Tuesday, March 31, 2009



UJC today announced a new partnership with the Neturei Karta to bring 1,500,000 Russian Israeli Jews to the United States from the State of Israel. An unnamed most senior UJC official stated: "When Israeli Russians began to live in fear for their futures in Israel, we had no choice but to rescue them -- otherwise our system would stand for nothing...absolutely nothing. We thank the Neturei Karta, our partner, for bringing this terrible situation to our attention." A Rebbe for Neturei Karta told this Reporter: "Keiner zet nisht zayn eigenerm boyker." (A translator reported: "No one sees his own hunchback." When asked for further clarification, the Neturi Karta Rebbe winked.)

A Jewish Agency spokesman expressed incredulity. The new Prime Minister asked: "Are UJC's leaders nuts?" Howard's View sprung this surprise with typical eloquence: "We finally found our Big Idea. Our philanthropy brought these Jews from captivity to freedom in Israel; now, with the federations' help, and through our partnership with Neturei Karta, we can bring them back to captivity in the midst of our freedom in America...land of the free, home of the brave. The Voice of One, the Power of Many; or the Voice of Many, the Power of One. Anywhere a Jew is in trouble, UJC will be there for them...unless they are in Galveston or Houston."

Asked to estimate the cost, the most senior UJC professional responded, "...given the excellent job done in Israel, we think we can resettle them here for about $50,000 a person." When told that would be a total cost of $7.5 billion, Rieger replied, "No, you're way off, that's no more than $75 million and the Neturei Karta are putting up $2.5 million." We sat UJC leadership down and explained: 1.5 million Russians x $50,000 each = $7.5 billion." Two UJC leaders passed out, one said, "uh oh," and Joe Kanfer stated: "I'll raise that personally. I'll travel the country talking to mega-donors. It will be a snap to raise this money." Then the other UJC leader passed out. (Luckily, UJC has only five leaders.) The most senior UJC professional said: $75 million, $7.5 billion, what's the difference? The federations have it and we'll get it." And, with that, Kanfer fainted.

A political head of Israeli Russian Jewry responded: "Maybe 500,000 want to leave but that's all -- and they want to go back to Mother Russia -- or they did until the economy cratered there. Between the Neturei Karta, who hate Israel more than they apparently love God, and UJC, who just want to be able to claim they accomplished something...anything...I think Israel's Russian community will be fine right here. Besides, who is going to buy their apartments and homes?"

UJC announced:"Our goal is to get all 1,500,000 here for Pesach. Seders have been arranged all over Williamsburg." When told that Pesach is but two weeks away, UJC responded: "Then we had better hurry up." The Neturei Karta announced that in anticipation of the arrival of the Russian Israelis, they would forebear from burning Israeli flags for the next month freeing their entire male population to supervise their wives' cleanup of their homes so as to welcome the "new Americans." A nahr bleit a nahr or something like that. (The translator had left.)

A U.S. State Department official, demanding anonymity, asserted, "This is a big, big surprise for us. I'm not sure that we even have enough Visa forms. Do they know we're in a recession?" Asked to elaborate, he handed this reporter a hand-printed statement: "Even though we at the U.S. State Department love Jews today as we always have, there is no f'___'in chance one of these people are getting into the good old U.S. of A., let alone 1.5 million." He closed with a message for the Neturei Karta and UJC: "Mentsch tracht. Gott lacht."

Asked to respond, Howard Rieger stated: "Once we get the Russians here, the Ethiopians will be next." Then Rieger was asked: "What about the 110 Yemeni Jews?" He replied: "What Yemeni Jews? What are you talking about? We have nothing to do with Yemen." This reporter was escorted from the room.

April Fools -- all of them. But, be careful when at your Seders you open your door to let Eliyahu in.


Sunday, March 29, 2009


Yes, the Humpty Dumpty that is UJC today has already broken apart into so many pieces that no army will be able to put Humpty Dumpty together again. Woe unto the cheerleaders, the enablers of this mess.

A few weeks ago UJC published its 2008 Annual Report -- The Voice of One. The Power of Many. If you have any idea what the tag line means, please share. (Does it mean, the "voice of Joe Kanfer," the "power" of Kanfer, Rieger, Gelman, or something else?) It is a very well done Annual Report weaving together mini-reports of Federation CEO's like Seserman, Galperin, Englander, with outrageous data -- e.g., sure enough the head count on GA08 is back up to the astounding 4,500 -- and incredible fantasies. (I don't understand why UJC refuses to be bound by the facts [or, maybe I do]. In the body of the Report appears the following -- "UJC also produces key events...which give federation professionals and volunteers opportunities to leverage the power of one to address the challenges of many." [Emphasis added.] (Do you sense a recurring theme? And, if so, what does this mean???)

Then, as reported recently, in its "alternatives" to be debated somewhere/sometime for UJC Dues relief -- it is important to note that there is a vast difference between "Budget relief" and "Dues relief" as if the two are not bound at the hip -- UJC proposes to reconstruct its financial resource development commitment to the levels pre-merger. Incredible fantasy -- Alice Through the Looking Glass stuff. It's as if elevating FRD is to KanferRieger only their second highest priority; the highest is making certain FRD is irrelevant.

Most have learned over the last four years that to this leadership facts are no more than Silly Putty -- shaped by KanferRieger into what they believe people want to hear at the specific moment in time they are being spoken. Now, everyone has caught on to the game being played day in and day out. More than one person high up in the echelons of UJC's top-heavy professional structure has bemoaned the reality that "...they demand loyalty but give none.." Even the loudest cheerleaders for UJC -- and there are more than a few (who usually argue this way: "What's the alternative?") -- admit in their private conversations "we have a disaster on our hands" -- and then cheer lead some more. Three "strategic plans" in four years each with the shelf life of a piece of fruit tells all of us of the waste of our precious dollars.

Now, it appears to some that in what may be a futile effort to salvage UJC's "survival," some federations believe it must be done at the expense of the Jewish Agency and JDC. Under this scenario, our system's historic partners, for which there has been no institutional support or advocacy under this UJC leadership, should trade core allocations for promises from either an UJC leadership that is incapable of delivering on anything or from a group of federations which while sincere, can commit only for themselves and none other. Others want to turn back the merger to make of UJC a new CJF. As if that's a good idea...or as if that hasn't already happened de facto.

All one can conclude is that UJC is so badly broken that it may be impossible to attract the best and brightest to succeed the Chairs and CEO. I, with you, know how badly we need a strong national organization led by those who can truly lead us out of the wilderness, away from the precipice to which we have allowed ourselves to be delivered. It won't be too soon; the only question is, will it be too late? Or is it too late already?


Thursday, March 26, 2009


Howard Rieger and UJC's Sr. V-P, Marketing and Communications have alerted all of us to a "New Passover Video." It carries an excellent message and can be seen at:



Wednesday, March 25, 2009


There is a news to report on matters heretofore covered in this Blog and elsewhere....

On the Yemeni Front...A Report is in UJC's hands from a Study Mission to Yemen sponsored by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and which included an insightful, articulate federation leader from New York City, among others. I have seen the Report and will tell you only this -- the group had unfettered access to not only leading figures in the Yemen government and tribal hierarchy but the Yemeni Jewish community, as well. We'll see if UJC publishes the Report, redacts it to reflect its own predisposition toward panic and "attack the messengers," or just plain ignores it as it chose to ignore its responsibility to do due diligence before its CEO was writing Federation leaders claiming in hysteria that "...this is a spiritual and religious emergency" in an effort to gain support for UJC's unilateral determination to partner with the Satmar.

I reflected on Rieger's intemperate message in the context of the significant financial assistance UJC was seeking to implement its Satmar partnership. The federations he named in the e-mail cited in my Post as being "candidates" for this financial aid have each announced broad staff cuts and significant budget reductions in light of campaigns and endowments impacted by the economic realities. Apparently UJC is unaware of or chooses to ignore those realities when it comes to what UJC "wants." Speaking of acting like children....

Two leaders for whom I have the greatest respect, one a top professional with one of our most critical partners, the other, one of the most engaged lay leaders with another of our system's partners, each called me with the same message -- "This is not and never has been a matter of rescue." Instead of a reasoned approach, due diligence and a thought-through plan, UJC appeared to be looking for a "score," any "score." And, they got one...but not the one they had in mind.

"Off The Top" Even without President Obama and Tim Geithner, the "bail-out plan" for UJC is moving forward full steam ahead. A group of Large City federation leaders met with UJC leadership yesterday at Chicago's O'Hare (some present, others by phone) and apparently concluded that JAFI and JDC should be wholly supportive (under the rubric that "the only thing two Jews can agree upon is what a third Jew should give") of paying a significant portion, at the least, of UJC's dues off the top of the core allocation for our partners; just be satisfied if the core is guaranteed by federations whose allocations constitute 85% (+/-) of that core; satisfied that they will have seats at UJC's Budget table...just "satisfied," you know?

Not being there, I can only speculate that there was no discussion of: the lack of transparency of UJC's Budget process; the fact that this "bail-out" brings UJC no closer to engagement with the vast super-majority of federations; that UJC has made no commitment to advocacy (not that at this point they would know where to begin); that UJC has not agreed to a Budget reduction beyond "maybe 10% in response to federations' of all City-sizes demands; and that no commitment was received from the current claque of UJC lay and professional leaders to reform before they slink out of office in the coming months; among other things no doubt ignored. But, as you might expect, this being UJC after all, there is some disagreement among those in the room and participating by phone as to whether there was "agreement" at all, and if so, what the "terms" agreed to, were.

Branding... Has UJC's name been changed? If you read the detritus that passes for Briefings, Views, etc., from UJC over the weeks since the Florida Institute, you will find references to UJC: The Federations of North America, or The Jewish Federations of North America, and, maybe, some I have missed. Then, recently, someone told me the name is going to be UJA: The Federations of North America. (Actually, inasmuch as the UJA brand still resonates, 10 years after it was "killed," to a greater extent than the UJC "brand" that succeeded it. by a margin of 4:1, that might be a good idea.!!) In throwing these names at the wall, is UJC engaged in that concept of sending it/them up the flagpole and seeing who salutes?

And, in closing... One of the truly superb, caring professionals who called with a message of support, offered the following: "UJC is in much greater need of rescue from its current leadership than the Yemenite Jews do from Yemen."

Discuss among yourselves.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


On April 6, UJC, as we have posted earlier, will convene a five hour (including lunch) joint meeting of its Budget & Finance and Executive Committees ostensibly to review the UJC management's Budget proposals for fiscal year 2010. I have already commented on the probability that given multiple federations' demands for a Budget cut between 20% and 33-1/3% (and even up to 50%), UJC would expedite an "off the top" Budget suggesting in one form or another, that the allocations to JAFI and JDC be the source for Budget payment "eliminating" Dues. To script that meeting, UJC and some federations are meeting in Chicago today.

Of course, whatever the "off the top" option chosen, if it mandates that the base core allocation at some level, be sacrosanct, then the federations would still have to find budgetary resources to satisfy UJC membership. So where are we? Well, to find out, UJC decided -- in some instances on two business days' notice (sent out on March 19, with a requested response date of March 23) -- to survey the federations. This is what they sent out:

In preparation for the April 6th UJC Budget and Finance Committee meeting, we have been requested to help promptly gather information on:
1. Budget decrease taken mid year due to economic conditions.
2. Estimated budget changes for fiscal 2009- 2010.
3. Actual or estimated changes to local and overseas allocations for
Fiscal 2009 - 2010.
This trend line information will be most helpful to the committee in its forthcoming deliberations.
A response by reply e mail by end of business Monday, March 23rd will be most appreciated. Many thanks."

The responses were "requested" by yesterday, apparently so they would be ready in some form by today. Would it be unreasonable to ask why UJC wasn't collecting this data from the onset of the economic crisis? Probably. Doesn't UJC have much of this data from Federation Peer Yardstick? Probably not -- program remains too small. Or is the "survey" being conducted to enable UJC leaders to attempt to argue that as federations themselves are not cutting their own budgets by, e.g., 30% so "why should we?"

Whatever, it seems clear, if anything about UJC is ever clear, that UJC will attempt to use this brief meeting on April 6 (serendipitously, "Opening Day" for Major League Baseball as well) to enlist the rubber-stampers to not only support a much smaller Budget cut than that requested/demanded by a growing number of federations but also to drive the decision to reverse 10 years of practice by taking the UJC Budget "off the top" of the allocation for Israel and Overseas. This to UJC is, as they would claim as well, was an FLI attended by one-third of the federations, a "transparent process." I have already Posted UJC Leadership's transparently phony invitation to JAFI's and JDC's Board Chairs to come to a meeting for unspecified purposes -- no Agenda, no follow-up and, significantly, no date. The apparent intent is to reach some conclusion today, document it, get it approved on April 6 and present JDC and JAFI with a fait accompli; decide in haste, repent at leisure., one of UJC's many tag lines.

I read something appropriate to this mess recently. Jane Stern of the estimable food-writing twosome, Jane and Michael Stern, authors of the Roadfood books, was asked at a panel discussion whether she ever returned the next day to a place where she didn't like the food. She replied, "If we think the food is no good, we don't wait around for it to get better." What are the federation owners waiting around for?

Lunch, anyone?


Monday, March 23, 2009


There hasn't been an instance of UJC failure these past four years where the finger of blame for any failure of UJC by UJC hasn't been pointed at someone or some organization other than at UJC's leaders, lay and professional, themselves. UJC Development efforts don't satisfy a group of Executives, blame the senior professionals; Operation Promise is aborted, blame the federations; UJC's Marketing efforts are criticized, blame the senior professionals; two, of three (so far) Strategic Plans go on the shelf, ignore the fact, the costs and go to the next; Dues aren't being paid, blame Federation Executives of the "offending" communities for being "unable to control their lay leaders;" UJC floundering, blame "the Blogs and the Jewish press;" no traction for additional dollars for the IAI, blame JCPA; $13.2 million in assistance for Victims of Terror after the IEC goes begging, blame the federations; Mailboxes for needs ranging from the Georgia-Russian War Victims to Hurricane Relief for Houston, underfunded by millions, ignore it and request more funds for something else; and, in apparent anticipation of the failure of the Satmar "rescue" of Yemeni Jews, blame this Blog. There should be a big sign hung in the new UJC space -- "The Buck Stops...There."

I may be critical of the constancy of UJC leadership's abuse of process, of its own governance, of its failure to think through plans thoroughly before rolling them out, among others, but two things UJC does so well: pay lip service and play the "Blame Game." I have apologized that I mistakenly and prematurely rolled out a Post on the UJC/HIAS/Satmar scheme for three hours one week ago today but I may not have noted that during those three hours UJC itself sent that Post on to a broad mailing list with the apparent observation on how horrible this was. UJC did not note that the Yemenite matter had already been covered more than once in the Israeli press even before my short-lived and mistaken Post publication on the 16th.

The factual situation confronting our Yemeni mishpacha today and their position will be available to all of us shortly. It will reveal circumstances either known to UJC and hidden from public view or, perhaps worse, unknown to UJC's leaders when they entered into their Satmar-driven "partnership." When all of these facts are known, then we will see where fingers point. By then, in addition to all else, I will certainly have heard from UJC "Anonymous" Comments that, in addition to all else, I am guilty of Blood Libel and worse.

So why the "Blame Game" here? Is it because after Rieger wrote that costs would be based on a Satmar estimate of which UJC apparently committed $800,000 (of money not its own and for which it had no commitments) with no authority to do so; or were federations resisting a financial "partnership" with the Satmars even for this humanitarian emigration from Yemen to Monsey, NY, or because they like I believe that there is a homeland alternative for Yemeni Jews -- Israel? Or is it because UJC's leaders realized that they had stepped into the sands of Yemen without thinking through the implications and found themselves in quicksand and looking for an excuse, believed they had found someone other than themselves to blame? Or have UJC leaders learned the facts on the ground in Yemen are far different than the reports they received from their new "partner," the Satmar, but being forever unwilling or unable to admit error, have focused their blame and vitriol on this small Blog and, now, on anyone else they can find?

Hiding under the cloak of anonymity as they have before, Commentators to this Post have gone so far as to suggest this egomaniac, Nazi lover, kill himself. I don't think so. And if this effort to bring Yemeni Jews to Kiryat Joel fails, there will be plenty of blame to pass around but, you can bet that UJC's leaders will accept none of it -- it's this Blog and Blogger, it's JAFI, it's the Government of Israel; it's those stubborn, proud Yemenite Jews, but not UJC and its leaders. Never UJC and its leaders.


Saturday, March 21, 2009


In an article in the Forward (March 18, 2009), I discovered a parallel universe to the one occupied by United Jewish Communities. In the article, by-lined to Anthony Weiss, a group of organizational lay leaders accused their central umbrella organization "...of being 'opaque,' disorganized and even vengeful, and demand changes within 90 days." The lay presidents went on: "We believe that the organization has become insular, unresponsive, and of diminishing value to its (members)....In the missive, the signatories hint that if their demands are not met promptly, their (organizations) may ultimately withdraw support..." This letter, which had not yet been sent at the time of the article, follows ... a week after another letter from the 25 largest members "challenging...leadership."

Finally, these lay chief volunteer officers' letter "...levels a series of charges against the (central organization) including that its actions are 'controlled by a relative few,' that 'there appears to be a culture of entitlement and intolerance on the part of the professional and lay leadership, that complaints are met with 'a fervent attempt to quash dissent' and that 'the official governing bodies are so large and/or so insular that they are unresponsive or unworkable.'" (emphasis added)

Hmmm. These are the travails of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, but do you, as I, find exact, four square, spot on parallels to UJC's deteriorating relationship with its owners? Or are UJC and its current leaders more "opaque, disorganized and even vengeful?" Isn't UJC a place where dissent is verboten in "...a culture of entitlement and intolerance." And isn't UJC the place where loyalty is demanded ("are you on my team or not?") but not given. I, and so many others, await the day when UJC undergoes the identical changes these Conservative Jewish congregational leaders demand of their UCSJ.


Thursday, March 19, 2009


I have received anonymous Comments on two Posts over the last several days that merit response, two dealing with And, Now, A New Partner and others with The Math Wizard. Although it has been my policy not to answer anonymous Comments, I will do so because the writers raised serious issues coupled with the most extreme accusations:

As to And, Now, A New Partner, the assaults have been extreme -- I have been accused of "conspiring to kill Jews," that I have "...become part of the Nazi killing machine" with "...blood on (my) hands" and that I "..endanger the lives of the entire Jewish population of Yemin," and I have am responsible when "...real people would...be murdered due to (my) self-inflated egomaniacal psychopathic excesses," among other things. Let me repeat that which I wrote on Monday, March 14 -- when I learned that I had prematurely published And, Now, within three hours of Posting (not "yesterday" as Anonymous wrongly stated, but last Monday), I pulled the Post. I felt and feel terrible that I had done so. During those three hours UJC had printed out the Post and circulated it widely. Those at UJC well know (that's you "Anonymous") that the Israeli press was all over this story well before my Post. While anyone reading the "Anonymous" or "...Quisling" Comments would recognize that they came from within the bowels of UJC itself, at the highest levels, I did and do feel a terrible sense of my own irresponsibility, the reality remains that in this matter, no one (even under the camouflage of anonymity) has responded factually to the Post in question or to the newspaper stories on the subject -- and they won't. I plead guilty to "egomaniacal...excesses" and apologize for them. You?

On a far less important matter, several anonymous (of course) Commentators to The Math Wizard have suggested that I ought to focus on the compensation paid to some of the LCE and federation professionals, including Chicago's, as a counterpoint to my suggestions for salary cuts at the top of UJC. From visiting many communities and knowing that in each one the Federation CEOs have never worked as hard as they are right now to maintain their federations as the communal central address, I find the suggestions to "go after them" inconsistent with the facts on the ground. (I know as well the numbers cited by one of the "Anonymous" who wrote about my community that those numbers cited are totally overstated. Sam Astroff could easily explain to his colleagues at UJC why the 990 requirements yield overstated results.) And one seminal difference is this: only UJC is considering, following, an almost inexorable path toward a federation "bailout." Under such circumstance it strikes me that the focus should be on those making the "bailout" request as opposed to those who are in the trenches literally 24/6 holding their federated communities together.

I continue to encourage those of you who wish to Comment to do so in their own names or, as so many more of you do, e-mail me directly.


ADDENDUM: As the attacks from those who believe themselves to be "Anonymous Commentators" (there is probably a better word for their kind of vitriol and with each one on the current issue their identities become more clear) grow more and more extreme -- even to the suggestion that I wish to "gun down" the folks at UJC -- Google will now monitor all Comments to this Blog that do not include the sender's e-mail address.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I have deferred publishing this Post so as not to jeopardize the movement of Yemeni Jews to the West. As both UJC (in a bizarre "Briefing" yesterday) and, Maariv ( "[UJC]... Joined Forces with Anti-Zionist Hasidim and Convinced Yemeni Jews to Go to U.S., not Israel") and The Jerusalem Post ( "US Jewish umbrella pulls 110 Jews out of Yemen") have explored the UJC/Yemen/Satmar involvement, this commentary seems timely. (It should be noted that while UJC sent out a "Highly Confidential" e-mail to its Board on the subject, demanding that confidentiality, its CEO was being freely quoted on the subject in The Jerusalem Post.)

UJC stepped right into what it apparently believed are its "global responsibilities" in a manner that threatens the ultimate freedom of the surviving remnant of Yemeni Jewry. And it did so under the rubric of either "freedom of choice" or "we have no choice." The current outcome was so predictable and, in fact, was foretold.

It is apparent that over the past weeks, some one or two in UJC leadership determined to join hands with the virulently anti-Israel, anti-Zionist Satmar cult to "rescue" 110 Yemeni Jews and deliver them into the Satmar Rebbe's hands in Monsey, Rockland County, New York, by Pesach because either "they're coming anyway so what choice is there" or, more improbable, "the Yemenis should have freedom of choice."

Let Howard Rieger "explain"

"From: Rieger, Howard
To: Ruskay, John
Sent: Thursday Mar 05
Subject: Yemeni (sic) Jews


I have gleaned from my staff the following response to your questions about the emergency.
One is on the Yemen side. We are advised that the situation is bad there and is getting worse. While only one person from this community has been killed in recent months, more deaths are likely to occur as they have been threatened with guns, grenades etc. The other emergency is timing and situational and this is a spiritual and religious emergency.

The State Department decision on how to allocate these people will take place next Monday. The 110 Yemenite Jews will arrive here by Pesach. We would like to ensure that they remain within our community. Maybe that is less an emergency then the death they face in Yemen but the emergency is bad for us. If we won't do this resettlement, it places into significant question the entire rationale for us having a system of Jewish social services.

Stephan, Barry and William have been on several calls today relating to the budgeting and service delivery issues. Ron Soloway joined the first and David Mallach the second. We are working to have the budget for this to be more reasonable. Gail Magaliff from FEGS should have much more detail by tomorrow that incorporates more public benefits (TANF, SSI etc.) and cost expectations for Monsey into the budget. Rabbi David Neiderman should provide information by tomorrow on the cost of housing and other available services in Monsey.

The budget will be bifurcated into required services for the first 180 days after arrival (which is the legally obligated period for FEGS to provide services) and then other necessary expenses for the next six months (like rent which may be obligated for the full year). Rabbi Neiderman is also supposed to provide by then an estimate of the resources that the Satmar can bring to the table.

FEGS will use the remainder of the overseas grant through UJC that goes to NYANA (and now goes to FEGS) to support part of this budget. There is approximately $300,000 left in this year's grant. The budget for the legally obligated period of 180 days plus necessary costs that might extend for a year will hopefully be much less then the $2 million estimated in the last budget, hopefully it will be less than $1 million with further offsets from the UJC grant and funding from the Satmar. The costs of the flights to the US are initially borne by the State Department who provide interest free travel loans to the refugees. Our system would not be responsible for those costs.

We would hope that a number of the large cities would share in this expense and several have already indicated that they would likely be amenable to this ask (Cleveland, Detroit, Metrowest), but we have not yet sent information beyond those on this issue. The Rockland Federation leadership has also indicated it would try to be financially helpful.

While this does not answer every one of your questions, it does go some distance in trying to do so. In addition, Becky Caspi is working on this from the Israeli side, and there could be implications for the work there that will be borne by JAFI for those who will make aliyah, although that in no way affects the question that we are facing.

Finally, John, I would welcome the view of UJA federation regarding the next steps that might be taken.


(emphasis added)


It is clear that prior to Rieger's letter: (1) the Satmars had deployed their political clout to engage the State Department in pursuit of its goals; (2) found HIAS to be its willing accomplice; and (3) HIAS, having no money of its own (other than an endowment that it would not touch for this purpose), enlisted UJC as the money "partner" to bring these Jews to Monsey. UJC, eager to find its role, on its part (1) never advised its "partner," JAFI, or the Government of Israel of its intent to "partner" with the Satmar; and (2) ran with this ball with no consideration of the potential consequences to the Yemeni families who would soon be behind an anti-Israel, anti-Zionist wall in Kiryat Joel. This is, in form and substance, so typical of UJC under its current leadership: fail to consider the consequences of its acts; present the federation owners with a fait accompli; ignore any and all alternatives; and, maybe, then look for a way out.

In a Leadership Briefing today, UJC discussed none of this. The Briefing did state: "UJC/Jewish Federations (another new monicker, by the way) is committed to working collectively to help the Yemenite Jewish community find asylum as quickly as possible in Israel and the United States." Now, this has become a matter of "asylum." No mention was made of the new "partner" in any UJC-driven documentation. Why, exactly was that? I think we know.

The resettlement of Jewish refugees, particularly their rescue, is serious business, Jewish business. Pidyun shvuyim is our highest obligation as Jews and as communities. And, as a system, when issues of "freedom of choice" arose in the past, our organizations -- then, UJA and CJF and the NCSJ and JAFI -- and the Government of Israel joined together and, working as one, resolved the issues of aliyah to Israel and family reunification in America in a manner consistent with our values and our responsibilities. And 1,500,000 Jews from the former Soviet Union, Israel and our communities, were the beneficiaries. We wanted and want Jewish refugees to live in freedom, and the Jews from the FSU now do as was their choice. But, what of these Yemenite Jews and those who preceded them?

Today, if one can comprehend Rieger's turgid, almost incomprehensible prose above, UJC, having decided that the Jews of Yemen (based on representations by the Satmar representatives) are in danger, determined to partner with the most virulently anti-Israel, anti-Zionist Satmar sect to bring them to America -- where the Yemeni population may not even wish to go. If you believe Howard: "[T]he emergency is timing and this is a spiritual and religious emergency." (How those concepts intersect, I don't understand. More power to you if you do.) Even more urgent, per the CEO: "If we won't do this resettlement, it places into significant question the entire rationale for us having a system of Jewish social services." OMG, the hyperbole, the lack of rational nexus, the implicit threat. But Howard has had at least 6 senior UJC professionals in New York and Jerusalem at work on this matter (plus himself) beginning...when?--making the resettlement of 110 Yemenis into the Satmar Monsey shtetl UJC's highest priority for the moment-- for, were it not, by his screed, we shouldn't even claim a system of Jewish social services.

And who is Rabbi Neiderman and what is the Satmar Community? Much, and so little, are known of them. What is known should be of no comfort to those who would be their partners -- and puts the lie to those who argue that paying part of the cost (a substantial part) to resettle them in what is best characterized as an American ghetto with ultimately no chance at real freedom somehow equates to "freedom of choice." Here is what one source wrote:

"With more than 100,000 strong, the Satmar are the world's largest Hasidic sect. They follow an interpretation of Jewish law that is exceptionally strict even in the orthodox world. Their policy is of unrelenting anti-Zionism; like other ultra orthodox they don't recognize the State of Israel. However, unlike other extreme orthodox groups, they actively oppose its very existence." Have you got that? The Satmars oppose Israel's "very existence." Of this there is no argument. Rabbi Neiderman, UJC's (and, therefore, our) new "partner," has stated this on the record.

If you access http://www.ruthfilms.com/html/fs_in_satmar_custody.html
you will find the story of what happens to the Jews of Yemen in Satmar "custody" in America. It is an ugly picture of Yemenite Jewish families seduced by Satmar operatives (non-Jews, presumably paid a bounty) in Yemen to come to the United States with false promises of homes and cars and the golden medinah. 200 Yemenis in Kiryat Joel in Monsey, New York, have, we are told, been reduced to serfdom in a world that does not speak their language and a place that allows them no freedom. Compare that to the lives 10's of thousands of Yemeni Israelis now enjoy in the Jewish State -- lives initially harsh some 58 years ago, now filled with joy and total freedom, as with all Israelis. If you wish to see the ridiculous extreme the Satmar Rebbes have reached, see Bill Maher's Religulous...and the hugs exchanged in Teheran with the anti-Zionist Iranian President during his "Holocaust Denial Conference." Even the cynical Maher was reduced to disgust.

And, who is Satmar Rabbi David Niederman, UJC's newest "partner?" In his own words, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyHoZb3WIU8 for a taste of the extremism. Can our system turn its eyes away for the "larger cause?" Sure. Here's Rieger in the Post: "...as we have done time and again, our continental Jewish community heard the cries of Jews in need and is answering the call. We must not rest if even one Jew (is) in danger and we will work diligently with our partners in Israel and the US to assure the safe immigration, resettlement and absorption of our Yemenite family." The facts: we have put 110 Yemenite Jews in the hands of the Satmar, and we are the money people. What plans has UJC "...to assure the safe immigration, resettlement and absorption of our Yemnite family" you might ask. The answer is simple: we've turned 110 Jewish lives over to anti-Zionist, anti-Israel, ultra-Orthodox sect. to Rabbi Niederman and the Satmar. It is a plan that makes the blood boil.

Would Israel and JAFI bring this group of Yemeni Jews to Israel today? Certainly. In Israel, they would find shelter within a strong community of those who left Yemen before them, who speak their language. The Satmars' promises of airfare, cars, houses, and further embellishments (available only with subsidization by us or the non-Jewish VOLAGS -- voluntary resettlement agencies -- goes the argument), have raised the false expectations of 110 Yemeni Jews -- expectations that cannot be truly estimated but with with the financial assistance we, our "partner," the Satmar, and the U.S. State Department are offering, they will come. Yet, with all that being said, JAFI and the Government of Israel are prepared to bring the Yemeni Jews to Israel at no additional cost to our system...none. What is the Satmars' motivation? Perhaps the same as those of the sect who went to Iran to give support to the government there -- to embarrass Israel, to deprive the Jewish Homeland, for which the Satmars' hatred is unrelenting, of even a few more olim, just 110 more. And along with the seduction of these Yemenis, there came the apparent seduction of UJC's leaders.

There is no "blame" here -- other than on the Satmar. UJC and the few federations which will provide financial assistance, if any, are acting on a perceived humanitarian thesis -- one that might have proved to be, if due diligence had been done, had the circumstances, the seduction, the inducements, been fully scrutinized, fallacious. The federations joining UJC are responding to a wholly "...it's happening anyway so we should play a role" or a fallacious "freedom of choice" argument that with any real investigation would have evidenced that there is little if any freedom for Yemeni Jews who move from danger in Yemen to potential "captivity" in Monsey, America. Now, in the ever-changing UJC rationale, it is "asylum." But, the motives of UJC and the federations who parrot "freedom of choice" are pure even if without basis in fact. (In the era of the Soviet Jewry exodus, "freedom of choice" was rooted in family reunification, not the emigration of Jews from lands of distress to live behind a ghetto wall in Rockland County, New York, with our donors' financial aid.) There is legitimate concern that having engaged the cooperation of the U.S. Department of State in this effort, our organizational "credibility" might be at stake should we reverse course and insist these Jews make aliya to freedom in Israel -- a debate that should have occurred before the fact, not after it.. Others would suggest there is no "credibility" due us out of a process that delivers Jews into the hands of the anti-Zionists and Israel-haters among us with our dollars.

JAFI, characterized as our "partner" but not treated as such, is our agent for emigration/immigration but, if consulted on this UJC activity, it was after the fact. JAFI has been as reactive as has our American system. But JAFI immediately consulted with the Government of Israel (as UJC did not) and would bring these same Yemenis to Israel at no cost to our system...and without the embarrassment that will surely come (and already has) to our federations and UJC from supporting the Satmar sect in this effort. And, amazingly, a Senior UJC professional's due diligence consisted of calling a prominent member of the Orthodox community (who this pro thought, incorrectly, was a JAFI Board member), who said all will be well in Monsey. Remarkable, sad, ridiculous.

UJC has announced an "allocation" of $800,000 for this "resettlement" effort. As usual, with no process, no vetting of the budget apparently prepared by the Satmar. If the rumors are true, the CEO has been actively soliciting federations to provide those funds -- UJC having no room in its budget to do so. The question remains: in his solicitations, if any, has Howard urged the federations with whom he has been in contact not to reduce the JAFI/JDC allocation for this purpose? Or does he once again -- as in his prior solicitations for IAI, the ENP, etc. -- expect JAFI and JDC to foot the bill as KanferRieger wish JAFI and JDC to foot the bill for UJC's budget in whole or in part?

The use of federation dollars to support the activities of an ultra-Orthodox sect, even for pidyun shvuyim, should clearly have been a matter of broad discussion and greater debate. Such a debate might have offered the counterpoint to the issue of "credibility" with our State Department with our credibility with the Government of Israel. The entire episode is but a further example of what can happen to an organization whose leaders have been dedicated to destroying our collective memory, our institutional memory and the core values and timeless principles to which we have been (or is that now "had been") forever dedicated.

The Exodus from the FSU was a bright shining moment for American and World Jewry. The fate of these Yemeni Jewish families, even for a surface, noble purpose, will be a dark chapter if history is to be our guide. Dupes or heroes? Let us pray the latter. But, it just keeps getting worse and worse.



In a sad commentary on the state of the federation system in light of the economic impacts of the recession and Madoff, the JTA published an article on Tuesday -- Wave of Staff Cuts Hits Federations -- that initially had several apt observations from Howard Rieger, UJC's CEO. Of course, the more Howard talks or writes, the more likely it is that he will stray off into a realm only he occupies. And, sure enough...

Reflecting on the budget cuts imposed on UJC earlier this year -- from $40.2 million to $37 million and UJC's leaders' unilateral determination of the possibility of a 10% cut in 2010, Rieger concluded: "If that 10% proposal were to be sustained, that would mean that in the course of a handful of years, we have cut our staff by 45 percent." Let's get this straight, if the federations, themselves cutting their budgets by amounts in some instances of in excess of 30%, permit UJC to cut its Budget (paid for by the federations [and, in reality, by JAFI and JDC in many instances] by only 10% in 2010 after the $3.2 million reduction) from $40.2 million to $33.3 million, a reduction of $6.9 million or 17% somehow equates in the math of the CEO to a reduction of 45%.

I know there must be some Talmudic pilpul, the same confabulation that Howard used to come up with 4500 attendees at the Jerusalem GA, or, maybe, UJC has hired the folks who brought us the trickle down theory, or the same guys who count the crowds at the Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade, to do this math that converts a 17% budget reduction into a cut in personnel of 45%. If I have read the quote accurately, UJC would have cut its staff by 45% while reducing its budget by 17%. Thus, for every $1 in budget cuts, there is a $3 impact on staffing. If true, then there would seem to be a lot of room for cuts at the top of the UJC employment pyramid to save the professional ranks in the middle and lower. Howard could voluntarily reduce his compensation by $200,000 retroactive to July 1, 2008, and save two professionals' positions, all those earning $200,000 and more could incur salary reductions of 20% and save more jobs of others. A relocation of UJC-Israel (an office that has grown without regard to cost or return on investment) back to New York could save several million dollars alone, etc., etc. and positions at 25 Broadway could be saved.

Look at this another way: in the federal "bailout," the President is demanding that banks and companies receiving "bailout" funding freeze or significantly reduce the compensation of the executives who put their firms into the mess they are in. Should our major non-profit be treated any differently? (I had suggested a variation on this theme in a Post over one year ago -- to the surprise of no one, UJC did nothing but terminate loyal employees.)

Instead of cost-saving measures, Rieger, Kanfer and company will seek a JAFI/JDC bailout. Instead of figuring out what federation priorities are for their national organization, RiegerKanfer will continue down the path they have chosen. "Let the federations sacrifice, cut to and into the bone, that's not our problem."

Oh, yes it is.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009


UJC is in deep, deep trouble. Humpty Dumpty is more than teetering; Humpty is not being pushed off the Wall by the federations; no, it is throwing itself to the ground off the wall that it has built. The question is: when UJC hits the ground, will the pieces be big enough to be fit back together into a responsive and responsible organization?

Two weeks ago, as we reported last Wednesday, all...all... of the Intermediate Federations joined in a letter demanding deep budget cuts at UJC -- far deeper than the 10% estimate for 2010 to which UJC unilaterally determined. Then, over the past days, word has reached us that seven or eight Large City federations will demand a 30% dues cut in a letter in which those federations imply that absent such a reduction, they will recuse themselves from UJC membership and begin searching for a new method of working together in pursuit of a national and continental agenda.

I had suggested to Joe Kanfer in a breakfast in Jerusalem in February 2008 that UJC's position vis-a-vis the federations was "extremely fragile." I argued that UJC could emerge stronger if it engaged with the federations of every City-size on their terms rather than Kanfer's. I offered my help. Joe first refused my help, finding that suggestion ludicrous; then he dismissed my suggestion of the fragility of our system, finding that suggestion ludicrous; and, finally, he indicated that UJC was fully engaged with the federations and that I was "out of touch," finding my suggestion ludicrous. And look at what followed: the federations were overwhelmed by the financial tsunami that has struck all of us -- UJC was so totally out of touch that it had no special programming on the economy as it was impacting on federations at the GA beyond attempting to characterize Bank of Israel's Stanley Fischer's presentation on the Israeli economy as relevant (that Plenary presentation has proved to be irrelevant to Israel, as well), and has been desperately swimming upstream to catch up with the federations themselves; UJC focused solely on its third "Strategic Plan" in four years as some form of miracle drug for itself, dispensing it in February to a large yawn -- and promptly forgotten; the UJC leaders refused to acknowledge a need to reduce its budget even after federation after federation cut theirs until, under pressure, UJC announced in February, unilaterally as always that it might...might... cut its 2010 Budget by 10% (nothing in 2009), the response from 27 of the 44 largest federations (to date with more to follow) ringing loud and clear -- cut between 20% (the Large Intermediates) or 30% (a minority, growing, of the Large Cities) or we will reject our membership in UJC as you have grown more and more irrelevant to us and refuse to listen to us -- essentially telling Chairman Kanfer and CEO Rieger "you are out of touch with us."

Friends, I am not prescient. What I was seeing and commenting upon was what you were experiencing. My conclusions were based on visits with so many of you in your communities and listening. At a time that federations needed direct fund raising help -- for example, lay solicitors who were not cutting their gifts in the face of economic pressure -- UJC had driven those trained and experienced lay solicitors away. They weren't wanted. Now, when they are most needed, they are gone -- and there isn't a single lay leader in office at UJC who even knows who those men and women were. A Development Plan was offered by the senior Development professional in outline form so devoid of detail as to be of minimal value, so unrelated to the economic catastrophe as to have no relevance. And, that's where UJC has found itself -- sending out Dues bills for $37 million and the federation recipients finding UJC to be -- other than UJC Washington, I-LEAD, some of Federation Peer Yardstick, some research, its Cabinet and Women's constituencies -- irrelevant, more concerned with underscoring that federations who don't pay full dues will have their memberships in UJC terminated rather than with making UJC relevant enough to the federations to conclude that the costs of membership have value.

Oh, sure, there are federations that will continue to pay full dues and urge you to do so. Mine is one and I have the greatest pride in my federation. I have had a continuing discussion in Chicago arguing that our noble commitment to the collective responsibility that is represented by our Dues was always premised upon the theory that "...even if we do not get $3.4 million (or whatever this year's amount is) in UJC value from our Dues, many other federations are receiving benefits from what we and others pay." Today, it is impossible to reach that conclusion -- other federations are not receiving measurable benefits from UJC's application of the surplus of Chicago's (or New York's, Cleveland's, Baltimore's, MetroWest's, etc.) dues to their needs. And, that's the tipping point for UJC. Rieger still hearkens back to the great work during and in the aftermath of Katrina time and time again; ignoring UJC's total failure to support Houston and Galveston after last year's hurricanes. In the main, time and again UJC talks about the future while collapsing in the present and blames all this on the past,

UJC has just sent out Memos on "Dues alternatives" to its Executive Committee. An act of utter desperation; the Dues "options" are already being accelerated as UJC attempts to save itself from itself. A real mishmash of options none of which are fully thought through as to their implications. Some of the alternatives are excellent but they all boil down to "take it off the top" with no mandate to the federations who would do so (and so many are already doing so) that a reduction in core allocation to pay Dues will result in the very termination of membership that so many are threatening today. The message is: "bail us out, we don't care where you get the money to do so." Here's the almost comical alternative: "Hybrid 'Off The Top,' in pertinent part:

"A third approach is a hybrid of the first with at least three variations. ( I don't know who writes this stuff but they already have captured the "2009 Gibberish Award." )

Variation C would connect the obligation to fund UJC with another UJC priority: namely, the reconfiguration of financial resource development within the national system. (Where was that discussed at the FLI? Where has this been discussed within any governance body of UJC? Nowhere. Those who have argued for this principle have been rebuffed, even "wexlerized.") For some time now, a number of communities and individual volunteer leaders have expressed the view that the merger has diminished the amount of attention given to all aspects of fundraising. (Give it a rest, guys. The merger didn't "diminish" attention to fundraising, these leaders have done so, time and again. The merger emphasized fundraising, these lay leaders -- the Chairs and CEO -- have demeaned it time and again. Now, suddenly, they have discovered FRD.) Further, there is a view that the traditional, high status role of the national campaign chair has been diminished. (And who might be one source for such an opinion? Maybe David Fisher, forced to resign by the Chair's deprecation of the Campaign Chair's role? But, they don't speak to him; only of him, as is their style.) A year ago at the Large City Executives meetings...the need was articulated to enhance that status, reengage volunteer leadership, build on the success of women's philanthropy, and reinvigorate through affinity fundraising...The idea here is to develop a real strategic plan (oh my G-d, another one???!!! Apparently, when in free fall, strategic plan.) for reinvigorating all areas of FRD..."

First, my friends, UJC suppressed the Large Cities Execs report it now cites -- Refining UJC's Vision -- reissuing its own redacted version almost one year ago under the same title, and xxxx'ing out all...all...references to FRD enhancement. Now it adopts the concept by reference as its own. (Just as in the instance of the "Plant Report.") I don't know if this leadership should be congratulated for having found religion so late in life (this might be "...the highest priority for the coming year") or condemned for their so transparent disingenuity. The concept seems to be: JAFI and JDC we're going to rebuild FRD as in the old days...and you will pay for it and more ...and we will be in charge of it all. This is farce of the order of Moliere and tragedy on the order of Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides...but not written quite as well.

Now, UJC has invited its Executive Committee to join the Budget and Finance Committee for the four or five hour meeting in April that will not just recommend the UJC 2010 Budget but, I would wager, recommend some form of "off the top" of the Israel/overseas allocation payment scheme in lieu of dues. One five hour meeting (including lunch) to resolve everything -- this is KanferRieger's "transparent process." Tragically, UJC is going down and its leadership, which should gracefully fall on their swords, with it, even if they are rescued from themselves. Ultimately, a result may emerge that will be the only one that can save UJC, but the process leading to it is so cynical as to be self-defeating in the long term. Desperation is driving UJC's Chairs, its Treasurer and CEO to put positions out there which are totally inconsistent with four years of rhetoric and deconstructing, destructive actions.

If anyone wants to be part of this shell game, meet me in the alley. I have the pea. Or, better yet, meet me at a place of your choosing and we can begin to put Humpty Dumpty together again


Monday, March 16, 2009


Earlier today I struck the "Publish Post" button in error and thereby published a commentary on a matter that I was not yet prepared to Post because of the need for further editing, among other things. When my erroneous albeit inadvertent publication was brought to my attention, I redacted the Blog and pulled the Post. Before I could so, however, my biggest fans, the audience now ensconced at 25 Broadway (how's the decorating and furnishing coming, by the way?), had put the Post "in play" circulating it themselves, hither and yon, as they saw fit.

Who knows, perhaps, I was about to edit in some complimentary material about UJC on the matters covered within the Post. (For your reference later, when I do finally publish, the Post in question is titled AND, NOW, A NEW "PARTNER." It is about the emerging "partnership between UJC and the Satmars.)

So, thanks, you guys at UJC for increasing our circulation and, most probably, increasing the Blog's circulation when I do post the emerging story of UJC and the Satmars. But, most of all, thanks for reading -- just a question, how were your "reading comprehension" scores on the SAT?


Sunday, March 15, 2009


Mort "Sonny" Plant, z'l, was an extraordinary man and leader. Snatched from his family and us by a tragic accident, Sonny embodied all of the qualities of leadership that so many others haven't and don't. As UJC's Chair of the Executive, Sonny demonstrated not only the ability to listen but to get to the core of the issues confronting UJC and dealing with them.

Before his untimely passing, Sonny dealt with the issues arising out of the divisive ONAD process. He met with JDC and JAFI leaders in an atmosphere that encouraged candor and give and take. There was trust in Sonny's fairness and judgement -- a trust so lacking today. An incisive Report was issued over Sonny's name as Chair; UJC has now taken to referencing that Report as the "Plant Agreement." (See my Post Finding Ways to Work Together -- UJC Style.) You would think, from UJC's leaders' citation to the Plant document that they were adopting its findings -- as you read on, you will conclude, as I have -- "highly unlikely."

The "Plant Agreement" was, pure and simple, the "ONAD Review Report." It reached certain basic conclusions and mandated certain actions of UJC. Please read what follows and reflect how Sonny's successors have totally ignored these recommendations they now cite as compelling. The contrast between these recommendations and UJC's actions since the Report's issuance tell us all we need to know about their cynicism and desperation. From the Plant Report:

"A primary goal of the federations’ and UJC’s overseas work is to maximize our collective effectiveness in caring for the vulnerable, deepening Jewish identity, and building our relationship with the people of Israel. To advance these goals, UJC and the federations have longstanding partnerships with JAFI, JDC, and, to a more limited extent, ORT. These partnerships are of cornerstone importance. UJC and the federations deeply value this partnership and should promote our mutual interests.

The collective core allocations to JAFI and JDC have been steadily decreasing for more than a decade. The ONAD Committee was accordingly unwilling to change the allocation of the collective core between JAFI and JDC. Until the collective core allocation increases, it is unrealistic for the federation movement to determine the uses of the current level of the collective core. On the other hand, it is critical that representative federations have a meaningful dialogue, including a full exchange of views, with JAFI and JDC regarding the uses of the collective core. Moreover, it is appropriate for the federation movement and individual federations to determine the uses of other funds (including community electives and fundraising initiatives).

UJC's roles should be to (a) advocate and educate federations regarding overseas needs and services, (b) raise or help federations, in collaboration with JAFI, and JDC, to raise more funds for high-priority uses, one of the most compelling and urgent of which is overseas needs, (c) provide to federations information, consultation and a forum for coalescing their input and deepening their understanding and commitment, (d) in collaboration with the overseas providers, develop an understanding of the needs and strategic directions, (e) advocate for sustained annual campaign allocations and help shape and promote initiatives to attract additional funding for high impact efforts in the overseas arena, (f) identify high-priority uses for directed funds, develop strategies and specific products for federations and (g) through the above, create a new reality within the overseas agenda. JAFI and JDC should take appropriate roles in the relevant UJC structures and activities." (emphasis added throughout)

Since the publication of the Plant Report, with Sonny no longer on the scene, his successors and the CEO effectively conspired to first ignore and then to deconstruct all seven of the pillars upon which the Report was built -- subparagraphs (a) through (g) above. Disregarded and deconstructed. Why? Ask Kanfer and Rieger. One thing is certain: if the Plant Report represented an "agreement" among UJC, JAFI and JDC, it has been breached by but one of the parties: UJC, itself, timte-and-time again.

The Plant Agreement and the actions taken by UJC's leaders in its aftermath are demonstrable evidence of why UJC is in a terrible crisis today.


Friday, March 13, 2009


So, this letter flew over the transom on the date it bears last week.. I will try, through interlineation (in red), to explain what UJC "leadership" really means:

"March 2, 2009

Mr. Richard L. Pearlstone
Dr. Irving A. Smokler
Chair of the Board
Jewish Agency for Israel
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
POB 92
711 Third Avenue
Jerusalem 91000 Israel
New York, NY 10017

Dear Richie and Irv:

With the financial challenges facing JAFI, JDC, UJC and the Federations, it is clear that we must work together at the highest level of efficiency and effectiveness. Each of our organizations is being required to do more with less during times when the services we provide are more important than ever. While we are all reducing expenses (JAFI by more than $70 million, JDC proportionately less, UJC by [surprise] nothing reduced from in fiscal year 2009 Budget), we believe our organizations must find ways to work together more collaboratively in financial resource development, communications and marketing, planning and service delivery (this from a leadership that has consistently and without fail [or thought] deprecated these "partners'" roles in Jewish life in 2009).

We must also come together to resolve the issue of the division of the core funding that is provided by the Federations to UJC for distribution to JAFI and JDC. As you know, in accordance with the now expired “Plant Agreement,” JAFI and JDC made a proposal last year to UJC and the Federations, but that proposal was not acceptable to the federation representatives(yes, JAFI and JDC had resolved all issues but one between them in direct negotition; UJC was asked to mediate only funding for ORT and, as is their way, killed the deal without doing so when one federation objected to the five year deal to which the parties had agreed. Tomorrow I will expand on the Plant Agreement and how UJC has ignored it totally.). JAFI and JDC were unable to agree on another proposal and asked the UJC to mediate an agreement. We attempted to mediate this process ( you will recall that in the course of its "mediation," the CEO, with no authorization to do so, sought an allocation for the ENP, sending a Memorandum to all Federations making a direct request -- in so doing, UJC disqualified itself from the role of mediator) and scheduled a meeting for further discussion with JAFI, JDC, UJC, New York and Chicago on January 8, 2009. (Truth be told, UJC refused to disclose to Irv Smokler or Richie Pearlstone the purposes of the meeting -- long before the scheduled meeting, the JAFI and JDC Chairs asked in writing and by phone for an agenda. Those requests were completely ignored by KanferRieger. It was only after the January 8 date was canceled by the JDC and JAFI leaders because they could not get an Agenda in advance, that Kathy Manning wrote to tell them the meeting's purpose was to spell out the FLI Strategic Planning Work Group Recommendations, not mediation. By the date of Manning's response, UJC had already sent those Recommendations to a mass audience with no prior discussion with JAFI, JDC or UIA.) At your request, that meeting was cancelled. (see above) We then suggested using a professional outside mediator. That proposal was acceptable to JDC, but JAFI requested mediation by John Ruskay and Steve Nasatir. (In fact, months earlier, Nasatir and Ruskay had offered to mediate; they never heard back from Rieger...never.) We have communicated with Ruskay and Nasatir, who have expressed a willingness to sit at a table as participants in one fashion or another, but they have also indicated that engaging an outside mediator, along with themselves, would be the ideal situation.

UJC and the Federations have concerns that go beyond the current “split” that must be addressed. We are facing severe pressure on our budget and the way we assess “dues” as well as the way our overseas allocations are made. (Ahhhh, here's the rub. UJC's dues aren't being paid and UJC is desperately looking for an alternative. G-d forbid, the organization ever examine its growing lack of relevance to the federations' agenda or why there is a lack of engagement or why federation after federation are refusing to pay Dues, in whole or in part. Must be JAFI's and JDC's fault!!) Federations and their donors want to feel connected to the ways their funds are allocated. The federations’ overwhelming support of a proposal to create a “Global Planning Table,” discussed at our recent Federation Leadership Institute, is evidence of this strong system-wide sentiment. (Let's see -- "system-wide sentiment" and "overwhelming support" are determined by a 15 minute discussion among 70 federations of 157 who themselves committed to continued JDC-JAFI exclusivity as to core. Have I got this right?)

We therefore propose that our three organizations agree upon and engage an outside professional facilitator to help us reach agreement not only concerning the “split” but also
the broader issue of how our organizations can work together more effectively to meet the needs of UJC ( A rare moment of candor. This is really about UJC's "needs" -- its "need" primarily of how not to totally collapse under a tsunami of threatened unpaid or non-paid Dues) and the Federations ( oh, yeah, them) as well as JAFI and JDC (oh, yeah, them). We believe that this can be a break through moment for our field if we use the shared knowledge of our organizations as well as the results of UJC’s recent strategic planning process and the research we have conducted about our constituency. (There is nothing...zero...in "UJC's recent strategic planning process and the research..." that bears on the implicit issues UJC wishes to address.) We can and should be working together to reinforce and build our donor base and financial support. (Let's see: UJC cuts its Development staff, separates Supplemental Giving from Development and the Annual Campaign, continuously deprecates the latter, has no plan for building the donor base, has no National Campaign Chair in 2009, yet constantly provides that which it gives best -- lip service.)

It is critical for us to use the challenging circumstances of the moment to convene and make the tough decisions. (No, this should read: "...for JAFI/JDC to rescue UJC from the disaster UJC has created" as UJC wants to avoid the "tough decisions" that need to be made to make UJC relevant and vital to the federation owners.) We must take action that will enhance our relevance and build the confidence of the Federations of North America in our partnership. We do very important work (We know what JDC and JAFI do -- what exactly is it that UJC does today?), and we must come together now to ensure our continuing ability to provide support for those who need our services and for those who will need our services in the future.

If you are in agreement, we will provide two names of professional facilitators, as well as an estimate of the cost that our organizations will have to share. We look forward to hearing from you.

With best regards,

Joseph Kanfer Kathy E. Manning Howard M. Rieger
Chair of the Board Chair, Executive Committee President & CEO


I guess I am really "old school." I believe that if you have something to say or propose -- say it, or propose it. Don't hide behind an opaque wall built out of fabrications (the purpose of the January 8 meeting or the real purpose of the meeting UJC now wants) or cliches. Not these folks -- you have to pull the truth out of them, if you can -- that's why they have been so successful. They write of a "partnership" while continuing the deconstruction to which they have dedicated themselves -- be it the partnership with the federations or that with JDC/JAFI. These "leaders," instead of working toward a meaningful and significant UJC Budget reduction consistent with those facing not only the federations but JAFI and JDC as well, are looking for the easy way out -- toward JAFI and JDC picking up a significant portion of the UJC Budget tab and getting nothing -- or almost nothing -- in return from an organization that has willfully abandoned advocacy and FRD on their behalf -- completely.

And, while inviting JDC and JAFI to a meeting, UJC has already gone through a convoluted series of decisions: first, it was committed to a new "broad-based Committee" to tackle the Dues issue, then it was to be a subcommittee of the UJC Executive Committee, now a Dues Subcommittee of the Executive Committee. Round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows.

Without leaving office, this leadership wants a JAFI/JDC bailout, a JAFI/JDC "stimulus package" if you will. The purpose: to pump more money into a failing institution and, thereby, to rescue a UJC which has spent the last 3 and 4 years demeaning JAFI's and JDC'S work. Who are they kidding?


Wednesday, March 11, 2009


One serious group of Federation Executives has joined hands and in one letter expressed their unanimous view on UJC's proposed, "estimated" 2010 10% Budget reduction. These are not lonely voices in the wilderness, these are 17 communities, among them those that have been extremely supportive of UJC. And, of course, they are not alone...not by a long shot. But, will they be heard? Is anyone at 25 Broadway listening? Here is their letter sent on March 5::

"Mr. Michael Gelman
Chair, UJC Budget Committee

Dear Michael,

During the course of our 2 days together, the participants of our Large Intermediate Federation Executives Institute spent a significant portion of our time grappling with the various challenges we are facing individually in our communities, as a system and a country.

On average each of us has spent more than two decades as proud Jewish communal professionals who "toil" in these fields out of a passion for and commitment to our people here at home, in Israel and around the Jewish world; we believe there is much value in the collective. Combined our communities represent more than 1 Million North American Jews who have contributed approximately $100 Million annually to our federations.

The purpose of this letter is to convey to you and other UJC leadership our group's thinking vis a vis the 2009-10 UJC Budget and the related discussion re dues and compliance.

Many of us were pleased to be able to participate in the recent FLI and applaud you, Howard, Joe and Kathy for your candor and your willingness to adopt key strategic initiatives to guide UJC in the near term while simultaneously positioning the organization to operate from strength when our economy comes back. This is the type of thinking being adopted by most of our Federations.

Furthermore, we support UJC developing a budget based on implementing these initiatives which also incorporates the key services identified and endorsed by the city size groups last year (Rob Hyman has this information available).

That said, these unprecedented times require that we look to find ways to create budgets for our operations that are also in line with our projected revenue. We ask that UJC do the same. As reported by virtually all the Federations in our group, and many within our system we are seeing 2009 Campaigns that will be down significantly, some as much as 30%, with the average between 15-18%. Further, projections for 2010 are for now, equally disappointing.
With this as a backdrop, we believe that the suggested 10% reduction in UJC's budget may not be enough. We recognize that UJC has made significant budgetary reductions in the last few years and understand that those cuts have had operational impacts; however, with the data suggesting that Campaigns could be down, on average, 15-18% we feel Federations may not be able meet even those reduced fair share amounts. Therefore, we request that UJC develop the budget communication in modules that reflect 20%, 15% and 10% reductions from the current year. The accompanying narrative should explain what UJC leadership and the finance committee see as the impact of these scenarios ON what can and cannot be delivered. If possible, trying to overlay the FLI priorities and the lists of desired service outlined in the LCE document, as well as those from the other city size groups (documents submitted to UJC last spring) should be considered. This will help us match costs, priorities, and services and better make the UJC value case to our Boards and donors.

With regard to dues, we support a transparent and fair share solution to the dues and compliance issue. Though we did not reach consensus regarding changes in the dues formula, we understand various ideas are being considered and we will actively participate in their evaluation. As stated above, we expect that many Federations, including some of ours, will be requesting dues relief regardless of the budget or dues formulation. We support a system that is compassionate, consistent, and accountable. We will work with you on creating clear compliance guidelines and allied arbitration processes, for we also believe that our system cannot survive if non-compliance has no consequences.

Michael, we thank you and your committee, as well as Joe and Kathy for your leadership. These are complex issues with no easy answers in these difficult days. Our goal is to partner with you, other Federation Executives, lay leaders and UJC professionals to identify and implement the best options available. We continue to believe that we are stronger together than we are alone, particularly in these turbulent times.

We look forward to hearing from you and wish you a most joyous Purim.

Best regards,

Eric B. Stillman, President and CEO
United Jewish Community of Broward County

Stanley Stone, Executive Vice President
Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey

Shepard Englander, Chief Executive Officer
Jewish Federation of Cincinnati

Doug Seserman, President & Chief Executive Officer
Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado

Marsha F. Hurwitz, President & CEO
Columbus Jewish Federation

Gary Weinstein, President & CEO
Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas

Cathrine Fischer Schwartz, Executive Director
Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford

Lee R. Wunsch, President/Chief Executive Officer
Jewish Federation of Greater Houston

Todd Stettner, Executive Vice President & Chief Executive Officer
Jewish Federation of Greater Kansas City

Richard M. Meyer, Executive Vice President
Milwaukee Jewish Federation

Joshua M. Fogelson, Chief Executive Officer
Minneapolis Jewish Federation

Adam Schwartz, President/CEO
Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix

Stephen R. Silberfarb, Executive Vice President/CEO
Jewish Federation of Rhode Island

Lawrence W. Fine, Executive Director
Jewish Community Federation of Greater Rochester

Michael S. Rassler, Chief Executive Officer
United Jewish Federation of San Diego County

Richard Fruchter, President & CEO
Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle

Mark Gurvis, Executive Director
Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

cc: Joe Kanfer, Kathy Manning, Howard Rieger, Rob Hyman "


I count so many friends among this group of Federation professional leaders. They are women and men of great commitment who with their communities are dedicated to a strong national organization that represents them. I hope we all gather strength from the way that they have expressed their concern for UJC and their federations.

But, the questions remain: anyone home at 25 Broadway? These fine leaders will no doubt hear back from UJC with a message that "...your letter will be taken very seriously at UJC" but that deeper cuts will affect UJC's "services." Sure. And, what's next?


Friday, March 6, 2009


A debate has arisen as to whether the federations are "owners" of UJC or merely "shareholders" and that the difference is substantive. There are those who would argue that the federations, as "only shareholders," are subservient to management as would be shareholders in any public corporation. Those who argue, instead, that the federations are the "owners" of UJC, assert that management is responsible to the owners at all times.

Let's look at the facts and the implications. In a series of acts commencing about two years ago and continuing through today, the UJC management -- the CEO and Chairs -- have acted without, in most instances, consultation with the federations. Some, including some federation CEO's have insisted that as the federations are but shareholders, they are owed only those duties a public corporation would owe those "shareholder" forms of "investors," and no more. Thus, under that argument, "management" may act unilaterally (albeit subject to By-Laws and Governance requirements of the non-profit, one would assume) and no more. Those who make this argument , however, ignore the law at their peril.
For the law is clear: "Nonprofit organizations are institutions that conduct their affairs for the purpose of assisting (federations) or causes rather than garnering profits for themselves. Nonprofit groups have no shareholders;...and receive exemption from various taxes in recognition of their contributions to bettering the general social fabric of the community (served)." (Emphasis added)
Those who would argue that the owners of UJC are "but shareholders" do so as a rationalization of unilateral actions taken in derogation of management's responsibilities/obligations to the owners -- the federations of North America. Of course, management finds consultation and process laborious and time-consuming but, to date, we have seen how wrong-headed decisions (the "Operational Strategy," the Draft Strategic Planning Work Group Recommendations) tend to be made unilaterally and place the UJC at risk of irrelevance. Those who argue that the federations are "nothing more than shareholders," and you know who you are, are sending a message that will guarantee in practice UJC's growing irrelevance to the point of its disappearance.
But, we certainly don't need a debate over "owner" vs. "shareholder." What is needed is a clear commitment by UJC leadership to transparency and relevance. Those can only be achieved through the things in which this leadership has no interest -- process, governance, collaboration and engagement. We need federations to demand these things. We created an organization 10 years ago that would be both "top down" and "bottom up" -- a laboratory where big ideas and best practices would not be dictated but located, created and debated. Unfortunately, under this management all is dictation. UJC has been run as a closed shop (and as I write this I learn of another in a continuing saga of unilateral actions [more on that later]) and the federations have paid the price. A high price indeed.
Now, we have to get it right.
Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Two weeks ago, in a Post from Jerusalem, I reiterated a request I had made in writing of KanferRieger before the Federation Leadership Institute-- that they distribute the letter sent to them by Marlene Post and Bill Hess on behalf of the American Zionist Movement with regard to our federations' partner, the Jewish Agency for Israel. In my letter prior to the FLI, I had asked that that letter be handed to each participant at the Palm Beach Event. No surprise, heard nothing back. In my Post I offered to print the AZM letter if RiegerKanfer did not. They didn't...so, here it is:

American Zionist

Dear Joe:

The reported proposal to significantly change the exclusive relationship between UJC and the Jewish Agency has caused deep concern and dismay among the 16 core embers of the American Zionist Movement. The AZM is the umbrella representing Zionist organizations in the US, which span the spectrum of Jewish life. Our members include the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist streams of Judaism, as well as organizations from the right, left and center. We all care deeply about the Jewish Agency for Israel and its future as the premiere social service, education and aliyah agency. It has served this role for the 60 years of the existence of the State of Israel and for decades before.

The Jewish Agency is the product of a proud Zionist Movement whose democratic foundations helped establish the partnership among the WZO/KH/UJC. It represents a unique paradigm in the world -- a place where Jews from all backgrounds, interests, abilities and geographies, can sit, deliberate and build a Jewish future in Israel and around the world.

The Jewish Agency has adopted the major objectives of the Zionist movement and incorporated them into its core programming and activities. The work of JAFI reflects and enhances 2,000 years of yearning of the individual Jew for a homeland, a relationship with that homeland and ultimately aliyah to the Jewish State.

It is reasonable and the responsibility of a sound organization such as UJC to reexamine and renovate itself from time to time. We have always understood the role of UJC to be to help Federations increase funding for the prime overseas (partners) -- JAFI and JDC. The proposal under discussion would be a total renunciation of that role and responsibility. As a major partner in an historic enterprise, it is shocking that such a fundamental change in your relationship to the Jewish Agency would be considered, especially at this time. We ask you to consider the most constructive and positive ways in which UJC, through the Jewish Agency, can build strength among successive generations of Jews who will continue the goals of the upbuilding of the State and the gathering of its people. The AZM is there with you.

With Zion greetings,

William D. Hess, President Marlene Post, Chair, AZM Board"

This beautiful letter was (a) never responded to by UJC leadership and (b) never distributed to the attendees of at the FLI. Reading it one has to wonder: Why not?


Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Each week, Howard's View is more and more a reflection of a growing detachment from the reality
facing the federations. Last Friday's was about the most distant yet (and, that is a very hard standard to exceed). In it, you will recall, the CEO decided to go on an unfortunate rant about the sacrifices UJC has made with regard to UJC's budget. Here's how he put it:

"Feb. 27, 2009/3 Adar I 5769

Enhancing Our Value

At the continental level and in our communities, we always look for ways to operate more efficiently and strategically -- to better meet Jewish needs. In the current economic climate, such efforts are becoming not just better business but even a matter of survival.
The recent Federation Leadership Institute (FLI) showed clear direction from federations around UJC strategies to weather the downturn and build for the future. Our strategic goals include focusing UJC's mission and vision, enhancing our governance structure, better coordinating our overseas planning and engaging in key efforts to grow our donor base such as branding our federation system.

The FLI, with the theme "Managing Through Challenging Times: Positioning for the Future," also dealt with cost reduction and revenue generation, with productive discussions about fundraising and budgeting.

After the FLI, our Treasurer, Michael Gelman of Washington, indicated that UJC will aim for an approximate 10 percent reduction in its operating budget for fiscal year 2009-2010, which in real terms amounts to a greater reduction when taking inflation into account. Such a plan will necessarily involve a reduction in force, which of course means dedicated staff will have to be let go, and their lives disrupted. This is a painful process, but one that is unavoidable. All of us face the same challenges.

UJC has led the way in fiscal responsibility long before the downturn hit. At merger a decade ago, our 1999-2000 budget was more than $46 million -- and this year we are aiming for a $33.2 million budget -- meaning we have cut our budget since merger by more than 28 percent, while absorbing inflationary costs.

We are taking other measures to control costs. Just this month we moved into a new headquarters, at 25 Broadway in New York City, which allowed us to negotiate a buyout package from our former landlord, a building allowance from our new landlord, and free rent for 13 months at our new location. This allows us to avert huge rent increases, which we would have had to confront at the end of the existing lease that was to come due in four years.

While we recognize the economic pressures federations face, and are doing our utmost to address those concerns, we also must remember that our continental system is the manifestation of that we can do together that none of us could do alone. Membership in such a system carries both privileges and responsibilities. Of course, there are communities that are facing worse conditions than others, and for those we have a process to consider hardship requests for reduction of dues. On the other hand, all federations will have the benefit of de-facto dues relief, through the adoption of a reduced UJC budget.

Despite our challenges, we have heard from you that our mission, at its core, remains more critical than ever. This is the time to look to our future, even while drawing strength from our past accomplishments. Our 2008 Annual Report ("The Voice of One. The Power of Many") is now out, and it tells the story of our collective efforts and showcases some of the ways we deliver value to the Jewish Federations of North America.

I hope you join me in taking pride in the fact that, despite our challenges, we continue to meet Jewish needs at home, and overseas, every day, even while looking to ways to enhance our performance. The Jewish world is counting on us to do that, just as we have for over a century.

Shabbat Shalom,Howard M. Rieger President & CEO United Jewish Communities
The hyperbole aside, two federation, communal thought leaders wrote me about this one. Here is what they wrote:
"I found it interesting (humorous?) that Howard assures everyone of a budget reduction, which in fact, will be a greater reduction than the raw number because of inflationary costs. Are Howard and Michael the only Americans who don't know we are in a deflationary period, not inflationary, which will make their real budget reduction lesser not greater by their same computation? Just a thought...."
And another, contrary in its own way to the first:
"(Howard) clarified the 10% reduction in the UJC budget as really much bigger when you factor in inflation. I imagine only UJC has to deal with an inflation issue. So when federation or G-d forbid a beneficiary that is facing the same or even worse inflation....cuts their budget 20-25% it is a true 20-25% (cut)..."

What I do know is that UJC has increased its budgets since the merger until the federations forced a $3.2 million decrease in this fiscal year. Now, UJC will not decrease its current fiscal year budget and has unilaterally "agreed" to impose a "maybe" 10% budget reduction for the fiscal year beginning July 1. This while federation-after-federation are cutting their current year budgets by far more than 10%. Where is the sense of responsibility at UJC? I think we know, don't we?
I have come to the conclusion that the Views are written with Crayolas before being transcribed.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Since the recent Federation Leadership Institute, UJC has entered a new world of euphemisms. These have suddenly appeared in a variety of UJC Briefings, Memoranda, etc. Read and learn:

  • UJC: The Jewish Federations of North America -- Apparently based upon some "broad consensus" among the 70(of 155) federations gathered at the FLI, this is the "new brand." Without any governance approval, start using this "new" (oy vay) name now. Should make UJC more relevant.
  • The Coordinating Council -- not the "Officers" (Joe has deprecated most of them), but some other group of rubber stampers. (First appeared in UJC's Memo to the Federations announcing a "maybe" 10% max budget cut for 2010.) As in "...the...Coordinating Council...approved." Who/what are they? I could tell you but I would have to kill you.
  • The Planning Tables -- "tables" at which UJC will make its plans with some federations but without JAFI or JDC present for the application of federation allocations to programs in Israel. As in: "the Planning Tables are ONAD... only better."
  • The Joint Table -- a "table" at which will sit UJC, JAFI, JDC and the largest federations where better cooperation will be discussed -- or, as UJC does it so well, "imposed." This is not to be confused with "a table at the Joint."
  • The Kitchen Table -- a wooden table in my kitchen.
  • The Dining Room Table -- an antique table passed down through the generations seating 12 in my dining room.
  • The Kitchen Sink -- UJC's strategic plan.
  • Fair Share Dues -- those which federations used to pay; now fewer and fewer will or do leading Kanfer and a couple of Large Federations to plot a new strategy to avoid UJC's complete deconstruction. As in: "what are Fair Share Dues?"

More to follow.