Saturday, July 29, 2017


On Friday April 28 (that's almost 4 months ago) I sent the following letter to Richard Sandler:

"Dear Richard,

I am so sorry that we missed one another by phone these last couple of days. I am certain you had something you wanted to talk to me about; I have things to speak to you about…always it seems. I know you are neither a “friend” of my Blog nor even a reader unless some one brings it to your attention; so I am sending you this Draft Post which I will soon publish; I hope you will read it:

I know you will disagree but I believe JFNA is in deep, deep crisis and I also strongly believe that you are the leader who can do something about that crisis. I have learned from friends around the country that JFNA Dues payments are being partially withheld in a number of communities (just as your federation, Los Angeles, withheld Dues payments a few years ago until a deal was reached); leaders of JAFI and JDC are complaining (in private at present) about the lack of support they are receiving even as your message is that “relations have never been better;” if Trump Administration priorities are implemented, the social service safety net that federations have created with JFNA’s important help will be devastated, and there will be a federation crisis of proportions never before experienced and JFNA is unprepared give guidance; and, among other things, JFNA not only no longer supports the growth and education of communal professionals, even the Mandel Foundation has announced it is filling the void totally independent of JFNA. (see, Though there is so much more, Richard, you are aware, certainly, that the Community Consulting Services function, once JFNA’s strength, is a void but for FRD’s sending two part-time consultants, both superb, out into the field where they work with two or three communities each at any one time.

If you believe that I am wrong about any of these, then I would tell you to consider your source(s). If you (or any one) believes that I enjoy being a constant critic, then neither you nor they know me at all. As I told you when we met in Santa Monica so long ago now, I wanted you to succeed in your leadership and, in so leading, I want JFNA to succeed. As you wrote before you took office, your leadership style is to identify the right professionals and give them the tools to succeed; and that might work if you had the right professional leader in place — at 25 Broadway it has all gone wrong and the chief professional officer has failed…and nothing happens…nothing at all. Now is the time for you to intercede. (I haven’t a clue how Jay Sanderson feels about Jerry Silverman’s professional leadership but Jay has tried, I know, to work with Jerry. Ask Jay for a candid appraisal.)

Richard, if asked I will do everything that I can out of my experience to make of JFNA a success from the inside. All I can do is offer to help from far outside.

Warm regards and Shabbat shalom,



I think that Richard  Sandler would agree that he hasn't really responded to my letter -- although he did take the time during an extremely busy time for him to accuse me of questioning his "integrity," something that I have never done unless Richard was confusing my criticism of "leadership" with "integrity." Some in leadership over time have been clear -- they have believed that my offers to helping any way that I might to be disingenuous at best. These who have done so want/wanted to ignore the years of my life contributed to the success of a merger that has since gone bad...very bad.

To me, the most amazing aspect of the failure that is the JFNA of today is that this lay leadership has been willing, even anxious, since Michael Siegal assumed the Chair through today, to hand Jerry Silverman a tabula rasa, a literal blank slate, one that any other chief professional officer would have attempted to fill with excellence, with creativity, with substance. And how has Jerry Silverman filled this blank slate? It's still empty, 8 years into two contract terms, filled with failure and bullshit. Three years into Silverman's first Contract term, all of his management responsibilities were turned over to Mark Gurvis, while Jerry received ever-escalating compensation; now 8 years in, Jerry is available to speak almost anywhere, for a photo op almost anywhere -- as someway wrote me, "Jerry would show up for the opening of an envelope." For Jerry Silverman these 8 years have been treasure trove, found money; for JFNA an egregious waste of precious resources and time neither of which will ever be recaptured.

Friends, any one who really knows me and knows what motivates me knows that if Richard Sandler called me today and said "Richard, we want you to come to 25 Broadway and help straighten out the mess that we have there," I would be there the next day. I would hit the ground running. And, I wouldn't be the only one. Do I expect that to happen? Sure, when pigs (sorry) fly.

Now there are less than 18 months left in Silverman's second contract Term. The temptation to just let this Term run out and say good-bye or to further renewal must be great given that 8 years of organizational ineptitude and back-sliding have not pushed a succession of Board Chairs to do anything about this leadership void. But a guy can hope...

Can't he?



Anonymous said...

Richard I know that Sanderson and several of his peers have continued to try to move this boulder up this ever steepening hill. Change still needs to run through Chicago and NY.

Anonymous said...

The board chair, through his actions, has shown he does not understand the purpose of a nonprofit board - or simply does not care.

The board chair, through his actions, has shown he does not understand the term governance as it applies to nonprofit organizations - or simply does not care.

The board chair, through his actions or lack thereof, apparently fails to comprehend that JFNA is on a serious decline into becoming irrelevant (assuming, you believe, it still is).

The question I pose, is why doesn't he care? And I would ask the same of Chicago, NY and Cleveland's CEOs too.

Anonymous said...

It's good to know that some Federation CEOs see what is happening and are enlisting others; at the same time it is pitiful that Eric Goldstein and Steve Nasatir and Steve Hoffman, so smart in so many things that they have to see what is happening in front of their eyes, have no apparent interest at all in fixing JFNA, a fix that must start with giving Silverman a soft landing and, as you have suggested on more than one occasion, Richard, installing an Interim CEO and to do so immediately.

This cannot go on.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:35 pm, I think you are not giving enough credit (not power; they certainly have that) to NY, Chicago, and Cleveland.
It's no different that the Republican Senate and House regarding the Obamacare: They don't want to touch trying to fix JFNA with a 10-foot pole, because if they did roll their sleeves up, they would then be the ones that are criticized for its failure (because the solution of making it a $10 Million Trade Organization will not happen).
As things stand, they can just sit back and let Silverman and Sandler take the rap, while agreeing to compensate Jerry accordingly.
It's a devil's bargain to be sure.

Anonymous said...

The last Anon (9:44 P.M.) has nailed it. These 3, who clearly control or could control, where JFNA is going, would rather watch JFNA continue to implode then lead an effort that would lead to change starting with change in the position of CEO. Nasatir and Hoffman may fear they will end up on the "losing side" and, then, will find themselves charged with actually implementing a "fix." Although in the first "fix" of JFNA, when Hoffman stepped into the CEO spot to right the ship then, these two are now 15 years older and, apparently, too tired to step up. NY's Goldstein may just be getting his arms around the $5-plus million NY throws at JFNA each year and is asking the unanswerable question: "Why?" When he gets no acceptable answer, the dominoes will finally start to fall. Maybe.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 7:41: One can only hope.

Anonymous said...

As a Board member of an Intermediate City, though not on the JFNA Board, I cannot believe how much in Dues we have been and are charged with the only visible return being small grants through the DC office. I ask our Exec for some answers from JFNA about this issue or that and his constant response is "I asked and they said they would get back to us" and then they don't. We are ignored even though our Dues to our resources are far more impactful than, apparently, are the Dues paid by New York, Chicago or Cleveland as those federations appear not to give a damn about the millions they have and continue to pay for literally gornisht.