Thursday, July 24, 2014

RESPONDING...OR NOT

Many if not most of us have lived and led through multiple crises, challenges and opportunities over our years of Jewish communal engagement. We are now in the midst of another Terrorists' War on Israel. And, even though that War is on-going and our every thought and prayer is with out Israeli mishpacha, I sense it is an appropriate time to examine how we have responded as a Continental entity...and it hasn't been pretty. Not pretty at all.

  • Solidarity Missions. As we have written, Solidarity Missions have been part of the Continental communal response at times like these wherever Jewish lives have been at risk. At the beginning of the Terrorists' War CEO Silverman was with the Campaign Chairs/Directors Mission in Greece (??!!) and when he arrived in Israel he quickly began to report on his experiences and joined the first JFNA Solidarity Mission in the South where he embarrassed us all with his creation of the "circle of the15 second club." That Solidarity Mission was so small that it was joined by select members of the Campaign Chairs. Steven Donshik is a long-time very respected senior communal professional holding a number of positions with New York UJA-Federation before his retirement. His insights are always well thought-through as was his recent commentary in e-jewishphilanthropy on the Diaspora response to this crisis: 
Sending “solidarity missions” – groups of community leaders who want to demonstrate their support – to Israel is almost a knee-jerk response. Yes, this is an important sign of identification with Israel; however, such missions must be organized and implemented in a respectful and appropriate way. In the week following the incursion into Gaza, a group of American Jewish leaders arrived in Israel and toured the areas that were under missile attack. One key leader was described as wearing a tee-shirt and shorts much like a tourist on vacation would wear. What message did this give both to the Israeli public and to the Israeli politicians, military leaders, and opinion makers that the leadership group met during their few days in the country?
I would speculate that this person would not have worn the same attire when making a site visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina or to New York after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. There is a strong lack of respect evident in the way that some North American Jews rally to support Israel. Coming to the country is not in and of itself sufficient: there has to be a modicum of respect when coming to show solidarity and meet with influential Israelis.
In addition, there is always an expectation among the participants in these solidarity delegations that they will have access to the higher echelon of political and military leaders. Interesting, no? The country is in the middle of a war, and yet people who come from abroad in a desire to support the country still expect to meet with its leaders – those deeply involved in a crisis situation and making life-and-death decisions.
- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israel-war-and-the-diaspora/?utm_source=Thurs+July+24&utm_campaign=Thurs+July+24&utm_medium=email#sthash.6AJPijqn.dpuf

  • "Sending “solidarity missions” – groups of community leaders who want to demonstrate their support – to Israel is almost a knee-jerk response. Yes, this is an important sign of identification with Israel; however, such missions must be organized and implemented in a respectful and appropriate way. In the week following the incursion into Gaza, a group of American Jewish leaders arrived in Israel and toured the areas that were under missile attack. One key leader was described as wearing a tee-shirt and shorts much like a tourist on vacation would wear. What message did this give both to the Israeli public and to the Israeli politicians, military leaders, and opinion makers that the leadership group met during their few days in the country?
  • Steve continued: "I would speculate that this person would not have worn the same attire when making a site visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina or to New York after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. There is a strong lack of respect evident in the way that some North American Jews rally to support Israel. Coming to the country is not in and of itself sufficient: there has to be a modicum of respect when coming to show solidarity and meet with influential Israelis."                              ...What Steve Donshik was referencing was the reality that with institutional memory obliterated, this is one result. It's a sad reality that there is no one on the FRD professional staff or in the office of the CEO at JFNA who knows what the hell he or she is doing under these critical circumstances (or very many others either).
  • And then there is the FRD attendant to the crisis. One would think from the chaotic manner in which JFNA is parsing out information on fund-raising "goals" (while not calling them that) piecemeal -- first $10 million (without explanation as to how this figure was arrived at) then an additional $20 million (with no explanation as to how that figure was arrived at other than to advise the federations that the first $10 million was only a two-week goal, explained after two weeks had passed) and just what ultimately? And, as one observer wrote me in disgust, the purposes for which the funds are being allocated "are contrived" -- i.e., with JNF already committing $3.5 million to the construction of shelters, just where will JFNA allocations deploy our dollars for the same purposes? Or were the 25 staff members of JFNA-Israel out looking for sites? Does War mean, for the first time, that our partners are not being asked for budgets that a real Federation Committee could quickly vet and establish a "campaign goal?" Here are some of the shameful results of the lack of direction coming from our Continental organization:
  • Communities were given a fund raising number based on a $10 million "goal" but without any JFNA instructions that might have aided them in reaching out to donors -- one community with a $315,000 goal quickly raised $356,000; now it will have to go back to its donors; another, as we have written, with a totally inexperienced CEO (but with plenty of national leadership who should have known better) convened its major donors to raise $250,000 against the $10,000,000...now what? 
  • Other federations have not only allocated (with some advancing large dollars against a campaign to come) toward the $10,000,000 but have also allocated and transmitted additional large amounts directly to beneficiaries in Israel. Again, our continental chachams have offered no guidance or discipline. 
  • Here is what has been offered -- as you will read, Silverman/JFNA offers no specificity (other than the two hospitals in the South) whatsoever:  "Following are suggested areas of focus where the Federation system can bring relevant expertise and resources, working with established and new partners on the ground. More detailed information will be forthcoming very shortly on these categoriesor possibly others, based on the research.
    1.       Ongoing trauma counseling - the trauma experienced by very large segments of the Israeli population touches the entire State but is most intensively felt by those in the south. There are tens of thousands living in daily terror, and many will need extensive assistance in returning to their lives when a cease fire occurs.
    2.       Strengthening local communities - Israel has made enormous strides in reinforcing the home front as evidenced in the extraordinary resiliency of the southern cities. The breadth of communities now in range of more frequent rocket attacks and the intensity of attacks have grown.  More communities now need such strengthening, which could include upgrading of shelters, portable shelters, situation rooms, communications equipment, etc.
    3.       Investing in volunteer frameworks that strengthen the resiliency of communities - throughout the South thousands of volunteers - youth, university students, and other young adults are bolstering the work of local communities and NGOs. This has become a widely recognized and critically important facet of Israel's civic response to the war.
    4.       Respite for frontline professionals and volunteers - there are thousands of people - municipal workers, health care and social service workers, and volunteers, many of them traumatized themselves, who are working round the clock for weeks. After the war concludes these individuals will need assistance.
    5.       Emergency preparedness - planning and training for front-line responders.
    6.       Emergency health care - two hospitals in the south - Barzilai in Ashkelon, and Soroka in Beersheva - have borne the brunt of responding to those injured or severely traumatized by the war.  These hospitals also care for the most seriously wounded soldiers.

What we are seeing, at a time that cries out for leadership, is anti-leadership. What is needed, what will be needed, will be far, far more than $30,000,000. There is no national initiative -- just reporting, and, to these old eyes, it appears that our partners have been muzzled -- that JFNA has demanded that neither JAFI, nor the JDC nor World ORT is any longer able to communicate directly to us about its work on the ground. All information must be funneled through the prism of JFNA for distribution -- for otherwise JFNA would be doing nothing.. I hope that I am wrong; but I think I am not.

Friends, it's a mess. At the worst possible time. But, then again, it's JFNA after all...and it's chaos and it's shameful.

Rwexler



- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israel-war-and-the-diaspora/?utm_source=Thurs+July+24&utm_campaign=Thurs+July+24&utm_medium=email#sthash.FkPgJ6Se.dpufSending “solidarity missions” – groups of community leaders who want to demonstrate their support – to Israel is almost a knee-jerk response. Yes, this is an important sign of identification with Israel; however, such missions must be organized and implemented in a respectful and appropriate way. In the week following the incursion into Gaza, a group of American Jewish leaders arrived in Israel and toured the areas that were under missile attack. One key leader was described as wearing a tee-shirt and shorts much like a tourist on vacation would wear. What message did this give both to the Israeli public and to the Israeli politicians, military leaders, and opinion makers that the leadership group met during their few days in the country?
I would speculate that this person would not have worn the same attire when making a site visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina or to New York after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. There is a strong lack of respect evident in the way that some North American Jews rally to support Israel. Coming to the country is not in and of itself sufficient: there has to be a modicum of respect when coming to show solidarity and meet with influential Israelis.
- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israel-war-and-the-diaspora/#sthash.tW8oOs6L.dpuf
Sending “solidarity missions” – groups of community leaders who want to demonstrate their support – to Israel is almost a knee-jerk response. Yes, this is an important sign of identification with Israel; however, such missions must be organized and implemented in a respectful and appropriate way. In the week following the incursion into Gaza, a group of American Jewish leaders arrived in Israel and toured the areas that were under missile attack. One key leader was described as wearing a tee-shirt and shorts much like a tourist on vacation would wear. What message did this give both to the Israeli public and to the Israeli politicians, military leaders, and opinion makers that the leadership group met during their few days in the country?
I would speculate that this person would not have worn the same attire when making a site visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina or to New York after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. There is a strong lack of respect evident in the way that some North American Jews rally to support Israel. Coming to the country is not in and of itself sufficient: there has to be a modicum of respect when coming to show solidarity and meet with influential Israelis.
In addition, there is always an expectation among the participants in these solidarity delegations that they will have access to the higher echelon of political and military leaders. Interesting, no? The country is in the middle of a war, and yet people who come from abroad in a desire to support the country still expect to meet with its leaders – those deeply involved in a crisis situation and making life-and-death decisions.
- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israel-war-and-the-diaspora/?utm_source=Thurs+July+24&utm_campaign=Thurs+July+24&utm_medium=email#sthash.zu88rStw.dpuf
Sending “solidarity missions” – groups of community leaders who want to demonstrate their support – to Israel is almost a knee-jerk response. Yes, this is an important sign of identification with Israel; however, such missions must be organized and implemented in a respectful and appropriate way. In the week following the incursion into Gaza, a group of American Jewish leaders arrived in Israel and toured the areas that were under missile attack. One key leader was described as wearing a tee-shirt and shorts much like a tourist on vacation would wear. What message did this give both to the Israeli public and to the Israeli politicians, military leaders, and opinion makers that the leadership group met during their few days in the country?
I would speculate that this person would not have worn the same attire when making a site visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina or to New York after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. There is a strong lack of respect evident in the way that some North American Jews rally to support Israel. Coming to the country is not in and of itself sufficient: there has to be a modicum of respect when coming to show solidarity and meet with influential Israelis.
In addition, there is always an expectation among the participants in these solidarity delegations that they will have access to the higher echelon of political and military leaders. Interesting, no? The country is in the middle of a war, and yet people who come from abroad in a desire to support the country still expect to meet with its leaders – those deeply involved in a crisis situation and making life-and-death decisions.
- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israel-war-and-the-diaspora/?utm_source=Thurs+July+24&utm_campaign=Thurs+July+24&utm_medium=email#sthash.6AJPijqn.dpuf
Sending “solidarity missions” – groups of community leaders who want to demonstrate their support – to Israel is almost a knee-jerk response. Yes, this is an important sign of identification with Israel; however, such missions must be organized and implemented in a respectful and appropriate way. In the week following the incursion into Gaza, a group of American Jewish leaders arrived in Israel and toured the areas that were under missile attack. One key leader was described as wearing a tee-shirt and shorts much like a tourist on vacation would wear. What message did this give both to the Israeli public and to the Israeli politicians, military leaders, and opinion makers that the leadership group met during their few days in the country?
I would speculate that this person would not have worn the same attire when making a site visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina or to New York after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. There is a strong lack of respect evident in the way that some North American Jews rally to support Israel. Coming to the country is not in and of itself sufficient: there has to be a modicum of respect when coming to show solidarity and meet with influential Israelis.
In addition, there is always an expectation among the participants in these solidarity delegations that they will have access to the higher echelon of political and military leaders. Interesting, no? The country is in the middle of a war, and yet people who come from abroad in a desire to support the country still expect to meet with its leaders – those deeply involved in a crisis situation and making life-and-death decisions.
- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israel-war-and-the-diaspora/?utm_source=Thurs+July+24&utm_campaign=Thurs+July+24&utm_medium=email#sthash.EalkhdmV.dpuf
Sending “solidarity missions” – groups of community leaders who want to demonstrate their support – to Israel is almost a knee-jerk response. Yes, this is an important sign of identification with Israel; however, such missions must be organized and implemented in a respectful and appropriate way. In the week following the incursion into Gaza, a group of American Jewish leaders arrived in Israel and toured the areas that were under missile attack. One key leader was described as wearing a tee-shirt and shorts much like a tourist on vacation would wear. What message did this give both to the Israeli public and to the Israeli politicians, military leaders, and opinion makers that the leadership group met during their few days in the country?
I would speculate that this person would not have worn the same attire when making a site visit to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina or to New York after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. There is a strong lack of respect evident in the way that some North American Jews rally to support Israel. Coming to the country is not in and of itself sufficient: there has to be a modicum of respect when coming to show solidarity and meet with influential Israelis.
In addition, there is always an expectation among the participants in these solidarity delegations that they will have access to the higher echelon of political and military leaders. Interesting, no? The country is in the middle of a war, and yet people who come from abroad in a desire to support the country still expect to meet with its leaders – those deeply involved in a crisis situation and making life-and-death decisions.
- See more at: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/israel-war-and-the-diaspora/?utm_source=Thurs+July+24&utm_campaign=Thurs+July+24&utm_medium=email#sthash.EalkhdmV.dpuf

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

ALLOCATIONS...WITHOUT MONEY

We raised the question on these pages as to how much the JFNA Ukraine Emergency Allocations Committee had available to it and how much had been allotted and to whom. Of course, we never were advised of those amounts from JFNA. But here's what we have learned: 

Allocations:

     o $500,000 was directed to JDC for expanded social services to Ukraine’s most vulnerable
   o $225,000 to JAFI for enhanced security needs on the ground including security for JAFI sites, JDC sites, Jewish schools, synagogues, community centers, etc.
   o $25,000 to World ORT for security enhancements at their schools in Ukraine

So the questions are: from where, and how much has JFNA collected and distributed? There have yet to be any answers. Do the Co-Chairs of the "effort" (that's a terrible word for what JFNA has done here inasmuch as there has been no "effort" at all) even know?

And, the answer is: who knows? Though some argued that there should be a continental goal, and there had been talk of raising $1 million, and communities were asked to "raise" their Fair Share of $1 million (in a letter, of course) in a non-bonding sort of way, never was there a debate, a vote or anything close. Why? Because that might look like a "campaign" -- and, well, JFNA just doesn't do "campaigns." Not under this leadership, anyway. 

Thus, some communities just opened mailboxes. Whatever they collected, they sent on to JFNA. Others pre-committed and then engaged in a quiet fund-raising effort with no specificity as to how funds would be allocated other than "Ukraine." Other federations received the original letter from JFNA, awaited "further instructions," and receiving none did their own allocations in frustration. (It should be noted that JFNA did convene at least ttwo conference calls but it is unclear whether those were updates on the crisis or further information on funding.

Then there is today the even more ambitious and critical "Israel Emergency Fund" in which the federations were asked to participate in a $10 million initial "funding" to meet our partners emergency needs during the Terrorists' War on Israel. One may fairly ask: where did the $10 million amount come from -- out of the blue? Out of a desperate desire to be "in the game," JFNA and the federation leaders who dictated this amount just "low-balled" the needs without regard for the fund raising consequences. Just two weeks later, it has become even more clear that the Terrorists' War on Israel has created needs even greater than those of the Israel Emergency Campaign -- one that raised over $350 million just six years ago. JFNA has "allocated" $5 million of its $10 million "non-campaign." How much has actually been raised and collected by JFNA; we are not to know.

And today, JFNA is just a collection and allocations agent neither raising any of the critical funds nor executing any on the ground work with our Israeli extended family (pardon me, other than the Jerry and Becky daily story hours). Every one of us knows that when a body that raises no dollars engages only in allocating them, it is allocations in a vacuum -- it just doesn't work...and JFNA has proved it. It appointed an Allocations Committee, as it always does, but it has no clue how much has been raised other than as dollars literally dribble in from the communities. There is no FRD effort, no collections effort...no effort at all. And a goal so temporary, so ethereal as to be meaningless.

Friends, there can be no one...that's no one...except maybe those in the Clown Car, who believed that $10,000,000 would satisfy the emergency needs -- all one needed to look at was the extent of the effort during the Israel Emergency Campaign. Yet, JFNA failed completely to (a) explain to the federations that $10,000,000 was not a "goal," it was an interim need; and (b) the time frame in which JFNA would return to the federations with a real estimate of the needs on the ground. Thus, federations that knew no better and some that did went out to their donors as if their allotted share of $10,000,000 was the extent of it -- while JFNA twiddled its thumbs. Can we give this organization some adult supervision and new leadership? 

And, now, JFNA  has embarked on its efforts to raise the required $30,000,000 to fund two Global "Signature Initiatives." Are you kidding me?

Rwexler

Monday, July 21, 2014

WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

You have lived in your federated community for years, You have served as Board Chair, or Campaign Chair or as a major donor but no longer. Yours is not a federation like Chicago or even Boston or Miami where, no matter the results of campaigns or allocations, you and your fellow "retirees" have neither influence or power. No, you are in a community where the men and women who are the "elders" (even as some are relatively young) ar respected for having built the community and the federation serves as the central Jewish address because of what you, collectively and historically, constructed over the decades. 

Now, quite suddenly, you and the others see that all that you have built is being destroyed by a small leadership cadre that neither understands nor appreciates federation, neither understands nor appreciates the sacred trust embodied in collective responsibility. The same thing that had taken 20 years to destroy the federation's value in Boston and San Francisco has happened in your hometown in but a single allocations cycle. Your community is unique -- the power rests with you, the Past Chairs, the major donors, not with the current so-called "leadership" that has brought your community to this day.

If you join as one, you can bring the community together; you can restore the pride, the values, the principles that once were but are today nothing more than lip service, a value system torn to shreds. There is unnanimity amog you, the builders, that what has happened over the past weeks will, immediately or over time, rend the very fabric of community. Build on that unity of feeling, and take back the community from those who neither understand the concept of Jewish community nor its meaning. But do it now; then lead us Continentally by dint of your example.

Please.

Rwexler






Saturday, July 19, 2014

ISRAEL'S CIVIL SOCIETY AND JFNA

The Global Planning Table has established two "Signature Initiatives" -- JQuest and the Israel Children's Zone -- neither of which has been funded anywhere approaching the minimum condition precedent of 10 federations $1.5 million each ($500,000 per year for 3 years). Add to those two a so-called "Voluntary Project" (aren't the other two as well) among a "coalition of the willing" with the GPT acronym iRep -- the Israel Religious Expressions Platform -- I am not making this up. The focus of this Initiative will be on civil marriage in Israel.

This is a noble theme, one that resonates with many Jews worldwide, but one may question why it would rise to the level of JFNA involvement when JFNA has already walked away from its interest in advocacy for equitable treatment of non-Orthodox (with a focus on women) wishing to pray at the Kotel and its periodic pique with conversion legislation as that subject periodically appears on the Knesset agenda (even as this is written). 

I am just guessing here, but my intuition informs me that iRep is nothing more than a Global Planning Table response to one or more donors to whom it couldn't just say "no" or "now is not the time." (Or, maybe someone thought, "Wow, is this going to be great!!") After all, each time JFNA has dipped its toes into the waters of Israel's civil society, it has come away declaring victory much like former President W declared "victory" in Iraq. You remember that CEO What-The-Hell-Is-This? found himself in Jerusalem when two and 1/2 or 3 years ago, the "Who Is A Jew" issue arose in the Knesset, as it has again this month, and Jerry being totally unaware of the existence of a "playbook" somewhere in the files on how to deal with this issue, spun like a top in the halls of the Knesset and with the few federation leaders also there, declared, what else, "victory." It wasn't.

Then there were the issues that arose in Beit Shemesh where women were assigned to segregated seating on public buses and subjected to abuse for their dress, etc. JFNA? Roused to a strong letter to the Prime Minister. Then...nothing.

And, last November, during the Jerusalem GA, when 1200 people, mostly strays, marched to the Kotel to join Women of the Wall in protest at the gender inequality at the Wall. This was "celebrated" by CEO "We-Had-1200-Marchers" as, what else, "a great success." Then...nothing.

Now, the Global Planning Table will focus an effort, no doubt underfunded, to support civil marriage in Israel. I have no doubt that this effort, along with the other two "Signature Initiatives" about which we have reported, are designed to, as GPT Chair Butler described it "...identify and excite the donor base, expand the campaign, increase dollars to support JFNA activities, and work with federations who share similar interests." So far, all I see is the running of ideas up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes in the hope that something will actually come of them,,,AND that JFNA will gain budget relief from this programmatic funding. Never mind that JFNA lacks any expertise in any of the areas of "Signature Initiatives" or this iRep -- not even the capacity to monitor and evaluate others' work.

We all remember that in advance of last year's desultory GA Chair Siegal and CEO Jerry gave interviews to the Jewish media announcing the further brilliant concept of a $1 billion Special Campaign to provide a free Jewish pre- and day school education to all. They did so without any discussion with (a) the federations or (b) Jewish educators -- not that they couldn't, they just didn't. And, so it is with iRep -- already Mizrachi has gone public with its criticism -- no prior discussion except among the brilliant minds around the Global Planning Table...not with the religious movements, not with the Government of Israel, the Jewish Agency...

Is there not enough to do in North America? Isn't it time to call a halt to the inanity that the Global Planning Table has always been after a waste of unaccounted millions and before the waste of millions more?

Rwexler


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

UPDATES

Things continue down the merry path to disaster from the do-nothing but write a whole lot JFNA. Examples?

1. Last month the JFNA Board Chair, speaking for all, sent a letter  (oh, wait, it was a Statement)  of congratulations to Shimon Peres on receiving the Congressional Gold Medal and the Lantos Human Rights Prize. It was nice.

2. That letter Statement was preceded by an angry letter from JFNA to the Prime Minister decrying the transfer of aliyah exclusivity from the Jewish Agency to a new company controlled by the Government Minister of Immigration which was followed by a back-pedaling from CEO Never-Mind, in which he effectively apologized for criticizing the Government takeover even though nothing had changed from Government plan. It appears that CEO Maybe-I'm-George-Romney was somehow "brain-washed" in Israel.

3. And, you remember the JFNA letter to the Prime Minister demanding access to the Kotel by Women of the Wall? JFNA has moved on -- now, thanks to the brilliant "non-planning" by the Global Non-Planning Table JFNA has turned its lack of attention (it has an institutional attention deficit disorder, you know) to, marriage in Israel. Shiny objects, you know? 

4. On June 19, Board Chair Siegal sent us a letter warning us that despite the great work of the Israel Action Network, the Presbyterian Church USA would "likely" vote to divest its investments in specific companies doing business in Israel. When Geri Palast, the "Managing Director" (oh, the titles, the titles) of the IAN (are we the best creators of acronyms in history), wrote a letter seemingly only moments later to advise us of our "sadness" that PCUSA had voted to divest one could only ask "why the Siegal 'preview'"?)

Yes, at JFNA letters and statements are the Emperor's New Clothes, to make us think something is actually being done.

Yet, every once in a while, there is also a moment of clarity, even excellence -- even in a letter:
"
The Jewish Federations of North America - The Strength of a People. The Power of Community.
A Message from Jerry Silverman: Bring Back Our Boys

"Dear Friends,

This week, a delegation of JFNA leaders had the unique opportunity to represent Jewish Federations in Israel. While our agenda was full, the most memorable part of our trip was the time we spent with the families of the three kidnapped boys, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. We talked, hugged and shared thoughts with the boys' mothers and fathers, assuring them that throughout this ordeal, they are not alone.

This horrible event hangs like a cloud over all of Israel – and the entire Jewish world – as we worry about these three teens. During our visit, our delegation listened while, one by one, members of the Knesset expressed their deep resolve to support the IDF’s effort to find our sons. We also joined the Israel European Congress’ session as they spoke with the boys’ mothers and offered the love and support of Jews around the world.

We then had the opportunity to spend time with the families in a more intimate setting. They shared their deep appreciation of our support and were very much aware of all the vigils and activities taking place throughout North America. The families were humbled by the response of our communities, regardless of affiliation or religious stream, and inspired by our efforts.

They asked us, as representatives of the Jewish Federations, for two things:

1. That we continue to come together and pray for their boys to come home safely. We must let it be known in our communities that this crime will not be tolerated; and,
2. That we reach out to the influencers in our communities and in Washington, D.C. to continue to put pressure on those responsible. 

As Dede Feinberg, Executive Committee chair, said to the families, “I am a mother, and I cannot fathom the pain you are feeling. However, know you are not alone, and won’t be alone, until they are home.”

Upon our return from Israel, we learned that President Obama began his conversation with Israeli President Shimon Peres by offering his prayers and support for these boys and pledging to do whatever possible to help bring them home. I speak for everyone at Jewish Federations when I offer a heartfelt thank you to President Obama for prioritizing this issue and continuing to put forth pressure to bring these teens home.

As Federations, we have a responsibility to continue to advocate for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali at every gathering, and to encourage our respective agencies, congregations, JCCs, camps and all Jewish organizations to do the same. This is our family and they are our boys. We pray that they come home safe and very soon, b'ezrat Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom,
Jerry Silverman
President and Chief Executive Officer, JFNA"
Beautiful.

Rwexler

Sunday, July 13, 2014

JUST A CONTINUING EMBARRASSMENT --THE "CIRCLE OF THE 15 SECOND CLUB"

Perhaps I am just tired -- like all of us, I wish there were more that I could do for our extended mishpacha in Israel at this trying time. We are on the phone constantly, we worry and we pray. Can't sleep. I, like you, want our leaders to represent us in large numbers expressing our solidarity.

Then, this comes from very hand that is supposed to guide and lead us, Jerry's:
Day 6: Update on Operation Protective Edge and Federation Response
July 13, 2014
Dear Friends,

This morning I traveled to Sderot with a small delegation of leaders from our Campaign Chairs and Directors Mission to meet with and hear from local residents and leadership. The city is tense and few people are out and about. Everyone is keeping close to their bomb shelters ever mindful of the 15 second rule – that’s how much time you have to get to safety. We’ve already had to make that unnerving dash to the shelters. 
                     
In our meeting with Alon Davidi, the Mayor of Sderot, we expressed the absolute solidarity and support of the Federations and the entire North American Jewish community support with him and his city.

And, it is good that those who will lead our Campaigns are there. But, from the hand that shimmied with the Harlem Shake came this gem of gems in the same Update:

Later today, a solidarity mission of senior federation leadership will arrive in Israel. They too will come in to the circle of the 15 second club when we head south. (emphasis added)

Readers, my friends and those who hate this Blog, haven't we all had enough of this insipidity? As if those who will head South for a briefing, for Solidarity, for comforting our People, are joining "...the circle of the 15 second club?" So stupid; so trivializing; so demeaning of what our brothers and sisters, our parents and grandparents, our children and grandchildren, our friends are going through 24/7 and have gone through year-after-year.

Will there be Tee Shirts? Will there be big buttons -- "I am in the circle of the 15 second club?" How long do we put up with this...crap? Shame, shame, shame, shame...on all of us.

Rwexler



THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY -- LOOKING GOOD!!

In an unfortunate example of blatant opportunism, immediately after receiving a copy of the JFNA Executive Committee call for a "voluntary campaign" to raise $10,000,000 to assist our Israeli family during the terrorists' barrage, we received the "roll-out" of the preliminary GA Program. And the Program looks excellent -- for the first time in years. Terrific speakers, including Justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Elana Kagan and with Chuck Todd and Andrea Mitchell, a liberal's "dream team" at a time of a rejection of liberalism by so many in the communities, thoughtful and relevant break-outs; a relatively good bang for the buck of the early Registration Fee of $499.

There is still the issue of location -- a $64 taxi ride (roundtrip) to D.C./Georgetown (or a $14 Water taxi one-way + a taxi to where you might really want to be). I am going to stop kvetching about the choice of a headquarters Convention Hotel -- just go to Trip Advisor, read the reviews at  http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g60925-d678239-Reviews-Gaylord_National_Resort_Convention_Center-Oxon_Hill_Maryland.html
and decide for yourselves. Suffice it to say, this may be the first instance where a neighboring Residence Inn gets higher marks. Just settle in at National Harbor, somewhere south of Alexandria and enjoy the General Assembly; you will get to the District by bus for some "special evening" (or maybe not at all).

Here is the problem. All the fine pre-planning may be in vain if the crises Israel faces and those our Israeli partners face compounded by the costs, physical and emotional, to our Israeli mishpacha, require, as was done at the Los Angeles GA just a few years ago, a total refocus of the GA. Inasmuch as someone at JFNA believed it appropriate to hype GA attendance on the very backs of our Israeli family at a time of incredible pain and crisis, maybe they know that a refocus will/may be necessary. Let's hope that these JFNA leaders are up to it and that the GA Co-Chairs, Gail Norry and Howard Friedman, demand it.

So far, so good.

Rwexler


Saturday, July 12, 2014

WHEN NO THOUGHT LEADS TO CHAOS

Of course JFNA meant well, don't they always?

First, you probably do not remember, but Kathy Manning, during her JFNA Chair-ship, in a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, out of nowhere, advised the incredulous PM that in the event of a crisis like the one Israel faces now, JFNA had a plan and Israel could "count on us" -- kind of like the President advising Israel "we have your back." In fact, as the events of this month have demonstrated, JFNA, as always, had no plan...and now finds itself racing to get ahead of events. That incredulity is now ours.

Last week the JFNA Executive Committee met and authorized a $10,000,000 initial Israel Emergency Fund (G-d forbid, don't call it a "campaign") to aid the victims of terror  in Israel. Having done so, JFNA then contented itself with periodic reports from Jerusalem and a "Solidarity Mission" led by Dede Feinberg with, at most, 7 lay leaders participating. (Makes one ask: was this about Israel or was it about JFNA?)

So, they meant well. But the results? You be the judge:


  • Some communities, like mine, understanding that $10,000,000 is but a drop in the bucket of potential need, were able to advance their "share" (out of endowment or otherwise) letting donors know that when the need is ultimately determined they will be asked to participate. Then there are the federations who seem to know no better, who convened their most major donors and asked for a total of, e.g., $250,000 seemingly unknowing  because JFNA gave them no instructions that far, far more will be needed. These are federations that have forgotten, like JFNA itself, how to raise money. 
  • As one experienced leader wrote us: "it’s very interesting that on one hand they have no process for other campaigns that were either ill-advised or downright silly but for a real emergency they go thru this process for pocket change. With major leaders on the ground – CCD mission, solidarity mission etc – it seems to me they would have been much better off trying to see what they could raise on the ground and use that as leverage to build a much greater effort." Exactly.
  • Then JFNA prepared a generic letter for Federations to fill in with local info about an Israel Emergency Fund. Some federations have dutifully sent the letter out to all donors. Let's say you are a $10,000 donor and get this letter; you send a check for $500. As the crisis deepens, more is needed, and this donor gets another letter (or, even, a phone call) with another ask. Guess what? That donor is going to say: "what's with you people? I already gave." Don't call JFNA; they don't know what they are doing any more than you do. 
Friends, a crisis requires thought and planning...but no. Not at JFNA where there should have been a plan, but never is.

No thought + no thinking = chaos. Business as usual at JFNA.

Rwexler














Thursday, July 10, 2014

THIS BLOGGER'S LAMENT

Immediately after the San Antonio Spurs beat Miami's Heat for the NBA Championship, a story on that historic victory appeared in the Internation New York Times that began:
"In a corner of the San Antonio Spurs' locker room, there is a framed quotation from the muckraking social reformer Jacob Riis.                       
'When nothing seems to help, I go back and look at the stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet, at the one hundred and first blow it  will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it -- but all that had gone before.'"
I am not Jacob Riis, far, far from it, but I will continue to strive to create change.

When I began this Blog close to 2,000 Posts ago, I made this offer to those who read it: if I have made an error in anything I have written or will write, alert me and I will (a) apologize and (b) correct any error or misinformation. I have taken care to verify before publishing. Nonetheless, there remain those who read this Blog or who deny reading it but can't start their day without it, who read, know what I have written is true but who find comfort, somehow, by alleging to anyone within reading distance, that I am wrong, always wrong, terribly wrong. G-d bless 'em.Like this recent Comment to a Post on the vapidity of a new JFNA effort branded Yasod:

"I read these comments and am very upset. As someone who lives in a community that applied for this program, I see it as a great benefit to our system. I know that for Richard Wexler and the Chicago community, paying $350,000 for 20 participants in Wexner is merely a rounding error. For others, it's near impossible. The way I read this program is that it is not to take the place of Wexner (I understand that the Wexner Foundation staff was consulted about it). But it is a way for communities that want to focus on leadership development to do so in a high level (Dr. Erica Brown has designed the curriculum) way with low cost.

Will it succeed? Time will tell. But it is being promoted as a pilot to see if it can work. I find Richard Wexler's constant negativity about anything and everything new coming out of JFNA very spiteful and not useful. Give this one a chance. You may be surprised (but I expect you would not admit so)."
Oh me. Those who know me well know that this Blog has been written from Day One out of sadness and frustration not mendacity or malice with the continuing futility of an organization that has spent $650,000,000 of our donors' funds from which we have not seen one successful new program developed out of one compelling new idea. I leave it to you, dear readers, to read the Comments about which this anonymous Commentator complains and see what those who have looked carefully at Yasod think. And I leave it to you to determine whether all this Blog is and has been is "a barrage of hate-speak," as one of you put it, anonymously as expected.


The fact is that in all but two instances I have never heard from anyone, in name or anonymously, that what I have written has been misinformed or incorrect. There have been instances -- as in the case of the immediate Past Chair of the Board's outright denial that she had directed a GPT Committee not to use "Zionism" as "too controversial" when, in fact, she had done so -- where I have been attacked, by friend and foe alike, for printing the truth. And, from the start, I recognized that "protectors of the system" attacked me and this Blog for being written at all. What they wanted written and when was only what they wanted you to read...to know. So often, they feared...well, the truth, transparency, governance and process. I understand that -- if a CEO, knowing what I have written was true, admits it, then shame on him or her for doing nothing about it, for sitting in silence and just letting whatever it may have been happen. So much easier to just deny it and go on. For others, hubris demands denial.

Many of you have written me over the years of failure after failure, dating back to long before this Blog began, pleading, demanding that I reach out to the CEOs who, if they were motivated to do so, could have effected the changes necessary to right the sinking ship. And, in candor, I did reach out, numerous times, without success. I am guilty of puncturing the fairy tale those in leadership of JFNA have tried to conjure; to many that has been a breach of trust, to others high treason. I started writing out of frustration with those in leadership who spread lies about me to deflect my private efforts to effect the transparency required of a Jewish charitable organization. I quickly discovered to my pain that friends were more easily convinced that I was wrong then they were to investigate whether the emperors' and empress's new clothes were nothing but fake. I learned that, contrary to the totality of my prior experiences in leadership in Jewish life, leaders were not interested in transparency, in dissent or in truth.

Yes, I exposed a failure of leadership to constrain the evisceration of JFNA Financial Resource Development, the myth of "consensus" leading to the creation of the Global Planning Table, the fictional attendance figures at a series of failed GAs, TribeFests, the collapse of per capita fund raising at the Young Leadership Cabinet, the abandonment of JAFI and JDC by JFNA, the breach of agreements entered into by JFNA before the ink dried, the futility of hiring CEOs (federation/JFNA) from so-called "outside the box" environments and the willingness, eagerness even of a variety of JFNA leaders to prevaricate if criticism got in the way of their narrative.

So, the next time you approach the CEO of your federation or JFNA or another lay leader and inquire about something you might have read on the Blog, and the person you have asked answers by telling you that "Wexler never gets it right" or some stronger term, do me a favor and ask: "Just what did he get wrong." And, if the answer is "everything," probe further. You will find that the answer should have been "nothing."

I hold the stonecutter's hammer in my hands.

Rwexler

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

DOING NOTHING...KNOWING NOTHING...A SAD ADDENDUM

That Midwestern Federation that I didn't camouflage very well earlier this week and which you identified as Milwaukee had postponed acting on its Draconian cut to the overseas core allocation when its Board met a few weeks ago. This deferral offered some hope that Federation Board members would reexamine the unanimous recommendation of that Federation's Executive Committee to cut that allocation from $1,462,250 to $684,740 -- an unheard of reduction in a single year of $777,500 -- 53%. What happened?

Well, to his credit, even though he leads JFNA itself away from responsible advocacy for the overseas core allocations without realizing that that is exactly the impact of the GPT, Jerry Silverman called the Milwaukee CEO to urge responsible allocations; and many Milwaukee leaders urged reflection by the current Milwaukee Board on its history of Continental leadership. It might have been nice if the JFNA Board Chair and Chair of the Executive had called the Milwaukee Board Chair but...never mind.

And, then, the Federation Board answered: it cut this critical life-giving and life-sustaining allocation to $780,100 -- a cut of only $682,150!! That's a 47% cut. That's a horrible disregard of communal responsibility and of collective responsibility by a federation once known for its leadership. So much for Continental advocacy -- one must ask, was CEO Silverman even aware of the contemplated deconstruction of Milwaukee's overseas sharing before someone handed him (he doesn't read this Blog, you know!!) the original Post that disclosed Milwaukee's intended action?

And, here is how the JFNA CEO has described how the Jewish Agency and Joint Distribution Committee are dealing with the terrorists' war on Israel -- JA and JDC will now have to do so with $777,500 less due to Milwaukee's tragic decision:
MPACT ON OUR PARTNERSHIP WORK
  • Currently has over 4500 young adults in Israel on short term immersion experiences, and an additional 3,000 on long term.
  • Security briefings have been provided for all tour operators and participants, and none are currently within 24 mi. of Gaza (an Onward group from Be'er Sheva was moved northward).
  • Programs operating between 24-49 miles north of Gaza must brief participants on how to act if sirens sound, and must remain within proximity of safe shelter.
  • Parents of all Onward participants (270 currently in Israel), have been contacted and other programs either have already sent or will be sending communications shortly.
  • Staff from a Jewish Agency subsidiary, Amigour, are performing damage assessment caused by rocket fire for the National Property Tax Authority.
  • Better Together, which serves children and youth has activated program managers in communities in the 24 mi.range.  Activities for children have been suspended and large public gatherings are now prohibited in those areas.  Currently the BT staff are putting together alternative activities that can be offered, with an emphasis on what can be done to keep the children occupied should there need to be extended stays in public shelters.
  • There has been a 150% increase in those seeking help for shock and anxiety.
  • The overly demanding work of the previous weeks is already wearing down the professional staff who have been dealing with a spike in demands for help, related to the abduction of the three teenage boys. Over 100 therapeutic workshops have been set up to provide support to the population of the South, especially to parents and a show is being put on for children to educate them about safe responses to the situation.
  • Currently there are 3,600 Birthright participants in Israel.  BRI reviews all security measures and implements the most stringent security recommendations throughout the trip to ensure comprehensive safety.  No effort or expense is spared as it relates to the security of participants.
FEDERATION VOICES ON THE GROUND
  • We are collecting information on the impact of the situation on Federation partnership cities. 
  • The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia,’s Israel representative, Talia Lidar, reports that Philadelphia’s partnership city, Netivot, which has been heavily impacted.  Nothing communal is operating, the kids are at home with no activity, and the shopping centers are empty.
  • Arie Levy, Federation CJA Montreal, reports that “Beersheva is empty today with shops closed and all educational activities shut down. There are some children’s activities in shelters. There is no talk of evacuation; this is not a region that is easily evacuated. The authorities have implemented their emergency protocols for volunteers and staff. The Trauma Center is open in the Teacher’s Center.”
And one must ask, does anyone with leadership responsibilities understand that the system is falling/has fallen apart?

Rwexler