Saturday, April 28, 2012


Woody Allen: I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.

When Manning, Gelman and Silverman publicly announced that the Second Membership Criterion was overwhelmingly approved by 57% of the vote not necessarily even 57% of the federations (this was a weighted vote, after all), they evidenced all that has been wrong with the JFNA "process" that led to its passage. Here is their expressed conclusion:

“The second membership criterion is about being part of our national community; it’s a statement about what it means to be a Federation and the collective vision that binds all Federations together,” said Kathy Manning, chair of JFNA's Board of Trustees. “It is a statement of shared purpose, and the actualization of our belief that all Jews are responsible for one another.”

My laughter comes from the reality that the Second Membership Criterion is, like JFNA itself, about nothing.

I feel for those federation leaders who spent countless hours demanding and then incorporating a paean to the historic relationship between federations, the Jewish Agency and the Joint as a Preface to the Criterion itself. For nowhere...not this pathetic announcement did JFNA's leaders cite even their personal commitment to the system's Historic Partners just as the Criterion itself does not. Not a mention. JFNA's leaders' message to those federation leaders who worked so hard to include JAFI and JDC: "Thanks for writing that, now go back to your little corner and just support what we've done." And, so they will. 

And my laughter rises to a crescendo when I read phrases like "...being part of our national community" or "what it means to be a federation' or "statement of shared purpose..." when this so-called Second Membership Criterion means none of those things...none. In fact as one of the express purposes of merger -- one of the inducing purposes -- was to increase the financial resources of the system's great partners in Israel and Overseas, this "Criterion" is in total derogation of purpose.

The dictionary definition of "criterion" says it all: "...a standard on which a judgment or decision may be based." By any measure this "Criterion" suggests a judgment of failed leadership, failed purpose, failed understanding...failed...failed...failed...but laughter ensues.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012


One of our knowledgeable and insightful Commentators wrote to suggest "Five Practical Reforms" of JFNA. While we all wish this very sick patient could be saved, would these reforms revive an institution that we keep alive by throwing $30.3 million a year at it?

"Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "MORE STUFF":

Five Practical Reforms for JFNA
1. All new hires in program, FRD and planning functions must have community experience
2. Salary levels should be brought in line with salaries of Federations in the Greater NY area
3. Make best Practice development the hallmark of organizational activity. For example: develop with Federations a concerted plan to reinvigorate lay solicitation throughout the system.
4. Place the nominating process for the board and executive committee under the control of the federations
5. Create a CEO Advisory Committee to meet on a scheduled basis with the CEO. (this was effectively introduced with the JDC a few decades ago)"

I would suggest that these "Reforms" would only be a bandage for a JFNA that is operating on life support. Would these be enough or at best a good starting point?  Other Commentators to the Blog have suggested just letting the organization collapse (or that it already has but no one notices) and then create a viable organization of and by the federations out of its ashes.

But, there's the rub. Even though few federation leaders who have spoken to me about JFNA have expressed a belief that JFNA's leaders (a) listen to them, (b) understand federations needs and wants or (c) understand that they are wasting tens of millions of dollars per year on programs and activities that the federations do not want or need; JFNA goes forward, oblivious . There is almost a unanimous belief that the return on investment in JFNA over the past six years has been close to negligible. And, at one and the same time, there is no interest in investing time in the reformation of JFNA/JFNA's leadership at the expense of local focus, fund raising and local restructuring. And, into this void, JFNA steps in and does at it pleases, the waste be damned. And no voices are heard; no leaders observing that the Emperor wears no clothes.

Under these circumstances, how do you get a locally focused federation leadership off what Peggy Noonan in another context called the "goofball express?" When will another federation leader stand up and state publicly what a predecessor did in JFNA's first years: "If we own this damn organization, why doesn't it feel like it?" And, now, 12 years later, the question is the same and federations continue to sit around waiting for the answer while doing nothing to indicate that they even understand the question.


Monday, April 23, 2012


During these days of Shoah and zikaron....

As many of you know, on April 1, I proudly joined the ranks of Jewish professionals when I accepted the assignment as "President and CEO" of a new 501(c)(3) Friends of Project HEART. HEART, the Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Task Force, was created by the Government of Israel in partnership with the Jewish Agency to link Holocaust Survivors, their direct heirs and the heirs of the 6 million with restitution for the greatest crimes in World history. With the funds we raise, we will provide these victims with a measure of justice they have been waiting for for over 70 years. Because the financial support for this effort has been welcome but inadequate to the enormity of the task, Friends of Project HEART will seek donor support to enable and further the massive research, the outreach to Survivors and heirs and the prosecution of restitution claims so as to gain that measure of justice for those of our People for whom justice has been denied for so very long.

The goals of HEART are simple: to amass the evidence of this most awful theft in all of the countries where Jews were victims, then to use the information collected to seek restitution and recognition for victims and direct heirs from the relevant successor authorities and institutions. The aim is to reach out to all potential claimants so as to directly assist the victims of this most massive crime in history get back what is rightfully theirs.

I took this position in part because I was inspired by those young women and men who are immersed in and overwhelmed by this Project's enormity. Their passion and caring for the victims of Nazi genocide, terror and theft gave me a sense of a Movement that I have not felt since Operation Exodus, since the best days of the UJA, the passion and caring that constantly inspire Birthright's lay and professional leaders and donors and the passion and caring which were embodied in the federation system in which you and I grew up and which must be rekindled...everywhere.

I have been tasked with raising millions to support the research, outreach and education efforts of HEART and with populating a Friends Board. Many with whom I have already spoken and met have given me guidance and direction. Some, like our dear friend and great leader, Ernie Michel, have already signed on to join us. I would welcome the assistance of each one of you as well, matching your passion with a great cause as the Survivors face their twilight.

My inspiration is found not only in the goals and work of HEART, but in the eyes and stories of the Survivors and their heirs with whom I have met; those of our People who just want a measure of justice and such closure as that justice might provide them, so many of whom have been waiting for decades. The inspiration is found in our maxim: justice, justice, shall you pursue.

We have built our Museums that house our memories and our tears; we will continue to work every day to assure that memories of the Holocaust and its victims and the enormity of the crime against our Jewish People and the World shall never be forgotten. But, my friends, we have so much more work to do to assure that justice will be achieved for those whose losses have been too often thought to be immeasurable and who have yet to be recompensed.

Join me. Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof....


Sunday, April 22, 2012


One of  the FOBs read this in a Federation broadsheet and thought we'd all find it of interest as we all love JFNA fiction, don't we?


Jews are taught all Jews are responsible for one another. The below story, written for Update by Jessica Pallay, senior writer, Jewish Federations of North America, provides a wonderful illustration of this important teaching.
In Monsey, NY, a new Jewish immigrant from Yemen stood outside her house, staring in disbelief at the mezuzah affixed to the doorpost. Asked if there was a problem, the middle-aged woman expressed shock that she could freely and openly display this Jewish religious symbol, something she was forbidden to do in her country of origin. This woman is one of the more than 70 Yemenite Jews now living safely and freely in Monsey, thanks to Jewish Federations and their partners, including the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and FEGS Health and Human Services System of NY. Since early 2009, Jewish Federations of North America has been working to save the last remnants of one of the world's oldest Jewish communities. In Yemen, amid political turmoil, the ancient Jewish community -- now numbering perhaps just a few hundred -- began suffering increasing threats. A young rabbi was shot dead by Islamic militants, and the community reported rising incidents of stone-throwing, verbal harassment and intimidation. Most Jews from Yemen were evacuated to Israel as part of Operation Magic Carpet in 1949 and 1950, including many who settled in Rosh Ha'ayin, which would become Birmingham's Sister City. However, a relative handful -- perhaps a few hundred -- remained scattered in Yemen, dispersed throughout a number of villages. In March 2009, the Jewish Federations of North America's Executive Committee asked local Federations, including Birmingham's, to support the immigration of 57 Yemenite Jews, encompassing 13 families, to the United States. This migration required $800,000. Between July 7 and October 27, 2009, the Yemenite-Jewish refugees were formally resettled in Monsey, a suburb about 30 miles northwest of New York City that is home to many Jews, including many modern Orthodox and Hasidic groups. The group joined 14 others from their community who had already made their way to Monsey. DESPITE CHALLENGES The resettlement finally came to a completion this past fall, in 2011, despite some challenges. Most of the Yemenite Jews had lived in small villages, were poorly educated and did not speak English. Many also suffered from severe chronic health issues. Through funding from 65 Jewish Federations -- including UJA-Federation of New York, which provided approximately 30 percent of the total -- as well as support from the Jewish community in Rockland County, FEGS, HIAS and the US government, the refugees have gradually settled into their new homes in Monsey. Many have learned English, live in residences within walking distance of a local Yemenite synagogue, and are receiving public assistance, as well as regular food packages and donations of clothing and furniture. Children are enrolled in local schools, where they are studying English, math, Hebrew and other subjects. Adults -- many of whom have never worked outside their homes -- are participating in job training. In addition, FEGS has worked with the New York Legal Assistance Group to ensure that all of the refugees have either received their green cards or have completed green-card applications. Persecuted in Yemen, these Jews came to the United States and now enjoy religious and civil liberties, many participating in Jewish rituals and holidays openly for the first time. Despite some challenges, this story has created many incredible opportunities, all thanks to Jewish Federations and their supporters.


The article is quite remarkable unless you love JFNA hyperbole and misdirection. While JFNA did bring a whopping 13..that's 13.... families to Monsey USA, over 150,000 Yemenites have found their new homes in Israel throught he work of the Jerwish Agency, the care in Yemen of the JDC and with funding from 157 federations and 400 Network communities. This "aliyah" effort was nothing more than a diversion, a farce and could have been accomplished with ease by our Israel and overseas partners. Instead we write literature like you just read above.


Friday, April 20, 2012


JFNA, proving once again that you can fool even the best and brightest all of the time, appears to have gained almost unanimous support for a so-called Second Membership Criterion that panders to the least in us while actually weakening support for its supposed beneficiaries, our "Historic Partners," JAFI/JDC. It's both pathetic and par for the course. What is astounding is that the leaders of federations which supported a real "model partnership share" in the 90's now support a phony partnership share today. Why, because "'s the best we could do -- so shut up."

Like you, I have reviewed Manning's e-mail of March 9 transmitting Towards a Second Criterion for Membership in JFNA bearing a date of April 24, the date on which this junk will be voted on. One of those I respect the most once dismissed an important research work on the framing of JFNA as " for wrapping dead fish." That leader supports this Criterion as if it were something beyond "fish-worthy."

Forget for a moment that the base line called for in this Criterion of a 10% allocation to "anything overseas" is (a) disgraceful, (b) fails to offer any hope to JA/JDC for a core allocation increase and (c) is at a lower percentage by far than the current core allocations percentage (allocations divided by annual campaign) to the Agency and Joint. Forget that the substantive description of the Criterion as stated in the April 24 document is unchanged in any way from that of last September (but for a wholly vacuous, hortatory Preface that pledges eternal support for the Historic Partners while the Criterion itself [and, of course, the GPT] undermines that support to zero and, further misrepresents as reality that there is a Committee dealing with joint marketing and fund raising). The Preface promises that which the Criterion totally fails to deliver.

Forget that the "aspirational goal" of 20% to "anything overseas vetted by the Global Planning Table...starting with the 2014 campaign allocations" offers the so-called "Historic Partners" no comfort. What we will have substituted for increased resources when this fish wrapper is adopted, is the continued deconstruction of our system's historic values and responsibilities.

On April 8, 2011, a little over one year ago to the day, one of the federations' best and brightest wrote Manning and Silverman: "JFNA and the federations have obligations connected to the merger (that created JFNA). One of the most important from our perspective is that JAFI and JDC...were asked to give up their ownership rights (in UJA) in return for a promise by the new organization to advocate and provide collective unrestricted allocations to (the Agency and JDC) on an on-going basis. We believe that...the proposal that suggests unrestricted allocations would be optional violates our merger agreement." This leader went on to articulate for his community -- that we will insist that there be created a Second JFNA Membership Criterion that incorporates an unrestricted collective allocation to JAFI and JDC at no less than a floor level minimum to be decided. And, one year later we have this: a Second Membership Criterion that fails to incorporate any (let alone any additional) core allocations support for the Historic Partners and, thereby, further erodes the very allocations to the Partners the Second Membership Criterion was supposed to protect.

So, what we have ended up with is a Second Membership Criterion that is all about JFNA and further distances the system from the Historic Partners that Criterion was supposed to bring closer. When the Jewish Agency and Joint are in your communities raising funds directly, remember this day and how your community voted at JFNA's behest.

All one can say is shame on us.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012


No, this is not about the reality that they can't even tell time at JFNA -- the announcement of Webinars on the once failed and fatally flawed Select Core Priorities for April 17 announced and repeated that they would take place on Eastern Standard Time (that's EST). No, instead, what's the latest substantive inanity coming out of 25 Broadway? 

See if you can follow this:

It's Budget Season at JFNA. Or, as we here at Blog Central call it, the "silly season." At a recent meeting of the Budget and Finance Committee, one of the sycophants in chief admonished the Committee that "we need more money; so we have to psychologically prepare the federations to accept a larger Budget." He probably went on but everyone lost interest. Then someone, this fine leader or another, suggested an immediate 1% increase. I guess that was to be a "we'll show them" or something.

OK, everyone was fired up...or something. Then Jerry visited the Large City Execs meeting and moaned about not having enough money, Dues not enough, etc., apparently forgetting that he had spent $1 million on Festivus 2, the Sequel. Guess the plea fell on deaf ears, or, more probably, when probed, Jerry couldn't explain what JFNA would spend any extra money on. But, then...

In due course, the 2013 Draft Budget Books were sent out to the Budget and Finance Committee. The proposed Budget would be flat. Then, the calls started -- forget the Budget Books, the detail, the preparation, etc. "We're reducing the Budget by $700,000." (That's no doubt the empirical "We're".) A whopping 2% reduction -- adjust your federation budgets accordingly (but don't spend it all in one place!!)  Seems that the $700,000 (and perhaps more) will come from the infamous "other sources."

Now, many of us remember just  a few years back when the JFNA of the early 90's began a "fee for services" effort -- charge for consultations, strategic plans and other disasters. More federations than "normal" began to ask "what the hell are we getting for our Dues." And, so, "fee for services" went away. My fear: "other sources" means that The Network, once proudly independent and interdependent, now a captive, will see its share of JFNA overhead increased or some Large Cities will step forward to volunteer more funds for less service-- JFNA's idea of "fund raising."

If any of you can explain this, please call or write. Perhaps a national JFNA Bingo Night; perhaps...begging among the Large Cities under the theory "...another $700,000 from New York (or Chicago, Baltimore, Cleveland, L.A., etc., won't be missed)"...perhaps Jerry will begin, ahem, "marketing" his federation visits (1 hour stop and chat $1,000; actually listen, $20,000; speech, $2,500; don't come at all, $30,000)...or not.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012


In response to our Post JFNA-ISTAN, we received some excellent Comments. One, from one of the best professional partners in my experience, brought me back to a time when our organizations had purpose and values, understood collective responsibility and acted with responsibility.

But, then, we received the following Anonymous Comment that underscored all that is and has gone wrong at JFNA the past 6+ years. Here is what an apparent JFNA insider wrote us:

" (Another) Anonymous said that JFNA is a bad place to work...

I work there, too.
Bad does not begin to explain it.

First, not even the executive committee or finance committee has been told about the federal lawsuits that are underway over employment issues.

Every one will tell you that Jerry is a nice guy, he even eats lunch with the employees. What they won't tell you is his vicious disposition when he does not like something. All smiles and then like a rabies infected dog bite he gets you.

The staff asks every day what will Kathy Manning think? She is the do all end all. Nothing but nothing can happen without her being in the spotlight. Even campaign material goes out to the trustees under her signature. The Campaign chair is a workhorse with zero authority and zero recognition. Kathy controls all communications. If there is sucess in any area or anything she can thumbprint, she runs in and pushes the lay-leader in charge out of the way. Examples are campaign, budget, UIA, endowment, emergency, GPT, and even the executive committee itself. Whenever there is an issue it will not go to the executive for discussion, Manning will name an advocate committee, just so she can chair it. She chairs a dozen functions that should be other lay leaders.

I discuss this with colleagues around the country, no other organization has such a deadly combination of a clueless "out-of-the-box" chief executive matched with an organizational destroying "one-woman-show" despot like Kathy Manning.

Death by a thousand cuts. Even a new chair will unlikely be able to prevent this place from sliding further. Raise critical questions here? Only at the risk of your job. Anybody with a conscience who can find a better job is gone. Most people are looking.

This year's toll: Saginaw, Astroff, Neuman

Look around. We stink. It's terrible. We work to advance JFNA not the Federations. We work to make our organization in the press, we do not work to advance our mission.

I am ashamed to work here."

And, as if in verification, friends referenced back to an August 2011 transmittal with regard to the "Annual Campaign package." Wasn't sent by the National Campaign Chair or the "Philanthropic Resources" professionals...uh uh. The two pager was sent by Kathy Manning. But, as it turns out there is even further and more immediate evidence of this constant "need" for control. There was a Global Planning Table "Committee" conference call on April 17. The GPT Chair was on the call. Yet, his role was totally usurped by...Ms. Manning. And, she was clearly reading from a script!!

Friends, this is beyond is beyond tragic. Any of you who believe the allegations above are untrue, write me. Correct the record. If you can.


Monday, April 16, 2012


At my favorite organization, it's very clear that failure is success -- or maybe, probably, these guys just can't tell the difference.  In fact,  at JFNA there is no difference. The idea at 25 Broadway is to call failure success and, the bigger the failure, the greater the likelihood of repetition.

We all remember #ish, don't we? The promise of 100s of thousands of new prospects. Ehhhh...not so much. Community Heroes, replicated in a few woeful places, repeated as if there were some purpose beyond honoring the few. So completely captured by the Orthodox community, JFNA had to create a separate category for others. The "rescue" of a few Yemenite Jewish families to Monsey, New York, almost a self-parody of purpose. And TribeFestivus, such a financial and purpose failure, having lost more than a quarter million dollars, it just had to be repeated. See, this is the problem: at JFNA there has been no purpose, so there have been no good ideas, so they just repeat the bad ones.

Then there is the curious case of something called Select Core Priorities. This "process," begun in 2011, was to be the incredibly successful precursor to the Global Planning Table. JAFI and JDC would put 10% of their highest priorities into a hat, putting 10% of their allocations  at risk of reallocation, and federations would jump at the chance to reallocate core resources. (Why either JDC or JAFI would subject themselves to this is another story with all kinds of questions for another day.) Well, at then end of the day, 10 of 157 federations participated ... that's 10 federations 6% of the total... and $2 million at risk, about 1% of total allocations. And JFNA? Its senior professionals applauded and shouted that this meant "...the GPT will be an incredible success." OMG and woe is me. This demonstrates that at 25 Broadway, no one even knows the definition of "success" or the difference between "success" and that other thing....oh yeah, "failure." I ask you to recall that JFNA staff (probably the Philanthropic Resources staff unless they were otherwise busy with the Festivus) was frantically calling federations begging their participation. That effort failed too -- 10, count 'em, 10 federations participated.

And, now, in the tradition of repeating failure, we have Select Core Priorities -- the Sequel.  For every flop at JFNA has a Sequel. Subject JAFI and the Joint to further unnecessary expense, pressure federations to participate, only more so. We take what we have learned, misinterpret it, and do it all over again.


Friday, April 13, 2012


JFNA-Istan, located at 25 Broadway, NYC, is a strange, foreboding land. A place that should be dedicated to trying to build consensus among 157 different tribes, instead it is a place that is all about...itself. On any given day JFNA-Istan is a place where, thanks to quotidian efforts, $30,800 is invested/wasted in...itself -- projects and marketing about...itself. Those 157 federations and 400 non-federated Network communities send their money (think of Foreign Aid to Iraq), hoping it will not all be wasted. That's hope against hope, good money after bad. JFNA-Istan is both purposeless and feckless -- the worst things (other than corrupt) that a Jewish organization in receipt of at least $30,300,000 a year of our money...that's ours...can be. And us? We look away, we avoid looking at the disaster we have created by our inattention -- and we can't look away when the results are as bad as they have been the past 6+ years. But look away we have and we do. For who would really want to see what we have, by our silence and our acquiescence, created and perpetuated?

Just like its namesake country and its operational model, JFNA-Istan is a place where dissent is never tolerated, confused with disloyalty. It was a the President of a Jesuit institution who recently praised dissent in a critical context when he said: "This expression of conscience was in the tradition of the deepest values we share as a people. One need not agree with her substantive position to support her right to free expression." Of course, that was in America, and we are in JFNA-Istan. In JFNA-Istan dissent is treason and the treasonous are first isolated, then degraded and, if all else fails, word is passed amongst the mullahs (and accepted by them as fact without further inquiry) that the treasonous can't be "trusted."  And these are good and honorable men and women.

No. JFNA-Istan is a place where only those who "are JFNA-Istanis" are permitted into the Mishkan, decorated by the High Priestess herself. And it is She who shares the password she created with only the privileged few. Yes, it is she who has uttered the word "collective" so often and in so many inapt circumstances, that she and her followers believe that they demonstrate their commitment to this core concept by repetition alone. It is she and the CEO/President of JFNA-Istan who believe that something called the "Global Planning Table" will somehow increase allocations to Israel and overseas needs (and to JAFI and JDC) because the High Priestess has declared it so. No, the GPT is but an act of futility and desperation, as is so much that goes on at JFNA. There is so much bad that the infrequent "good" (like the recently announced "regional alliance" in southwest Florida) gets lost in the back wash.

JFNA-Istan, like its namesake, is a place from which thoughtful leaders should announce either a planned, swift withdrawal, or a massive takeover. Sadly, neither will probably happen.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012


 It concerns me, as I know it does all of you, that the Federation system is in apparent arrhythmia -- it no longer has a collective heart beating as, or close to, one. Below you will read an exchange, reprinted in the incisive and always informative ejewishphilanthropy, between two federation professionals. My comments then follow:

[eJP note: Several recent articles have highlighted the leadership challenges that exist in our community, the role of how professionals are viewed and the almost here Boomer retirements - all subjects worthy of longer conversation.

The articles sparked our receipt of an email exchange between two federation professionals (names withheld for obvious reasons). Going forward, we invite readers, especially those in decision-making positions, to weigh in on the important issues raised in the various posts.]
I recently was in an email correspondence with a colleague in another Federation. I believe the email exchange was illustrative of a looming problem in Jewish communal service – a lack of leading professionals. Here is the exchange:

Working here is getting so frustrating. My colleagues and I are beaten down. How can you be in your position for so long without going crazy?
 It upsets me to hear you talk like that.

It is so hard to work at my federation. Middle management has no say and no role to play. And we, my volunteers included, are at the whim of the CEO on who we can talk to and involve at the Federation. Amazing how many people we discard.
I feel lucky to have a good run here. Doesn’t seem like that is the norm. Most people just work for the paycheck. There is such a lack of leadership out there and no one seems to care.

I agree. Sometimes I think back to my first job in the field where we were a great team. Everyone was on the same page. Working hard with great results. It was a fun time.
It is harder and harder as people are less committed to the field. My Federation staff is mainly made up of people who just happen to live in this city. They like the job and the work they are doing. But are they really going “above and beyond?” Are they devoted to this work? It is not like when people would be recruited from all over the country to have the best and brightest.

The system is in trouble because we do not value people who want to do this for a living. I keep hearing how we need to hire people from outside the field. Really? So they can work here for a year and realize the work is not what they want to do?
We need to go back to recruiting and training people for this field. Give them real opportunities to grow and develop. At the same time, enable them to see the positive impact they are making and allow them to succeed.

Can the system be fixed? Is it too late? Does anyone really care?
All $64,000 questions.

We need to find people committed to this field and who care about this work. Plus, I want a leader with a clear vision of where the organization is heading and how to get there. Instead, too many bosses are going about their daily work with little interest and commitment to their professional team.
Lots of challenges, but the opportunities are there. I think?

I’m an optimist by nature. That optimism has been beaten down over the past few years. It is a HUGE issue for the Jewish world in general and for the professionals in specific. The organizations large and small are run by wealthy donors – who believe they know it all. I look around and am saddened by the leadership of my local agencies. And, is the rabbinic leadership any better? Is there anyone out there that you would say “I want to work for them?” Disappointing.
This is all about leadership. Where are the leaders? Even those who are CEOs are afraid to take risks in this day and age, so status quo becomes the norm. Change is risky, yet must be the norm. And if you challenge them, then forget it.

The field has lost its luster. I used to hear stories about “giants” in the field – Philip Bernstein, Bob Hiller, Ralph Goldman, Ernie Michel to name a few. Remember those names? Now some could say we have Nasatir, Ruskay, Shrage, but who are the others? And then outside of Federations there is Hoenlein and Foxman as examples. Soon these guys will retire. And now we have a world where volunteer leaders want “outsiders” from the field to lead, yet do those people really care about the mission? Or are they just trying to show their acumen as “leaders.” Curious if any of them have been successful?
Who will help maintain the history of the field?

What the f*** are they doing to replace themselves?
Unsure. But for now, I will keep my head low and stay out of the way.

Think this is any different than your organization? Guess again."

And here is the rub: The federations own umbrella, JFNA, not only has no answers, its leaders don't even understand the questions. It's beyond the pathetic. Silverman has visited over 110 federations, visits for which he would be congratulated if he had learned one basic basic thing...about the system's needs from those visits. Don't get me wrong, it's great to have a cheerleader -- and Jerry is a terrific cheerleader for JFNA -- but we are approaching that moment, if we aren't already there, when we won't have a system worth cheering for anymore. 

We certainly have already buried the idea of a "movement" in the cemetery of lost dreams, with JFNA performing the last rites while crying that it doesn't have enough money from Dues to accomplish...yes, to accomplish what exactly? The GPT, TribeFest 3, the IAN, the SCN, and a whole bunch of programs rebranded from UJA and CJF and claimed as their "new ideas?"

When we -- all of us - created what is now JFNA by merger. it was for dual purposes: (1) to enhance the role of federations as the central address in the Jewish community and (2) to increase the financial resources available to our partners, the Joint and Jewish Agency. Never...never...did we...all of us, any of us...contemplate an organization that would evolve into what it so clearly has become -- an organization that exists for its own purposes. Not for the federations and operating in a manner adverse to the interests of JAFI and JDC. And, as always, we have only ourselves to blame...our silence, our collaboration, our inaction.

And, meanwhile,  everyone is keeping their "head low and stay(ing) out of the way."


Saturday, April 7, 2012


Many of you know that no one loves a good laugh more than I. And even more of you know that no organization provides us with more laughs more often than does JFNA. After all, the organization can send out Briefings that makes GA of a little over 800 full pay registrants a roaring success; or the JFNA-engineered "rescue" of 13 Yemeni families to Monsey NY appear to be the equivalent of the actual Exodus of 1,000,000 Jews from what was the Soviet Union; and so on and on and on. For 25 Broadway os the central address for these, the masters of marketing and miscommunication.

So it was with great anticipation that I greeted the JFNA Leadership Briefing of March 14, 2012 -- Donor Acquisition Program Enhances Federation Databases. I'll go directly to the bottom line: "The direct marketing solution, coordinated by JFNA, was tested in a pilot program last year with 35 federations. The pilot produced more than 1,000 new donors, and raised more than $33,000 for participating federations." (emphasis added)

Laughter begins now:

     ~ 35 federations, 1,000 new donors = 28.57 new donors per federation.

     ~ $33,000 pledged by $1,000 new donors - $33 per donation

     ~ $33 per donation times 28.57 new donors per federation = $942.81 per participating federation

OK. wipe the tears away, read the quotes from joy-filled federation professionals and, by all means, GO FOR IT!!!

But, never forget -- no "beta test" was need for this "donor acquisition program." UJA rolled this out in the early 90's, staffed it and marketed it without charge to the federations. If it's worth doing once it's worth repeating -- but don't pretend you've got something new and different. OK?

Laughter ends now.


Friday, April 6, 2012


In the midst of so much darkness, for all of us there is the light of the celebration that begins tonight as we share with one another our annual celebration of freedom and hope. At our tables in our homes or in the homes of our families or the homes of our friends, wherever our Seders are held, we will be together in celebration as we stood together at Sinai. Thus, I and my family are so happy to be celebrating together with you, my friends, the beauty of our history and the beauty of Jewish Peoplehood.

May you and yours have a zissen Pesach, Shabbat shalom and...l'shana ha'ba-a b'yerushalayim.


Thursday, April 5, 2012


Perhaps this should be titled "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here." The GPT is another hopeless exercise in hyperbole, complexity and ignorance. And nothing illustrates all of this any more than the mailing to Federations reprinted below. This is a consultant's dream and a federation nightmare all at once.

So, please read below (no, I didn't write this as a parody), note how federations are now merely bystanders to a process that is the captive of consultants and JFNA professionals. Judge for yourselves whether anyone involved has a clue.

"Global Planning Table                                                                                                      March 12, 2012

In an effort to ensure that Federations are up-to-date about our work, we have prepared this memo to assist you in communicating an update on the work of the Global Planning Table to your colleagues and lay leaders. Should you have any questions about the information below, please do not hesitate to contact Joanne Moore (

After two in-person meetings, one conference call, and extensive consultation, the GPT Committee is working through the process described below to reach consensus around collective priorities for Federations. Please note that community input will be solicited at this year’s General Assembly (GA) in Baltimore rather than through community discussions.

We believe that community input will be most valuable later in the process after the GPT Committee has had a chance to make progress on outlining and understanding the issues. We intend to make this an important part of this year's GA. We hope that community members will participate in the on-line survey and will be thinking about other ways that communities can have real input into this process.

Idea pieces. We are inviting a carefully selected and diverse group of thought leaders in the broader Jewish community (both within and outside the Federation "system") to submit a 3-5 page essay and analysis of "Global Jewish Needs and Challenges". These essays will be shared with the GPT Committee (and with permission more publically) in an effort to inform the committee’s thinking.

Partner Presentations. We will hear presentations in April from our historic partners, the Jewish Agency and JDC, regarding what they are currently doing, where they see challenges and opportunities for the future, and how they propose our system should address those challenges and opportunities. 

GPT Committee Questionnaires. To engage committee members and understand their thinking at this point in the process, we are asking committee members to complete a brief questionnaire.

Working Groups. During the April meeting we will review and agree on 3-4 broad work areas and identify subsidiary topics within each work area, to be considered more fully by Working Groups of the GPT Committee. These Working Groups— which will be expected to do their work in late spring and during the summer months—are intended to be the foundation for the Commissions we will be forming, for the second stage of our Committee’s work. 

On-line survey. While the Working Groups are conducting their process, we will also launch an on-line survey to solicit input from people within and outside of Federations. Stay tuned…

GA & GPT. As was envisioned through the Global Planning Department, we have begun to discuss how to use the GA as a venue for soliciting feedback and input from Federations and others. These discussions are in their infancy but we hope will progress in the coming weeks.

Working the SharePoint knowledge sharing site for the GPT.  We are developing a knowledge sharing website for the Global Planning Table that will enable committee members and Federations to access information and data as well as view updates of the Global Planning Table’s activities and accomplishments."

OK. Now take a deep breath and note, as Iam certain you already have:

     1. None of JAFI, JDC, World ORT or the ENP are mentioned anywhere as informants or participants in this convoluted "process."

     2. Federations will be invited in "feedback and input" at some point.

     3. There will be a "knowledge sharing website." What will they think of next.

This just becomes more and more shameful.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Here is a portion of a transmittal from the Global Planning Table Chair to the GPT constituency:

"We anticipate closing the April meeting with a facilitated discussion with all Committee members, designed to begin formulation of  broad mission areas and identified subsidiary topics within each mission area, to be considered more fully by Working Groups of the GPT Committee. These Working Groups -- which will be expected to do their work in late Spring and during the summer months -- are intended to be the foundation for the Commissions we will be forming, for the second stage of our Committee's work."

I know, I'm so stupid. It's so self-explanatory -- we have a Committee and we have Working Groups and we have Commissions. But, then we also have a GPT Design Document, a Consultant (just one? Jeez) and an Advisory Group  (that's the rubber stamp that helped to frame this thing). OK, have you got it now? Oh, wait, there is also the "Executive Steering Committee," how could we forget that?

If you understand the difference between and among the Advisory Group, the Committee, the Working Groups and the Commissions, then the members are asked to answer the following four questions
  1. "What are the 3-5 most important global issues that are open to philanthropic intervention if the Jewish community could devote sufficient resources on a large scale? 
  2. If our collective work had an additional $50 million in dollars (I didn't write these, friends) to allocate to global needs, what would you recommend that we do with it?
  3. What criteria should we consider when determining the priorities of the Global Planning Table? What data or information do you want to review to ensure that you are prepared to make decisions about Global Planning Table priorities?" (I would want the recommendations from the attendees at TribeFest for sure.) 
  4.  What do you want for lunch?

Oh, did I forget -- we're going to accomplish all this in 5 hours (including the lunch you picked).

I may have mistakenly called the GPT a farce or something like that in earlier Posts. I apologize, this is clearly something worse than that. Uh huh.