Friday, May 31, 2013


Continuing our reflection on what passes for an organizational Budget for 2013-2014, let's take a look at "Priority Programs-- Objectives and Outcomes." And, though I know they are impermissible, let's start with a question: Have you ever seen a legitimate organizational Budget without specific allocation of resources to Budgeted programs? Me, either. But, welcome to JFNA.

There was a day in Jewish organizational life when the division of labor and responsibility among our organizations was not only clear but respected. There was an institutional respect, one for the other...and it worked. The United Jewish Appeal not only created the case for annual giving, led special campaigns. but trained federation solicitors, compiled comparative campaign reports, ran mass fund-raising Missions, and led advocacy for our partners serving needs in Israel and Overseas. The Council of Jewish Federations trained future professional leaders of federations, was the Federations' Trade Association, advocated for Washington funding, and engaged in critical thinking on the present and future of our system while it also ran successful General Assemblies. The Conference of Presidents was created at the urging of the Government of Israel to have a central address for Israel advocacy in the United States. 

Into the 90s, even into JFNA, the sole overlap among these three critical organizations was CJF's attempt to lead in the FRD area of Planned Giving -- a circumstance resolved in the short-lived UJA-CJF Partnership and in the emergence of an FRD concept developed at UJA -- the collaborative fund-raising model. But JFNA, beginning almost seven years ago, began a rapid withdrawal from all forms of Financial Resource Development -- sure enough they even left the business altogether, other than through its weakened constituencies -- changing the name from FRD to  something called "Philanthropic Resources," forcing out brilliant cutting edge leadership professionals without evident replacement, no longer engaged in solicitation training, or in solicitations themselves, running national missions with no fund raising requirement, a succession of national "campaign" chairs left with nothing to do but give speeches, some quite happy to do no more, and read reports. Good people, willingly reduced to Cheerleaders.

And, here is what passes for Philanthropic Resources Priority Programs, one more ridiculous than the next:

  • "Increase Focus on Mergers and Collaborations" -- not collaborative fund- raising the most innovative FRD program to emerge from JFNA after its rolll-out in the waning days of UJA -- that was "so 2005." Now what was Financial Resources is engaged with federation mergers -- we have proved to be so good at them;
  • "Finalize the launch of JEFII (the Jewish Endowment and Foundation Institute)" -- which requires $500,000 in grants before it gets off the ground (too bad JFNA didn't consider that pre-condition for Festivus);
  • "Generate Revenue for JFNA" -- that's $875,000 in "new revenues...from Philanthropists/Foundations...and over $375,000 in corporate sponsorships." What's the strategy for raising close to $1 million from your donors -- "hire staff." 
And those are the Priorities for Philanthropic Resources -- no Budget attribution, of course. And, as pathetic as these are (and you will note that almost all are about JFNA, not the federations) only gets worse.

Join me now for a quick tour of the most preposterous -- Global Operations Priority Programs:
  • GA 2013 -- let's start with "[R]ecruit 3,000 people to the GA." Not 3,000 Registrants, "people." Get "positive feedback." Uh, huh. And, I loved this one: "Announce headline speakers and complete 89% of the program by May 30th." Quick, what day is it? Who, other than BiBi are the "headline speakers?" Now go to the GA website.
  • The Global Planning Table -- which will soon eclipse (inasmuch as there is no budget attribution, may already have) FRD as a JFNA function in terms of expense. The JFNA is busy "launching" those so-called "Signature Initiatives" -- we have already commented on how preposterous most are and how slovenly drafted. Sadly, it is the GPT that is now in the core allocations business.
  • Then, there is the worst of the worst, the so-called Priority Program that only JFNA professional leaders could dream up as their function -- JFNA Positioning in Israel -- Reach key influencers (their made up word for their made up program) and thought leaders in Israel, positioning JFNA as the "go-to" place for information and access to North American Jewry. The arrogance that resides in the over-staffed under-performing JFNA Israel office is unreal. This contemplated duplication of the work of other organizations is based upon on-going failures about which we have written: a wholly duplicative "Hebrew newsletter," "participation in conferences and events in Israel" by JFNA, not "individual federations," "stories in the Hebrew press." 
  • Oh, while ramping up the 2013 GA, JFNA will once again "reimagine the 2014 General Assembly." This will be by my count the 5th "reimagining" of the GA in a decade as registration has dwindled to a few lay persons.
  • In the JFNA Category of "if it ain't broke, let's break it," the work of United Israel Appeal -- including supplemental giving and the U.S. Government Grant -- will be placed under JFNA's scrutiny. To what end? Maybe, as with all things JFNA touches, to screw it up.
Friends, there is more, most of it repetitive or, as above, just page filler. But, remember, this is no Budget as you or I have seen. Yet, it is a Budget already approved, presumably unanimously, by JFNA's Budget Committee led by the Cheerleader-in-Chief, and, then, by JFNA's Executive Committee.

Any questions?


Thursday, May 30, 2013


It's JFNA Budget time and, sad to say, it's worse than ever. The lack of transparency that we would never accept in our own communities, or at the Jewish Agency or at most national agencies, is a given at JFNA. And, given the fact that the current Treasurer and Budget Chair was no more than a cheerleader for past JFNA Budgets, it's no surprise that the 2013-2014 Budget proves to be the worst of all.

Case in point...The Network.  From time-to-time it seems appropriate to remind ourselves of the deconstruction of the 400 small Jewish communities that comprise the Network -- just another ATM machine for national Jewish life.  A little history...

In the 90's past UJA National Chair Marty Stein, z'l, and Russell Robinson, now the brilliant and creative Chief Professional Officer of the JNF, with a group of dedicated UJA lay leaders from those 400 small communities, created the Network of Independent Jewish Communities. Its Board was made up of leadership from within those communities and, from the get-go, as I recall, the Network raised about $6 million dollars to fund the work overseas of the Jewish Agency and Joint Distribution Committee. Even after the merger creating what is today JFNA, the Network made its own allocations decisions even while it began paying a disproportionate amount toward the JFNA Budget than did the Federation members.

Around 2008, the Network leadership became aware of JFNA's diversion of  funds they raised for Budget purposes. Quietly, the Network leaders attempted to work with JFNA to assure that the Network's determination of its allocations would be no less than that of the federations. The Network gained positions on the JFNA Executive Committee and a set of promises from then incoming Board Chair Manning in 2009-2010. But here is what Manning delivered with her sycophants nodding in agreement -- the Network was kidnapped by JFNA, its independent Board stripped, a new Chair, from Miami, installed, its long-time Director terminated and its share of the JFNA Budget "adjusted" -- upward -- with nary a peep.

The Network still raises about $6 million (the same as in its earliest years) which, were it a federation, would result in a Dues obligation of about $300,000. Yet, sources have advised me that JFNA "charges" the Network an estimated $1 million or more than three times what any federation would pay. Sure, JFNA should recover its "costs" of the Network's operation but, as has been the case with other areas of JFNA operations, it is JFNA that has now determined -- with no input from Network lay leaders (as distinguished from JFNA lay leaders) -- that the Network be staffed out of 25 Broadway with a national Director and Regional professionals around the country -- all to raise the same amount that was raised 15 years ago, if that. (The Network professional leader has congratulated the Network [actually seemed to congratulate himself] for an alleged 17% increase in the Network's 2012 Annual Campaign -- and, yet, the total raised seems frozen in amber. Further, JFNA has demanded -- literally demanded -- that any and all designated gifts to third party agencies [e.g., JDC, Jewish Agency, World ORT, Birthright] be sent through JFNA in a most transparent effort to pump up Network numbers even though these gifts are raised by the professionals at these partner agencies).

Finally, what's the actual "charge" to The Network for all that it receives from JFNA? Who knows? Why? Because it's hidden in a category titled: "Network/SEGO/Gov't Grant" -- at an astounding aggregate total of $3,156,000!! Thieves in the night.

Case in point...the Shell Game. But, that's not the only shell game being played within this Budget document. Join me in a brief tour:

  • The roles of the potential, as yet unhired, Executive Vice-President and Senior Vice-President of FRD are described in a manner that suggests that they, not the CEO, will be held accountable for immediate success/failure in their areas of engagement. CEO Silverman has flipped Harry Truman's maxim on its head -- to Jerry "the buck stops...there." BTW, these hires are described as just two of many "new investments."
  • If you examine "Revenue by Category," see if you can determine anywhere...that's this Budget how its "Other Grants/Fundraising" will be increased by JFNA by $1,108,000; or what's incorporated in the "Other (Revenue)" line increase by $90,000; or how the elimination of one of its few viable Israel programs -- the historic OTZMA -- results in a "Revenue" increase of what is a Budgeted decrease of $748,000? 
  • Having consulted with my CPA and several friends with expertise in corporate budgeting, they were extremely complimentary of the legerdemain that can convert a loss of $748,000 in income into "Revenue." One observed that in the wonderlands of Oz and JFNA, anything is possible.
  • Others asked how $350,000 of OTZMA expense showed up under Financial Resource Development, along with Consulting Services and the Rabbinic Cabinet? Was this a transparent (not a word I would use with this Budget) effort to make the FRD Budget appear larger?
  • And, what about Dues? Note 11 in the Budget document appears to indicate that there has been an $800,000 shortfall in Dues in 2012, but was that really $1.6 million that Dues-paying federations will have to subsidize? What's the real story -- inasmuch as the current Budget Chair is also the current long-serving Financial Relations Chair, I am sure that Steve Silverman has the answers at his fingertips, if he wants to provide them (or can).
  • Oh...and JFNA plans to raise an additional $1,108,000 to support its Budget. To do so it will reach out to your donors, your foundations, maybe its own leaders -- a total raise of almost $2,000,000 over and above Dues. How will it do it? How will an organization that believes that you raise money by sending letters? Easy...they can't.
  • And, try and find how much will be thrown at the Global Planning Table -- it boggles the mind that the amount is growing close in millions to what will be spent on an actual JFNA purpose -- raising dollars and donors.
There is more, so much more, so much drivel -- programs described without any budget attributed, $50,000 increments to organizations "to have a seat at the table," "Measurements/Outcomes" that are comical in the extreme -- and just words on paper'

Bottom line, this is not a serious Budget but there are some serious and even ridiculous programs proposed some of which we will visit in the coming days.

All part of the shell game that JFNA has become. Just as we will never know what the Network could have been, we will never know what JFNA could have become.

Stay tuned -- in anticipation of the unanimous vote that is to come at the JFNA Board meeting next week, more on the farce JFNA budgeting has become tomorrow.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Paul Jeser is a FOB. We don't always agree but I have come to know Paul as a Jewish professional with strong opinions on our system (or lack of one), on the profession, on Israel, on politics. He is not afraid to put his name next to his opinions. And this is what Paul wrote yesterday in response to the Post Catching On:

"When someone asks me what I do, I respond that I am a member of the Jewish Communal Service. Inevitably, I'm asked to explain and I respond that the simple answer is that I am a fundraiser. I then expand my answer to say that as a fundraiser, I help build community, I help build a nation, I help build a People.
I was privileged to learn from the two major founders of the Jewish Communal Service, Bernie Reisman z'l, and Jerry Bubis. They built a Jewish Communal Service that was effective and personally/professionally satisfying. I was honored to be part of that great enterprise.
It is with horror that I watch 'my' field disintegrate. I truly believe that the Jewish Communal Service, as developed by Reisman and Bubis, and many others,  does not exist anymore..."
I thank Paul for his candor.

I, too, have been privileged to rub shoulders with and learn from Bernie Riesman and Jerry Bubis. I was fortunate to have crossed their paths as I matriculated through lay leadership in our communities, local, national, international, over the decades. When you have learned from the best amongst us -- and I have been blessed with great professional partners from the beginning, in Chicago, at the UJA, the CJF, the NCSJ, JAFI, JDC, UIA -- one thing all of them taught me, among so many other things, is that in the face of those who would ignore or, worse, depreciate and destroy our core values, we must not be silent...we cannot be silent.


Monday, May 27, 2013


The paradigm, for lack of a better word, for new federation CEOs over the past seven years has led federation after federation away from the "field" to explore so-called "outside the box" hires -- culminating in a bunch of leaders who should have known better acquiescing to Chair Manning's urging the hiring of a Dockers executive almost 4 years ago. The mantra I have constantly heard has been: "He/She has such a great resume(??)" followed by "he/she gave such a great interview. He/she blew the Search Committee away." 

Now, however, some of the evidence is in -- it's just not working. Those from outside our federation system have proved to be, more often than not, overwhelmed by it. Failing to speak the unique language of federation, having no understanding of the timeless principles that have guided federation, they tend to supply their own definitions and, in the process, often find themselves without a mission or a vision consistent with the communities or their donors. Many haven't a clue as to what the Annual Campaign means to the federations they now are to run and find themselves unable to raise the funds necessary to build community. They are, too often, like deer in the headlights -- and what they are seeing is not the light at the end of the tunnel but a train heading right at them.

At the end of the first week of May, the Philadelphia CEO, who came straight to that position from academia, "resigned" effective...well, immediately. (see: His original contract had been extended as I have come to understand by the unilateral actions of that Federation's chief volunteer officer even as the Annual Campaign growth was negligible if not diminished notwithstanding some curious additions to beef up annual campaign totals. And, as has become the norm in too many communities, there was an effort to forestall real accountability by the adoption and embrace of so-called "new strategic allocations plans" or, in the case of JFNA,  alleged "New Strategic Directions," a hodge-podge which proved to be nothing more than old wine in new bottles. 

In a confused article in The Forward on this CEOs termination

the reporter evidenced, among other things, how little he understands of how federations work -- perhaps he is ready to become a Large City CEO. For example, the reporter confused Philadelphia's dismal annual campaign results with the total income of two federations whose annual campaigns, though better than Philly's, are still meager. Further, this author seemed to not understand that the "weak volunteer culture within federation" (any federation [or at JFNA for that matter]) is a direct result of, in this instance and others, the CEO's belief that this somehow "protects" him/her, at least for a while. Most misleading was the headline -- Philadelphia Jewish Federation Faces Crisis as Ira Schwartz Abruptly Leaves -- I don't think so.

In its public release upon its CEO's "stepping down," after seven years, there was still no transparency. Bragging on an $18 million annual campaign hides the fact that at least one federation of equal population raised $80 million in its Annual Campaign the same year; no discussion of how a growing leadership population -- major givers, young, old, potential -- had been alienated away from federation; that the community ranked 17th out of 18 Large Cities in per capita giving; that the number of campaign gifts dropped by 28% over the CEO's terms to a meager 16,000; and that all the while the CEO was the 4th highest compensated among his peers. This all gives rise to two questions:
  1. What took you so long; and
  2. Why wasn't JFNA inside this important Federation hands on helping both the professional and lay leadership???? (both are rhetorical)

And there are more, far more: In one community with great potential, if "great potential" is what one can call it after 10 years of flat or diminished campaigns and where the federation finds it can't compete with a separately incorporated Foundation (created and led by federation lay persons), a new CEO, a lawyer and lay leader in a another community, was hired...his leadership was short-lived. In another federation, another academic, charming and garrulous, has been hired; that new CEO is on "a two year leave of absence" from his professorship -- not necessarily the kind of "total commitment" by the chief professional that that federation and every other so desperately need. And, so it goes.

So, who is at fault here? There are so many at whom the finger points:
  • The profession -- where is the hue and cry from the Jewish Communal Service Association (which, by the way, offices at...25 Broadway) or any/all of the organizations dedicated to building the community organization leadership profession? Doesn't the field itself have a power coupled with an interest in seeing CEO positions filled by the best and brightest of its up and coming professional leaders? And where are the CEOs? Why has there been such a terrible void in mentoring those who need it? And, why, given the CEOs' dedication to the profession, have they not raised their voices in unison? Is their legacy to be the deconstruction of the profession they love?
  • Those at Mandel and JFNA -- like these: the "Associate Director of Professional Recruitment and Placement in the Professional and Volunteer Development Department" at JFNA (and, probably some other title at the Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence) along with the mysterious Deborah K. Smith, "consulting partner" on HRD (what does that mean, BTW?) at JFNA who was paid, according to the 2011 JFNA 990,  $321,672, who sits on its "senior management team" but is not even a professional employee of the organization (in a scheme that one Commentator to this Blog, deemed to be in violation of Internal Revenue Service requirements), who seems to be an advocate for what passes as "outside the box" hiring (meaning those outside the system) -- you know, " Jerry." In fact, Smith appears to report to no one at JFNA other than Silverman -- maybe he can explain what she does from Naples, Florida for our federations.
  • JFNA and federation lay leaders -- those who have merely nodded their heads in Search processes rather than assert themselves; those who have been so swayed by "great interviews" that they have ignored the fatal flaws of candidates knowing nothing about federation; and, those who not only are unfamiliar with annual campaigns but have never contributed to them.
It should be noted that to my knowledge not one federation professionally led by those "outside the box" has had the successes of those led by those from inside the system. (And, if any of you are aware of a federation that has had success under an "outside the box" new chief professional hire, please let me know; offline if you prefer, and I will correct the record.) This doesn't mean that we don't wish all of them well; we do. But, who is helping them set and reach goals, professionally and communally, beyond cheering from the sidelines? 

Leadership has failed the profession; if we want to continue to build the professional cadre, then young women and men entering it from the great schools of Jewish Communal Service (as opposed to the great school of, e.g., Dockers) must see the potential for growth right up to the CEO position. 

Let's see to it.


Friday, May 24, 2013

"ME, ME, ME!!!"

I remember, as you do, when my grandchildren, hell, my own children now parents themselves, would cry out "me, me, me." They quickly grew out of this cry; and did so quickly. Our philanthropy is based on just the opposite. Well, the babies at 25 Broadway and at JFNA Israel, are still, at age 12 crying out in a manner that says "it's all about me."

When your organization is in stasis mode, accomplishing little if anything outside of its D.C. bastion, apparently you have to grab whatever credit you can shouting "me, me, me" every step of the way. Thus, in the context of the now-failed expansion of the Western Wall to accommodate all genders and religious streams, JFNA claimed that it had "facilitated" the "thought-to-be, hoped for" Sharansky compromise when all that it had done was to make available the resources of the JFNA (formerly UJA) Rabbinic Cabinet (an ever-decreasing budget item at JFNA and one that a succession of CEOs had been trying to rid themselves of for years). Since that compromise is in great jeopardy, rejected by the Women of the Wall (emboldened by the slender thread of a single Israeli court decision) and, as well, those who "control" Israel's Holy Sites in an ugly and discriminatory manner, and have for too many years now coupled with ultra-Orthodox confrontations.

Were those rejections "facilitated" by JFNA as well? Of course not. But, if the expensive Isreal Office had its ears to the ground, could JFNA have turned to its Rabbinic Cabinet in the midst of the crisis created by the contemplation of these rejections and "facilitated" their intercession? Would it have made any difference? Who knows inasmuch as it appears that JFNA was only interested in the "credit" that followed Sharansky's apparent "success," not in the incredibly hard work that it  would have taken to sustain it.

Yes, while the professional head of JFNA's Global Operations:Israel and Overseas Department was busy patting JFNA (and, of course, thereby herself)  in the weird, and lengthy, JFNA Blog that she writes and in regular never-ending "me, me, me" newsletters in Ivrit, that promotes JFNA as the vehicle of American Jewish expression on issue after issue, forgetting, apparently always, that JFNA was/is to be the embodiment of the American federation system and exists not for itself but for us, for the federations, not for itself but for our communities, the deal that JFNA claimed to have "facilitated" fell apart. Could JFNA have done anything really to hold the parties to the agreement to that which they had agreed? Probably not inasmuch as JFNA to date has accomplished so little, almost nothing; and never will so long as it is solely focused on taking credit, totally focused on itself and...themselves.

How can JFNA change? First, its professionals must be managed, given the direction they so clearly need. Second, its Chairs must provide the Chief Professional Officer and JFNA itself clear direction. Today, the alleged "fiefdoms" that UJA and CJF left behind have been replaced by a series of new ones, real ones -- Marketing (of JFNA, of course), the Global Planning Table (about nothing), Global Operations: Israel-Overseas, Washington, etc. -- and the lack of management, supervision, purpose, structure or vision are self-evident...shocking even in their ignorance of what federations are all about.

I despair...this is not anger, it is despair. Those who should care far more (or at least as much) as I just don't or can't or are too busy or have their heads in the sand...perhaps, even disagree with me. But, on my travels around this country, in my discussions with lay and professional leaders, I listen and what I hear is a yearning for leadership from our national leadership on the matters about which our federations and our donors care. But, at JFNA it's all and always about "credit" --it's like lawyers in a law firm battling for "credit for business" -- even when none is deserved.

Until this stops, until the JFNA lay leaders demand that it stop, that JFNA focus not on itself but on the federations, JFNA's message will continue to be "me, me, me."


Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Well, the gang that couldn't shoot straight has seemingly misfired once again -- this time in its engagement of a new chief of marketing and communications. And this is not because of anything the new hire did or didn't do while in a bigger role on a bigger stage at AIPAC, her former employer, but because of her lack of any federation experience whatsoever.

Yes, I'm certain that Renee Rothstein is a quick study...but who is she to learn from at that barren desert that is JFNA when it comes to having a federation background or experience. If she relies on the CEO to explain federation qua federation to her, it will be no more than the blind leading the blind. If she was hired to continue down the path of her predecessor -- that is to promote JFNA and JFNA only at the federations' expense -- then, really, and with respect, who needs her at the assuredly high salary she will receive.

What is so apparent is that what is needed at JFNA is a federation-centric head of its marketing and communications effort (actually in every failed area of its work). That would mean finding the right person -- one who has had a significant federation background in his/her resume. Back in the day, at UJA, at the time we decided to engage in the first major national marketing and communications effort, we engaged the outstanding Bernie Moscovitz, whose exemplary and creative marketing leadership at the Montreal Federation was the perfect background to communicate, inter alia, the annual campaign to and for federations. Bernie was succeeded by the terrific Gail Hyman, whose marketing and communication skills were honed as the Senior V-P, Marketing and Communications with the New York UJA-Federation and led JFNA's efforts in its first six years.

What Bernie and Gail had, among other skills and abilities, was the knowledge to say to a CEO before the organization proceeded down the wrong path: "Maybe we should rethink will this help the federations?" How, exactly, will this new and important hire do that exactly? Is this how the next major JFNA hires -- of a COO and a head of FRD -- will go down? Plucked from outside our system with no professional experience in it by a CEO whose own contract expires in months not years?

I sense that the senior professionals at JFNA are excited at the prospect of Renee Rothstein joining them. I hope they are rewarded for their optimism.


Monday, May 20, 2013


Deborah K. SmithShe's smiling wide because she makes a lot of money and it's just a consulting job -- consulting on ___________________________ _____________________________________________________________________________________(fill you may fill in the blank).


Saturday, May 18, 2013


And, speaking of the need to "Do Your Job"....

Apparently all those rumors were true -- Paul Kane will be leaving his position as the JFNA -- SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT/CEO (now you know what his job was supposed to be and, given what has emanated from the CEO, it wasn't much of a job nor was there much in the way of "advice") -- " that's not me" -- which means that our national organization has been without a senior professional leading its non-existent financial resource development effort for almost six years. Couple that reality with the fact that the lay leaders of what should be FRD have wholly failed in their responsibilities other than as cheerleaders and non-fund raising Mission leaders for the same length of time and what have we got: a national fund raising organization created to raise more dollars and more donors doing none of it.

Well, wait one minute you say: what about the Million Dollar Round Table (or whatever it's called} bringing together federation CEOs and $1 million donors -- exactly twice (the second -- and last -- being devoted in large measure to reminiscences of the UJA efforts to do the same [then called the "Mega Group"] but, at the demand of the "members" with no CEOs present). 

Or, what about the FRD help to the smaller federations that JFNA used to provide -- sorry, no more; solicitation training -- sorry, no more; suite solicitations and fly-ins -- sorry, no more; capacity giving at the Cabinet Retreats -- sorry...well, you get it. 

But, how can this be you ask? JFNA is now advertising for a "new position." The "Position Description" proffered from 25 Broadway is a revelation in and of itself. Examples:
  • "...this individual will serve on the JFNA leadership team and will manage 6 direct reports (who have these 'direct reports' been reporting to these last 6+ years??) and a total of 37 professionals (who, what, where?)."
  • "In partnership with the CEO and the National Campaign Chair, design the Financial Resource Development strategy for the organization , focusing on increasing fundraising results and achieving a total campaign of a billion dollars nationally in 3 years." 
  • "Develop an organizational model and build a high performing 'A' level team that delivers results and leads the Federations into the future." 
There's more, of course, but these are enough. These ridiculous and over-reaching goals would be commendable had they been goals over the last 6+ years but, instead, reflect the kind of thinking that goes on inside the bubble that JFNA has become. 

Worse, they evidence the FRD void that has existed at JFNA for at least those last 6+ years; the lack of any understanding of the financial issues that federations regardless of City-size are dealing with in the re-engineering of their annual campaigns, their very purposes. And, worse, there is every indication in the job description of a talent void within JFNA when that Description ascribes one goal of the new professional as being responsible for " a high performing 'A' level team that delivers results." How demoralizing to the current staff -- a group of bright professionals capable of high performance if given the leadership so sorely lacking today and for years past.

And, then, take a look at some of the "Professional Qualifications:"
  • 20+ years of progressively responsible and successful experience in fundraising and nonprofit or general management (huh? Is that like, e.g., selling pants?)
  • Knowledge of JFNA mission and goals highly desirable (I would suggest, with all due respect, that that should be a qualification for current "senior management")

All in all, JFNA looks for Moshe Rabeinu once again -- we shall see what it ends up with this time. Maybe another SENIOR ADVISER TO THE CEO.


Wednesday, May 15, 2013


The greatest Coach in the National Basketball Association, The Chicago Bulls Tom Thibideau, has a constant reminder to his team: "Do your job." I was reminded of this by one of those epic JFNA Leadership Briefings titled: JFNA National Campaign Chair Joins Jewish Leaders to Combat Human Trafficking.

"Wow," I thought -- not a headline about how the National Campaign Chair, having been in the position for longer than any predecessor at JFNA or at UJA -- what is the term now, some 10 years?? -- not that she solicited 25 federation donors last week, not how Susan Stern led a fund raising Mission (for those of you at JFNA, that's a Mission on which campaign funds are raised), not how 50 leaders from around the country were trained in the art of solicitation, not nothin', for that matter, about the Annual Campaign and JFNA's work in leading it...nothing at all. (I also thought: wasn't Susan succeeded by Linda Hurwitz a few months ago?)

Now I am as much against "sex trafficking" as the next person; I think that this is as venal a crime against humanity as there is; and, certainly, Jewish federation leaders should be at the forefront of any crime against humanity and against our own People. And I think it critical that JFNA publicize efforts to combat slavery in and all forms. But shouldn't our National Campaign Chair have a laser focus while National Campaign Chair on the "national campaign" for donor funds for federation purposes? Shouldn't JFNA as well?

Instead we have a further example of distraction, of purposelessness of "if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there." (Or, in the case of JFNA, "any road won't take you there.") Once again, leaders have been distracted from what is their ostensible, arguable in JFNA's case, singular purpose, by another "shiny object."

So, Susan, who, like her organization, our JFNA, has fiddled while the annual campaigns during her terms has moved from disastrous collapse in many instances to flat lining in others, I would urge you to remember Tom Thibideau's admonition and "DO YOUR JOB." Maybe Linda Hurwitz will.


Sunday, May 12, 2013


JFNA "jumped the shark" at least 3+ years ago (or, perhaps, 6) in this observer's opinion. Now, it appears, the federation world has caught on to the disaster JFNA has become. An anonymous Federation leader wrote the Blog to offer his/her insights as follows:

"Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "OF LEADERS, PRETENDERS AND SYCOPHANTS": 

Global Planning Table. My community has heard the argument that if it does not continue/pass/come to fruition, JFNA will crumble, go out of business, or lose its self respect. Whatever, the changing excuse for the month is that month.

This process has already cost JDC, JAFI and JFNA millions of dollars of our charitable funds.

This ship has sunk. There is no saving it.

Michael, Diane, Stephen and Gerard: Please listen carefully - you are shepherding JFNA's own demise. 

Nobody chose you to do that. Please do something before it is too late. 

JFNA is spending more on GPT staff than it spends on campaign staff. 

Just announce that it was a great process, we learned a lot, thank you to all the participants, and the number one lesson that we learned is that we have to go out and raise more money for our overseas partners.

My community will be announcing a significant reduction in our JFNA dues only as a vote of no confidence in JFNA. We will not be alone.

The three top lay leaders are good and capable people. It is time for them to stand up to the CEO who is out of control.

It is nothing less than their personal legacy that is on the line together with our most important national communal resources.

Stop fiddling around while JFNA is burning"

And all of this before the Harlem Shake and JILF.

Based upon past experience, it is hard to know if any Federation, when push comes to shove, will follow through in its determination to send a message to JFNA's leaders as the Anonymous Commentator has stated -- but, if one does, so will many. And Siegal and Feinberg should know that if that becomes reality, they, our leaders, will reap what others have sown and they will spend the weeks and months ahead chasing federations for unpaid Dues rather than leading JFNA to being the best representative of all of us.

And, then, these JFNA leaders will join the Federation CEOs who have helped to to bury our system in this mess that it is in, performing the last rites for an organization that died at its own hand.


Thursday, May 9, 2013


Well, the Global Planning Table Committee met yesterday. Before the meeting, several folks sent me three papers on potential JFNA-saving so-called "Signature Initiatives" and the Agenda -- documents they received only moments before the meeting began. The federation leaders who sent these to me independent of each other accompanied their transmittals with phrases like: "you won't believe how bad these are;" "they write in some kind of crypto-language that only they understand:" and "for these we have paid millions already?" I heard not a single positive comment; though I'm pretty certain that, knowing that anything negative is never appreciated by this leadership, they shared their critical comments with me and not with JFNA.

Let me preface what follows with an observation: these are really bad; they should never have seen the light of day; they appear to have been written in haste, maybe in panic; and with no knowledge of our institutional history whatsoever. 

Let's take a look:

1. The "Task Force on  the Cycle of Poverty" and something called "Israel Family Zone." I would subtitle this thing the  "Reinventing the Wheel Zone." There are some smart folks on this Committee -- I would wager that many of them saw as I did that this "Initiative" is no more than the UJA's Project Renewal of the 1980's...that's right, the 1980's...restated as a "[S]calable (they just make up a whole new language don't they):
(scalable: adjective:capable of being scaled: the scalable slope of a mountain.") pilot program building a sustainable community-based approach to breaking the cycle of poverty throughout Israel." But inasmuch as these folks seem never to have heard of Project Renewal, they are going to "buil(d) on the model of the Harlem Children's Zone..." And, then -- funding -- "Federation funding for this project would be organized into an 'adopt a neighborhood' model..." GENIUS!! This is already branded as the IFZ.

2. Then, there is the output of the "Task Force on Working with the People of Israel to Strengthen the Fabric Of Israeli Society." (Probably already branded as the TFWPISTIS except, see below.) The system would "[W]ork on multiple levels (top-down, bottom-up, etc.) to enable real change" "(leveraging) the current Israeli government's resolve and commitment to religious diversity and democracy." (Uh, huh?) This thing is already branded as EXPRESS, full of sound, signifying nothing. Through this "Great Signature Initiative" (the caps are theirs not mine) we will "...ensure an inclusive and dynamic Jewish society in Israel" and we will have "...a watershed moment for the Federation system to make a significant contribution in partnership with Israelis." OY!!

3. Then there is the aptly named "Task Force on Immersive Experiences and Follow-Up Opportunities." Yep, that's the actual name of a focused Task Force. Here are two sentences that say it all about the not just this Task Force but about the entire Signature Initiative "Plan." Read 'em and weep for our system:

     ~ "Resume-building immersive experiences have wide appeal."

     ~ And then there is this most amazing sentence of all (perhaps of all time): "Too frequently, immersive experiences are not maximally impactful because they are not contextual." Too cure this apparently, this Initiative will offer "Participant-centric and authentic immersive experiences, contextualized with pre- and post-trip opportunities." Ah, yes, that should do it. (BTW: the Dictionary defines: "[ih-mur-siv] adjective noting or pertaining to digital technology or images that deeply involve one's senses and may create an altered mental state" but JFNA has its own vocabulary you know.

I presume that the precursor to these Initiatives was CEO Silverman's most recent Mission experience with the newgen where he had the immersive experience himself in St. Petersburg doing the JFNA version of the Harlem Shake.

FYI, the "brand" for this thing is JILF -- I'm not making this up. This is JFNA's "brand" for this thing. I recommend that you all Google JILF. And, then ask yourself the question -- what's with these people? 

JFNA could readily endorse an allocations process that would attract our donors -- market MASA, market fighting hunger in the FSU and anywhere a Jew is in need, market camping in the FSU, market the best of Jewish identity programs -- instead it's Project Renewal, EXPRESS and JILF. irrational, inexplicable and doomed to fail. And federation after federation are being told: "iIf you don't support these, JFNA is doomed." YOU...all of you, each of the judge of what will doom JFNA.  

If you are buying this stuff that these "leaders" are trying to sell, I have a Bridge in Brooklyn to sell you -- oh, yes, I branded it already -- the BIB Project.

I think we have just seen JFNA hit rock bottom...but, probably not; it will no doubt get worse. And, where oh where are the Chairs of the Board and Executive and the CEOs of our best federations, all of whom know better?


Monday, May 6, 2013


She had been a Refusenik and came to the United States in 1989. Although she had a graduate degree in metallurgical engineering from a Leningrad Institute, she decided to dedicate her life to the Jewish community: she first received a Council of Jewish Federations FEREP grant that enabled her to attend Brandeis" Hornstein Program in Jewish Communal Service becoming the first Jew from the FSU to do so. But, this was not enough to sing Dayenu.

I first learned Olga Yorish's story when, as a UJA leader, I visited the Memphis Jewish Federation for the United Jewish Appeal in 1993 where she directed Planning and Allocations. I told her then that I was going to watch her career, knowing that it would be spectacular. A few years later, while in Philadelphia to meet with leaders there, Olga and I crossed paths again -- her commitment to the Jewish community and People had not cooled, her dedication had only grown. After a stint as an FRD Director for a small Federation, in 2007 Olga was hired as the chief professional officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater New Bedford.

I kept my promise -- I have watched Olga grow in her roles in Jewish communal leadership. And, now, she has agreed to become the new Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando where she will be surely challenged as never before. My congratulations not only to Olga but to the leaders of The Orlando Federation who made this hiring decision. Olga has the drive, the experience and the personal history that predict great success if the same leadership that hired her commits to the community as never before.

Many of us have watched the JFGO for years, viewing it as a place of unrealized and incredible potential. In the past years, it has struggled with dormant campaigns and huge debts. But, there is clearly a revitalized leadership in Orlando and coupled with Olga's hiring, there is real hope. But this community represents an incredible challenge; if only we had a national federation organization capable of assisting.

We all should not just cheer Olga and Orlando on; we should help in every way that we can. Had we a national organization worthy of its role...


Friday, May 3, 2013


1. As those of you who read these Posts regularly know, I am Twitter illiterate -- I neither Tweet nor "belong" to Twitter. Unlike the Chief of Twits, uh, make that the Champion Tweeter, JFNA's own William Daroff, at a certain age (mine) life is too full to bother. But, many of you have forwarded on to me the inanities that fill JFNA's official "Tweet pages." For some folks at JFNA seem to have a lot of time on their hands. I could reprint two or three of these a day that appear to be what passes for "humor" among "professionals" at an organization that wants to be taken seriously. Instead, here are two that must have had them laughing in the halls at 25 Broadway:
              a. "What are you doing with your leftover matzo?"

            b. "Reason to go this years JFNAGA -- make a pilgrimage to the holy                                     birthplace of...Natalie Portman."

2. Then there was this....this...thing: rather than just announce what could be a great National Young Leadership Mission to celebrate Israel at 65, some twit headlined the email transmittal -- Give Israel The Best Birthday Present Ever...A Visit. Got it? Our travels to Israel are our "gifts to Israel." 

I think that I still have a finely-tuned sense of humor. The only humor I find in the daily twitterings of JFNA is in the fact that no one there has the good sense to stop them.

3. Then there is the not so funny -- damn sad, in fact. Jonathan Lichter, who, over 37 years of passionate service as General Counsel, assured that, first, the United Jewish Appeal and, then, JFNA, were protected, retired last month. For many years, Jonathan and I were the best of lay-professional partners as he worked assiduously and tirelessly to insure that our organizations' fiduciary responsibilities to not only themselves but to our partners and beneficiaries were assured. He exemplified the best of professionals. So, how was Jonathan treated upon his retirement? The CEO celebrated his successor -- the only...only...reference to Jonathan in two separate statements from Silverman, one internal, the other public -- was the following: "She succeeds Jonathan Lichter who retired last night after so ably serving our organization for 37 years," buried in the praise for this successor.

I will assume that the CEO just didn't know Jonathan and certainly did not know the extent of his contributions. And, that's not funny; it's a shame.

4. And, finally, what could be more telling about the lack of purpose or even the lack of seichel, the lack of judgment, at the top of JFNA than this effort at being "one of the boys" than this snippet sent to me in a Comment to this Blog:

JFNA CEO Jerry Silverman doing the Harlem Shake with NYL Cabinet on the NYL Cabinet Study Mission to St Petersburg and Stockholm
I am certain that CEO Jerry believed it to be "funny." (And, one would have to ask -- why, other than building his mileage account, was the CEO on this "Study Mission" to begin with? Just to be with the "newgen?")

Sad. So sad. All of it.