Friday, December 30, 2011


Back in the shadows of history -- at JFNA that means a year ago -- JFNA demanded an agreement among itself, JAFI and JDC. Among the matters agreed to in November 2010 was the following: JFNA will work with Federations in an effort to increase overseas allocations to support the important work of JAFI and JDC. An allocations floor was to be created -- a "communal norm" -- and "Federations with chronic underperformance will risk losing JFNA membership and its attendant benefits." This was entirely JFNA's language submitted to the Agency and Joint; but, they didn't mean it.

Then, only months later, without further consultation with JAFI or JDC, this entire construct was lost; the Agreement breached by JFNA which had dictated its terms. In the overarching complexity of the Global Planning Table structure, major federations demanded that federation service on the GPT be linked to an overseas funding minimum (the "Second Membership Criterion"), thusly: All federations that meet the criteria for membership in JFNA will be invited to nominate representatives to sit on the Priority Area Commissions and the Voluntary Projects Commission. (But) [t]o have a seat on the Global Planning Table Committee (where funding recommendations will be discussed) and the Executive Steering Committee (where funding recommendations will be made), Federations will need to meet a higher threshold, representing a strong, demonstrated commitment to funding collective work (but not necessarily the core, collective work of the Jewish Agency or Joint). A still higher funding threshold is required to be on the Partnership Committee (where allocations decisions will be made). 

You may (or may not) recall that you or your federation actually voted on this inane bureaucracy-driven structure that, if you reread the paragraph above, includes Priority Area Commissions, Voluntary Projects Commission, Global Planning Table Committee, Executive Steering Committee and Partnership Committee for starters. To avoid further confusion, the draftspersons have included a chart specifying "Participation Standards" (what my friends have characterized as "this was the best we could do"):

    ~ To participate on the Executive Steering Committee and GPT -- "funding to GPT partners (elsewhere specified by JFNA as "JAFI/JDC and other partners" but herein not referenced as the "Historic Partners") and collective projects + 20% or more of campaign or more than $7 million"

    ~ Want to serve on the Partnership Committee?   "Unrestricted plus other giving to Historic Partners + 20% of campaign"

    ~ On the Priority Area Commissions -- nothing but paid JFNA Dues

This so-called "Second Membership Criterion" (which was intended to be a floor for membership in JFNA but was downgraded with the consent of concerned federations to "membership" on the GPT) was to be coupled with the GPT Resolution at a vote of the JFNA Board and Assembly at the GA meetings. With no explanation and, not surprisingly, without a single question, the Second Membership Criterion was deferred, allegedly to be voted on at the January Board Retreat. But, will it be?

Is there some problem? Are the lowest- and non-allocating federations objecting to even a 20% so-called floor for participation on the GPT Executive? Are the JFNA leaders working on further watering down the already unbelievably weak Criterion to satisfy the outliers? Or are the "outliers" today those who demand a Second Membership Criterion at all? Has the begging already begun with JFNA leaders pleading to those who have coupled participation on the GPT and/or membership in JFNA itself, with this meaningless Second Membership Criterion to back off as "you'll otherwise bring down the system?" After all this "guilt-tripping" has worked for the last six years, hasn't it?

In October 2010, the Jewish Agency and Joint leadership wrote JFNA's leaders and asserted, in pertinent part, that the Global Planning Table as proposed to the federations does not "...accurately reflect the prolonged discussions that lead up to the execution of the contract covering allocations for calendar year 2010 through 2012 and the creation of the GPT." These Historic Partners were ignored.

The totality of the "process" leading to the approval of the Global Planning Table can be characterized by federations being told whatever might buy their votes, notwithstanding whether true or false. Expect more of the same.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I have been blessed having learned the lessons of philanthropy, capacity giving and collective responsibility from my community. When I read of the supposed "achievement" of another Federation (hint: the one with the most Jewish lawyers of any community in the world), which raised $1.6 million at its annual Lawyers Division dinner (our Lawyers Division in Chicago is raising about $9 million) or of 1,200 young adults attending the meaningless Tribefest earlier this year, I almost have to cry. Instead, focus with me if you will on Chicago's Young Leaders Mega-Event held on December 11...

The Event, held at the Chicago Sheraton, was headlined by NBC's Jimmy Fallon, and attracted 2,600...yes, you read it correctly...young men and women, who paid $80 per person. The 2,600 included 600 Birthright alumni and 1,000 members of Chicago's young leaders Ben Gurion Society -- men and women who contribute $1,000 and over to the Annual Campaign. And, yes, there was the dinner and the comedy...but, remember, this was a fund-raising event as any and every Chicago JUF/JFMC Event is.

Yes, some of you will dismiss this as "sure, that's Chicago; it doesn't work here in ___________. We could never do that." And, I think you are so wrong. What's needed: a dedicated core of young leaders; an understanding that the community must invest money to secure not only the future but the present; an enthusiastic and creative group of campaign professionals; and an understanding by all that "if I don't do this, who will?" It takes volunteers who call their friends, their colleagues, their business associates and say: "Are you going to the Event? I have a table and would love it if you would join me. It's going to be terrific." And, the word spreads and the room fills to overflowing...and then you begin to plan for and worry about next year.

What does this all mean: for Chicago it means that we are in the process, with Birthright and others, of securing the Next Generation for and within our community. Instead, I see other communities and our national organization distracted from their core purposes...and, then, wondering about why they have fallen so fast and so far. There's no magic to this -- there is focus, hard work, passion and dedication. You can do this as well.


Saturday, December 24, 2011


Lately a number of federations have "unveiled" what some have termed to be "A New Philanthropic Model."  Seattle, Philadelphia and San Francisco are but the latest to roll out "designated/thematic giving models" as if they are something both new and innovative. Instead they are but new wine in old bottles and, in the places they are now proposed, probably doomed to fail. Based upon prior experience (yes, these are far from "new"), the so-called "new model" is DOA -- dead on its arrival, as much today as the first time.

First, this ain't my first rodeo, you know. I have visited any number of communities who have thrown this "model" on the table as if it would be some form of panacea. Let's first look at what it purports to offer: typically the "model" gives the donor several options for reworking what was or might be their federation gift. Thus, the federation creates a series of buckets into which the donor can now deposit his/her contribution -- e.g., the aging, Jewish education, Israel and Overseas, caring for the vulnerable, and the like. Some federations only allow such designation after the donor makes a threshold undesignated pledge -- there is that bugaboo -- overhead -- after all. Sounds so appealing.

But the results in those communities which have dipped their toes in this water offer a cautionary tale: the only federations which have experienced any success with this model are those who have built it upon the foundation of a strong annual campaign to begin with. Those who believe that their communal giving will in some way, shape or form be "rescued" by a thematic giving model, in any of its forms, have experienced universal disappointment.

Yes, I have heard the breast-beating about the "black hole" as some federation lay and, this always surprises me, senior professionals characterize the annual campaign. In doing so, of course, they poison the well themselves and hear their description echo back at them in destructive ways. Typically those that ascribe the "black hole" description to their annual campaigns are defeatists and, too often, those who have been hired or elected to think "outside the boxes." It is as if these "leaders" know nothing of the beauty of federation work and believe that by throwing out the baby with the bath water, something new and of greater value will emerge. And they have been proved wrong, time and time again.

No doubt there are federations which have adopted thematic giving and put the construct in place for years now without appreciable campaign impact whose leaders will argue that "it would have been worse" had the community not broken away from the traditional model. And, surely, there are communities where the donors believe that the federation no longer deserves the trust so vital to community building and collective action. The way I see it, in too many of the federations turning to the designation model today, we are seeing the choice driven by: this lack of trust, the thought that a "new" scheme will buy time for the professionals implementing it, and a consistent failure to nurture donors and make the right "ask" of them.

The first implementation of a "designated FRD model" arose out of a false premise -- "our most major donors have topped out their annual campaign gifts and we have to offer them something new over and above." The reality was something different -- instead of a sit-down face-to-face between solicitor and donor, with an explanation of the ever-increasing needs and how that donor's increased gift at the top end would influence donations through to lower levels of giving, the community acquiesced. It was too easy a way out, even if it rarely worked. And, as the campaign years went forward, the "new" concept rooted in the overall campaign, with often disastrous results. Now, in too many places, the rhetoric of "new philanthropic models" overwhelms the vapidity of the "model" itself.

So, when I read this month that a Large City federation that has effectively been without a real annual campaign for the last two years "...announced the creation of four new funds for development and grant-making...(and) also approved two key focus areas designed to complement the shift towards donor-focused funding models," all I could do was shake my head in wonder. And here is what that Federation's CEO stated: "The shift to focused funds and high-impact initiatives marks a turning point in the Federation's 100-year existence. With the goal of creating lasting, system-wide social change, the Federation will be a leader of best practices in strategic philanthropy."  While I rest my case, there's more.

Another federated community announced the "new philanthropic model" this month with a " connect donor passions to meaningful impact in the Jewish community." I, dinosaur that I am, call that "the Annual Campaign," but they don't -- that's so 1990s. As this Federation's CEO and President opined: "This program has been specially designed to really involve the donor in their investment and see the impact they've made. Donors now have a much more intimate relationship with the entire philanthropic process, by deciding what area the donation should assist and how it's making a difference in our world." Oh, if only wishing made it so. When federations, as these, elevate donor choice from the donor to the federation itself, just as they have moved donor choice by their GA vote to the Global Planning Table, to JFNA, even more distant, the donor loses, its agencies and partners lose and, ultimately, the system is lost.

Here is my alternative for that federation's (and all federations') CEO. Bring together your top 10 donors. Tell them the stark truth: that the federation will cease to exist as a federation unless each of them is willing to commit to increase his or her annual gift to a level; that will allow the community to grow and serve the needs that the community itself and its agencies and partners have identified as the communal base line (not the "themes,"  not the "donor-focused funding models" -- the base line of communal needs). Then announce your personal committed gift and ask each top donor to announce hers/his. If the answer to the "ask" is "no," then understand that you are in the wrong place or, perhaps, in the wrong position. For if leadership is unwilling to lead, there is no future.


Thursday, December 22, 2011


With a few others, I listened to the JFNA presentation on the JFNA yesterday. I say "few" because the "presentation," such as it was, lasted all of 15 minutes, the entire conference call, scheduled for 1-1/2 hours, lasted a precious 35 minutes. Seven federation leaders asked questions, JFNA's answers generally had nothing to do with the questions asked.

Here's what I concluded --
  1. JFNA has asked the federations to conduct surveys of whomever they wish (preferably using some JFNA-prepared survey) and report the results in March-April; JFNA will be surveying a whole bunch of people, affiliated and not affiliated (surely to include those attending Festivus II).  The "results" will "inform" the GPT decision-making process. If this is not a formula for chaos, pray tell what would be. Is this just a pretext to allow the GPT Executive to do whatever it wants?
  2. The federations have a lot more to do in December than attend bogus Conference Calls on a matter that is "JFNA's highest priority" (per Jerry Silverman) but no one else's. Yes, most federations are trying to close campaigns and collect cash -- two things with which JFNA acts as if is totally unfamiliar. JFNA's GPT senior pro thanked those on the phone for "the great turnout" -- she has already fallen into the JFNA formula that combines fiction, hyperboole and overstatement into "Orwellian fact."
  3. JAFI and JDC are nothing more than "observers" (JFNA's description) in a GPT "process" designed to deracinate their core allocations. This is not what either overseas partner was told; this is not what was promised by JFNA in its November 2010 Agreement with the partners.
  4. The federations have guaranteed a loan now reduced to $50 million owed by its subsidiary UIA arising out of the application of Operation Exodus campaign funds to domestic resettlement. That loan requires the lenders' consent to any change in the allocations to JAFI. To my knowledge, the lenders' consent has not been sought to the proposed change in allocations contemplated by the GPT. Has JFNA disclosed to these lenders the impacts on the assumed JAFI core as written into the GPT document? What will JFNA tell these lenders -- "trust us?" For that matter did JFNA ever...ever...disclose to the federations that the outstanding loans could be accelerated by virtue of the GPT itself? That was rhetorical.
  5. Critical to the GPT moving forward is the enactment of a Second Membership Criterion, weak as it might be, in addition to the payment of JFNA Dues -- a meager percentage to Israel and Overseas needs. Yet, JFNA took that Criterion off the table at the GA promising that it would be enacted at the January Owners' Retreat. Anyone heard any more about it? Do JFNA's leaders intend to meet that promise or are they finding unanticipated opposition to the imposition of any allocations floor, even a meaningless one, and now expect the federations to which the commitment was made to back off, once again?
  6. Yesterday one federation leader publicly asked how JFNA will "manage" JAFI and JDC vis-a-vis their community FRD in 2012. The JFNA leaders on the conference call appeared not to understand the question inasmuch as they didn't answer it. JFNA has been trying to impose a veto over any Joint or Jewish Agency fundraising. That would be ridiculous under any circumstance, but, given the JFNA unilateral breach of the November 2010 Agreement with JA and JDC, any such suggestion is outrageous.
There's more, but this is food for thought -- like a bad latke, indigestion inducing. Is anyone asking "what have we gotten ourselves into this time?"

Chag sameach,


Wednesday, December 21, 2011


A recent impassioned Anonymous Comment to the Global Planning Table -- Update Post, citing Kathy Manning's pre-GA quote in the Forward -- "One of the things we've lost over the years is the understanding of what our partners do, how they use our dollars to make a real impact on the needs that they deal with" -- observed "[F]or seven years Manning has sat on JAFI's Board of Governors and on its Executive" and called for he to "[G]et off the JAFI Dais." While that would be painful to Ms. Manning, it is hardly enough.

I had written about Manning's quote when it first appeared suggesting that the reason that any failure in "...understanding what our partners do..." has been JFNA's failure to advocate, failure to articulate what JAFI and the Joint do, failure to stand side-by-side with them. I compared her position with that of the hypothecated child who having killed both his parents now asks the court for mercy because she is an orphan.  But the Comment itself raised an even more serious question of conflict of interest.

Each of us wears many hats in our roles in Jewish communal life -- our Federation Boards include agency lay leaders, we serve on the boards of the Joint, the Agency, ORT, etc, while serving on our federation Boards, we serve om the JFNA Board while on the Boards of other organizations. In the past, while some might accuse us of having conflicts by this service on multiple Boards, the reality was that our system was always pulling together. I, or you, could serve on, e.g., the Joint Board and our federation Board and on the UJA Board -- even, in earlier years, the JFNA Board, knowing that we shared a common purpose, a common passion and a common commitment. But, for the past six years, and, certainly, the past three years, the commonality of vision, purpose, passion and commitment have been rent asunder led by the leaders of JFNA.

Common definitions of "conflict of interest" include: (1) a situation that has the potential to undermine the impartiality of a leader because of the possibility of a clash between the leader's self-interest (pecuniary or not) and the public interest the leader is to serve; and (2) a situation in which a party's responsibility to a second party limits its ability to discharge a responsibility to a third party. 

The leaders of JFNA have a disqualifying conflict of interest in their service to JDC or the Jewish Agency that they have brought upon themselves. And, they know it. They demanded an agreement among JFNA, JAFI and JDC -- they got one one year ago and they have breached not only its intent and its good will but the good faith in which it was negotiated and executed. Over the past years they have schemed to create a Global Planning Table that, while not yet having even held a single meeting, dictates outcomes -- no longer is there even the sense of exclusivity of JAFI/JDC as "the partners" but the outright admission  to "other partners." Where was this decided? By whom?

So, I had to laugh when I learned that one piece of the GPT Conference Call on December 19 consisted of a lecture by Ms. Manning on conflict of interest. She clearly hasn't a clue. Perhaps that's one of the reasons contributing to an irate Large City Executive asking at the end of that one hour call: "why did you waste my time?" When the public interest a lay Chair has been elected to serve (not the other way around) clashes with that leader's obligation, there is a conflict of interest requiring (1) recognition and (2) resignation. Ms. Manning, as Commentators to this Blog and correspondents directly to you have demanded: simply resign.


Sunday, December 18, 2011


The hand basket is overflowing; alas, there is always more...

~ Apparently "hiring outside the box" has reached its nadir. Which one of the following is not true: (a) one federation hired a real estate developer as its CEO; (b) another hired a heath care consultant as its major gifts director; (c) that major gifts director, also a "licensed" minister; or (d) a former car dealer was hired as a Campaign Director?

~ The Forward published compensation numbers for the professional leaders of a number of Jewish organizations thereby, no doubt, infuriating any number of CEOs (some for no reason, others for some reason and one, in particular, for every possible reason). Most would like to just see the list never appear and would love it if it quickly disappeared from the public eye. Nonetheless, in case anyone in the federation system had missed it, where did it next appear? In Jerry's Daily Media Report. Why? "Mentions JFNA and federations." And that's part of the reason that Jerry received, as per The Forward 2011 Salary Review, a compensation increase of $55,000 -- to $625,000!!! (Maybe Jerry will pop for some of the Tribefest deficit.) Luckily for that CEO, there's no recession at 25 Broadway...never has been, in fact.

~ I was wrong. When I observed that one of JFNA's best professionals, Sam Astrof, was retiring at year-end, I noted that there was nary a mention let alone a tribute to Sam at the GA but that, at least, he was given a "thank you" at the JFNA Budget and Finance Committee meeting there. Turns out, I was misinformed -- not even at that meeting was Sam appropriately recognized and honored. Must not have been in the script.

Sam: you have done great things in service to our communities and People. I know you are too vigorous to ever retire so I expect those great things to continue. You were incredibly loyal and always overflowing with your integrity and love for Israel. You will be missed so much by those who don't even realize how much they will miss you.


Thursday, December 15, 2011


We are the stewards of our donors funds in a system wholly dependent upon trust. Each year we see the federations we entrust with our funds send $30.3 million on to JFNA and, then, we ignore how those funds are spent, relying upon JFNA to properly invest those funds in programs we have approved in the annual JFNA Budgets and to monitor those expenditures. And, then again, we promptly forget how precious those $30.3 million are. Let's examine our abdication of responsibility to an organization that has demonstrated none, in just a few area:
  •  Back a few years JFNA participated in an airlift of Yemeni Jews to Monsey, New York. After many Posts decrying JFNA's involvement in this so-called "rescue effort" (which turned out to have been unnecessary),  JFNA's more responsible professionals sent me an accounting of the underfunded project; they didn't send it to you or, for that matter, anyone else.  What funds have been raised and spent on this effort; you can ask until you are blue in the face.
  • We have cited the losses of over half a million dollars...that's over $500,000, friends...on the 2010 GA and Tribefest 1. How are those deficits paid? Nobody's saying.
  • The Board Chair and CEO sent out a fund-raising plea to the federations to Finish the Journey of Ethiopian Jewry -- to bring the final remnant of Falash Mura to Israel this year. How much has been raised? How much has been transmitted to the Jewish Agency? Nobody's saying.
  • When the Israel Action Network was initiated as a "partnership" between JFNA and JCPA (rapidly translated into an "independent entity" effort) to fight the venality of threatened divestment, boycott and delegitimization, JFNA again was charged with raising the millions to fund the effort. That, of course, failed. The JFNA polity (viz, the Large Cities) then demanded that JFNA fund the IAN from its Budget...and, so, it was done. But who is assuring that funds intended for the work of the IAN are not being spent in significant part to prop up the budget/staff of the JCPA? Nobody's saying.
Friends these are but the tip of an iceberg of irresponsibility, of an abdication of JFNA's and its leaders responsibility...and ours. But, who's asking?


Monday, December 12, 2011


The Global Planning Table (the "GPT"), as all of you know, was approved by the few federations voting, at the GA. So much has been written about the GPT, I thought I would offer an update:

     ~ The only bit of good news was last week's announcement of the naming of Washington's David Butler as the GPT Chair. David, if permitted, will do an excellent job. Now, will David also Chair the multiple other smaller Tables including the critical Executive Committee?

     ~ It appears that the Board Chair has determined that she will vet the names of all those named by their federations to sit at the various smaller tables (Partnership, Executive, etc.) and the "big" Table. Guess you wouldn't want anyone "not JFNA" infecting the non-existent "process." Inasmuch as the GPT is really about control, not about "planning" after all, what else would you expect?

     ~ The first meeting of the big "Table" was originally set for December 19, face-to-face. Now, that's been changed to some kind of massive telephone conference call. Expect more rhetoric and nothing accomplished.

     ~ One of the more comprehensive Comments on the GPT, albeit long after the fray, former long-time CJF professional, and past Director of the Fisher-Bernstein Institute, now a consultant, chimed in at great length. Writing A Different Slant on the Global Planning Table -- -- if you could get through the convoluted thicket of Carl's reasoning (I asked a friend whether he had read it  and he responded: "No, I didn't read it because I never understood him live and in person."), I think it boiled down to the national system needs a strong planning function. As a former Chair of the CJF Planning Committee when Norb Fruehauf, Joan Strauss and a great group of pros led that effort, I couldn't agree more. But, Carl, let's be clear, the GPT is the planning wolf in sheep's clothing. It's not about planning in the pure sense that Sheingold envisions, it is, at the end of the day, JFNA leadership's grab of allocations control -- first of the federations' overseas allocations and then of their national agencies' allocations.

More to follow.


Friday, December 9, 2011


Perhaps it's not surprising but after six years of neglect and abuse, leaders have come together to begin discussions of recreating the United Jewish Appeal, or so I am told. Why now...let me count the ways...

JFNA has seen a steady exodus from what was its FRD Department , now Philanthropic Resources or something even more obscure and obtuse. Perhaps the two holdover professionals can turn off the lights (or show Paul Kane how to do so). Starting with Vicki Agron, continuing with Gail Reese and David Saginaw and, now, Danyelle Neuman, another superstar...they and so many others...gone. But not just gone -- each of these superb professionals has found new horizons to conquer, bringing their expertise and passion to bear for other fund raising organizations -- oh, I forgot, JFNA is no longer a fund raising organization.

So if your federation wants counsel on its annual campaign, or on a capital campaign effort, or, for that matter, anything relating to financial resource development (other than planned giving where a skeleton staff still has the ability to assist [or, at least, convene meetings]). So  a "for instance..." JFNA through Summer 2011, continued the Campaign Chairs and Directors Missions initiated by UJA, when I was Chair. (To be fair, we just broadened the Women's Campaign Chairs and Directors Missions initiated by the UJA National Women's Campaign.) It has been a great Mission, setting the pace for the upcoming Campaigns, with capacity fund raising and inspiration. It also brought the Campaign Directors together with the national Campaign/FRD staff. Now, there is but a skeleton of a national FRD professional staff. What does JFNA have to offer the federations' campaign chairs and local professionals? 

There is a similar deficit on the federation planning side of JFNA. In the early and mid-90s, JFNA engaged with federations, hiring consultants, and producing a series of plans antithetical to the federation concept. In every Large and Large Intermediate community in which JFNA did a community strategic plan, the concept of federation as the central planning and central address was lost and those federations have struggled for greater traction, in some instances any traction ever since. The slogan "we're from JFNA and we're here to help you," is more warning sign than welcoming slogan.

How did the organization get so lost...for another day.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011


From Day one of what is now JFNA, there has been the expressed desire to create a "new culture" -- one distinct from those of CJF and UJA. Well, friends, kal ha'kavod, the "JFNA culture" has emerged. Unfortunately, it is a culture of arrogance, a culture of immunity from any and all criticism, a culture of the thin skin. Worst of all, it is a culture free of accountability...and we, the donors and federations have only ourselves to blame.

Charles Bronfman and Jeffrey Solomon recently responded, in a special Wall Street Journal section on Philanthropy to the question: Should Philanthropies Operate Like Businesses? Their answer: have a sustained and strategic impact, philanthropy must be conducted like business -- with discipline, strategy and a strong focus on outcomes. Organizations receiving your support should be as accountable to you as a company's board is to its shareholders...

This all seems so obvious. In your community and mine, we "focus on outcomes" and accountability is paramount. Yet, when it comes to our national organization, it is as if outcomes are irrelevant and there is no one...demanding accountability. One would think that JFNA is nothing more than a "mom and pop store" -- a $30 million a year "mom and pop store."

How else does one explain that JFNA could convene a Tribefest, lose $253,000 (before overhead costs), not a question is asked publicly, there is no accounting, and a second Tribefest is placed on the Calendar with no budget? Or, where is the accounting for a $250,000 loss on the 2010 New Orleans GA? How are these debts to the organization being repaid?

More to the point, why are you silent? Where is the federations' demand for JFNA accountability? Perhaps one-on-one, if at all? Are we fearful of "offending" the powers that be, of making waves? By our silence we have encouraged more of the same and there is no one telling JFNA's lay and professional leaders that this behavior must stop.

I have to laugh each time I read the Draft Budget (that none of us are supposed to see) with its claims of monitoring results and accountability. These have becoming throwaway phrases without meaning -- like "robust debate" and "dynamic programs."

Friends, it is long past time for JFNA to be held to the same standard of accountability as are our federations. Or do we just not care?


Saturday, December 3, 2011


Two months after the Israeli Ministry of Absorption went viral with a set of ads that had an apparent dual purpose -- to warn ex-pat Israelis of the "dangers" of life in America and to insult American Jewry, our Jewish Federations of North America leaped into the fray. Apparently inspired by a report on the ads from liberal pundit Jeffrey Goldberg in his blog in The Atlantic, JFNA did, as is its wont, sent a strong letter to the Prime Minister. 

The ads were pulled by the PM on December 2, no doubt an immediate response occasioned by the JFNA expression of outrage (in which it was separately joined by an equally angry ADL. Seeing as the ad campaign, for which Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. apologized, was in its third month, the question does arise: "JFNA what took you so long?" After all someone is viewing anything and anything that affects us, no matter how obscure, and reporting it in Jerry's Daily Media Guide...but not this? Huh?

Within two hours of the Prime Minister;s announcement of the decision to pull the ads JFNA's Chair and CEO sent out their message of thanks and accepted credit (with "other organizations") for the PM's actions. Jeffrey Goldberg received no credit. So, two months to even appear interested in the ads, two hours to take credit for them being taken "off the air." Two months...two hours. shame.

And, in its letter to the PM, the Board Chair and CEO offered to consult on future marketing. As one of my friends wrote: "Just what the Israelis need, JFNA's expertise in marketing to Israelis."  And another: "It's good to know they answer the questions they weren't asked; now if they would only answer the questions they're asked."

Finally, JTA reported that "...the feedback (on the ads) from Israelis who live in the United States was positive." What a country...what a couple of countries.


Thursday, December 1, 2011


~ Just amazing...The JFNA Community Heroes thing with its own website and spokesperson -- one Andy Neusner -- is in full swing. Just ask Andy...

On November 21 Andy announced that the semi-finalists had been voted in -- unlike the NCAA (or any other event with "semi-finalists") in my experience, there are 20. And, looking at the bios of each, it seems that each "Career" or "Volunteer" "Hero" received the identical number of "votes." Yes, each nominee received 239,804 votes, if you believe any of this.

Then I looked at some of the nominees -- "semi-finalists." A very eclectic group to be sure. Some self-nominated, any number of Rabbis and a Rebbitzen, some dedicated to Jewish students on campus, one dedicated, apparently, to raising her family and seeking "justice" for her husband who was tried and convicted of financial fraud, bank fraud and money-laundering. He is appealing. Her interest: "social justice." Somehow...meets the criteria for a Community Hero.  There are those working on critical health issues. Some excellent folk; some not so much. And, we're so proud.

If Heroes legally qualifies, as I think it does, as a Lottery, based on research and work we did for clients setting up similar contests in Illinois, Heroes as operated is arguably in violation of New York law. But, I sense no one cares. As usual.

Oh, and who is Andy? The Web Content Manager and Manager, Jewish Community Heroes, for JFNA. Great job, Andy!! Really.

~ Now let's turn to Jewish Women International. JWI has selected Kathy Manning as one of its 10 Jewish Women to Watch, announcing her selection in their magazine with an appropriately laudatory article last month. JWI is doing great work: "JWI is the leading Jewish organization empowering women and girls -- through economic literacy; community training; healthy relationship education and the proliferation of women's leadership." The organization is devoted to dynamic and robust initiatives to "...protect the fundamental rights of all girls and women to live in safe homes..." its programs to prevent abuse in the home and combat illiteracy appear to be exemplary. Kathy deserves this honor and it comes from a fine organization.

A question: should the Chair of a federation or of JFNA accept an award at a fund-raising event -- a luncheon or dinner -- during the federation annual campaign calendar and while serving in high office? For example, the event honoring Kathy on her selection will take place in Washington in December. Kathy has sent out personal invitations to a lengthy list of friends and acquaintances (I am not on it...surprise, surprise) many of whom will come to D.C. to honor her...and raise money...or attempt to. Thus: no matter how important the organization, should a federation or JFNA Chair accept an award at a fund raising event during the annual campaign cycle.

Now in Chicago and, perhaps, your federation as well, there's a strong communal tradition that dictates that a federation Chair not accept organizational honoraria during his/her terms. In addition, our officers are not to publicly support political candidates, etc.  But, at JFNA, there are neither traditions nor rules.

As I wrote -- just asking.