to say?



* For those of you like me who haven't a clue what a ga-ga pit is:
"ga-ga (literally 'touch-touch' in Hebrew) is a variant of dodgeball that is played with one ball. The game combines dodging, striking, running, and jumping, with the object of being the last person standing. Players hit the ball at each other with their hands, and are eliminated if the ball strikes them below the waist. The game can be played by a group of individual players or with teams, as well as in one-on-one matches. Rules, ball types, pit surfaces, and pit sizes can vary widely at different venues. Other names for this game include Israeli dodgeball, octo-ball and panda ball." 
         The ga-ga pit is the pit in which the ga-ga game game is played. 

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Where has all the money gone, long time passing?
Where has all the money gone, long time ago?....
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn? 
Do you ever wonder where our money goes...or who is watching to confirm that it is being properly spent as the allocators have contemplated? Or are you, like our leaders, disinterested? Or do you assume that our federations and their agent, JFNA, are actually demanding accountability? In its 990 filings with the IRS, JFNA states clearly that over $800,000,000 are its responsibility -- 100's of millions pass through its bureaucracy designated for third parties. What happens to the money after JFNA sends it on? Who/what is monitoring that those funds are being properly applied? It's not that our money is being misspent that we know of, anyway; it's that no one knows, do they?

Who's watching the store? When JFNA opens one of those many, many Mailboxes -- say for Haiti Relief for which millions were collected by JFNA and sent on after the devastation of Hurricane Jeanne -- who gets the money and who assures that it's properly spent? Does JFNA get a report in writing? The Wall Street Journal recently suggested wanton waste, money not getting to the intended beneficiaries, etc., and The Red Cross being unable to account for the expenditure of tens of millions -- no doubt, some of it the funds JFNA transmitted. Ask JFNA if it can account for the Haiti Relief dollars (or Nepal Relief or funds sent by communities to the Jewish Coalition on Disaster Relief or other) and you will no doubt get the following: a smirk, a Mad Magazine, z'l, stupid grin and "we'll have to get back to you on that. (And, then, two things happen: [1] nothing and [2] your name goes on a JFNA "do not call" list.)

Do the federations have any interest in where their/our money goes? They seem to ask no questions, maybe they fear the answers they will/won't get. This is not like the situation with the Jewish Agency where UIA, JFNA's subsidiary, is monitoring the federations' allocations not just for the system but for the U.S. State Department in the application of U.S. Refugee Resettlement Grant. And JDC? Well it annually receives $10s of millions in federation allocations and 100s of millions from the Claims Conference. Just read the latest on the corruption and negligence of the Claims Conference under the Joint's noses (and, perhaps, its management) and maybe, just maybe, the light bulb will go off and someone at JFNA will demand a line item accounting of where the tens of millions of federation allocations have gone, how the money has been spent and on what...not alone the funds from multiple Mailboxes, but, for example, the millions ultimately wasted on the no dead Global Planning Table. But...probably not.

This neglect is symptomatic of so much that is wrong with our system today. Too many -- not all but too, too many -- seem to view their Board membership, especially their Board membership at JFNA, as some kind of honorarium excusing Board members from seriously embracing their responsibilities and exercising them. I have to admit with sorrow that some may not even know what those responsibilities are. Monitoring? Accountability? We'll leave that to the professionals. (And, as we have noted, at least one JFNA venture seems to have no lay leadership involvement whatsoever.) Us...we set the policies --that's what we do -- and that's all we do. Actually, in too many instances, "we" don't even do that. We show up at meetings, nod our heads, vote as we're told and return home satisfied that we have met our responsibilities...

And that's how our organizations have turned to crap...congratulations.


One of you has Commented as follows:
"Richard is rightly upset that the reporting on Nepal or Haiti etc isn't up to our expectations. But no federation can spend donor funds on these mailboxes, on their overhead or on their monitoring, because our donors won't let us. I don't have a solution, I just want to throw in a complicating factor. These mailbox campaigns by definition are not what we do. So we can't spend funds on them in the way we would like."
I want to be clear: Federations monitor their allocations to local agencies through internal allocations and budgeting processes; Federations have every reason to believe that JFNA, the recipient and conduit for allocations, will monitor funds transmitted to and through it to assure that those funds are properly applied. JFNA, even though it receives (and, in the main, wastes) $30 million annually in Dues, does no monitoring. And, there's the rub.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


JFNA Statement on Iran Deal

"New York – While the vote on the Iran agreement is likely behind us, the long-term challenge of preventing a nuclear Iran isn’t. America and our allies need to closely monitor Iran’s compliance of the accord and be prepared to act quickly and decisively against any Iranian violations.

This agreement adds a new variable to an already unstable and unpredictable Middle East. A strong U.S.-Israel relationship is more important than ever to both nations as we confront these challenges. Strengthening the spirit of the relationship, deepening strategic cooperation and supporting Israel as it reexamines its defense needs in light of the agreement are important next steps.

While the last several months have seen divisions over the Iran issue, we also must remember one thing on which the Administration, Congress, the Jewish community and indeed the American people all agree: Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon."


I know that many of you reading the above for the first time here believe that this is some terrible parody that I dreamed up in some nightmare vision of what JFNA would finally say after the Iran Deal apparently became veto-proof. But you would be wrong. This is the actual statement apparently written by humans at 25 Broadway (as opposed to the popular theorem that if you put 100 monkeys in a room with typewriters, they will produce Hamlet).

Yes, this is exactly the mush we weren't waiting for the last 90+ days. It's really too bad that with all the staff at JFNA HQ they had no one able to read the "Iran agreement."



Wednesday, September 16, 2015


You keep hoping that something...anything...will get better and, then...

Jerry Silverman, CEO extraordinaire, used his Rosh Ha'Shana message -- What Happens Now? (a title unintentionally [for certain in Jerry's case] ironic) -- to first argue for the continuing importance ("self-importance?") of what he likes to call "Federation" when he is referring to JFNA, for being the convener (actually the co-convener) of important, informative conference calls to present, as it turned out, the Obama Administration's multiple messages in support of its deal with Iran, and, then, off on tangents that lead me, and, perhaps, only me, to the conclusions expressed below.

But...let's start with form rather than substance. It's one thing to have one's name inscribed on a letter, Memo, Book...even a Blog. But, for CEO Jerry, there must be a new level of insecurity. His name appears to be in Bold, 1 inch high. It's in a Font heretofore unknown to me -- not Helvetia 12, not Arial 14, no, not even Verdana 16 -- this one is Egomania 20!!  You have to see it to believe it!!

OK, enough of that, let's move on to the real problem here, as in all things...substance...or, more appropriate to JFNA, the lack thereof. Sifting through the now wholly expected bloviation, Jerry has postulated the following points:

  1. "First, we need to refocus on what united us throughout this trying period." Sure, Jerry, just how did JFNA "unite us" over the past months? And, what exactly, did JFNA contribute to those points of supposed "unity?" Best I can tell, JFNA contributed nothing, had no suggestions...and still doesn't. To JFNA the best thing to do was to stay above (or was it behind??) the fray avoiding any discussion whatsoever, even when urged to convene that and, at all costs, avoid any debate whatsoever. And, speaking of "debate..."
  2. "Second, we need to accept that debate—even an intense, painful one—is at the center of who we are as a people." Friends, this is so confounding -- JFNA, which assured that there would be no debate whatsoever under its auspices during the entirety of the real debate taking place in our communities, now dictates that debate is at the center of just whom we are...I guess he meant "you are" inasmuch as JFNA is once again nowhere to be found. It's unfathomable, as with most things, that JFNA could once again articulate: "do as we say not as we do." It's beyond pathetic; it's abysmal. In point of fact, JFNA avoids debate on anything and everything; this is the most significant reason for the lack of engagement by federations with JFNA. Jerry Silverman lives in some parallel universe that permits him and only him to believe that JFNA is doing exactly...EXACTLY...what is is not doing and has never done. And we permit this inanity to go on.
  3. "This brings me to my third point. The esteemed Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks has described conflict management as 'the single greatest unresolved problem in Jewish history.'” Hmmm. Really? Well, whether one agrees with Jerry/Rabbi Sacks as to the priority of this "problem," one has to ask: how does Silverman jump from the need for real debate -- a thing unknown at JFNA -- to this "greatest problem" of conflict management? And, then, to make this another "focus" of the unfocused GA  (what are there now, 20 foci...or more?).
  4. And, the bloviating just goes on and on with all forms of platitudinous advice without specifics, offering no real insights and, worst, offering not a single specific example of a JFNA plan or program that might accomplish any of these cliche-driven "Points."
Is it too late to hope for...what, exactly? Hope for change? Hope he can change? Can JFNA truly get better in 5776 with this

I think we all know the answer.


Sunday, September 13, 2015


  1. "...a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction""

You know, like:
  • Abbas/"(may be) an Angel of Peace" 
  • CEO/Jerry Silverman 
  • Airline Food
  • Jumbo Shrimp
  • Jerry Silverman/CEO
  • Justice Clarence Thomas 
  • Rabbi Barry Freundel 
  • FedWorld/"The most important publication in Jewish life" 
Each and all of the above clearly meet the definition of "oxymoron" -- but that reality hasn't stopped JFNA, in the person of Chair Michael Siegal, from offering CEO Jerry a contract extension or from investing even more in the last of them -- the ridiculous and redundant FedWorld. In its budget JFNA speaks to a "circulation" of this infantile publication of 6,000 -- a figure about as unlikely as "a GA of 3,000." The Budget promises to increase this circulation by another 1,000 in 2015-2016. And, how easy that will be: just buy a few mailing lists and send the thing out to 2,000 more (so, maybe, another 1,000 will look at the thing and, then, toss it). How much are we paying for this? Whatever it may be...too much. (But, it is no doubt considered a giant step forward in Institutional Advancement and Building the Brand.) I don't know about you, but whenever I hear Jerry speak, I also hear (as was expressed in the great HBO show Veep) the sound of circus music.

You probably have your own additions to this list -- send 'em on.