Friday, August 31, 2012


The Retreat of the Young Leadership Cabinets has become a travesty, a throw-away line, a few days out of the offices for JFNA. Nothing else could explain how this terribly edited Leadership Briefing ever escaped the massive JFNA p.r. machine. As you read what follows, reflect upon the fact that this is exactly how it was sent out:
The Jewish Federations of North America - The Strength of a People. The Power of Community.
NYL Cabinet Retreat Inspires, Raises $1.7 Million
August 7, 2012
Hundreds of young leaders from across North America met in Orlando earlier this week for three days of leadership training, philanthropic education and spiritual reflection at The Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet Retreat.

The 2012 Cabinet Retreat, chaired by Emily Leventhal of Boston and Ben Schneider of Cincinatti, featured the theme, “Chart yOUR Path,” and encouraged Cabinet members to become change agents in their communities, and help build a strong and vibrant Jewish world. 

“Chart yOUR Path is about creating a year of learning, leading and exploring our own ability to effectuate positive change – for ourselves, our communities and the entire world,” said Leventhal. “Chart yOUR Path gives each of us the opportunity to focus on our own philanthropic Hundreds of young leaders from across North America met in Orlando earlier this week for three days of leadership training, philanthropic education and spiritual reflection at The Jewish Federations of North America’s National Young Leadership Cabinet Retreat.
The 2012 Cabinet Retreat, chaired by Emily Leventhal of Boston and Ben Schneider of Cincinatti, featured the theme, “Chart yOUR Path,” and encouraged Cabinet members to become change agents in their communities, and help build a strong and vibrant Jewish world.

“Chart yOUR Path is about creating a year of learning, leading and exploring our own ability to effectuate positive change – for ourselves, our communities and the entire world,” said Leventhal. “Chart yOUR Path gives each of us the opportunity to focus on our own philanthropic and leadership journey.” 
Cabinet Retreat serves as the annual signature gathering of NYL Cabinet, a 50-year-strong leadership development program of JFNA, which trains and inspires young Jewish leaders over the course of a six-year program. “Retreat is a time to strengthen your leadership, affirm your commitment to the Jewish community and place yourself into the Jewish narrative,” said Schneider.
These were not the only repetitions. It's all so's all so's all so sad.

But that's not all -- average per person fund-raising results would have been totally unacceptable in 1973...that's 1973.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012


A post-mortem is defined in part as the examination of a corpse after death to determine the cause. While this could be applied to so many things at JFNA, a recent Report on the infamous TribeFest 2 gives rise to a simple post-mortem, a simple conclusion -- without subsidies flowing in every possible direction from a budget approaching if not exceeding $1 million, Festivus would not have existed. 

Here's who were subsidized: all registrants, Las Vegas Residents, recipients of a special "Lucky Winners Raffle," The Big Show Exhibitor Registrants, members of the press/social media, communities receiving further subsidies for community professionals' attendance, and JFNA professionals. In other words -- E.V.E.R.Y.B.O.D.Y. JFNA's definition of "success" -- pay people to attend, trumpet the results and do it again. Festivus 2 was described by JFNA thusly: "...the extraordinary events of March 25-27th." OMG!!!

Interesting reading -- but this Report was intended for a privileged few. (Certainly not including me.) There are many internal inconsistencies, here are some highlights:
  • In anticipation of 1800 "participants" (don't know what that meant), JFNA decided (without any apparent lay approval) to increase the number of JFNA professionals in attendance from 30 to 35 inasmuch as there were 1307 "registrants" (I guess that's different than "participants") for Fest 1 and these additional 5 would "help make the event run even smoother." 35 JFNA staff members traveled to Las Vegas for Festivus 2 -- remarkable. But, I bet it was smooooth.
  • 34 purchasers of Exhibit Booths received free Registrations. Do you know of any Convention organizer that doesn't offer free Exhibitor Registration?
  • The number of participating communities increased by -- drum roll, please -- 3.
So, here's the deal -- TribeFest 2, after all of the subsidies, all of the intentional confusion between "Registrants" and "participants," and a Budget of $1,000,000 (probably not including staff overhead), projected 1,800 Registrants and achieved 1,516 -- a Registration shortfall of almost 20%. Now, you know JFNA; no one at 25 Broadway will ever acknowledge that anything is a failure, let alone the brilliant "extraordinary" Festivus. But, could someone, anyone, get them to stop before they do it again?


Saturday, August 25, 2012


One could only hope that at 25 Broadway and in Greensboro there was some small sliver of remorse after the dust had settled on the "zionism" issue and those involved at those two venues had a chance to reflect on the stories they conjured to cover for what they had said and done. But, sensing none...

We would probably all agree that the Board Chair's demand for the intentional exclusion of "zionism" from the Global Planning Table Vision Statement because of the alleged "controversy" associated with the word/the concept is a shanda...but, that wasn't all.  After the excision of "zionism" and the deletion of "engaging the Jewish people" and what is left, but for the intervention of federation leadership (and, be assured, it is always "but for the intervention of federation leadership"), would have been  a "vision" crafted by JFNA through this futile GPT process that would have driven our national organization and, through it, our federations further and further away from the core purposes and values that my federation and yours would demand were they aware of these actions.

JFNA and GPT leaders have claimed that those who opposed their scheme were "misinformed" or "malicious" or "engaged in wordsmithing." None of those label are or were true. And the only "wordsmithing" that went on was JFNA's leaders claims that as "zionism" had never been included in any GPT document, they couldn't have excised it!! I wouldn't call this JFNA game of semantics "wordsmithing," I'd call it specious.

As always, JFNA's leaders don't want you to know about any of this. The CEO insisted that "...the work being proposed (through the GPT) will strengthen Israel and the connections between American Jews, Israelis and Israel..." and "our deepest support for Israel and Zionist principles." Yet, he never explains...never...the absolute conflict between that "work" and the editing out of the GPT "Vision" "engaging the Jewish people" and the Chair's dictate that "zionism" never be included.

Nor did CEO Silverman and his Board Chair ever explain the total inconsistency of positive words -- "deepest support" -- with negative actions -- e.g., no JFNA advocacy for the Jewish Agency or Joint within the federations for at least six years and the deconstruction of the historic partnership with them through the GPT and the consequent declining support for these historic partners by over $100,000,000. 

Then many of you sent me an August 16 op-ed from Arutz Sheva -- The Zionist Girl the Jewish Federations Love to Hate. Written by Lori Lowenthal Marcus, you can read the whole piece at

Suffice it to say that Ms. Marcus reports on the attacks against her arising out of her Jewish Press article; the futile attempts she made to get JFNA's position both before and after her article was published; and her sorrow, disappointment and surprise at the vicious manner in which JFNA, its leaders and sycophants (my word) went after her. And, after all of the dust settled, what did she learn: "Silverman's July 30th statement admitted that a choice had been made not to use the word Zionism in the document..." And, "[S]o what actually happened at the meeting out of which this ugly fight arose? We have two accounts. One account has remained consistent -- Wexler's. The other, JFNA's, began as stubborn silence, then morphed into a personal attack on a reporter...then shape-shifted into a long-winded explanation about 'mere' word-smithing, capped off with a high-handed and self-serving invocation of the religious obligation -- but only of others -- to repent."

It appeared in Silverman's rant with regard to my Post that the reporter and I were being accused of sinat chinam -- "baseless hatred." My suggestion is that those who throw around rocks like that engage in some serious introspection inasmuch as the only thing that this writer despises is a lack of integrity, institutional or otherwise -- in other words, with all that JFNA lacks -- and that isn't baseless.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Over the past six years JFNA has evidenced a sad continuum in its treatment of the best and brightest of its senior women professionals (and so many on its administrative staff). That terrible treatment was one of the contributing factors to the continuation of this Blog at that time. And, in spinning Jerry Silverman's slick wordsmithing and shameful attempt in his "statement" yesterday to characterize Joanne Moore's resignation as a termination, that treatment continues.

You will recall that terrific pros like Gail Hyman, Vicki Agron and Gail Reiss were forced out of their respective senior professional positions by Silverman's predecessor. And, now, this. Moore, with a superb set of credentials, took on a set of responsibilities that, had she been permitted to do her work over the past year -- in the Global Planning area, in reversing years of GA decline, in creating a planning and research function which federations so desperately need -- she might have saved JFNA from itself. I saw in her background even the possibility that she might be Silverman's successor. Perhaps, he saw the same thing...and was somehow threatened by Moore's resume and her capacity. Whether it was that or the Board Chair's demands that her design for the GPT take on the trappings of Torah that forced Ms. Moore to resign...we may never know. 

When Hyman, Agron and Reiss left, I asked Kathy Manning, then the Chair of the Executive, given her responsibility under JFNA's governance to lead JFNA "operations," to debrief these valued pros. And, while she said she had, it turned out that "debriefing" meant saying "sorry you're leaving" with no inquiry as to why. Since that time Ms. Manning has announced she had become a "full-time volunteer" and, therefore, I presume that she knows full well why Joanne Moore has resigned, and her role in that resignation -- even if we do not.

What we do know is this...another strong woman's professional voice has been lost to JFNA. But, like Hyman, Agron, Reiss, Debbie Roshfeld and others, Joanne Moore will certainly go on to make important contributions to our communities and our People.

And, to spinning Jerry Silverman, remember Jim Croce: spin, spin, spin, spin around...


Tuesday, August 21, 2012


For all of those who believe that JFNA is not in chaos...

Yesterday, my flight from New York City landed at O'Hare at 5:45. Over the two-1/2 hours of flight time, I had received 102 e-mails -- all on the same subject: Joanne Moore's summary relegation back to lay leadership after, what, a year of being JFNA's greatest hope (and ours) for a rational, planful approach to the overseas allocations process. The comments accompanying these e-mails ranged from "the end is near," to "catastrophe," and "ridiculous," to "the wrong person(s) left" and more. 

When Joanne Moore was hired, she was loaded up with an impossible set of responsibilities -- not alone a GPT that had already been structured by a consultant and the Board Chair like a Rube Goldberg machine (for those unfamiliar with Goldberg's construction of ridiculously complex machines to perform simple tasks...Google), but the complete overhaul of the GA, and of JFNA's non-existent (or barely visible) community planning, research and analysis function, among others. 

I can only speculate, however, that what drove Ms. Moore out of the profession and back to lay leadership were the constant micromanagement of the Global Planning Table by the full time volunteer Board Chair. One has to ask: if Joanne Moore was hired to lead the GPT effort, as she was, why was the consultant running GPT meetings and where was the CEO, one of whose jobs is to protect  his lead professionals from just the kind of lay interference that I believe took place here. (For a particularly nasty send-off, read Silverman's statement to the JFNA Board yesterday.)

So, now, the GPT is turned over to Becky Caspi. Here is what both (?) Silverman and Moore wrote in their respective "statements" echoed by GPT Chair David Butler yesterday:

"The next stage of the Global Planning Table’s work requires deeper integration of its work with our Israel and Overseas (I&O) team. Our I&O professionals have been instrumental in the GPT’s work this year and bring tremendous knowledge of, and experience with, the work of Federations and our partners in Israel and around the world."

This is a joke, right? Now in her fifth year of leading "I & O," and after the expenditure of $10s of millions of budgeted dollars, what are the Israel Office's accomplishments under Ms. Caspi other than elite flier status? Let's face it, a better acronym for the GPT under these circumstances would be DOA.

In any organization in which I have been involved, a catastrophe of these proportions might yield not only some self-serving press releases but would also lead to a serious examination of the top professional leader's execution of his responsibilities. But this is JFNA after all, where serious introspection never takes place; where Research and Analysis can be assigned now to the Marketing Department ... and where professionals of great promise like Joanne Moore can be cast aside like yesterday's news.


This is Silverman's nice send-off:

From: Desk of Jerry Silverman []
Sent: Monday, August 20, 2012 4:10 PM
To: Undisclosed recipients
Subject: The Global Planning Table

Dear JFNA Board of Trustees,

We have made great strides in establishing the foundation upon which The Jewish Federations of North America and Federations, through the Global Planning Table (GPT), will realize its vision — to inspire the Jewish Federations collective global work and drive collective solutions to important issues within the global Jewish community.

Federation representatives were selected and the work of the GPT and Partnership Committees began shortly thereafter. The GPT Committee solicited the input of Jewish community thought leaders, received briefings from our Historic Partners -- JDC and The Jewish Agency -- reviewed available research about opportunities and challenges found in Jewish communities around the world, and established four Working Groups to further its prioritization efforts. The Partnership Committee also received briefings from our Historic Partners, reviewed historical data and trends related to unrestricted funding, and put forward to the JFNA Board of Trustees its first allocation recommendation that was overwhelmingly approved.

We are now focused on the next stage of the GPT’s work, which requires deeper integration of the work with our Israel and Overseas (I&O) team. Our I&O professionals have been instrumental in the GPT’s work this year and bring tremendous knowledge of and experience with the work of Federations and our partners in Israel and around the world. Therefore, we both recommended that effective Sept. 1, 2012, JFNA’s Senior Vice President for Israel and Overseas, Rebecca Caspi, and her team will assume responsibility for the GPT. Becky will work closely with Global Planning Table chair David Butler and the U.S.-based team to ensure a smooth transition.

With this GPT evolution, Joanne Moore will be leaving our staff and returning to her role as lay leader and donor to the Jewish Federations of Greater Washington and Richmond, VA. The General Assembly planning team will transition to JFNA’s Executive Office and the Research and Analysis department will return to the Strategic Marketing and Communications department. The upcoming 2013 Planners Institutes will be planned in partnership with the chairs and JFNA’s Consulting Department.

We look forward to seeing and supporting the continued success of the Global Planning Table, as we build our community for the 21st century.


Jerry Silverman
JFNA President and CEO

Saturday, August 18, 2012


As a kid I used to love the Sunday Funnies. Today, with our treasured JFNA, the Funnies come every day. Join me in some laughs:

     ~ JFNA circulated a pr release from PresenTens announcing that that fabulous fund raiser, Becky Caspi, had inspired them with a "how to raise money" speech. "Be bold" and other stuff including the 5 key points for fund raising -- right out of the book; probably not out of...any experience. As some wit wrote me -- "this wouldn't have happened if Paul Kane were still alive." But, on another more serious point: it is the federations who need fund raising help -- desperately. If Caspi really knows anything about raising money -- that is if she has actually raised any -- send her where she's really needed. Since when are we giving FRD training (even kindergarten FRD training) to NGOs who will be raising dollars in our communities? Doesn't Caspi have anything to do at which she is experienced and good?

     ~ I was a member of ZBT in the Dinosaur era. Thus, I was so proud to receive JFNA's Leadership Briefing on July 27:

ZBT Awards JFNA with Historic Richard J.H. Gottheil Award
July 27, 2012
The Jewish Federations of North America humbly accepted an award today from Zeta Beta Tau (ZBT), America’s oldest Jewish fraternity. The Richard J.H. Gottheil Award is periodically bestowed upon individuals and organizations that have advanced human understanding among all people
It is hysterical that in all likelihood JFNA actually had someone apply for this great honor on its behalf.

     ~  In the midst of the brouhaha over my "Zionism" Posts last month, JFNA lay and professional leaders conducted another of their periodic "dragnets" accusing any number of JFNA staffers and lay leaders of being my "source" for anything. (One JFNA officer is apparently obsessed on the subject calling anyone he can think of and demanding to know if he/she "is the one.") A JFNA/GPT "leader" thinks nothing of sending a respected federation leader a vitriolic, insulting letter as if their "status" empowers them to demean leaders of the very federations that pay the Dues that enable their "power." It's both laughable and so pathetic -- all done, no doubt, as a warning: if you are ever seen (or are suspected of) speaking to me in any venue about anything, you will be placed on the "JFNA Enemies List," tagged as "not JFNA" and, no doubt, worse. How do I know this was going on -- people told me. 

And, recently, I had lunch with one of my good friends in Jewish life -- as we parted with a hug, she said "...remember, this lunch never happened." Ahhh,  it's beautiful.

Now, what have these babies done? In their most recent fit of childlike pique they have removed my name from the mailing list for the constantly ridiculous JFNA Leadership Briefings (another excision!!). I know, I know, I should probably feel grateful, but as these are a constant source of amusement, when you read one that is particularly inane, please send it on to me with your confidential comments. I am dependent, as always, on the kindness of readers. 

     ~ You may have received the JFNA press release issued mid-July excoriating the National Jewish Democratic Leadership Conference for its condemnation of Sheldon Adelson's support of PACs attacking the President or, if you wish, supporting the candidacy of Mitt Romney. This is our communal business? Or is it another example of the folks at JFNA having too big a payroll? My guess: the bigwigs at JFNA want to have talking privileges with Mr. Adelson, what better way than to subtly support him in the name of fair campaigning? In all events the NJDLC withdrew its attack; no doubt exhausting JFNA with their self-congratulatory back-patting.

     ~ An internet filing for a job opening crossed my desk which suggested that Joanne Moore, she of the great resume assigned to run the Global Planning Table and the GA and all other things not JFNA-Washington but under the thumb of CEO Jerry and a consultant, had resigned. NO, THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN. Instead, Joanne's Executive V-P (sorry, I can't keep up with the titles over there) had quit and had to be replaced. Asking around, I learned that JFNA is " the process" of a hiring a "boatload" of staff for the GPT. I had predicted on these pages that the GPT would yield a bureaucracy of epic proportions -- that was denied, no bureaucracy here we were all told. That's exactly when I knew we'd have a big one. My Orwell-dar worked again.

Rereading this...not so "funny" after all.


Friday, August 17, 2012


Today, after ejewishphilanthropy and Arutz Sheva  published op eds challenging the JFNA leaders' constantly evolving positions on "zionism," Ms. Manning and CEO Silverman published another of their own self-characterized "clear and consistent statements" on the subject in a nasty letter to "Dear Colleagues." In it, aside from the "usual," these leaders assert that "[T]he allegation that JFNA AND FEDERATIONS ARE MOVING AWAY FROM ZIONISM AND ISRAEL COULDN'T BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH." And, finally, after constant urging on these pages and from Federation leaders around the country, they stated: "ZIONISM IS A CORE VALUE OF JFNA AND FEDERATIONS." Kal ha'kavod.

So, how did this come about?  Thanks to the miracle of eavesdropping, I'm told the phone conversation went something like this:

"Jerry, this is Kathy. Now that reporter got space in Arutz Sheva and told the whole story; and then Dan Brown went after us in ejp on this Zionism thing. We have to end this now!!"

"Calm down, Kathy. We're on top of this -- this is no worse than when we were accused of using defective khaki at Dockers. First, we'll characterize Brown and that Reporter as 'bloggers' -- we won't even acknowledge 'em as responsible journalists -- that should help." "But, Jerry, they keep suggesting that I said what I said. We have to stop that."

A moment of silence. Then Manning: "I've got it. Why don't I say that the damn 'leakers' didn't hear me correctly. What I said was: 'I love Zionism. So let's move on to talk about something controversial!!' Yeah, that's it. No, too many people heard me."

"Wait a minute, I've got it, Kathy. We'll just say that there never was a meeting at all. It's all a figment of the imagination of those who are feeding this stuff to the evil Bloggers. No meeting -- no 'controversy,' no 'Zionism.' After all this was just a 'subcommittee about language for a subcommittee vision statement;' in reality it has no meaning so it didn't exist."

Manning: "...but what about the people who were there?" "Ahhh, that could be a problem."

"OK, let's put out another Briefing, we'll call everybody...everybody...ill-informed and malicious, and then we'll say we're Zionists and be done with it." "Do we have to?" "Yes."

Or, something like that.

Shabbat shalom.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Shortly after posting "NO COMMENT," a FOB advised me that the day following the "no comment," JTA republished the story and noted that JFNA had now commented:

Good for them.


Sunday, August 12, 2012


It's a phrase that I have been told is often heard in auto dealerships. describing taking a "hunk of junk," throwing on a fresh coat of paint, and selling it for the full price. At our fave organization, it's "taking a hunk of junk," calling it something brand new and selling it to the most willing of buyers.  At JFNA, they are putting lipstick on that pig every day. Examples?
  • You take the failed ONAD, put "lipstick" on it (for it was a "pig" if there ever was one), call it the Global Planning Table and pray real hard no "buyer" kicks the tires. 
  • JFNA fails miserably at Tribefest 1, attracting few of the unaffiliated to whom it was aimed according to all of JFNA's leaders in their presentations, run a $283,000 deficit, throw on some lipstick and call it Tribefest 2, re-aimed at the affiliated, subsidize it with $1 million from the JFNA Budget, another $100,000 from the JFNA Endowment, attract about the same numbers, stack it with Young Leadership Cabinet members and pitch it as an unequalled success.
  • Here's a beaut. You know the fiasco that is the Global Planning Table. At present in one GPT so-called "Work Group," JFNA leadership has rejected the inclusion of the word "Zionism" in the Preamble of the Work Group's work-product. And, why, would the "leaders" reject including the word "Zionism" in our JFNA's document? "Because 'Zionism' is too controversial."  Is this CEO Jerry's verdict? Ms. Manning's? JoAnne Moore's? Some "consultant's?" David Butler's? Where does a conclusion like this one arise -- the phone booth in which this decision was made? They'll need a whole shovel-full of lipstick to paint this pig.
  • JFNA puts lipstick on the pig trumpeting the success of the recently completed 2013 Campaign Chairs and Directors Mission when only 32 communities participated and after JFNA cut the Mission subsidy. Instead of asking the seminal question of "why are we down from 85 communities" but a few years ago, JFNA just paints over the beautiful original "lips" with more of its specialties: gloss and ignorance. When you are down from 57% of federations participating to 20%, you had better have a lot of lipstick to cover it up. 
 There are more and more examples, unfortunately. But just remember the rest of the saying: "But you know that when you put lipstick on a pig, at the end of the day, it's still a pig." And one that costs $30.3 million per year, a lot of it the cost of lipstick.



My apologies to al those who are offended by the mere thought of traif.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


On July 31, David Butler, the lay Chair of the Global Planning Table sent an e-mail ("An Important Message from David J. Butler") to the Global Planning Table Committee Members. In pertinent part, Butler's Message read as follows:
"From the very beginning of our GPT work together, we have emphasized the importance of members being able to speak with one another freely; to disagree forcefully yet politely, where necessary; and to respect the right of each of us yo hold and exchange unpopular views on issues we will be confronting in our work. We know that the work of GPT is of great concern and focus within the Federation community and beyond. We all know that our work is sensitive and important. And we all pledged to observe and respect strict confidentiality outside the walls of our committee work, so that each of us will feel free to speak freely and openly on the significant issues that we have been asked to address. That pledge has been broken by at least one member of our committee.

If you are not comfortable with the ground rules to which we have agreed, and are unable to observe strict confidentiality regarding the work of our committee, I invite you to resign...We are simply not going to be able to have the kind of robust and honest discussions our work requires if every speaker needs to worry that his words might be taken out of context -- or even quoted outside the committee in context -- in ways that chill the deliberative process...our work relies upon our members feeling protected by mutual pledges of confidentiality in the free exchange of ideas with one another." 
This was an "important message" but I would suggest that its effect will actually chill debate not encourage it. Forget for a moment that those who sent it to me were probably in breach the demand for "total secrecy" within the GPT; and forget for the moment that those who have called and corresponded with me on the subject have no recollection of any demand, express or implied, that the discussions within all areas of the GPT be cloaked in secrecy. (Given the number of times we have all heard the various Chairs recite the mantra of "confidentiality," the demand for secrecy was no doubt implicit in the very convening of the GPT.) Butler's message raises a critical question worthy of debate -- if JFNA ever actually permits debate.

My recent Posts on JFNA's posturing  and cover-up on "zionism" has brought forth the usual outcry, including: JFNA's meetings are all "confidential;" multiple parties (all of the "accused" are misidentified) are accused of "leaking" information to me that I should not have; I am accused of breaching "confidentiality" by revealing what I know in a public way; etc., etc.  All of this raises some serious questions:
  • Aren't the meetings of a public charity (and JFNA and the federations are public charities) required to be open and transparent? I recall that back in the day, reporters were actually invited to our organization's meetings (which typically bored the hell out of them) and confidentiality was only demanded when government officials were discussing things like Israel's security. Today, every JFNA meeting begins with Manning's (or another Chair's) admonition that "this meeting is confidential." Sure, what goes on here, stays here. JFNA doesn't even recognize its responsibilities as a public charity to act and debate in public.
  • Aren't transparency and openness good for an organization? The mantra "information is power" doesn't dictate that "information" be the sole province of a small group of leaders. The law actually forbids the kind of institutional secrecy that JFNA's leaders demand of its members. Imagine the kind of engagement that could be JFNA's with its owners if it shared all information with them. As an example: how many of the Owners know of the extent of any litigation pending against JFNA or settled?
  • It's timely that the Nonprofit Quarterly just explored the issues surrounding transparency in a lengthy, comprehensive article on August 7. The author, Rick Cohen, described the difference between "managed transparency" -- "telling the story" that public charities and foundations want their constituencies "to hear and understand" -- and "real transparency." Cohen concluded that "stage-managed transparency...simply isn't transparency." Cohen emphasizes the responsibility/obligation of the public charity to full transparency with its "stakeholders" -- i.e., in the case of JFNA, with its owners and donors. The author concludes by listing the benefits of real transparency over the desire by some for confidentiality: telling a better story; enhancing legitimacy; fostering greater engagement; increasing accountability; and mitigating "abuse of 501(c) confidentiality." So, while our system continues to demand "total confidentiality," best practice outside of our system is calling for greater transparency.
       And, as one commentator to Cohen's paper has written: There are two ways to consider transparency. We can conclude it an obligation -- a compliance issue. Or we can consider it a prerequisite to being fully engaged and participatory in how we do our work. The former brings with it layers of "how much is too much" and the often childish push back of "I don't want to" and "Because I said so." The latter, though, brings opportunities for creating a better world -- the thing we are all here to accomplish. When instead of transparency, we consider issues like "fully engaged communities" and "fully participatory leadership" -- well, we stop asking about being transparent, and we realize that there is power in inviting others to be part of our work at all levels -- including the decision-making and the strategic thinking that leads to that decision-making. We then realize what (sic) we can't have without everyone having the same information. That de facto leads to transparency. But it's not with the intent of "being transparent." It's because you can't have fully engaged "communities" if everyone is hiding their stuff.

And, at JFNA the dictate is "hide your stuff, hide our stuff" or you are o.u.t.!! No debate, dictate. No transparency; strict secrecy -- or you are o.u.t.!!


Monday, August 6, 2012


If you try to link to the JTA Telegraph Blog story on JFNA and Zionism, the link closes with the question: "Does JFNA have a problem with Zionism?" One answer is: "maybe, maybe not." But the real answer is: "Some at JFNA have a real problem with the truth."

JTA reporter Uriel Hellman didn't speak with me for his brief piece -- he appears to have been sought out to listen to and report on what Chairman Kathy and CEO Jerry wanted him to hear -- but he did an excellent job in framing the conundrum; here are the critical issues as he framed them:

"What's impossible, from the vantage point of those of us who were not in the room, is to sort out how significant this really is (if at all). First, it's not clear whether Wexler's account has any accuracy or whether he's misinterpreting a discussion he didn't witness firsthand. Second, even if there's some truth to Wexler's version of events, how significant is it that some JFNA higher-ups in the room (Kathy Manning, the chairwoman of the organization's board of trustees, denies saying what Wexner (sic.) appears to attribute to her) preferred using some term other than Zionism to describe the federations' Israel-related work?"

Let's take the JFNA (and Hellman) points one by one:
  1. I wasn't in the room. That's true. How many stories has, e.g., Uriel Hellman written based upon confirmed sources when he "...wasn't in the room?" I know those with whom I spoke were " the room." They are known to me to be honest and responsible leaders; they stand accused by those engaged in the real "misinformation campaign" here as lying. I will leave it to you as to whom are those engaged in "misinformation" here.
  2. Manning denies saying what I attributed to her. Well, every member of the Work Group heard her objection to the inclusion of "Zionism" from the Global Planning Table loud and clear. Here is what an Anonymous Commentator wrote: "I was in the room. Richard Wexler has softened the words of Manning. The truth in his court. The matter would have ended easily in any organization that can admit an error. Not JFNA..." And another: "Richard, I was in the room and know exactly what Kathy Manning said. I think you do, as well. and it's far worse than what you wrote." Although comforted, I don't rely on Anonymous Comments. Before I wrote the Posts in question, I had heard from my sources in the room, federation leaders all, that the Board Chair said the following: "'Zionism is too controversial to be in a JFNA (GPT) Vision Statement" or words to that effect. Hellman, for JTA, might have asked Manning when she merely denied making such a statement: "What exactly did you say?" But, apparently Hellman did not.
  3. Even if she said what was attributed to her, so what? Our readers know that I have consistently objected to the confusion over the past years of JFNA's positions with those of the Board Chair. L'etat c'est moi has become an operating principle at JFNA.
  4. This was just a JFNA leader's expression of preference for "using some term other than Zionism to describe the federations' Israel-related work." Sure. JUST READ WHAT THE JFNA BOARD CHAIR SAID.
There was no attempt to insert the words "Zionist entity" or "Zionist enterprise" (a claim of JFNA's that seem to have abandoned in the third [or fourth] Statement on the subject) but I wondered where they came up with the ridiculous notion. And, then, there it was: someone at JFNA must have been reading Daniel Silva's new best-seller, The Fallen Angel, where early on is a reference to the "Zionist enterprise." Of course, where better to source fiction than from a work of fiction.

And, then there's the argument that this was nothing more than a Work Group, a sub-committee, "no harm, no foul," incapable of stating "policy." And, of course, that's a point. What the Board Chair wanted was to eliminate Zionism from the lexicon of the Global Planning table. What better place to do that then at the Work Group level in the belief that that's where any discussion of its inclusion would end -- for how would the highest levels of the GPT "food chain," wherever "decisions" are to be made, ever know that the excision the Board Chair had dictated had taken place. And, of course, all else followed.

Do I believe, as I have been told, that many Federations would have stood tall at the time of any final action to assure that "Zionism" was not excised as the Board Chair demanded? Of course I do; if they had known of the excision. But, because this demand was made (and met) where and when it was, there was no way that these federation leaders would have known.

I find it ironic that Manning and Silverman used a Blog...a Blog...of all things to deny that Manning spoke out against the inclusion of Zionism in the Vision Statement of the Global Planning Table. Among the many things that I do know is this: when confronted with the choice between telling the truth and just covering up, these two leaders and their small group of minions have chosen...well, you decide.


Sunday, August 5, 2012


"This really should be a clarion call to trustees across the country to ask questions, to demand answers, to insist that the President is responsible to them, not the other way around...For too long, the boards have been viewed more as boosters than as legal fiduciaries." These were among the demands of the report by Louis Freeh arising out of his investigation of the conduct of so many at Penn State University who created an environment in which Jerry Sandusky could engage in the most horrific criminal actions. This was a Board that stands accused of forgetting its fiduciary responsibilities...of just "going along."

And, of course, we know that in our own Jewish organizational part of the world, there is a pandemic of boosterism that, while of course not leading to the worst brutality, has produced its own set of institutional abuses that threaten organizational integrity. The lay leaders of one beloved organization of ours stood idly by while its professionals operated as if the organization was theirs...until its lay officers suddenly realized what it had permitted to take place and those perceived as great professionals for so long, who gave so much to the organization, were dismissed. To this day, this organization has hidden the facts behind the walls it has built.

Another organization provided its Board with so little information and decision-making input, that American federation leaders on its Board were in open revolt. And, to its credit, that organization's leaders have taken actions that promise greater engagement and communication.

And, then, there is JFNA. Of course. A place where significant financial investments can be and are made by Committees with no authorization to do so. A place where the line items of a Budget can be ignored and where the Budget itself is viewed as merely a framework for spending $30.3 million on anything its professional and lay leaders determine. And, a place where, if a lay person asks a question of leadership, in the proper exercise of fiduciary duty, the questioner is relegated to the status of outlier or worse. Over three years ago, a lay person I greatly respected told me that "any one who publicly questions leadership should resign from the JFNA Board." When, two and one-half years ago, a Budget and Finance Committee member began to question the Budget at a Committee meeting, that leader was told that "there are to be no questions;" where many have written me expressing the same thing: "I want to ask Manning or Silverman about this but I know that if I do my career path within JFNA will be terminated." L'etat c'est moi and fiduciary responsibility are mutually exclusive concepts.

JFNA leadership fails to comprehend, or comprehend but don't care, that they have created an environment within which corruption and self-dealing can breed. We who fail to question or are intimidated from doing so, provide the perfect Petri dish in which breach of fiduciary duty can breed. We look at Penn State and say to ourselves: "That couldn't happen here." And, I don't believe that that can happen "here." But, other things can...and as recent revelations evidence, they do.

But only because good men and women stay silent.


Thursday, August 2, 2012


Two organizations engaged in searches for the best and brightest over the past months have come up aces while others continue to flounder. Consider:

Birthright Israel found it necessary to find a successor to its President, Bob Aronson. To me, Bob is at the very highest echelon of fund raising success; it would prove to be a daunting task to find one to succeed him. In choosing Cincinnati's David Fisher, however, Birthright sent a clear message -- only the best and brightest would do. The Search process took six months with bumps in the road but at the end of the day, BRI chose, in David, a young (46) businessperson and philanthropist with great contacts, absolute integrity and  superb FRD experience. Having grown up in this great Fisher family, in the Cincinnati federation experience and in the Young Leadership Cabinet, David was ultimately recognized for his leadership and fund raising skills when he was named JFNA National Campaign Chair in 2006. Soon David discovered JFNA's lay and professional lack of interest in financial resource development and their own version of "integrity." He fought privately for what he believed was right -- for the FRD budget, for the Annual Campaign's proper place and for his professional staff. Frustrated at every turn, David resigned in an act of absolute integrity and, in so doing, subjected himself to vicious attacks from the then JFNA Board Chair and CEO. Clearly, the Search Committee understood this when they decided that David would become BRI's new President.

David doesn't abandon his current federation leadership roles to move to his new professional one, he builds upon them. Birthright knew best -- they got the leader JFNA cast aside. He will do great.

And, JNF hired our great friend, Chicago's Beth Cherner, as its new Midwest Director. Beth headed a thirteen year series of FRD successes as Chicago's Campaign Director. She was brilliant in the role begun by our dearest friend, Joel Shinsky, z'l. She worked night and day for Chicago's federation success, her eye was always on the ball. JNF, always opportunistic, jumped at the chance to hire the best.

May both David and Beth go from strength to strength.