Tuesday, June 30, 2009


There is always something new on the UJC's leaders personal agendas that impact on your federation and mine. Let's look at a couple that were brought to my attention during the Jewish Agency Assembly:

~ Let's make a deal. It appears that the few UJC leaders have been cutting deals with a number of federations -- negotiating reduced Fair Share Dues so as to avoid the stigma of federations no longer remaining members in good standing. There is nothing inherently wrong with this if, in fact, there were a process, there were standards and the leaders were empowered to make these deals. The Financial Relations Committee has not been privy to a single one of these "deals;" certainly hasn't approved them...it appears the Committee is not to know. The federations impacted have not sought "hardship" status, but had advised UJC that they were not going to pay full Dues. Here are the consequences as I see them: (1) My federation and most others pay full Dues in order that UJC meet its own Budget. Are we expected to pay a greater Dues amount with no process because UJC has made a deal with many federations to pay lower dues; (2) Does UJC plan to invade the overseas core allocation without any authority to do so to satisfy its own Budget and, thereby, further reduce the allocation; and (3) as one of my friends asked "How does a federation even know it got the best deal?" No process, no transparency, no thought.

~ And, speaking of allocations...I learned that the lame ducks have unilaterally decided, as always, in consultations with themselves, that Birthright is underfunded and that allocations should be diverted from the JAFI/JDC core to Birthright. Certainly this great program deserves support, but since the birth of UJC, allocations to Joint and Agency core have dropped by almost 45%...while JAFI continues to support Birthright to the tune of $5 million per year (subsidizing, essentially the federations' fund raising and allocations shortfalls)while cutting its core Budget by $75 million. You wonder what these leaders have learned over 4-5 years? And then you realize...zip.

And, friends, what have we learned.... ?


Sunday, June 28, 2009


Two correspondents have left the "Comments" below that deserve a more lengthy response. below are these Comments with my discussion following each one:

"Anonymous said...

Richard, it's intriguing to see that you are now giving Kathy Manning a "pass" in your repetitive attacks on Joe Kanfer, Michael Gelman, and Howard Rieger. Could it be that you harbor hopes that she will listen to you in a way that the current leadership team clearly decided not to?If so, I expect that you're going to be disappointed.

The problem is that beyond the generalities, the substance of what you have consistently recommended for UJC is little more than a return to the "good old days" of UJA. In your version of history, everything was hunky-dory till Howard and Joe appeared on the scene. Would that it were so!

I got a chuckle reading your appreciation of Jacob Berkman's imagined future for the federation system and UJC, primarily because you didn't seem to realize that what Jacob is advocating is almost exactly what Joe Kanfer has been urging for the system (Jacob himself gives credit to Joe at one point).

I share your hope that the new team of Kathy and Jerry will be able to respond effectively to the many challenges facing UJC and the federation system. If they do, it will be by building on the admittedly painful process of the last several years in which the remnants of a system that was already on a downward spiral have been cleared away and space created for a new beginning."


Giving Kathy a "pass" as a matter of endearment and getting back in the game. Kathy would no doubt disagree. This correspondent once again failed to comprehend (and may be unable to) that any issues I have had with Kathy's leadership has been her deferral to KanferRieger, apparently failing to understand that in creating the position of Co-Chairs, the framers of UJC intended a "partnership" at the top of the organization of equals. The misperception that created the appearance of obeisance on the part of the Chair of the Executive to the Board Chair has given rise to my suggestion that the owners eliminate the position of Chair of the Executive entirely. (And I am not the only one who has made that recommendation.) In fact let's do it now.

My recommendations would merely recreate UJA while Joe's desire for "change" has been thwarted by, I guess, the federations and me. This comment evidences the writer's serious reading comprehension issues. If by urging that leadership be expansive and inclusive, that UJC stop "comprehensive planning" and rewriting Vision and mission statements, stop flitting from one "plan" to another, engage with federations on substance, encourage debate and observe the requirements of UJC's own governance, I hark back to the days of UJA (and, for that matter, CJF) so be it. Wouldn't you? If you can actually identify a plan or program demanded by Joe that the system adopt that would effect real systemic change, please let us know.

This leadership has swept away the remnants of a system that was in a death spiral. This red herring has been repeated so often as to now be asserted as truth. Sorry, "this leadership" has, as I have written, merely substituted a simulacrum of what UJC was intended to be. It is an organization that was on the move upward 5 years ago and is now headed to the precipice. We'll see whether Kathy and Jerry can take the wheel and turn the ship around before it is too late if it isn't too late already.


Then here was the following

Anonymous said...

Yes, by Collins’ “Good to Great”criteria, UJC seems headed to an ignominious end. Even Jerry Silverman's selection flies in the face of what Collins teaches. Although maybe non-profits should not be compared to profit-making companies, the negotiations over Jerry’s compensation package – reported to be the “hang-up” in his selection as CEO -- are a warning signal. In Collins’ world, CEO compensation bears no relationship to performance.

That Jerry has apparently sought a compensation package of more than $700,000 flies in the face of this finding. If true, and if it has not been rejected by UJC leadership, it is appalling. Values about service to the Jewish community aside, we’re in the midst of a crisis. Many are in need and many of my fellow professionals have lost their jobs.

Jerry, as of two years ago, was being paid nearly $500,000 to run a $16 million organization (FJC) and perhaps it’s reasonable from his perspective to want more to run a $30M organization. But is it appropriate? Isn’t there anyone competent – with a sense of Jewish values and a commitment to the community – available to run UJC? Or, is the UJC so debased that only hard cash can be used to motivate a new CEO.


If in fact the new CEO has negotiated a financial package as described in this Comment, shame on us, shame on our "negotiators" -- in fact, shame on the Foundation for Jewish Camping for the compensation that Jerry was receiving from it for running a $16 million organization. This entire Search appears to have been motivated, on the UJC side, by a desire for someone allegedly coming from "outside the box" and on the candidate's side by a desire for cold, hard cash out of all proportion to his experience or, as this Commentator has put it, "a commitment to the community."

I can understand, all of us can, that attracting a new CEO would be a monumental task given the deconstructed organization that is being left for her or him to clean up, to resurrect, that is no excuse for UJC's "negotiators" to agree to compensation that, in this age of economic crisis or, for that matter, any age, can only be characterized as obscene.


Thanks for writing.



While in Jerusalem for extremely challenging meetings of the Jewish Agency, so fraught with its own challenges, I had time to ponder those facing United Jewish Communities; on the cusp of (some) new leadership, what has brought us to this low point for an organization which promised us so much. Here's my take.

Jim Collins, the guru of organizational strategy and a GA speaker so important to the current leaders of UJC that they convened their inner circle for a meeting with him, has already covered the subject of this Post better than I. In his works -- Built to Last, Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall -- he might have been writing about the potential of UJC and how mismanagement and a failure to understand let alone honor the core values and timeless principles on which we constructed UJC have led to its sorry state today. Kathy and Jerry, you have an incredible challenge ahead of you.

In the last four years hope for the future of United Jewish Communities has melted away faster than ice cream on a Summer day. Those who have tried to help, to point to a different path, who have objected to the constantly changing road map, have been disregarded, dissed and discharged -- even their offers of help treated with disdain. A broad based governance structure housing power within the Board and Executive has been ignored as the Board Chair, Treasurer and CEO have built a simple and opaque power structure more suited to the Ayatollahs in Iran. And federation support, once enthusiastic has waned as more and more walls shutting out transparency have been constructed by the tiny group "running" the organization. Kathy and Jerry, you have an incredible challenge ahead of you.

Look at UJC over the years of this leadership. Jim Collins, without knowing, certainly did. A professional who has toiled in the federation vineyard for a long time, wrote me and reminded me of Collins' work. In Good to Great Collins discussed the Flywheel effect and the doomsday loop. The former compels the creation of a coherent organizational strategy and sticking with it while it builds momentum like a flywheel; the latter is gravitating from issue to issue without giving any strategy a chance to grab hold. UJC today, my friends, is once again in the doomsday loop.

In mandating that the best organizations align actions with values, Collins wrote: "(failed leaders) spend too much time wordsmithing Vision statements, mission statements, values statements, purpose statements, and aspiration statements -- and nowhere near enough time trying to align their organizations with the the values and visions already in place." Now, if Collins had sent that keen observation to Mssrs. KanferRieger, what would have occurred? He would have been ignored or, worse, chastised as "not being on the team" and ostracized, Jim Collins or not. What KanferRieger has built is a simulacrum of the intended UJC -- unfortunately, what we have is the real UJC of today.

If you look hard at the deconstruction that has occurred at and within UJC over the terms of the current leadership (leading directly to the nominated leadership to follow), anyone can readily see the doomsday loop, the lack of any value placed on the core values that rest at the heart of the concept of United Jewish Communities, the lack of any knowledge or the total disregard of the Chairs of the values of the federation system, and a strong desire to leave a legacy of change even if it's "change for change's sake." Kathy and Jerry, you have an incredible challenge ahead of you.

Collins would also be among the first to point out that leadership and the ability to listen go hand in hand. At UJC its current lay and professional leader, KanferRieger, are figuratively deaf and blind to the reality around them. As Arianna Huffington said about Dick Cheney, very appropriate to the point: "He lives in such a permanent state of denial" -- these guys have surrounded themselves with a claque that reinforces their denial of reality and shields these leaders from the facts.

I have already written of my belief that this ship can be righted. I have come to understand that Kanfer has acted under the belief that he and he alone may direct Rieger (and everyone else) down the doomsday path. While I know that UJC's governance designed a "Co-Chairmanship," Kanfer apparently dictated that their would be no "Co" and the results, as always, speak for themselves -- loudly. (And, what has been clearly proven over the past three years, along with so much else, is that it is time to amend UJC's governance and end the non-existent "Co-Chair" structure -- one Chair is more than enough.) But, with every passing day, every failed policy, every step further from engagement with the federation owners, every day UJC's current leaders say one thing while doing another, the doomsday loop comes closer to being doomsday itself.

As I may have written, Kathy and Jerry, you have an incredible challenge ahead of you... Best of luck.


Friday, June 26, 2009


When Joe Kanfer and Michael Gelman were in their best vendetta form in early 2008, attacking me behind my back for writing this Blog, Michael and Joe would e-mail or phone their attacks never once responding to my reminders to them that what they were writing and saying were fabrications. Some things just don't change.

One of the JAFI Governance changes approved on Tuesday was to create a new Board Nominating process to assure and reassure that those serving on the JAFI Board owed their prime fiduciary obligation to JAFI notwithstanding that an individual was nominated by his federation through UIA/UJC. I voted for this change (even though I believe it weakens the JAFI-Federation relationship); so did Gelman. I understood it; as you will read below, Michael, unfortunately, hasn't a clue.

At the JAFI Budget & Finance Committee meeting yesterday, Gelman reported, taking no responsibility, that cash to JAFI "...this year will be very, very, very, very bad." (As a reader of this Blog, you are aware that UJC has been an "advocate" only for its own Dues, not at all for cash or allocations to the Joint or Agency.) A federation leader, who is not on the JAFI Board, and whose community allocation and cash are remarkably below the norm for its City-size, chimed in suggesting that as cash transmittals will be so low, perhaps "JAFI should consider shutting down." Michael did not respond but one federation leader did speaking to UJC's failure to advocate, and reiterating with passion and sincerity the criticality of JAFI programs. So what did the incoming UJC Chair of the Executive do? He e-mailed a bunch of his "friends" stating that that federation leader/JAFI Board member should not have spoken out in support of JAFI and that, in doing so, that leader had "breached his fiduciary obligation to UIA/UJC."

Thus, Michael continued his proud tradition of operating in the shadows. Michael, did you forget that less than 48 hours earlier you had voted that you, yourself, and every other JAFI Board member owed her or his primary fiduciary duty to JAFI? Apparently. (This is the same leader who continues to attack me to others, refers to other leaders who push back as "mini-Wexlers," etc.)

Kathy, with a Chair of the Executive who spends more time on vendettas than values and, apparently, a new CEO who knows so little about our system, you will have your hands full. Good luck.


Thursday, June 25, 2009


"Imagine This" is a beautiful musical that opened in London last October and closed shortly thereafter. It's story was centered on a Jewish troop of actors in the Warsaw Ghetto and, unfortunately, roused the cynicism of the London critics. It will rise again. I was reminded of the haunting melodies of "Imagine This" when a friend was good enough to send me Jacob Berkman's piece that follows. As you will read, Jacob, whose reporting on our Jewish community in the JTA is always accompanied with hard questions about us, our present and our future, uses his pen in a fine piece for e-Jewish Philanthropy to "re-imagine" our institutions and our work. Please read Jacob's work and think about where we are and where we might be...

"Re-Imagining the Jewish Philanthropic Landscape

by Jacob Berkman
Posted By eJP On June 21, 2009

Imagine for a second that there was a central hub for Jewish philanthropy.

Imagine that it was a clearinghouse to vet and fund bold, new, innovative ideas.

Imagine that this entity also effectively funded the basic Jewish infrastructure that keeps our community up and running - our nursing homes, our social-service outlets, our day schools and our synagogues.

Now imagine that this perfect thing could convene the mega-philanthropists of the world and give them a space to sit down and to talk together with knowledgeable professionals in order to identify the real needs of the Jewish community, and to figure out how to strategically harness

enormous resources to start to cover those needs - without overlap and without ego.

Imagine if the professionals who kept this entity going could then go out and find the six-figure and five-figure gifts to help fill in the larger gaps that the mega-gifts couldn’t cover. Because even though this system has seen its donor base drop from 900,000 to 540,000 in the last fifteen years, it has not seen its dollar intake drop because it cultivates five and six-figure gifts better than any other fundraising entity out there.

But then what if we took the myth that this system also cultivated and valued the $18 and $100 gifts, and made that myth true? One million $100 gifts added together equals one $100 million gift, and three million $100 gifts is the same as a $300 million gift. No living philanthropist has ever given $300 million to the Jewish community.

But what if that was the collective gift the community made each year?

One $100 gift that supports both the old and the needy and the future is still a gift that most of us can make, even during a recession. Even me, a writer, who has never been asked.
What if the mega-philanthropists of the world held that system’s feet to the flame and made it find potential donors like me?

Imagine that the Jewish federation system could be transformed into a system that could pull our community through this recession - and that all such a transformation really required was a total buy-in from the megawealthy.

What if that buy-in could force the system to really look in the mirror? And then what if the system was to realize that it is not the central address for Judaism and that it has no need
to own or control anything? It would simply be a fund-raising organization and an infrastructure.

Because it raises money, it would be the backbone of the Jewish community - not the heart of the community. The heart, the flesh, the blood and the soul of the community would consist of the myriad institutions and startups and people it could potentially feed. The system’s job would be purely their support and not their brain.

And imagine if you had an idea, a crazy idea, that you thought might help engage disenfranchised Jews. You could go to this entity and sit down with people who really know what they’re talking about, who can evaluate your idea, help you develop it, give you space to work on it and expertise to refine that idea. What if it could help you bring your idea before potential funders? Because you went through the system, you would automatically have some credibility, and you would automatically have your foot in the funding door.

What if that foot in the door meant you wouldn’t have to impress everyone all of the time?

What if that open door meant social entrepreneurs could go back to selling products and programs with proven results, instead of selling themselves?

Now, imagine that we don’t have to create a new system from scratch, that it has been sitting there for a hundred years and that it already has buildings, outposts, infrastructure and professionals working in 157 Jewish communities, who have databases of potential donors and the actual manpower to become something better than they are right now.

Imagine if those who ran that system were open to the idea of change and that the lure of big donors, really big donors, could help them make bold decisions to let go of old allegiances that the politics of their system now forces them to keep.

And what if as these outposts went through layoffs, they weren’t merely cutting jobs where they could, simply to make budget? Instead, they’d be looking at the talent standing in the unemployment line and hiring from that line talented marketers, money makers and fund raisers. Maybe a single talented person fired from a Goldman Sachs could more effectively do the job that two mediocre employees now occupy.

Imagine that those who ran small organizations could put aside their biases and feelings of alienation and even their anger at this system that has never really let them in - and could stand together at the doors.

Or better yet:

What if they calmly presented this system with the cold, hard fact that they, these new innovators, had access to and connections with Jews in their 20s and 30s, the folks their organizations reach - and the exact folks that this system has been unable to find and engage?

And what if these small organizations sat down with the professionals and the lay leaders of this system and talked about how they, the young organizations, could share their wisdom on how to reach these young people?

What if this old system could incorporate these new programs into their old slate, and what if that could lead to more funding

Because just like the mega-donor needs the little donor, the big old system needs the grassroots.

Imagine that this recession could force all of us to sit down together to figure out that we need each other to pull through - not necessarily because we want to, but because we absolutely have to, no matter much it hurts.

Maybe this imagining isn’t so far off. Maybe people high up on the federation and the foundation side are already talking about working together.

What if the chairman of that system recently told me that the system needs to change and wants in its heart to change? Something along the lines of: “The private philanthropists have found they are very good at starting new projects, but have a hard time sustaining them. It takes a village to sustain them. And we are the village…What we have is 157 communities that can leverage their work. What they have is the early dollars and
urge to innovate.”

The CEO of the country’s biggest Federation and the president of one of the Jewish community’s most influential foundations recently sat down for a conversation with the Journal of Jewish Communal Service. Both talked about the desire to work better together. The Federation CEO said, “We both need to disarm.” The foundation head said, “I agree that disarming is the first part of it. But we don’t yet have the bridge builders who should be building the bridges.”

Imagine that we took it upon ourselves to become the bridge builders, because we are all in this together, and if we don’t build the bridges ourselves, we might all just fall into the river.

I can imagine. Right?"


There is so much to think about, so much that could be acted upon in and out of this thought piece. But...in the beginning there was this...Steve Nasatir thought of the idea and the merger and the merger implemented that idea through the creation of The Trust for Jewish Philanthropy -- a place where the megadonors and the federations' best and brightest would intersect under the umbrella of United Jewish Communities for the very purposes that Jacob Berkman independently outlined above. Unfortunately, though the best possible Chair was in place, the potential was never realized because of internal UJC disputes over Trust professional leadership and a failure of execution. The decision was made to shut down the Trust after three years and the waste of millions of dollars.

But the dream did not die. The UJC leadership and Large City Executives decided to move forward in mid-2007 and the 2008 Budget included $400,000 as "seed money" to restart the Trust -- then, as with so many other matters of import and impact, no implementation and the $400,000 spent on...? Thus, what Berkman imagined was already on UJC's plate but UJC was unable to execute. Could it do so tomorrow, when UJC will be led by Kathy Manning and a new CEO, there is no reason why not...the blueprint is right there awaiting leadership and real commitment.

Where Berkman stumbles, however, is in his presumption that the federations, community by community, are failing as conveners and have failed to set a large enough table where the next generation can sit together with the present generation and build a new system together. Recently I was made privy to a Facebook exchange among professionals where one insisted that he could "count on the fingers of one hand" the number of his acquaintances who would contribute to federation. That young professional used to work at UJC the federations' presumed umbrella; he is Howard Rieger's son. Others in that chain of e-mails disagreed vehemently -- they believe that our system is and certainly can be made attractive to a new generation of donors. The failure has been one of will, of role models of the articulation of a compelling cause and of the failure to fund in a time of scarcity.

Jacob, thanks for imagining a future ripe with possibility, filled with the music of "Imagine This" and thanks to Dan Brown and e-Jewish philanthropy for offering a vehicle where such dreams can be shared.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009


While in Jerusalem for the Jewish Agency's Delegate Assembly and Board meetings, some thoughts....

~ While Howard believes, as reported in the Forward, that a CEO's reduction in compensation would be "political" (whatever that means), I have a suggestion. Rieger has created an "Executive Management Council" (or some other name) superimposed on top of his "Senior Management Team" -- can you imagine the number of meetings, teleconferences, etc. Let this EMC (love those acronyms) determine among themselves to reduce their compensation and make that reduction available to reduce further reductions in staff -- unless Howard won't let them!!

~ There is a farewell party for Howard here tonight. Nice. I wasn't invited -- however, several people asked me to be their "date." I didn't think Rieger would take it very well plus seeing me walk in as one of those fellows' "date," might have been taken the wrong way -- by my wife. It will no doubt be a lovely evening filled with disingenuity.

~ While here the Max Fisher Square was dedicated -- just outside of Binyanei Ha'Umah at the entrance to Jerusalem. A beautiful event. Yesterday, Jane Sherman concluded her Chairmanship of JAFI's Governance Committee, steering the new Governance through the tortuous waters of a feisty leadership. As Jane did so, I am convinced that Max was smiling and telling all: "That's my Janie."

~ And as to that Governance process, UIA convened a "caucus" on the Governance yesterday. How refreshing -- about 70 US federation leaders engaged, hearing the Governance proposal with the opportunity for questions, for debate and resolution. That meeting was in sharp contrast to the fact that not once during the Governance Committee's 3 years of work did Joe Kanfer, who served on the Committee as UJC's, the federations', my, our representative update us on status, offer the same opportunity for debate, for questions, for discussion. The end continues to justify the means in the Land of the Ayatollahs. Questions: how did Joe formulate his opinions and conclusions within the process? Was it enough for him to counsel with Steve Hoffman? Guess so.

~ One of my friends tried to call me. My cell seemed not to be working. He wrote: "I can't get through to you." My response: "No one can."

~ The coffee and tissues still stink.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009


While in Israel, a correspondent "Commented" on a recent Post with the following questions:

"joebrown42 said...

I wonder if Mr. Rieger made any comment regarding the fact that money raised for the Emergency Appeal, during and after the Second War in Lebanon, was used, in fact, for Operation Promise?And did he mention that when, only one-two years later, when NO additional monies were raised, all the recipients of those monies had to cut back on their activities?I wonder if he realized that Ethiopian youths at risk in Netanya whose youth club was closed (probably forever) were no longer on the "safe" side of 'at-risk', because their only way out had just been closed?

Recklessness makes me bitter, my apologies for the tone.



These are serious allegations. They demand response -- from Rieger, Kanfer, Manning or Gelman. Of course, even though I know they read this Blog obsessively -- as evidenced by the constancy of their complaints (always to others, never to me) and by their "Anonymous" Comments to the Posts that are clearly from them -- I suspect that they will not respond to this Post. And, unless you demand it, my friends, there will be no response at all.

I suspect that one of the contributing factors to what now appears to be a desperate search for someone not of the Federation system to succeed Rieger, is that such a choice will more readily enable this leadership to sweep matters cited by, among others, "joebrown42" under the new UJC carpeting at 25 Broadway.

I am bemused and worse by the constant aspersions directed to and at JAFI, JDC and their leaders by UJC's leaders when they operate a $38 million dollar enterprise as if it is nobody's business but theirs..


Monday, June 22, 2009


As we counted the Omer up to Shavuot, since May 8, when Rieger/Kanfer/Manning announced the arrival "...in five weeks" of 25 Yemenite Jewish families in Monsey, New York, as a result of the UJC-Satmar partnership, we have been counting down the days to their arrival. It was on May 8, you recall, that UJC's current leaders sent a bill to each federation asking for a commitment to fund a pro rata portion of the "reduced cost" of $800,000 -- the "ask" to each federation scaled to its Annual Campaign (or something). Now, this entire Folly was never and has been never approved by the owners...but, so it goes. In fact, this type of "decision-making" never stops. At its June 8 Board meeting, not a mention of the relocation of Yemeni Jews -- not on the Agenda, not in Howard Rieger's recitation of "his" accomplishments.

Much like its own Budget -- which cannot be fully funded given the number of federations which have not paid their Dues, some dating back to 2007, growing each year since -- federations have not stepped forward with enthusiasm to fund a relocation...well, let me spell it out the way in which the World Zionist Organization expressed it on June 2: "...there is no dispute over (the Yemenis)...right to decide to be absorbed any place else in the world, but the concerted effort that was made in this instance by the UJC appears not to be in keeping with the patterns of conduct that were established in the Jewish Agency by its partners over many years." UJC has not responded to the WZO...it moves forward with the Satmar as its partner as it once did with JAFI and the Joint; it hides behind a terrific philanthropist, Monsey's and the UJA-Federation of New York's Yis Schulman. And what happens if the $800,000 is not raised? Seems like a logical question.

The WZO continued: "The fact that the UJC decided to get involved without discussing the issue with the partners in the Jewish Agency undermines the foundations of the partnership and Zionist character of the Jewish Agency for Israel. The WZO demands that UJC stop this initiative..." And UJC has not responded -- it never does.

But the Jews of Yemen have responded. The Jewish Agency announced here in Jerusalem as its Assembly and Board of Governors are meeting that 16 Yemeni Jews arrived here, their home...our home for them...in fulfillment of part of the Zionist imperative. Some, I am told, were on the list of those whom UJC planned with its "partner" to relocate in Monsey.

It one week ago, on Monday June 15, on jpost.com, Haviv Rettig Gur, the Post's insightful reporter on, among other things, Diaspora matters, published a lengthy interview with Yis Schulman in which Schulman, philanthropist and a member of the Monsey community, decried the "rumor mill" that created the impression that these families are "...moving into an anti-Zionist community..." citing the involvement of, among others, the U.S. State Department, HIAS, FEGS and the Rockland County Jewish Federation (whose Dues payments to UJC may have ceased) beyond the Satmar, and that this relocation is of those who "chose to come here." At the very end of a long interview, Rettig Gur quotes "a former Jewish Agency employee in North America:" "In the past, Jews from Yemen who opted to go to Monsey were absorbed in the Satmar community. There may be a few exceptions,but the vast majority are Satmar today. The intentions of this project and the final result are two very different things."

So Yemeni Jews are coming to Israel to join the 1000's of Jews from Yemen who preceded them and who will now nuture them here in the homeland of the Jewish People. Oh, and six weeks (not five) have passed since UJC stated with certainty that the Yemenite Jews would be delivered to Monsey by this date. And almost three months since the date on which Howard Rieger in his original panic-stricken Memo on the subject projected...Never mind.


Sunday, June 21, 2009


Readers of this Blog are well aware that even though UJC has cut me off the distribution list, I have found the almost weekly Howard's View to be constant source of amusement, bewilderment and a demonstration of not only how out of touch Howard (and, thereby, UJC) is toward the federations but, incredibly to me, out of touch with UJC's own reality. What Rieger has done almost week in and week out, is to create a parallel UJC universe that enables him to paint failure as success, non-programs as programs, disengagement as engagement -- as I wrote, "a constant source of amusement."

He almost outdid himself last week with a View titled Our Impact in Israel. Rieger starts with Operation Promise a Special Campaign effectively rejected by our donors, after a confusing roll out where UJC first called for a prioritized "ask" and then, what the hell, let's go for it all...and raised less than 1/2 the goal. Howard may assert that OP was "interrupted" by the War in Lebanon but the reality was that it was a dead effort by the time the Second Lebanon War began. OP -- an excellent idea so poorly executed it is a tribute to our donors that the federations raised $70 million. It was not campaignus interruptus, it was campaignus terminatus.

And, then, the Israel Emergency Campaign to support the People of Israel during the Second Lebanon War. $360 million was raised by the Federations but UJC was unable to account for the total funds raised -- even though that accounting and setting priorities for the application of funds were its sole functions. It certainly wasn't raising any. IEC Cash flowed so slowly that, at several times during the process, UJC was urged to set up a lay Cash Collections Committee. It committed to do so...and promptly did nothing. Oh, wait, there was another "function" UJC performed in the IEC -- calling the Campaign over even as bombs still fell on Israel. (Howard "forgot" to mention this.)

And, then Operation Case Lead, Israel's attempts to stop the terrorists' attacks from Gaza. "[W]e raised funds..." for Case Lead Howard wrote. It was a $16 million non-Campaign. Chicago committed $1.6 million. While not all of the funds were needed, never has UJC provided any accounting of how much was raised; UJC certainly did none of the raising although it did send a fund raising Mission, to its credit, on which Joe Kanfer and Kathy Manning made special gifts, among others.

At no time did UJC under this leadership deploy its lay leaders and professionals to urge the conversion of the special campaign gifts to OP or the IEC or Case Lead into the Annual Campaign...and few were. Had this tried and true campaign technique, used so effectively by UJA and the federations after past special campaigns, been followed, UJC would have helped the federations build a cushion to ease the pain they...we...are now experiencing as the impacts of the economic catastrophe and Madoff are being felt everywhere. Repeat: UJC did nothing.

As to JAFI and JDC Howard evidences a total rejection of reality. He wrote in part: we have "...to balance our work to address the core needs that JAFI and JDC meet with..." a group of identified social service and civil society programs in Israel that, by the way, others, including JDC already meet. Anyone who reads these Posts with any regularity at all knows of my frustration with UJC's leaders' abject failure and actual refusal to "...address the core needs that JAFI and JDC meet..." at all. What universe are you writing us from, Howard? UJC over the course of your administration has acted to undermine the historic partnership with JAFI and JDC as if this were your goal.

I can't believe this stuff that appears in the weekly View. I am pretty sure that Howard doesn't either. Remember -- black is white and white is black.


Friday, June 19, 2009


A major force in Chicago's real estate community, Harvey Walken, z'l, passed away last week. Among his passions was baseball, he loved the Cubs and at one time was a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The title of this Post was a saying Walken created to describe his Cubs. Had Harvey known of United Jewish Communities, he might have added and any organization can have a bad decade -- but this bad?

How bad-- count just some of the ways: three "strategic plans" in four years, a constantly changing focus, firings without compassion, a leadership arrogance astounding even to the media, the marginalization of Development/Campaign, the movement of Missions to Israel followed by the movement of Missions back to New York, lay-offs and forced resignations of women from top down, disengagement from federation owners, the increasing number of federations unwilling or unable to support UJC's Budgets, special unannounced "deals" with major federations based on a "recalculation" of annual campaign results, elevating Officers with responsibility for the "Bad Decade" to higher positions. an abandonment of the partnership with JDC and JAFI, the exclusionary pattern of this lay leadership, the vilification and demonization of those suggesting a different direction, no advocacy for anything other than Dues and the personal pet projects of the Officers, a refusal to come to grips with the economic tsunami when UJC could have made a difference...and so much more.

Did it have to be this way? Of course not. UJC was on the cusp of real success when Steve Hoffman returned to Cleveland. A strong lay leader, Sonny Plant, z'l, had acted to end the acrimonious and futile ONAD process in consultation with, among others, federation executives, JDC and JAFI. Engagement of the federations with UJC was strong. There were flaws but they seemed under control. And, then...

The result: Any organization can have a bad decade.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009


At the onset of the "Rieger administration" at UJC, I sensed that Howard and I and so many others shared a Vision for the organization that would carry the organization forward-- that sense was expressed in my quotes appearing in the Jewish press at the time. Today...not so much. Yet, Rieger and I share some experiences in common and both of us found that a Mission experience could inspire our commitment to community as nothing other. In fact, Rieger has devoted several recent Views to not only the subject of Missions but to UJC's commitment to them. As with so many other things, the reality is somewhat different from the rhetoric -- very different. Once again UJC talks the talk but wholly fails when it comes time to walk the walk.

"UJC's commitment to them..." As someone once said: "show me the money." Out of one side of the mouth UJC enunciates a "plan" to transfer responsibility for Missions programming to the Joint and Jewish Agency -- no money, just responsibility -- and no discussion with JDC or JAFI. Out of the other side of its mouth UJC fires a substantial component of its Missions staff in Israel and transfers the Missions responsibility to New York and Development. Out of another side of its mouth (yes, UJC has multiple mouth parts) UJC brags on the annual Campaign Chairs and Directors Mission, out of the other side, only 18 months ago, its leaders tried to kill that Mission, now it has been dramatically under-funded, budgeted for $250,000 less than last year. The Prime Minister's Mission, which when I participated in 2007 raised a 15% card-for-card increase from its highest giving level participants, wouldn't even exist were it not for Chicago's insistence and the tenacity of Chicago's terrific professionals, Beth Cherner and Jeffrey Cohen; and the national subsidy for it -- gone -- while UJC speaks of its support for Missions from the other side of its mouth. Chicago will have a Prime Minister's Mission to kick-off the 2010 Campaign, UJC will have none. Chicago will have another incredible success. UJC will not have a Prime Minister's Mission for the 2010 Campaign.There are some positives: a terrific Missions Director, her knowing and driven supervisor and a relocation of Missions where it always should have been -- in the Campaign.

And, on and on the pea spins as the UJC shell game continues.

Why is UJC saying one thing and doing another? It's mainly this leadership's tradition.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Just a few follow-ups to recent Posts:

~ As an example of a strong message to President Obama focused on the Administration's policies toward Israel, see Obama's Wobbliness is a Great Danger to Israel, Mortimer Zuckerman's brilliant analysis in today's US News and World Report.

~ As a commentary on the refusal of UJC's CEO, Howard Rieger, to offer a salary cut, see the Forward's strong editorial, CEOs Should Lead. The editorial stated: "Some of the executives whose salaries remained untouched displayed an arrogance stunning for this time, or any time. Howard Rieger, president and CEO of United Jewish Communities, all but dismissed executive pay cuts as 'political,' even though his organization has laid off 31 staff members over the last year while his salary and expense allowance topped out at more than $700,000. And that was just in 2006-07."

The Forward stated it on the nose..."an arrogance stunning for this time, or any time." This is the Frankenstein that we...we...have created and perpetuated. And I guess we need the Forward to tell us the stark truth. Just one of the many reasons that we need a strong and independent press.


Monday, June 15, 2009


I thought it might be timely to provide a "Sneak Preview" of a number of the subjects on our plate that we will be the subject of our Posts in the days and weeks ahead:

~ A little more about the continuing whining by the nominee for Chair of the Executive and the continuing demonizing/"wexlerizing" (if you will) of anyone and everyone who questions any action of the leadership of today and the leadership of tomorrow. Title: "Even A Child Wouldn't Behave Like This."

~ We'll compare UJC's rhetoric about its "commitment" to Missions and the reality.

~ We'll take a look at UJC's abject failure to engage mega-donors and the intent to use the "new" Center for Jewish Philanthropy to pursue the personal agendas of today's UJC leaders.

~ We'll examine the state of UJC Dues -- what federations aren't meeting their obligations, yet their lay leaders continue to have leadership positions at UJC.

~ Let's look at cash. We'll compare 2009 cash distributions to JDC and JAFI to date and the impacts on the Jewish People in these partners' care compared with UJC's application of federation cash payments to satisfy the UJC overhead in full.

And,of course, we will follow up on a number of the stories we have covered in earlier Posts.

Looks like a full plate.



Today, a brief break from the "Perils of UJC" to the "perils of American Jewry."

The election of Barack Obama has inspired, in so many quarters, a virulent screed that evidences the multiple commentators'/authors' refusal to accept the Obama Presidency. Some in the American Jewish community have been as unrestrained as the Limbaughs and Hannitys in the virulence of their attacks. After the President and Secretary of State refused to accept the "thickening of existing settlements" even within the current borders of West Bank settlements, the cacophony grew only louder and more strident. I received the forwarded e-mail "commentary" that follows (reprinted here, typos and all) from one of my closest friends

"Does Barack Obama believe Israel is a sovereign state? Yesterday, his mouthpiece Hillary Clinton said Israel must stop all settlement activity- outposts, new settlements and natural growth of existing settlements. What exactly is natural growth of existing settlements- it means adding a new room to a home within the boundaries of a settlement if a family gets larger, say though a new baby, or building a new home in this settlement, if a couple gets married. In essence, Obama is now telling Israelis not to have children, and not to marry. Such a friend. Does anyone really believe that adding on that new room or that new home is what has stopped the Arabs and Palestinians from making peace with Israel the last 40 years? There really are only two conclusions to draw from this new American chokehold on Israel. One is that Obama and his people are stupid ( that's right- fools, despite all the fancy degrees), or they really mean to put the screws to Israel, and are looking for an opening to create conflict between the nations (excuse me, between the US and its vassal).

But hey, 78% of Jews voted for this guy. You know who you are. Why would Obama want to screw with Israel? Two possibilities here as well- one is that he was never a friend, despite all that money and support that came into his campaign from the adoring liberal Jewish masses. Some of us (think Ed Lasky) kept warning last year, that all those years with Bill Ayers, and Reverend Wright, and Samantha Power, and Rashid Khalidi, and Ali Abunimah, maybe, just maybe shaped Obama a bit on the Israeli Palestinian issue. And after all all, our most empathetic President tends to see the world in terms of winners and losers, the haves and have nots, and on that power equation he has to love the Palestinians. The other explanation gets back to stupidity. Could Obama actually believe that our enemies in the Muslim world will start playing nice if only we distance ourselves from Israel? Could he be that naive? What is particularly distressing is how Democrats in Congress , ostensibly such great friends of Israel when they send out campaign fundraising letters, are now lining up with Obama on the settlements issue. Why would they do this? I thin it is because Israel is not really a top concern, just as it is not for many American Jews. For liberal politicians, and liberal Jews, global warming, and single payor government health care matter, not the survival of Israel. The clock is ticking on Iran's nuclear program. Any of you have faith Obama will lift a finger to stop the mullah's march to the bomb? Will the US allow Israeli jets to over fly iraq if it decides to attack Iran? Count me as a skeptic. But hey, why worry? We may soon have cap and trade, and the planet will heal, and new national healthcare that will spend the country into oblivion. Who cares abut Jewish babies , or for that matter Jewish lives of any age?" (Richard Baehr)

Certainly the Obama and Netanyahu Governments are not today on the same page. And while more sane commentary has noted that the Obama "position" is in synch with the opinions of the Israeli center and, certainly, its left, others are entitled to speak out on their opposition to policies of our Government toward Israel that we oppose. But, do we do Israel's cause any good at all when we piggyback arguments, as above, against the Obama Administration on global warming, health care, cap and trade onto arguments against the Obama Administration's policies on Israel's settlements? Of course not. And does it serve Israel's cause to accuse our President of being "uncaring...about (sic) Jewish babies" or to revive the vile campaign attacks about Obama and Wright, Obama and Bill Ayers, etc? Of course not. Israel's cause is served by rational argument on the issues impacting Israel at hand, pure and simple.

To its credit, AIPAC has been spurred to action. But, because of the void created by the silence of the Conference of Presidents, the ADL and, of course and as always, UJC, those like Richard Baehr, whose opposition to Obama is on all issues and every issue attempt to replay the 2008 election in the guise of "protecting Israel." Those who don't speak for us have stepped into this void as if they do. If these kinds of unreasoned attacks continue, the soft but focused arguments of J-Street and the IPF will gain greater resonance with the American polity. Israel and the Jewish People will be the losers.


Saturday, June 13, 2009


Gail Hyman is a dear friend, my professional partner with so many other men and women of great skill and commitment to the sacred work of community. She recently sent me the letter that I reprint below.

"I have been quietly following your many posts on the UJCTheeandMe Blog with a mix of pride and fondness for your enormous capacity and commitment. Today's post really cut to the bone for me---as a past UJC staff member, as its first senior marketing professional and as one of those present at merger when all the possibilities for a great new organization were in the air and fed our imaginations and souls. So much has changed since those early days that it is almost impossible for me to read about UJC today (through your blog and other commentary I read) and comprehend what has happened.

I wanted to send these comments to your post--I have no problem with my name being attached to them--but for some reason I could not get the link to the comment area to open. Feel free to use my comments as you wish.

I don't know all the facts of what is/has happened at UJC since I left three years ago of my own volition. FYI, no one asked me to resign, I simply saw the direction its professional leadership was taking and decided I no longer fit in the master plan nor could I compromise my professional standards to conform to it. If even half of what you have written and what I have read and heard elsewhere from reliable, thoughtful leaders, old colleagues and friends, is accurate it saddens my heart to know that the promise of UJC has been so diminished. I only hope that its new professional and lay leadership will take it on a course correction immediately to do the hard work of rebuilding a sadly tarnished reputation.

Your latest post notes that in the latest staff reductions, many long-standing professionals in areas of real growth potential and innovation were dismissed by maintaining (rather than reducing) the high salaries of senior executives (none of whom were apparently dismissed) and by continuing an expensive branding program planned many months before the onslaught of the recession. As someone who was once one of those well paid senior management professionals, and was its senior marketing professional, I feel I must comment on your observations from my now somewhat distant but very clear perch.

First, in these most difficult times when so many people I know are struggling to make ends meet, and the costs of being Jewish are more out of reach of so many, I am dismayed and struggling to understand why UJC was unable to reduce the salaries of the top executives in order to keep the staff complement as complete as possible. I do not claim to know the arguments and conversations of those who struggled to reach the decision they did, but I do know that the public face of their decision damages not only those employees who were dismissed but also the heart and reputation of UJC itself. From my vantage point, the cost of this downsizing is far beyond the dollars saved. The cost of loss of prestige and reputation is inestimable--especially since (as I read) all those recently dismissed were women Could that be true?)

As a marketing professional who feels passionately about organizational brand and reputation, it may come as a surprise that I would find the much publicized UJC rebranding program an untimely abomination. In this environment and with all that has transpired at UJC over the past year or so, creating a new brand should be among the last things they should invest in--at least until they figure out how to rebuild reputation and confidence among their federations, supporters and staff. No one will nor should find a new name, a new logo or a catchy tagline very believable when the organization itself is still the object of such scorn and lack of respect.

I hope the new UJC leadership--and its yet-to-be-named new lead professional-- will have the fortitude to take on the very large task of rebuilding confidence and hope for UJC. It and our communities deserve nothing less.

And you, as the sole voice in the wilderness, deserve the thanks of our communities for speaking out even when it is not popular to do so. Thank you for being a real Jewish leader.

With fond regards,

Gail "


While I appreciate the generous compliments, I have reprinted Gail's letter in its entirety because she has conveyed in such a pitch perfect voice the pain that so many of us feel. Gail Hyman knows the organization and our system so well. She served UJA-Federation of New York, the United Jewish Appeal and then UJC with distinction and with love. She and I and so many of you believe that one cannot just stand back and watch the disintegration of a life's work, whether as a volunteer of as a professional, with horror, doing nothing. Gail now runs a very successful marketing firm; she writes a periodic insightful column appearing in e-jewishphilanthropy.com.


Anthony Weiss has written a fascinating piece on executive compensation cuts at our major non-profits in this week's Forward. http://www.forward.com/articles/107575/ It's a must read with some striking comments from Federation Executives like Barry Shrage, Bill Bernstein and Doug Seserman -- each of whose quotes are echoed in their decision to cut their own compensation. As a counterpoint, Howard Rieger is cited as (a) suffering no shared pain as his compensation has not been reduced and (b) that he is "considering" a pay cut. And when might that be? After his contract expires in August?

Yes, Gail, "so much has changed"...and so much that should hasn't.


Friday, June 12, 2009


I'm a slow learner; I admit it. It has taken me almost three years to fully understand how the current Board Chair operates. It became clear when I read the Leadership Briefing that followed the UJC Board meeting by two days. I knew that Joe Kanfer was running a dictatorship; I didn't comprehend that he was running it by Press Release and Briefing. Now I understand. Here is how it works...

UJC has a Board Meeting. Reports are made -- on Development, volunteerism, branding and data-sharing. There are no votes taken. The report on volunteerism comes not out of a Committee process (more on that below) and is not referred to any Committee for consideration. It becomes nonetheless the most current of prior, now apparently forgotten initiatives, the focal point for UJC's work. Here is what was reported in the Briefing on the Board meeting:

" Between the innovative financial resource development strategy,
new Jewish volunteerism effort, strengthened branding, and
breakthrough data-sharing projects to reach new donors, 'we are
changing into a new organization,' said UJC Board of Trustees
Chair, Joe Kanfer."

The reality is something far, far different. In fact, presentations by the new National Campaign Chair, Michael Lebovitz, suggested a return to the tried and true, and that by the Chair of the Center for Jewish Philanthropy, Toni Young, disclosed only that after a poorly attended meeting that morning, there was nothing yet to report although she has a lot of ideas. The "strengthened branding" meant "take advantage of the fact that 90% of federations use the word 'federation' in their name (duh!!) and the "breakthrough data-sharing" was as to 15,000 names of folks who moved from one federation to another.

As to "volunteerism." Joe probably forgot, but a wonderful Federation and national leader, Cleveland's Barbara Rosenthal, chaired a Volunteerism Task Force of UJC...while Rieger was CEO and Kanfer Chair, it was discharged. (I wrote a paper on volunteerism for the Task Force as did others.) Now, because others -- in particular Repair the World -- are fully engaged, UJC somehow perceives volunteerism as the cause that will make UJC relevant and change it as an organization -- with no prior discussion or study. Having abandoned its own volunteerism initiative, UJC, with no reference to the prior initiative, now embraces it as a central focus of its unfocused work.

I don't know about you, but I sense it's time this roller coaster approach to mission came to a stop. The FLI, whose "finding's," such as they were, drove the 2010 Budget...forgotten except for the penalties associated with membership termination. In fact, at the same meeting at which the 2010 Budget was Board and Assembly approved, Kanfer, et al, apparently forgot that there was no provision whatsoever in that Budget for a volunteerism initiative. Further, Joe and his crew seem totally out of touch with the reality that volunteerism has been a focus of so many of the federation owners for a long, long time -- time enough for a volume of best practices to have been produced. But...never mind.

The brilliant conservative columnist, David Brooks, recently wrote a telling conclusion to a column that has equal applicability to this latest "promise of change" from UJC: "...some say these are just meaningless promises that ignore hard choices and that no one expects to be kept."

It's time for UJC to "change into a new organization" alright..long past time. So, Joe even announces a new name -- in the JTA -- without process or options. Why...because he thinks he can. After all, he's done it before.


Thursday, June 11, 2009


The UJC Board and Assembly convened somewhere in New Jersey last Monday. I decided to wait until UJC spun out its recap of the meeting to publish this brief Summary. They did late yesterday afternoon in a Briefing that in so many ways summarizes a meeting that didn't take place. So, here goes.

The meeting was long and, at times, arduous. Without disclosing matters that might be considered by some to be confidential (leadership would consider "all" to be confidential other than that which it chooses to disclose in some Briefing), let me discuss some of the good and the weird:

~ Joe Kanfer gave a beautiful tribute to Howard Rieger on his five years as CEO and President. Howard was particularly gracious in his response recapping UJC's "value-added" -- in yesterday's Briefing, referred to as "his accomplishments" with the usual hyperbole and both articulated the vital role UJC plays in meeting federations' collective response to issues identified by them. Excellent rhetoric. Here are some of the/"his" accomplishments: "...created a post-merger UJC culture" (that would be fear, malaise....what, exactly?); "solidified UJC Washington" (remember these are Howard's accomplishments); "implemented a low-interest tax-free bond program" (Chicago's); "seriously benchmark federations" (good); the national research (see below); "enhanced our capabilities," "engaged in serious study," "upgraded our work," "exciting new approaches" and on and on ... much like a View in fact.

~ A substantial portion of the Board's time was spent on "Volunteerism and the Community." Superb presentations with appropriate references to the Young Leadership's New Orleans "Mitzvah Day" totally ignored the reality that tens if not hundreds of federations have already embarked on engaging their leadership, prospects, young and older in volunteer activities. There are federation "best practices" that today could be brought to bear on the exciting opportunities offered to volunteer on Jewish community projects as well as those of the general community. It was surprising that the presenters failed to highlight the on-going volunteer work in and of the federations and then failed to connect the funds as we raise them as the highest work of "volunteerism" that there is. Concern was expressed that UJC might be duplicating the on-going excellent work of the Jewish Fund for Justice and Repair the World, founded in March by major foundations. I would not worry.

What I would worry about is that with no process, just a set of presentations, UJC has determined its focus du jour -- forget NextGen, forget Israel/Overseas, forget the FLI -- now Joe Kanfer demands Volunteerism so "volunteerism" it shall be. Forget that Repair the World is already engaged and grant making, forget that so many federations are already engaged around North America and "best practices" in the Volunteerism arena are readily available, Akron doesn't do it, I guess, so Joe figures no one does. I wouldn't be a bit surprised, would you, that the focus of the GA will be.... da da da dah da dah...Volunteerism?! It never stops, does it?

~ While I would leave the interpretation of the Brand Research data to others -- and UJC's Marketing Senior Vice President, Adam Smolyar, made an excellent presentation -- there were daunting findings that should concern every federation (even though the research was not done by federation). Perceptions of federation -- as trustworthy, responsible, efficient, etc. -- vary considerably from the respondents' characterization of absolute importance. And misperceptions abound. There are critically important results in the research; how UJC and the federations use and apply these results (assuming they don't conclude -- "oh, that's not us, that's _____") will ultimately determine whether the gross investment in this Initiative was worth the cost.

But, disclosed in the research is the reality that the UJC moniker hasn't made a dent in the communal perception of our national system. This finding, with no discussion or process whatsoever, apparently entitles the Board Chair to tell the press that a new name will be forthcoming this fall -- The Jewish Federations of North America. Catchy -- just don't try to put it on the back of your softball jersey. Apparently Joe has run it up his personal flagpole and his claque saluted. So, let's see -- The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, a member of The Jewish Federations of North America. Joe noted to the JTA that, hey, "...most (90%) federations already include 'federation' in their names." An epiphany. (Remember the name "UJA?" I remember Joe coming to Chicago and representing to our leadership that that was a name he would support. Joe forgot. Also forgotten -- the Chair cannot merely impose a name change; there is a process to be followed. [But, see above.])

~ There was enough time for a Budget discussion. Some tough questions were asked -- by the Network leadership objecting to the charges imposed upon them and disproportionate to the costs of Network overhead; no provision for unpaid Dues and, thereby, no realistic answer to the question "where will the money come from if a number of federations reduce or do not pay their Dues," among others. Apparently there is no present contemplation of taking more dollars "off the top;" pushed on the question, the Treasurer responded that staff is already evaluating alternatives. A shout out to Michael Gelman: how many federations have advised UJC that they cannot or will not pay full Dues in 2010? One, two...or 31 or more? And, while you are at it: how many federations have not paid UJC Dues in whole or in part in 2009? 2008? 2007? You know, Michael, over the years you have served as Treasurer and you know as well that this is not the proprietary information of UJC's Officers; it is information that should be available to the Owners, your bosses. Oh, yes, the Budget passed both Board and Delegate Assembly.

You are up to speed.


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Q.E.D. and R.I.P.

Here is an opportunity for Joe Kanfer and Howard Rieger -- put pen to paper and write me or this Blog and list the accomplishments of UJC over your three and four years of "leadership" for all of us to read. I will print every word without redaction. What is new and compelling? What is your legacy? Is UJC better off today than when you went to work on its/our behalf? How has what you have done strengthened the federation system or changed UJC for the better? I assume it will be a very, very short letter.

Some recent examples of UJC's drive toward its own irrelevance:

In an article in the May 22, 2009, editions of The New York Times, Brandeis Halts Retirement Payments, the VP for Public Affairs at a National non-profit association, was quoted as follows: "There is a perception that the nonprofit world is maybe a gentler, kinder world than corporate. So some people perceive this (the cut-off of pension contributions) as a breach of faith..." "Gentler, kinder..?" The gentleman should come visit UJC, 25 Broadway, NY, NY.

We read two weeks ago that at Boston's Combined Jewish Philanthropies, in addition to significant budget and programmatic cuts, that Federation was "imposing" a 7% cut in compensation and a mandatory short-term furlough program, Washington had already done so, Chicago's Senior Management had seen a self-imposed salary rollback of its most senior professionals, and on and on. But, at a "kinder and gentler" UJC, the Budget Chair, soon to be Chair of the Executive, opined that such a compensation reduction would be "bad for morale" -- instead we'll fire 31 staff members.

UJC's leaders constant refrain -- "more donors and more dollars" -- has been repeated so often as to be meaningless even as these should be UJC's twin focus. It was reported last week that "...GM has been hemorrhaging customers for decades. Since 1980, it has been losing almost one percentage point of market share every year." GM looks like a winner compared to what has happened to our donor base under UJC's stewardship. We are in the midst of an horrific economy but, nonetheless, UJC's own data disclose that under this leadership, the number of donors to the Annual Campaign has reduced to 297,000, a catastrophe far beyond the economy. At merger we weren't doing well -- we were down to about 600,000 donors. UJC has seen that number drop by more than half while all its leaders have done is talk about it and "tsk...tsk.". And, what is UJC doing about it? What has UJC done about it? It talked about it and talked about it and talked about it some more. If there is any area upon which UJC could have focused and, perhaps, made a real difference, it is this one. Offered an opportunity by a NextGen megadonor to create an e-philanthropy effort at no cost, UJC walked the mega-donor out the door. If words were donors, UJC would be a success. But, that's not all on the donor acquisition front.

About ten days ago, in one of its Briefings, the organization proudly announced: UJC Helps Federations Reach Out to Donors. In describing its "New Move" program whereby federations share info about donors who have moved (get it "New Move"/"move'?) "...from one Federation territory to another," 15,377 new addresses changed hands. Good, right? Well, not so much even as it became a featured item on UJC's Board Agenda yesterday. Still it is a start.I have learned that the U.S Postal Service offers any licensee connected to its network the outgoing and incoming address of everyone who reports their move to the Postal Service. There are at least two dozen companies in the United States that could provide this information on every move of every Jewish household almost immediately. UJC, reinventing a small part of a big wheel.

Then, there is the Network of non-federated communities...Shandagate. 400 non-federated communities. Created by United Jewish Appeal in the 90's, today these 100's of small communities with no staff, serviced by UJC, raise a little over $8 million. While Network lay leaders have sought a reconciliation of the costs deducted from its fund raising, they met resistance. Then it was learned that UJC will deduct $2.3 million from this $8 million raise (up from $2.1 million in the 2008-2009 Budget, increasing to 30% of funds raised at a time UJC is ostensibly reducing its Budget overall by 18%!!) The reality that the Network funds raised are to be immediately transmitted to JAFI/JDC according to their agreement on the "split" of allocated core dollars, makes clear that UJC is taking more dollars away from its two partners not only with no discussion with them, but with no discussion with the Network leaders who raise these precious funds to begin with. Nice.

We have commented on the terrible deconstruction of UJC, the confusion of rhetoric with achievement, of leadership with ownership and the growing disengagement of UJC from its real owners. We have cited chapter and verse of (a) how this came about and (b) what steps might be taken to rebuild United Jewish Communities. Joe Kanfer is an avid fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who themselves deconstructed in the Division finals of the NBA Championships two weeks ago. The Cavs' owner, Dan Gilbert, according to The New York Times, has a collection "...of colorful aphorisms that guide his entrepreneurial philosophy." One, cited in the article, is as follows: "There's our philosophy, and everything else sits on top of that. Who we are doesn't change much based on the business." There's the rub. KanferRieger were unwilling or unable or both to ever understand the philosophy that is at the core of federations' work and they tried to effect change in which they and their cadre believed but no one else. At the United Jewish Communities Board meeting yesterday, Kanfer, perhaps misspeaking, perhaps conscious, announced that "...there is no longer the need for consensus" on either a specific issue or all of them. So, there it is.

As has become the "tradition" at UJC (other than talking out of all sides of its organizational mouth on almost every issue imaginable), the Monday Board meeting became a focal point for rushing out papers/"plans" for so many Departments. There was clearly a mandate within UJC to "get these out" before they could be reviewed with lay leadership, debated or discussed. And, so they were -- a Development Report and Plan, a "major initiative" of Jewish Service, a Domestic Affairs Overview...none bad, none particularly new -- but there is nothing wrong with old wine in new bottles if the wine was of a great vintage. This wine had already oxidized. Read the Reports and tell me what you think.

And the Search...of course. After all these months, the original and clear intent of the UJC leadership to turn their backs on reaching out to the best and brightest within our system has culminated in turning to Jerry Silverman -- wrapped in a bright and shiny "outside the box." (The absolute certainty that the current leadership has that they -- and only they -- have all of the answers continues to amaze me as much as does the fact that so many bright lay leaders follow them like sheep.) If, of course, these leaders can make a deal with Silverman (and inasmuch as they treat our money as their own, there is no doubt they can make a deal), the current head of Jewish camping will become the new professional leader of the federation system. Let us hope that (a) he is a quick study and (b) knows that he must turn the Titanic around quickly before the current leadership takes it under.

The results, as they say, have spoken, speak and will speak for themselves.



Saturday, June 6, 2009


It appears that UJC, whose leaders so violently oppose "leaks" to the press, have leaked their Search process results to the press themselves. Jacob Berkman's May 26 article in JTA follows, then some comments.

"UJC closing in on new leadership team
By Jacob Berkman · May 26, 2009, JTA

In the coming days, the leadership picture of the central organization of the North American Jewish federation system is expected to become clearer.

Ever since the CEO of the United Jewish Communities, Howard Rieger, announced that he would be leaving his post at the end of August, the big question around the organization has been “Who will replace Howard?” Now it appears that a decision could be made within the next week or so, according to several sources.

For months it was rumored that Misha Galperin, the executive vice president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, was the front-runner for the spot. But, according to several sources, he is out of the running.

Though other names have been floated, such as Jehuda Reinharz, the president of Brandeis University, and Morlie Levin, the national executive vice president of Hadassah, the name with the most buzz now seems to be that of Jerry Silverman, the president of the Foundation for Jewish Camp.

Silverman would be an interesting choice. He has received universal praise for his work in turning the camp foundation into one of the most successful and innovative Jewish organizations, and has helped pump tens of millions of dollars into developing the Jewish camping world, in the process attracting tens of thousands of children who had not attended Jewish overnight camps.
He also would be the first professional head of the UJC that came from completely outside the federation system (Rieger and his two predcessors served as chief executives of big-city Jewish federations before joing UJC). So Silverman is not necessarily a safe choice in terms of appeasing a federation system whose lay leadership is putting intense pressure on the national organization to downsize and become more efficient.

It has been rumored for months that members of the UJC search committee seeking Rieger's replacement favor bringing in an outsider -- eliciting grumbles from some of the old guard of the federation system’s lay leadership who would like to see the spot filled by an executive from one of the largest federations.

Hiring an outsider also could further rankle some who already were upset with the other major leadership news from earlier this month -- that a nominating committee had tapped Kathy Manning to be the next chair of the umbrella organization of the North American Jewish federation system.

Manning, who has served as the chair of the UJC’s executive committee since 2006 and heads the search committee searching for Rieger's replacement, is a reformer who wants to see the federation system and the UJC evolve -- and the favored choice of outgoing chairman Joe Kanfer.

If her nomination is approved at the annual UJC General Assembly, which will be held in Washington in November, she would become the first woman selected to the organization's top volunteer post since its creation from the merger of the United Jewish Appeal and the Council of Jewish Federations in 1999.

But there is a potential pitfall: Manning is from Greensboro, N.C., a small-market federation town.

As much resistance as Kanfer has faced during the past two years for his sometimes aggressive moves to overhaul the UJC and bring the country’s federations in line with the national organization, the CEO of GOJO Industries (the maker of Purell hand sanitizer) has perhaps has received even more pushback from some corners of the federation world because he is from a small-market federation, Akron, Ohio.

Some argue that a system that receives most of its money from large federation markets such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Baltimore should have a lay leader from an area with mega money.

Time will tell if Manning, a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Michigan Law School, runs into more of the same.

It's not an easy time to be the top lay or professional leader of the organization.

The UJC recently went through its second round of layoffs in the past year, with 31 employees let go as part of an 18-percent budget cut -- from $37 million this year to $30.3 in 2009-10. Meanwhile, the organization is still struggling to define its mission."


Consider this writer among the "rankled" but for reasons other than those about which Berkman speculated. The Search Committee met last Wednesday.

First, some of the names thrown out there in the JTA article (and in prior leaks from within the UJC Commitee) have never indicated that they are or were candidates. As an example, for it to be suggested that Misha Galperin, a wonderful and creative Federation CEO, whose own life story and life's work inspires, to be deemed "out of the running" when he, as I am informed, never subjected himself to "the running," is sad. I am informed that at least one other "finalist" was never a candidate, as well.

Second, the size of Kathy Manning's community should have no bearing on her service as UJC Board Chair. Some of our system's best leaders have come from smaller communities -- Marvin Lender, Len Strelitz, z'l, and countless others. But some focus on the role that Kathy played in placing UJC in the circumstances she, Michael Gelman and a new CEO will face -- with UJC rapidly descending down the precipice of failure -- might have been more appropriate. Now Kathy will have the opportunity to demonstrate her leadership skills without the KanferRieger yoke, if that's what it was. May she prove to be up to the task of reconstructing UJC.

But, at a time that requires a CEO who speaks the language of federations, is of and from the federations, the very fact that an excellent reporter has been told that a true "outsider" will be the anointed one, speaks volumes not about the "outsider" but about UJC's leaders' disengagement from its owners. Although there are some terrific federations leaders on it, when UJC structures a Search Committee to include its present lay leaders, and a number of their acolytes, none of whom have demonstrated that they understand the federations which own UJC or care much for the federations' agenda, the process that follows is too strongly influenced by their "wants" as opposed to UJC's real needs. The Search Committee (or whatever "Screening Subcommittee") may have been "wowed" by Jerry Silverman's presentation and charm (two prerequisites for the position) and his success in leading, even transforming, the national camping movement, but when UJC most needs a professional leader who can hit the ground running, who knows the federations, who knows the UJC staff, who has demonstrated a commitment to Israel and overseas and knows the system's partners -- those basic qualifications appear not to have factored into the decision -- that is not what we're going to get. Silverman should be congratulated for having sought out a number of Large City Executives in this process, to learn of and from them, but that is not a qualification for CEO only excellent evidence of how sensitive he is to his future constituency. We can only wish him well if Silverman is the choice as JTA has projected and if he accepts this daunting challenge.

I fear for UJC's present; I fear for its future. I fear it when "out of the box" thinking trumps good sense.


Thursday, June 4, 2009


Several correspondents have checked in with e-mails commenting on this morning's Post that cited the contempt with which UJC has treated the Network.

One pointed out that based on the current Dues formula applied by UJC to the Member Federations, the Network should be paying Dues of no more than $320,000 based upon UJC's current $38 million Budget. This would effect a $2 million reduction -- and a consequent increase in allocations to the Joint and JDC -- to the Network.

Another serious leader wrote: "Your analysis fell short. With no executive in charge of the Network, UJC actually increased its 'contribution' to the UJC Budget. It didn't adjust for the reduced employee census. A double hit."

A third merely wrote: "Shandagate describes this situation perfectly. How do the federations, including my own, tolerate this stuff. It's terrible." And, a fourth asked: "How can this leadership ask us to trust them, to promote them?"

Does anyone out there think that Shandagate is permissible?



The UJC Network of non-federated communities has continued to be an heroic outpost of committed lay leaders whose love of People and our work, with professional support, since formed by UJA, has raised well over $100 million. This has been accomplished in hundreds of outposts where the contact between national organization and a determined laity has raised as much as $12 million dollars at its height to close to $8 million in 2008. We already noted in a prior Post that its dedicated Executive of many years was one of the women terminated among the 31 professionals and staff in May. The Network's fund-raising extends from Alaska to Puerto Rico and every place in between -- but what UJC has done to the Network is a real shanda.

Some perspective: New York has, understandably, the largest Annual Campaign in North America and, consequently, the largest Dues -- some $6 million plus; my federation, with the second largest Campaign -- $80 million -- bears Dues in excess of $3.4 million. To my knowledge, the next largest Dues amount is charged to Los Angeles which has determined, as of the date of this Post, to pay a maximum of $1 million. Its campaign is around $40 million. Bear these Dues amounts in mind...because the Network, with 55,000 Jews raising about $8 million will be charged $2.4 million as "Dues" (up from $2.1 million). The Network, with 55,000 Jews and a Campaign of approximately $8 million will pay the third highest Dues amount of any Federation in North America.

But that's not all. For years the Network has been denied access to the Budget information as to what overhead was being charged to the "Network Campaign." Its professionals did not know it; its lay leaders' requests for this information were denied them. They knew their overhead when UJA created the Network and presumed the overhead charge continued at about 8% within UJC. They did not know that the funds they raised were treated by this lay and professional leadership as a Bank from which UJC could withdraw funds at its whim to the extent of 30% -- with no accountability to the lay leadership that were raising these precious dollars and assuming that 90% and more were being transmitted to JDC and JAFI.

The Network has had no representation on the UJC Budget Committee (but I challenge anyone to find the specifics of the charge to the Network in the UJC Budget Book). It has a non-voting representative on the Executive Committee. It's Executive was fired without any consultation with the Network's Co-Chairs. UJC has merely assumed that it could raid the Network's coffers in perpetuity with zero accountability.

I know many of the Network's lay leaders. We share a passion for Jewish continuity and for the integrity of our communities' instrumentality. Shanda is not a strong enough word for what has occurred here...but, it will do. No doubt UJC's leaders will come a'running to the Network leaders with a plea -- "we didn't know about this" (although Kathy Manning was the Budget Chair for three of the years this shanda was being perpetrated and her successor served as Budget Chair the past three years. If either or both claim they "knew nothing" what does that say about them as the stewards of our precious dollars?), "give us a year to work this out," "trust us, we're 'new' leadership and we'll make it all better." But, because the Network is not a Federation, it doesn't appear that its leaders can be threatened, as Los Angeles' and others (Detroit, Palm Beach, South Palm Beach, etc., etc.) with loss of Lion of Judah, Young Leadership Cabinet, etc.

No doubt UJC's apologists will explain this abuse away...if they can. I can picture every lay and professional leader disclaiming any knowledge that this was happening. It's Shandagate after all.

Do you think that this abuse of power, this budgeting in the shadows, will be a topic of discussion at the UJC Board meeting on Monday...led by the Treasure and, now, Chair of the Executive nominee or by the Chair of the Executive, past Treasurer and, now, Chair of the Board nominee? If I were a betting man....

This place needs a real power wash.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009


It never stops. Having come to the realization that with close to 25% of the federations unwilling or unable to pay 2010 Dues, a percentage that grows and grows, UJC will be left with a gap between Budget and income that cannot be bridged, these are the most desperate of times for a leadership of UJC that has no Plan A, let alone a Plan B. Given that a lack of communication creates a perfect Petri dish for the development of rumors, here's the latest...

Let me be accurate, there was/is a Plan A. It is still embodied in a Draft Dues Proposal that was taken off the table before the planned consideration by the Executive Committee in April -- removed from the table because the Proposal, though ill-conceived from the outset, was conditioned upon prior discussion and approval by JAFI and JDC. As readers of this Blog or, more important,in the press, know, UJC's leaders never to this day have sought such a meeting with the leadership of either of the organizations called "partners," but not treated as such. In Rieger's last communication on the subject, in fact, he ended by essentially telling the Joint and JAFI "call us, we won't call you." And this is the real travesty -- had UJC lifted up the phone and asked for a meeting with JAFI/JDC before it released the Dues Proposal, or if it had done so over the past five weeks since the release of the Dues Proposal, it is conceivable that an agreement could have been reached that would have benefitted UJC, JAFI and JDC. But UJC's leaders couldn't bring themselves to make that call.

So, why write about this today? Because, given the UJC Budget/income gap, growing every day, the only source for bridging it is the overseas allocation. (It is a terrible truism that as federations have used the overseas allocation to, e.g., pay UJC Dues and, certainly, their own budgets and local allocations, now it is their parent organization that senses it must do so. (The difference, however, is that federationbs can do so, UJC cannot because the funds sent to it have been designated for Israel and overseas allocations.)

Given the lack of leadership, the lack of advocacy, the lack of relevancy, UJC is on the verge of collapse, and the only...only...way it can survive, if that's the word for it, is to gain approval from the federations that provide the allocations for JDC and JAFI to siphon more dollars from those organizations for UJC's overhead with no benefit to JAFI/JDC. . (When JDC leadership saw UJC's hand extended toward the "cookie jar" and called that leadership on it, the hue and cry not only from UJC "leaders" but from some federation CEO's was a shrei gevalt but no argument on the facts.) How could UJC Budget without consideration of the income sources...without consideration of the revenue sources to support the Budget, you might ask? Because we allow them to.

So, friends, while I hope I am totally off base, I am convinced that the absolute precondition of April -- that JDC and JAFI agree -- implicit in the Draft Dues Proposal will be forgotten in June, set aside and someone or ones will propose the "off the top" methodology.

If this Proposal is revived, you will hear it argued that there is "no choice" (even though the staff and Treasurer had come forward with a Budget that had $2 million in additional cuts somehow rejected unilaterally by the lame duck CEO) if UJC is to survive or it will be argued that "we have to do it to attract a top-flight 'out of the box' new CEO" or that "we can't put UJC's 'new leadership' in a circumstance where they haven't got a chance," and, of course, ein breira -- all arguments du jour without reference to JAFI, JDC, the donors or the federations. Further, the threshold premise of this "off the top" Dues Proposal -- federations' commitment to restore to the core allocations in like or greater amount than the Dues reduction from that core allocation -- will be "lost in translation," moving from a mandatory component of the Proposal to a "strong recommendation" without force or sanction...and with no prior discussion with the Joint or Agency.

Out of all of this, should the Dues Proposal be adopted, the patient may be saved, but surely the system that so many of us have built will be destroyed. Ignored as always will be an astounding chain of changes -- Missions moved to Israel, back to New York; defenestrate Development, enhance Development; place the Campaign under Consulting Services, place Consulting Services under the campaign; Blue Knot is our gold standard program, Blue Knot is gone; NextGen is our highest priority, NextGen is ignored; and on and on the dervish whirls. So, let's "rescue" this thing without regard for the consequences or the implications?

Perhaps, if this is to be the end product of this leadership, a new national system will emerge from the ashes of the old. One that is truly of and by the federations, donors, JDC and JAFI. That is truly the only hope, after all -- a true "coalition of the willing."