Tuesday, August 31, 2010


So I posed the question whether we could stage Operation Exodus today? I concluded for variety of reasons, including the condition of our national organization, that we could not. In a brilliant Comment, one Anonymous commentator violently disagreed:

"That is a ridiculous question. Well, of course we could stage Exodus.

First, we would need to bring the Global Planning Table together. We would have to agree what share of the budget would go to the Ethiopian National Project, Sheatufim and JCPA for advocacy of some form or another.

We would then create a worthless competition pitting JDC against JAFI to see who could undermine the other for their share of the "split". We would criticize both JAFI and JDC for having any planning meetings at all that did not invite the JFNA Board Chair

We would vet each proposal and make sure that the planning table's personal friends each got a share of the pie. Then we would see what Large Federations wanted to unload currently funded programs that they could bury in the new Exodus campaign to get off their funding backs - oh, and by the way, we would have to hire a few employees that the Large Federations wanted to feather bed off their payroll. Or some past failed consultants.

Of course the campaign would be headed by a wonderful volunteer whose community currently only gives 4.7% of their campaign overseas.

Some of the Federations would have wonderfully successful campaigns! But some of them would never actually forward the proceeds and we would have a gap of 35% between what was "raised" and what arrived.

And then would come the cash collections: we would put together a "Collection Table", bang on the table, go home and declare it a victory.

We would schedule an opening Exodus campaign cabinet meeting. The Board Chair would be waiting to see if he/she had to get on the plane to come or wait and see if the meeting would postpone and the trip would be unnecessary.

Steinhardt and the Bronfman’s would decide that they wanted ExodusNext to be a part of Birthright, because Exodus will only be successful if the kids go on a holiday trip to Israel.

Everybody else would either write their check directly to JDC or JAFI or to the new organization that may emerge someday

There is often great truth in satire. Isn't there?

Friends, I have been overwhelmed by the e-mail responses to my earlier Post on the subject. If JFNA's leaders cared about your opinions...we already know how they feel about mine...they might learn of the growing concern men and women...leaders in their federations and significant donors...have with how our national organization offers no comfort that, unlike UJA or CJF, it could lead us during times that call for leadership. We have a reactive JFNA -- except in the proactive marketing tripe like #ish, in the ridiculous transfer of a small group of Yemenite Jews to Monsey, NY and in the great work of its Washington Office and in leading our response to disasters -- to the conversion issue (about which they had been forewarned on these pages and in more credible places months earlier, to the catastrophic decline in allocations to the core budgets of JDC/JAFI (even though they had been urged to take action for months if not years), to the failure to respond to the economic crisis in a manner that might have aided the federations, and on and on.

And, so this crisis will grow so long as JFNA has a lay leadership disconnected from its constituency.


Saturday, August 28, 2010


My friend Harvey Barnett and I co-Chair Chicago's 20th Anniversary Commemoration Committee of Operation Exodus. As I was preparing a brief report on the Exodus Campaign, the last part of which I was privileged to Chair for our system, I began to reflect on whether we in North America could successfully mount such an effort today. What if rather than 20 years ago, we were at this moment on the cusp of the Exodus of 1,000,000 of our People from captivity? How would or could we respond?

First a look back. As Gerry Nagel, z'l, wrote so brilliantly as a witness to history in his history, Operation Exodus, in 1989 the Government of Israel turned to UJA and to Marvin Lender, then Chair-elect of the United Jewish Appeal, and a mega-donor, to assure that UJA would plan and mount a national campaign to support the Israeli Government's commitment of $3 billion to deliver the Jews from behind the Iron Curtain (a curtain which opened shortly after the Campaign began). Lender, in turn, could count on the outreach of Max Fisher, z'l, Les Wexner, the Bronfmans, Tisches, Crowns, Annenbergs and so many others to whom they would reach -- all of whom were represented in or available to the reach of UJA lay leaders. The UJA professional staff was trained in the art of solicitation and the cause was compelling. At the personal invitation of Lender, Fisher and Wexner,the most major donors raised $58,000,000 at what became known as the "Breakfast of Champions" (and even more when the numbers pouring out of the then FSU had increased beyond our dreams at what would be known as the Rabin Dinner two years later where $67 million was raised in one sitting). UJA lay leaders disbursed across the country to inspire and solicit -- even ahead of the federations' "approval" of a $420 million Campaign Goal (which was later increased and, at the Campaign's end, approached $1 billion).

Let's fast forward twenty years. Assume as before, that a grass roots and organized communal advocacy effort for the the freedom of our People in a literal captivity has been on-going and that the Government of Israel perceives that the conditions are ripe for Operation Exodus 2010. What might happen today -- the UJA is no longer. Marvin Lender has been invited out of the system, Max Fisher has passed away. First, where would the Government turn? To the Conference of Presidents I would think where Malcolm would point them in the direction of JFNA. And there the sense of urgency would be processed into dust by its leadership.

I remember meetings in the Prime Minister's Office over the past decade where the Prime Minister urgently asked for our system's support and a then UJC Chair responded: "We'll go back and talk to the federations and get back to you." Not even a "Prime Minister, you can be assured of UJC's leadership's support and we will urge our federations to join in this effort."

Twenty years ago, the men and women in leadership of UJA saw the crisis as an opportunity to write a brilliant chapter in modern Jewish history, relied on JAFI and JDC with trust born of years of working together, and acted with the Government of Israel. Today, if experience is to be our guide, JFNA would tell the Government, "we have to take this to the federations and get back to you" -- as some suggested even then. Asked "when," the answer would be "we'll get back to you." With contacts with major Foundations through what's called the new federation CEO/JFNA/foundation "Tarrytown Process," where Large City Federation Executives and the JFNA CEO meet with the largest of Foundations which participate, JFNA has some "talking privileges" but it lacks the powerful presence that UJA once had to convene the most major of donors to kick-start a Campaign -- it couldn't do it during the Israel Emergency Campaign (the success of which was the result of federations' [not the then UJC's) recognition of the crisis or Operation Promise (the failure of which could be laid at UJC's leaders' feet) and its links are even weaker today. JFNA would also demand weeks to "vet the budget" for Operation Exodus and to "determine priorities" -- a process it would put in the hands of a "Special Task Force" or "Summit." (That would be part of the "we'll get back to you" spirit.)

Twenty years ago there were bonds of trust between the national Jewish federation-centric organizations and the federations themselves; there were strong lay leaders in every community of every City-size engaged with the national organizations, with JAFI and the Joint. Today the fundamental trust so vital to federations' and their national organization's is breaking down everywhere -- our donors choose to "bowl alone," and our federations follow; JFNA lacks any focus, rousing itself only to deal with periodic crises -- hurricane relief, the "conversion crisis." Think of who our leaders were then; and look at the ones we have today.

To me, the question I posed for this Post, sadly answers itself. The answer begs the question -- how do we make federations relevant today and how do the federations then make JFNA relevant to them?

What do you think?


Friday, August 27, 2010


Since my strong (my word) and "sarcastic" (others) take on this year's 15th Annual Jewish Leadership Forum, I have learned that 2010 represented a year of real and positive change for the JLF -- the kind of change that were it happening elsewhere at JFNA, we would have an organization in which to take great pride.

I kvetched that after 15 years, it was long past time for there to be a plan and a purpose for the JLF that has heretofore been lacking. I learned that new leadership, with no knowledge of my suggestions, and having examined at the least the 2009 Aspen JLF, determined to effect changes and did. The JLF Plan included:

Objective: Present a world class conference to continue the education and development of committed philanthropists with regard to their Judaism (especially reinforcing the commandment of tzedakah) and philanthropy. There will be an element of reward/recognition for participants’ contributions to the Jewish community, and the conference will also serve to re-energize participants’ commitment to tzedakah.

Description: A three day conference, in a compelling venue, with a mix of: presentations and discussion panels led by experts (some of whom may be drawn from the participants); group discussions and workshops/working sessions led by participants; and Jewish study/spirituality. A significant portion of the programming will be designed to foster connections amongst participants so they can help, advise and support one another, and share philanthropic ideas and best practices.

Target Audience (30-100): Tzedakists (philanthropists motivated by the Jewish commandment of tzedakah) who have demonstrated a commitment to generously giving of both their time and financial resources, ideally in a leadership capacity.

With a careful selection of participants and a strong and lengthy "message from our sponsor," and a well thought-out survey post-JLF, I, the cynic, have every confidence that the JLF, part of JFNA's "Operation Breakthrough" can be a building block upon which to construct the bridge to the next generation of federation leaders and philanthropists. (More on Operation Breakthrough in a Post next month.)

How did this happen? A committed lay Chair of Operation Breakthrough, Gil Palter, Gil's wife, one of this year's JLF Co-Chairs, and a brilliant young JFNA professional, Danyelle Neuman, took the bit in their teeth and did it themselves. Perhaps that's the way that change will finally take place within JFNA.

Kal ha'kavod.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010


~ The Boston Jewish Week scooped the rest of Jewish media and the Washington Federation disclosing that a senior professional at the CJP (the Boston federation) had been offered the D.C. Federation CEO position and had turned it down -- perhaps as a result of receiving a promotion in Boston. As is typical in these circumstance, the story evolved into "who told you about that" and "why did you print it" rather than with the substance that one flailing federation had reached out to a a failing one for the CEO position to succeed Dr. Misha Galperin. Shame. Shame. How terrible. Tsk. Tsk.

In Jewish communal life there are never...never ever..."candidates" for CEO positions because of the absolute shame that would attach to a disclosed interviewee if he or she was not "the chosen one." (And, the converse -- the shame to the federation having extended an offer that is rejected.) For some, the selection process in their minds is the Jewish communal equivalent of the Lebron James (formerly "The King") search for a new home. So, candidates, for that is what they are, don't interview, they "consult" with a Search Committee or "offer their views." If one can't be assured of absolute confidentiality, the Mandel Center Excellence assured all after the Washington embarrassment, they won't "participate in the process." They wrote: "As is standard practice, we will maintain the confidentiality and integrity of the process and will not publicly discuss details of potential candidates, nor will we address unsubstantiated rumors that could potentially harm people." One would expect exactly that.

So, the press reveals an offer was made for the D.C. top job and the Mandel search folks (who, it is rumored, may have excluded highly qualified, potential candidates from consideration in the process in order to protect others they favored), JFNA's consultants, responded by condemning this interference in the process. D.C.'s leaders issued a statement that the job had not been offered to anyone (of course not) and the one who received or didn't receive, the "offer" or "non-offer" received a promotion in his home federation.

~ More to the point, JFNA continues to be run as if its work is none of your business -- none of the business of so many of the federations that pay the annual and outrageous tab. JFNA is, after all a "public charity." The fiduciary obligations of its lay and professional leaders demand -- this is not optional -- that its work be totally transparent. Yet, these past two days, JFNA convened a small group of select leaders -- lay and professional -- to devise a set of strategies that might bring our system back to its collective responsibilities. I applaud the purpose...but the methodology, not so much. Excluded from this meeting were a super-majority of federations (perhaps they were "represented" by leaders of the City-size groups, perhaps not). The paper which framed the "debate" was not shared with anyone excluded from this two-day meeting -- perhaps JFNA leadership numbered the copies and confiscated them at meeting's end to assure "strict confidentiality." The only way many federation leaders learned of this "Summit" was from this Blog -- a wholly unsatisfactory method of communication. The only way we will know the results of this "Summit" will be through some sanitized "Leadership Briefing."

All of you who think this is how the people's business should be conducted -- raise your hands. No, not you Kathy -- we know how you feel.

And, my friends, this is exactly how the "people's business" is done. This is precisely one of the contributing factors to the destruction of trust so vital to federations' vitality. But, don't worry, the secrets are safe -- and, ultimately, that's the most important thing, isn't it?


Sunday, August 22, 2010


In response to our Post -- IT AIN'T OVER UNTIL THE FAT LADY SINGS...Paul wrote that she sang when the merger occurred. I disagreed -- but Used to be Important had some critical insights with which I do agree. Used to be...wrote:

"No, the problem is that there is no Vision. Just lots of badly facilitated UJC and then JFNA 'strategic planning' junk full of meaningless Vision statements. All done for and by an organization without a mandate to lead and devoid of the kind of true national leadership it would need to survive, let alone flourish. There was a vision in the days when UJA and CJF were strong. It endured and endured only to be broken apart by the "Study" demanded at the time (mid-nineties) by a bunch of tired and bored Large City Execs who thought they needed to "own" the system ... whatever that meant. The old Vision of UJA and CJF of collective responsibility was founded on the ridiculously simple concept of Kol Israel Zeh l'Zeh and that united North American, South African, Australian and European Jewry in a grand and common focus. That focus fell to the "importance of local needs"; to "Israel doesn't need us any more" and to all the other oversimplifications of the Study and its authors.

The great national leaders of UJA and CJF were divided. A couple abandoned the Mission and looked out for number one, desperate to attain high office in whatever new entity would emerge. Instead of broad, global thinking and action, the new 'leaders' engaged consultants; changed a name that had a huge franchise and created no foundational strengths for the emerging UJC. Its stature is diminished; its leaders are weak. The Federations campaigns are suffering in many cases and, it seems, the two greatest purveyors of good for Jews in Israel and overseas are treated as insignificant. It worked. The inmates have taken over the running of the asylum."

I agree with so much of what Used to be wrote. I have a sense of my personal mea culpa. At one and the same time the "inmates" have only "taken over the running" of JFNA because they have been permitted to do so by the neglect, disinterest and abandonment of responsibility and obligation by so many who could have (and still could) make a difference. The curative steps that need to be...must be...taken are self-evident. They actually begin tomorrow.

Tomorrow, you may ask? Yes. On the 23rd-24th, the Chair and CEO have invited a group of federation lay and professional leaders to 25 Broadway -- if you haven't been invited, you're not alone. (The participants are a secret known only to Manning and Silverman. I'm betting it's JFNA's secret Coordinating Council and some additional Federation CEOs...but not its Executive Committee -- very bizarre [but, perhaps, they can't be "trusted."]) The focus of this meeting is to be the development of consensus on matters related to the core allocations to our system's partners. Two months ago JFNA was charged with developing this consensus -- you know, by, like, uh, visiting with federation Chairs and CEOs. But, no, they called a meeting. No doubt there will a lot of talk of and commitment to a "Global Planning Table" that JFNA's leaders' assert, contrary to all evidence, was a consensus-driven outcome of a 2009 then UJC Board Retreat at which 1/3rd of the federations were participants (one from west of Missouri) and at which no vote was taken. This meeting will take place with JAFI and the Joint excluded. Hopefully those leaders in attendance who truly recognize how critical this consensus is to the federations as well as to the present and future of JFNA, will save JFNA from itself.



Friday, August 20, 2010


One becomes numb reading of federation struggles, the lack of any intelligence at JFNA about these struggles and, worst, the lack of any intelligence in JFNA to help. (I will assume that JFNA is aware of the pressing problems but is so self-involved in White House briefings, Sheatufim, #ish and other pish, that it has no time.)

Let's look at just some of the crises:

~ Federation A found it necessary to fire 33 staff members last month. There was no outreach by JFNA even after it had sent its best professional campaigner to the community earlier in the year. From my visits there over the years, if JFNA had any lay solicitors, they could have been deployed for a week's worth of major gift suite solicitations. And, were the JFNA Planned Giving & Endowment Department more than the passive area that it has become (or always was), and even though the Federation A Community Foundation (one of the strongest and wealthiest) is within the Federation, further outreach for emergency funding of the community's highest priorities and greatest needs might have been a matter of discussion.

~ The Jewish Exponent reported that "[T]his year, volunteers and professionals described Jewish Federation B's allocation process as downright 'impossible'" as reported by your friendly Fundermentalist. No surprise given the bizarre ever-changing allocations processes dictated there by federation professionals who have lost their way --if they ever had a way. The unrestricted annual campaign in Federation B had dropped by 14% while it is claimed that the "total campaign" only dropped by 2%. (The Jewish populations of Chicago and Federation B are approximately the same. In the same year that Chicago raised $80 million of unrestricted funds through its Annual Campaign, Federation B raised a claimed $27.8 million -- how much of that total was undesignated is unknown.) These results are also an expression of the intra-campaign swing from a "traditional" annual campaign responding to the case for giving to a "designated giving campaign" where donors could contribute as they wish to one or more of a set of thematic giving opportunities, and the termination of key staff (including some who actually understood campaign). Then I read that this federation reelected a respected lay leader as Chair for a fourth term -- apparently repeated communal failure dictates repeated reelection.

I have watched as this federation -- one that once offered so many of its leaders to the national system -- UJA, CJF, UIA, JAFI, the NCSJ, you name it; whose professional leaders over decades were a source of incredible leadership in our national system -- now is in serious disintegration. What does it do? "Refocuses its mission...on fund raising and community priortities." Makes one kinda wonder where its focus has been. Guidance from JFNA? Nah. Results surprising? Hah. There are fantastic leaders in Federation B. Are they being a chance to lead?

In Federation C a community of great potential, the federation raises minmimal funds and flails away. A new CEO is named after a flawed and failed search (which as I recall she led); a past Chair announces that the federation concept is no longer valid -- and publishes it; an annual campaign bottoms out while its JCC drains the community of its resources. Where is JFNA in all of this? Well, it did cancel the GA there and just held one of its Regional Campaign Kick-offs there.


In one comic episode, JFNA transmitted its "How to be a Federation CEO" manual to a federation CEO six months after that CEO took office. Big help. In another, JFNA assigned a mentor for a new Large City CEO. Weeks (or months) later another federation chief professional inquired of a new President: "Who is your mentor?" "You are," was the reply. The point: each federation professional leader is on his or her own. But for the conference calls and infrequent meetings of City-size groupings of federation chief pros, often organized by the CEOs themselves with a JFNA professional in attendance, these professionals are forced to fend for themselves without guidance or assistance. A role for JFNA -- sure. One JFNA is fulfilling in any way? Hardly.

But...among the 57 pages of JFNA Programs in the Budget Book for 2011, there was enough money, a lot of money in fact, to support the training and education of sitting Federation CEOs. There was also plenty for so many other things irrelevant to the federations but apparently extremely important to JFNA. How these dollars will be spent is a continuing mystery. Maybe the JFNA Chair and Budget Chair will involves themselves -- surprise us.

There appears to be a growing "movement" to build the "new federation" without regard to the basic values that must underpin the community instrumentality. In this writer's opinion, to "build" or "rebuild" without regard to the core values and principles and without understanding the history of the federation movement, will doom the enterprise to failure. That's already happening in too many places. And that is both sad and unnecessary. If those at JFNA understood the values and principles that are the foundation stones of the federation movement, they could help. Or, perhaps not.


Thursday, August 19, 2010


Look, at heart I am, like so many of you, a fund raiser -- with all modesty, a damned good one. And, as any good fund raiser knows, you have to be an optimist. I am afraid, however, that our friends at JFNA have taken optimism to a height I can't even approach.

Almost back-to-back two organizations offered environmental analyses that were polar opposites from one another suggesting that one is just totally out of touch with reality -- you guess which.

On August 16, GuideStar USA, the self-styled "...leading source of nonprofit information..." released an all-encompassing economic survey of public charities that revealed, among other things, "...there's no doubt that the nonprofit sector continues to face an incredibly difficult philanthropic environment." The GuideStar report was titled Great Recession Continues to Hurt Nonprofit Sector. This is what Newsweek characterized this week as "the wrath of the relentless present." But to JFNA, even the present is past.

The very next day, on August 17, JFNA issued an important Leadership Briefing -- its title: JFNA RELEASES FIRST POST-RECESSION FEDERATION BENCHMARKING RESULTS. (Emphasis added.)The logical conclusion -- only JFNA and the Obama Administration believe that we are in a "Post-Recession" period. JFNA is busy "...suggesting strategies for growth" and framing its strategies based on the emergence of our philanthropy from "...the 2008-2009 recession"(!!) at a time when most federations I have visited or heard from are in the midst of a continuing struggle to maintain even to survive in the midst of reduced campaigns and falling endowments.

If I were a federation, no matter the City-size, CEO or Chair reading these two studies side-by-side, I would question not just the credibility of an organization of and for the federations which believes its owners are in the "post recession" era but that organization's value to a system in crisis. Is JFNA living in some alternative universe? Have they handed studies like this one over to consultants who consider raw data without any direct knowledge of the realities federations across this continent are facing?

Yes, I recall the days, not so long ago, when federations insisted that then UJC not even use the "R word" as if that avoidance would postpone the impacts of the recessionary flood upon our system's donors, large and small. That was a denial of reality that has now been matched or exceeded by the very suggestion that we, as a system, have emerged from the recession while every other philanthropy and our donors continue to suffer.

If only wishing made it so.


Monday, August 16, 2010


In my last CATCHING UP Post I reflected on the agenda of the Young Leadership Cabinet Retreats wistfully. The fund raising results raise some real questions about the YLC in 2011 and beyond reflecting, as always, on the direction (or, more likely, the lack thereof) of JFNA's Development effort.

Along with so many of you, including the JFNA Board Chair, I served on the Cabinet. I did so at a time that Cabinet membership meant something -- it was "elitist" in the sense of our financial commitments and it demanded capacity giving. The Retreats were intense and emotional. The caucuses were both of those as well -- small rooms, full disclosure, intense...and you didn't leave the small caucus setting until you had satisfied the 4 or five others in the room that your pledge commitment satisfied the others in the room that your gift represented your capacity...and beyond. There was ruach, common purpose, a shared vision and passion. We were propelled from these Retreats into federation leadership if we wanted it.

This year, over 90 men contributed an average of $9,850; over 80 women, an average of $8,500. This is not a reflection on these young leaders or their capacities; it is a reflection of the criteria now being used for YLC membership. And, certainly, many of these young men and women will grow their annual gifts. That's not the point -- the Cabinet was supposed to be a place for those who are already demonstrating leadership and to grow them. I know that in some communities it is not uncommon to find local Campaign Chairs who contribute at these levels -- but I can tell you that those federations' campaigns are in trouble. And when the Cabinet, which graduated so many to Federation and national leadership roles, is populated by those whose capacity is reflected in a gift of less than $10,000 (and these 2011 gifts represented increases in excess of 25%!!), we have the strongest evidence of our institutional weakness.

Our friend Paul Jeser wrote:

"richard - of everything you have written, this 'update' about the YLC is the most depressing - and saddening.

Back in 'the day', us small/intermediate city Fed Execs looked to the YLCs as a most important part of the system. It was the glue that tied us all together.

The YLCs were the breeding ground for future leadership - especially from the smaller Feds who did not have the same leadership/donor strength the larger Feds had.

That the Feds 'allowed' this to happen, it seems to me, is more proof that the Fed system, as we knew it to be, just is no longer viable."

What did Michael Lebovitz, Linda Hurwitz and Jerry Silverman tell these leaders at their Retreat: "you inspire us?" "I am reenergized by being here with you." "It's your century; thanks for sharing it with us." All of the above"? It used to be true. Not any more.

One of our correspondents has described his/her pain that this lay leadership and their predecessors "...have taken something beautiful and desecrated it." Nowhere is that more tragic and more true than what has happened to the Young Leadership Cabinets. This constituency was the gem, the diamonds...turned into zircons. Did this occur by neglect? Through a lack of attention? Through a failed competence?

Perhaps I now better understand why a "highlight" on the YLC Program this year was a "Casino Night." The Cabinets were entrusted by us to this leadership; by failing them, they have failed us. We have lost our way. Oy vey.


Sunday, August 15, 2010


In discussions over the last week, I have learned JFNA's perspective on the my Post which, framed as a letter to the Board Chair, stated that she had acted unilaterally in rejecting two "split" agreements reached by the Jewish Agency and the Joint:

~ Nothing was done unilaterally. The JFNA perspective: in both 2008 and 2009, the now Board Chair consulted with some form of "leadership Committee" (which included at least two Large City CEOs)and with leaders of the City-size federation groups before responding to the "partners."

~ After consulting these "leadership Committees," at least in 2009, she rewrote the JAFI/JDC Agreement in part in an effort to "help" the partners reach an agreement that would be "acceptable" to the federations.

~ At no time, either in 2008 or 2009, were JAFI and/or JDC consulted by the now Board Chair or anyone else from UJC/JFNA with regard to any issues in the agreements they had reached through their negotiations before they were advised, in 2008, that their agreement had been rejected by a "leadership Committee" or, in 2009, they received a revised agreement not marked to show the changes made.

I hope this clarifies the record.

I have written over 500 Posts since January 1, 2009. It is true that I have raised issues as to UJC's and JFNA's leadership skills and JFNA's lack of focus or follow-up and understanding of the system they were chosen to lead, among other matters of substance. But, at no time, have I questioned their commitment, as volunteers or professionals, or ridiculed them for their appearance or intellect. I am a firm believer in "people in glass houses..." Anyone who suggests that I have can only be doing so merely to divert attention from the substance of what I (and those who have offered Comments) have written.

Finally, apparently no one at JFNA reads this Blog. Posts are sometimes sent to them Yet, the Blog (and, of course, I) often infuriates them. Perhaps, they should consider reading it more often -- including the Comments. It couldn't hurt.


Saturday, August 14, 2010


After reading my Post subsection on the YLC, one of the FOB (Friends of the Blog) wrote of an "institutional Kashrut experience:"

"Good morning. Thanks for the laughs and for reminding of a true story as I was there. (We) had (a) conference in Tucson (not Phoenix but essentially the same part of the world) and they knew that the meals had to either be kosher or acceptable to several of us who keep kosher. Our lunch meal of that particular day was fish with a cheese melted over it. The taste was awful and then we understood the type of fish and how it was prepared. The restaurant manager told us the fish was “gefilte” and the sauce on top was Parmesan – Yes, the chef had prepared gefilte fish Parmesan." (Some changes to protect the source.)

This, in turn, reminded me of a family experience, somewhat different. My wife's family holds a beautiful Pesach seder each year. The family had grown so much that the seder had to be moved to a hotel in Chicago's northwest suburbs. The Hagadah reading ended and the waitstaff began to serve. To begin, ten waiters literally paraded into the banquet room each balancing a large tray covered with a silver cloche. On cue they raised the covers and there they were: ten large challahs.

More stories out there?


Friday, August 13, 2010


The 2011 Campaign Kick-Off, reported on yesterday, was a bright star in an otherwise dark sky. Woe Is Us.

~ The Young Leadership Cabinet Retreats. Once the place for "emerging leaders," the Retreats are reflective today of the state of a national organization in continued disarray. Where once Yitz Greenberg inspired us, at this year's Retreat it was a former JFNA training professional who is now a "leadership consultant." Where once a succession of UJA National Chairs were energized and inspiring, now the JFNA Board Chair and the JFNA Chair of the Executive apparently didn't bother to interrupt their Summers to attend the Cabinet Retreat. But Jerry Silverman and William Daroff were there and the group heard "Joel Chasnoff's comedy routine" -- twice. ("Chasnoff does for the IDF what O'Brien did for the War in Vietnam.") All so sad.

More? OK. Back in 1995 then UJA assured, and later reaffirmed, its commitment to Kashrut at all UJA events from Missions to Board and Committee meetings, to Missions. I thought JFNA had continued this practice. Well, unless JFNA shipped in kosher box dinners in Arizona, the Cabinet Dinner kicking off the Retreat at Bar North Kierland just outright violated that policy. The restaurant is "casual, hip" and...traif.

Then there was something called TribeFest Casino Night -- the "Tribe" being MOT!! "Not only will you have a great time, we will share with you exactly how you can recreate that great time in your own community." I am embarrassed...ashamed. Here is how JFNA "teaches" fundraising to our system's future leaders?

~ Allocations and JAFI/JDC and the JFNA "Powers that Be." It's hard to believe that it has been over three months -- that's over 90...days -- since JFNA, federation and JAFI/JDC leaders came together to attempt to resolve the lack of advocacy on allocations issues that so threaten our system. Major federations submitted a proposal that would have required JFNA to develop a consensus for binding federations to their overseas obligations. Over these months JFNA was mandated -- this was not optional -- to develop consensus among its federation members in support of increasing JAFI/JDC allocations. If JFNA has done anything over these three months, it has been invisible -- a "stealth consensus building" effort. Even on City-size conference calls with Federation CEOs...nothing. With Federation CEOs and Chairs...nothing. JFNA...nothing, nada, nothing.

Now, word is out that JFNA has convened a meeting on the subject (?) to which JAFI and JDC are not invited. JFNA, as it is so wont to do, summoned JDC/JAFI leaders to a meeting in NYC on August 23. JDC, after these three months of no communication from JFNA, declined to attend. JAFI wouldn't be there either. There will be no such meeting.
Instead, JFNA has now summoned a select group of federation leaders for the 23rd-24th. Have you been invited? Would it not have been far better first to build some trust.

~ The Favored Few. Does anyone believe that if the vaunted JFNA were scouting out sites for the 2011 General Assembly, that Chicago or New York would be considered without Silverman first contacting the CEOs of those communities? Of course not. So, shouldn't the same professional courtesies extend to smaller federations? Apparently not. Worse, JFNA's emissaries contact venues in these communities where federation CEOs have significant influence and could be helpful. This is so shortsighted -- in particular in a Dues environment where JFNA is not doing well.

And, on the subject of the GA, two of three hotels are "sold out" to Registrants; yet JFNA "extends" the $625 "early bird registration date" by one month. What am I missing? Better yet, what are they missing?

~ Tweeting. I have been reminded by responsible friends that the tweeting I may have mocked that associates JFNA with the tweeter does reinforce the "brand." And, that's a good thing. If one "tweeter" has 4000 Twitter-friends, then the brand is out there in a more meaningful way than the preposterous #ish and Heroes at no cost to our system.


Does anyone believe this is how it was supposed to be? That this is what our federations would be paying $30.3 million to prop up?___________________________________________________________________

Let's end on a happier note. Earlier this week the WWW reported that Lebron James (self-styled "The King") recently transplanted to Miami from Cleveland, has engaged an Israeli Rabbi who speaks no English "...and bases his teachings on the Kabbalah...seeking guidance in advance of major merchandising meeting..." The shitach was attributed to Columbus Jewish communal leader Jay Schottenstein. I have to tell you were it not for Schottenstein's involvement, one would have to wonder if the English-speaking James relationship with the Hebrew speaking Rabbi was some sort of play on Jewish stereotypes. The Rabbi -- Yishayahu Yosef Pinto -- 37 years old and the spiritual leader already of three different synagogues, is "...regarded as something of a guru in the New York real estate community." But, watch out Lebron, one website reported that a "Hasidic real estate broker with whom (the Rabbi) had business dealings, and with whom he'd had a falling out, died in an apparent suicide."

Does James now have a voice in the Conversion Bill debate? Does the Rabbi? What about Amer'e Stoudamire, b'ivrit?


Thursday, August 12, 2010


At JFNA and, in my opinion, too many federations, today there appears to be a growing reliance on websites and marketing as "shortcuts" to building community and the donor base. Large Federations and small view the construction of new websites and enhanced marketing efforts as the way. So let's hire those who allegedly built the Obama e-fund raising effort; let's spend from thousands to hundreds of thousands on new, more accessible websites, and let's "spend as much time on the $100 donor as on the $100,000 donor." It all sounds so great...and so simplistic. Of course we are all looking for the holy grail (sorry). the Hail Mary (sorry again) pass, the quick fix.

Our communities have gone from 900,000 donors to the Exodus Campaign twenty years ago to an estimated 350,000 donors today. And no one...that's you JFNA...has invested the dollars necessary to learn why -- and until you learn the details of the disease, how can you prescribe the treatment, the cure? We have had an epidemic of donor loss...over half a million donors...and we don't understand the "why." We still have 5% of our donors providing 85% of the annual campaign dollars...like me, an ever-aging population. We know that it takes 1,000 $100 gifts to replace a single $100,000 donor. And, to build or rebuild the base, we are turning to websites and e-philanthropy? Please.

Websites and e-philanthropy cam enhance campaign, build the low-end donor base, and, for some, represent new entry points into our communal work. But, more readily, the real answers can be found by investing dollars to build new leadership and new donors at higher giving levels. Let's look at two modest investments with big returns: Missions for high potential donors and donor retention.

~ It was proved long, long ago that Missions are our best, most effective fund raising and leader raising tools; subsidized Missions can increase participation and results. How many of today's current leaders discovered not only the vitality of the bridge between Israel and Diaspora on Missions but learned of the contributions they could make to modern Jewish history and to community through the Mission experience. In Chicago, several young leaders, already committed to the Federation enterprise, created the Nachshon mission experience -- inviting high potential young men (and now men and women), their friends, professional colleagues, country club chevre, to "come to Israel with me." It was the personal invitation that got them "on the bus" and it was what they experienced that brought them into Federation and community life. Many of these participants are today six figure donors; many more of them are now in leadership positions in our federation. An incalculable success. Yet, when Nachshon is suggested to the lay Chairs of JFNA as an easily replicable national activity, eyes gloss over.

Today, at the highest giving levels, Chicago subsidizes the annual Prime Minister's Mission (whether JFNA holds them or not). Even with many "repeaters," the annual ROI to the Campaign ranges from 15% to higher percentages on a gift-by-gift basis. Baltimore's experience has been the same.

It seems so simple -- invest in Missions and the returns are enormous. Yet, JFNA has even reduced its financial support of the Campaign Chairs/Campaign Directors Missions (and then brags about the results) while refusing all further subsidy of "high end" missions. This leaves it to the federations themselves to determine how Development dollars are best invested. To me -- a no brainer.

~ 900,000 donors to the Operation Exodus Campaign. Yet, how many federations engaged, in the immediate aftermath of that incredible campaign, in converting those Exodus donors and their gifts into Annual Campaign contributions? Most recently, the Israel Emergency Campaign produced a $410 million outpouring of support for the victims of terror and "for Israel." In the IEC aftermath, how many federations compared their Annual donor lists with IEC donors and pursued the latter with the same vigor as they pursued the former? If our communities did so, it was without any leadership or guidance from JFNA. But. it's not too late. These were men and women who, unlike those who made Open Mailbox gifts to help in the wake of Katrina, made their checks out, their payments to the Federation. They did so, in the main, outside of websites and e-philanthropy.

Four years ago then UJC committed itself, at the instance of the largest federations, to bringing together our system's $1,000,000 donors. Two of our federations' most significant donors, very recognizable "names," agreed to Co-Chair this effort. The then UJC CEO assigned himself to staff the effort. AND NOTHING HAPPENED. Last year, the Jerry Silverman undertook staffing a renewed effort. He has "...met with Les Wexner (who was not one of the Co-Chairs [he had been down that road before]) five times" by his own count. Maybe something will come of this effort now...maybe not. Perhaps, Paul Kane was hired to give life to this effort based on his presumed success in engaging mega-donors in New York. Let us pray that this effort bears fruit.

Any reliance on websites and marketing to drive communal involvement and engagement is an embrace of Bowling Alone. It has worked in the social arena but not in the federation environment -- anywhere. If I, as an admitted dinosaur, am wrong, I am almost certain someone will tell me so.



The Jewish Federations of North America, to its credit, convened four 20ll Campaign Kick-Offs -- one in each "region" of the United States. In a gracious gesture, JFNA's National Chair, Michael Lebovitz, and the staff, who had begun holding periodic conference calls with Past National Chairs. On the last call, an offer was extended to us to participate in one Campaign Kick-Off meetings. I attended the regional meeting in Chicago and was impressed with the sincerity of the effort, the presentations and the audience. The JFNA estimate was that 150 federation lay and professional leaders from over 26 federations (that includes 40 from Chicago alone) came together in Chicago.

As I drove to O'Hare, as readers might imagine, I was filled with an anticipatory cynicism. My usual state. I had read the program in advance and anticipated a scripted performance, tightly controlled by JFNA Marketing rather than Development. I was wrong. I saw many old friends, professional and lay, some of whom greeted me with the warmth that I shared with them. Others, as one might expect, avoided me like the plague. Jerry Silverman was warm in his embrace even as he chided me over a recent Post -- "it was completely inaccurate." I await the details of my errors.

The national lay Development Chair, Michael Lebovitz, is a terrific guy; he and his family are wonderful, generous leaders. Michael is a gentleman and a gentle man...he is one of the few in national lay leadership willing to travel and willing to share the microphone -- he asked Chicago's Rob Mann to Chair this Kick-Off. Jerry gave an upbeat and passionate message of both greeting and JFNA's challenge to be a collaborative partner. It was an excellent "scene setter." He was followed by brief and moving presentations by Jewish Agency International Development CEO, Misha Galperin, and JDC CEO, Steve Schwager, which were themselves followed by insightful questions and answers to them, moderated by Michael. When JAFI and the Joint work together, they play some beautiful music. An excellent session.

Baltimore's Linda Hurwitz, JFNA's National Women's Philanthropy Chair, presented the 2011 "Case for Giving" and then the group broke into "Idea Sharing Sessions." A lengthy session of "Solicitation Training" ended the day. That session, led by marketing expert, Jason Chudnofsky, a "FOJ," Friend of Jerry's, who donated his time to these Kick Offs, might have been led by any number of Chicagoans, whose Major Gift face to face solicitation efforts have proved to be incredibly successful. But, as you know, an "expert is someone from out of town." Make that an "expert from out of town with a 50 slide power point."

The only...only...negative to these Regional Kick-Offs is the apparent lack of interest in them displayed by the absence of the Board Chair and Chair of the Executive from all of them. Yet, now that I think about it, maybe that's a positive.

At the end of the day, it is a positive that JFNA has reintroduced a "best practice" of days gone by (teaming the Kick-Off in two venues, Orlando and L.A., with the professional I-LEAD program). I recall Regional meetings of CJF and, more often, UJA as exciting lay-professional meetings filled with enthusiasm, with active lay and professional participation and attendance. There was so much of that evident here in Chicago. If JFNA is to succeed, events like these may lead the organization to that Promised Land.

Kal ha'kavod to all.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I registered for the General Assembly just in time to take advantage of the bargain price of $625 (or so I thought. Shortly thereafter, JFNA announced that the "early bird" date had been extended for a month.). It wasn't easy. Went to the GA Registration Website, entered the critical data, and couldn't charge the Registration Fee to my credit card -- some glitch. Went back on the website later only to find that I had been registered but showing that I have made no payment. I couldn't link to the payment portion try as I might. But, only a few hours later, I was contacted by JFNA's vendor who enabled my payment over the phone.

I registered even though I had just read the latest GA "alert" -- Be Part of the Jewish Future. I don't know who writes this stuff but the fair implication of this kind of tag line is that is you're not at the GA (which in terms of price is beyond outrageous) you aren't "part of the Jewish Future." And, further, the GA is to be the place this year for the "first-ever Jewish Futures Conference." The big name speaker at this Conference within the GA? Ori Brafman. What has he written (for those, like me, unawares)? The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations. Perfect -- because that is surely JFNA's tagline as well. (Except for the "unstoppable power" part.) I am beginning to wonder whether to be a speaker at a JFNA "Event" -- the JLF, the regional Campaign Kick-offs. the May Board meetings, you have to be a "FOJ" -- a friend of Jerry's? And, is that enough?

So, at the GA we are going to "...reimagine our communal future." But, later in this 3 paragraph piece wherein... we're also told that you have to attend "...so you can be part of history." What an event -- "part of the Jewish future" and "part of history" at one and the same time!!! And all for $625 per Registrant -- ooops, make that $695 after September 7 -- the now "extended early bird registration" date.

What else? Some federation leaders have found that when they went to register at the main GA Hotels they were blocked with access to rooms only at the JW Marriott. Some might think -- great, the GA is a sell-out!! They would probably be wrong. My guess --JFNA, in its infinite wisdom has blocked a significant number of rooms at what might be your preferred hotel for favored large city federations who have estimated their room needs and for the LOJE Conference. So, if you're not allowed in to the hotel of your choice, join us elsewhere, because, you're just out of luck. Or maybe not.

See you there.


Monday, August 9, 2010


My bad. I apologize. A six month delay in the consideration of the Knesset Bill was "...an important victory for the Jewish People." How do I know that now? Because Kathy Manning told me so -- of course, she announced it to the JFNA Board and the Federations in a Report on JFNA's Conversion Bill Response. It's right there in black and white -- "[I]n July the Jewish Federations of North America helped secure an important victory for the Jewish People around the world." So, I was very, very wrong when I wrote "VICTORY" -- NOT SO FAST. It was a "victory;" Kathy told us so.

It's probably only a coincidence that "victory" was declared on the same day that Israel's Chief Rabbi wrote in the New York Times that this law is none of the business of Diaspora Jewry echoing MK David Rotem the Bill's sponsor, in almost identical language. One of my friends asked: "What will (JFNA) say when it comes up again?"

Again, Jerry Silverman deserves every plaudit for his work second-chairing the Jewish Agency Executive Chair, Natan Sharansky. But, Kathy's message, important in its detail of just what Jerry has done, failed wholly to describe what JFNA is doing now; and what JFNA will be doing over the months ahead until the Bill is again before the Knesset.


Sunday, August 8, 2010


Dear Kathy,

Because I believe that you have unilaterally taken JFNA down a disastrous path of conflict with the Joint and Jewish Agency, I thought I would write to remind you of how this catastrophic set of circumstances came to be and how our system might be saved from the consequences of your incomprehensible actions.

Let's review: Sonny Plant, z'l, after meetings with the federations, the Agency and Joint, issued a Report, approved by the Board of the then UJC, mandating, as did all prior reports of UJC, and as JAFI and JDC had come to agreement so often, that the partners meet and negotiate a new contract between them. UJC/JFNA's role would be to act as a "mediator" IN THE EVENT THE PARTIES COULD NOT COME TO AGREEMENT. In the event the parties came to an Agreement, UJC/JFNA's Board could approve or reject the Agreement -- but not modify it. Those were to be UJC/JFNA's roles.

And JAFI and the Joint negotiated. At certain points in those negotiations, when "mediation" appeared to be needed, the Joint opted to request that JFNA seek out the redoubtable Ken Feinberg as a mediator; the Agency requested that Federation CEOs conduct the mediation. You and the then Board Chair ignored both partners and you, Kathy, had yourself appointed as the sole mediator. I assumed that in arrogating the role of mediator to yourself, you understood that a mediator is a person of consummate fairness who engages in dispute resolution. Or, perhaps, you did not understand the role of a mediator.

JDC and JAFI came to agreement in 2008. They submitted the agreement, which would have potentially negatively impacted on ORT funding, to then UJC for approval or rejection, as the case might be. The agreement was never taken to the Board as UJC's resolutions provided; instead you, Kathy, rejected the agreement. You weren't acting as a mediator but, apparently, as an advocate for ORT. Nonetheless, the Agency and Joint negotiated further. They came to agreement once again, this time in 2009. Once again, you, without ever taking the agreement to the JFNA Board, and without being asked to play any other role as "mediation" was not needed, chose instead to rewrite substantive portions of the agreement with no notice to JAFI or JDC that you had done so. You sent it back to the "partners" without the mark-up showing the changes you made (which, as you know, is common practice by attorneys). From the perspective of history, this was the final straw for the Joint and Agency. You had not been asked to mediate because JAFI/JDC reached agreement without intervention; instead, you inserted yourself "on behalf of JFNA" in violation of JFNA Resolutions and the agreement reached by Sonny and UJC with the partners.

Now, JFNA (thanks to the efforts some of our major federations) has convened a two-day meeting -- August 23 and 24 -- without JAFI or JDC invited or welcome, at which those present will somehow make a "needs assessment" -- let's say that it will take but a few hours for those assembled to validate the needs our partners serve -- and, at your direction, come up with a fait accompli in an attempt to make all of the issues you created go away. If only that could be the case. Instead of such a meeting, I would sincerely suggest that the federation leadership (under the Chair of the Executive) go forward and first meet with JAFI/Joint leadership. But, that would mean you wouldn't be "in charge," wouldn't it? Could you tolerate not being "in charge" if your "abdication" meant that the overseas funding issues confronting our system could be solved?

Kathy, your actions have precipitated a crisis that the Joint and Agency had avoided in the two agreements they reached and you, with no authority to do so, negated. Now the federations and Jerry Silverman will, once again, have to pull JFNA's chestnuts out of the fire you created. That light you think you see at the end of the tunnel you have dug is the train hurtling toward you and JFNA. Maybe you believe that "It ain't over until the fat lady sings and you don't hear any music." Well, let me tell you, what you have sewn, you now reap and the federation system including JFNA will pay the price. Perhaps you don't hear "the fat lady singing," but I'd say the fat lady is definitely backstage spritzing her throat.




Thursday, August 5, 2010


On May 1, 2003 President George W. Bush stood on an American aircraft carrier and pronounced "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. He was so wrong. And at a JFNA Executive Committee meeting the week of July 25, self-congratulatory verbal pats on the back were exchanged between Jerry Silverman, the Board Chair and some members of the Executive over the postponement of a vote on the infamous Conversion Bill in the Knesset for 6 months -- as if delay were victory. In fact, the Forward headlined on its front page: As Conversion Bill Stalls in Knesset, Jewish Diaspora Leaders Can Claim Victory. They were so wrong.

First, let me make it clear. Jerry Silverman's efforts in Jerusalem in the 10 days prior to the settlement arrived at between the Reform and Conservative Movements and the Government that led to the 6 month postponement were truly Herculean. He deserves our congratulations for delivering our message to Knesset members with whom he met and in explaining the impact on Jewish unity and American Jewish support that the proposed legislation would have to the Israeli media. At the end of the day, it was Silverman alone -- the JFNA Board Chair was allegedly ready to fly to Israel, but with the settlement in the offing, Jerry kept this "bullet" (as he described her) in the chamber.

But, let's also be clear on another point -- postponement is not a "victory;" postponement cannot be relied upon. Any reader of the Jewish media understands that Natan Sharansky, whose leadership on this issue and whose passion in pursuing justice here is heroic, is not crowing about "victories." He understands as others do not. And much is happening. As we pat ourselves on the back, the Orthodox Rabbinate in Israel is busy establishing facts on the ground that threaten American Jewry and our relation to Israel as much if not more than the legislation itself.

But, as well, the Rabbinical Council of America, followers of the teachings of Rabbi Joseph Soloveichik, z'l, announced its support of the Conversion legislation. These "Modern Orthodox" Rabbis, many of whom lead educational institutions supported with our communal funds, and objecting to a lack of consultation by JFNA with them, may be suggesting by their opposition to the will of the super-majority of American Jews, that there is not a solid front here in North America. To date I have neither seen nor read of any attempt by JFNA or federation leaders to intervene with these Rabbis and to persuade them, if possible, that their support for this legislation threatens our communal relationships with Israel.

David Harris, the long-time CEO of the American Jewish Committee, gave testimony in a Jerusalem Post op-ed to the interrogation he received about "being Jewish" when he was to be married in Israel years ago. Women, whose access to the Western Wall was already threatened by "religious authorities," see one of their sisters jailed for holding a Torah. And, in an article on July 30, a 29 year old American oleh, Hillary Rubin, was forced to prove, as with so many before her dating back to the founding of the State, to the subjective satisfaction of rabbinic body, her Jewish maternal lineage going back four generations in order to obtain her wedding license. And, the apparent escalating pressure of the Israeli Orthodox Rabbinate smacks of a religious fundamentalism that has the affect of creating barriers between the Diaspora and Israel at a time that we need each other more than ever. And let's be perfectly clear, when Hillary Rubin's or David Harris's Jewish "legitimacy" is challenged, so is mine, so is my wife's, so is my daughter's and my sons', so is the Jewish "legitimacy" of my grandchildren...and so it is with yours.

No, this isn't the time to claim some virtual "victory" at JFNA meetings and to the press. It's time to escalate our work, our advocacy, our presence to build bridges by bringing Diaspora Jewish leaders to Israel in meetings with Knesset members and to underscore our support for the Prime Minister on this matter; to express, as the Forward did in its editorial on the subject: "Israel has a strategic imperative to behave as a modern, pluralistic state if it is to maintain the high ground in the ongoing global struggle against religious fanaticism." The inestimable value of Jerry Silverman's work is found in the coalitions he began to build with religious movements here and in Israel, and with his new-found access to Israeli politicians. Now, he has to build on that which he has started. I don't believe that Jerry misunderstands -- there is so much work ahead; he cannot do it alone.

We all have critical work to do, my friends.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010


~ Under the heading "who writes this stuff?" comes from JFNA (vu den?) in the form of a Leadership Briefing on an otherwise excellent Young Leadership Mission to Israel -- JFNA'S NATIONAL YOUNG LEADERSHIP EMBARK ON SUMMER MISSION TO ISRAEL. As one of my dear friends wrote to me, the Briefing stated: "Federations fund this life saving work through our main overseas partners, including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Jewish Agency for Israel." Can JFNA not find the koach to just say "our partners, JAFI and JDC and World ORT" and just delete "main" and "including." I missed it on first reading as I was too focused on the sentence "...participants will be asked to contribute a voluntary minimum gift of $500.." I recognize that this Mission is a National Young Leadership one -- but this toilet training fund raising which JFNA sets forth with apparent timidity and reluctance ("voluntary minimum gift of $500") is exactly why there is no confidence in JFNA's ability to mount a national campaign of any kind.

~ The second year "graduates" of the EDP (see the earlier EDP Posts) concluded their "voluntary reunion" meetings in Chicago June 28-29. Jerry came and told them of the "new focus" of JFNA -- sure wish he would tell us!! Sounded to me as if Jerry went through the litany of his "five focus areas" -- which always sound so good until one reads 56 pages of program narratives in the 2011 Budget and understands that, in fact, there is no focus. It's marketing, it's the message, it's...well, nothing.

~ Here's a good one -- in the "it's not business, it's personal" category. JFNA created an "Honorary 20th Anniversary Commemoration of the Exodus Committee" or some equally long title. It's a long list; many of my friends are on it. Joel Tauber chairs the Honorary Committee. While I chaired the National Conference on Soviet Jewry during the time of the Exodus, and then Chaired the UJA National Operation Exodus Campaign itself, I didn't make the cut. Not on it. Asked Jerry: "What the hell is this all about?" He told me that this is Kathy's bailiwick. Asked Kathy: "It was Joel's decision." (Sure!) I didn't bother asking Joel. So I will take solace in Co-Chairing Chicago's Commemoration Committee dedicated to the historic achievement that was and is the Exodus. (BTW, Harvey is on the national Committee as he should be, recognized for his activism.) This is JFNA at its continuing vendetta best.

~ On July 1, in another Leadership Briefing, JFNA LEADERS JOIN OBAMA TO SIGN IRAN SANCTIONS INTO LAW, JFNA pointed out that the only lay "leader" present for the White House event was the JFNA Board Chair. Once again, an opportunity to highlight a major donor or another JFNA leader (psssst, I understand that the Chair of the Executive lives in Washington) was ignored. Worse, in my opinion, major Federations have funded the bi-partisan effort to impose sanctions on Iran, first with the idea to do so, and then with major funding -- might not one of those leaders have been invited rather than the ubiquitous Board Chair (who finds the time to visit the White House but no time to engage with the Federation owners of JFNA)?

~ I have been saddened that so many of the friends of the Blog, now that Obama has masked his prior anti-Israel statements with an embrace of Prime Minister Netanyahu. join their endorsement of the screed of those like Glick with an attack on the President for, of all things, not responding to the idiocy of his appearance on The View to a question "Does Mel Gibson need anger management?" with a response attacking Gibson's anti-semitism. Hate Obama much? Then, in one of the Blogs, there is the resurrection of the Obama-Khalidi connection citing, among other sources, a 2008 website. Instead, why not just cite Paul Krugman's brilliant analysis in the New York Times on July 30 -- too balanced for you?

~ There's no "quit" at JFNA when it comes to wasting our resources. With so little money for critical matters, JFNA remains hell bent on investing our dollars in more advertising -- as if more ads will "rescue" #ish from its place as another footnote to JFNA's sad history. Take a look at http://wejew.com/media/9049/What_is_your_Ish - The Chinese Restaurant. Clever ad (although Justice Kagan did a better job...for free). WeJew is a Jewish video sharing website -- big among the Twitter crowd I guess. If JFNA were as tenacious on things that matter, we would be in a better place...I think.

~ The Future of the Jewish Non-Profit Summit was held last week in New York City. As Gary Rosenblatt, who attended the Summit, wrote "One-Man Effort Outpaces the Organized Jewish Community." Sad but true. And William Daroff was there to twit about his tweeting and another JFNA professional bragged on the self-styled "success" of the JFNA "Heroes" Program. I am sure it was a great conference. For JFNA it appears to be a case of "in the face of defeat (or is it "da tweet") declare victory no matter the reality."

~ Finally, and on a related topic, JFNA has a critical reporting role in the Chelsea Clinton nuptials. In a Tablet article (Will She Convert? or something like that) it was reported that the ubiquitous and constantly tweeting William Daroff tweeted the critical news that he was on a flight from NYC to DCA on which Hillary Clinton was a fellow passenger. WOW!! And at that Summit, Daroff bragged on how his Twitter picture of Hillary on his plane was picked up on Politico.com. William's the brand!!