1. There must be a new definition of Jewish communal professional" out there. Mandel just announced a new Federation CEO hire. This is how her experience leading to this position was listed: "__________ is a dynamic, experienced Jewish leader. She has consulted with the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, worked within Jewish Community Centers, and served for the past two years as the Executive Director of the Kristol Center for Jewish Life at the University of Delaware Hillel. She also brings entrepreneurial skills to the community, with her experience in creating and leading Nishmah, a nonprofit project for Jewish women in St. Louis." That actually sounds like an interesting resume but, apparently, not hyperbolic enough inasmuch as this Federation's Board Chair was said to have described the new CEO thusly: "____________ has many years of experience as a Jewish communal professional..." Yuh think?
2. Kudos to the Jewish Agency, Joint and World ORT for incredible work on the ground in the Ukraine. While events boiled around the four corners of the country, our partners never stopped their life- and community-affirming work, not for a minute, sometimes at great risk. Who will assure that the costs of securing communal institutions and protecting our extended Jewish family there are covered? Apparently, individual federations will have to do so because JFNA has done nothing. It strikes me as totally unacceptable that JFNA rushes to establish "mailboxes" funding relief from natural disasters as far away as Japan but when a community of 300,000-350,000 Jews finds itself in the midst of national chaos, needing our help...nothing. OK...almost nothing inasmuch as JFNA has convened some interesting and informative conference calls on the crisis and may...may...be considering a "mailbox" rather than any emergency campaign. (See below for the latest "developments?")
And here is what happens when our system...our JFNA...leaves a void -- surprise, others fill it. In the midst of the Ukrainian crisis, you may have received a solicitation from the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS announcing an Emergency Campaign to assist the Jews and Jewish Communities of the Ukraine. Watch http://fjc.ru/emergency-campaign/ -- the slick website solicitation. You or I might not know without exploring every link on that site, that the FJC is a creation of Chabad -- and, please understand, from even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Chabad has been doing G-d's work there, and everywhere there, often in partnership with, e.g., the Joint, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews and many others. Sometimes, as in this "emergency campaign," the FJC engages in heavy overstatement, but, that misses the point -- the facts on the ground demand that this is exactly the Emergency Campaign that our system should be running... and which we aren't. The sound you hear is that of our lunch being eaten. And, the question is: "Why?" Who made a decision that our national system do nothing? Or is that merely how it goes today?
OOOOPS...THIS JUST IN -- Yesterday, in a spurt of sudden activity, JFNA "...established the Ukraine Assistance Fund." It appears to be a mailbox without financial goals; it is certainly not, G-d forbid, a campaign, but it is "...to provide urgent support for Jews in Ukraine." A Memo was followed by one of those very terse Leadership Briefings that told us almost nothing. Two wonderful lay persons will lead a Committee "...to review needs and allocate funds" from the Fund. And, I suppose, those communities, like mine, which have already allocated over $100,000 for specific purposes in Kiev and the Ukraine can now send those funds to the Fund??? Who knows. Unstated -- for reasons not clear -- either in the communique from JFNA or in the attached "Q and A," is that communities are being told, apparently only in phone calls with JFNA, that there is a "goal" of $1 million for the Fund. What's the reason for the secrecy? How was this "goal" arrived at?
The Briefing advised that JFNA will distribute funds raised "by our collective Federations.." Of course, there is no such thing...but, then again, JFNA under this CEO has never understood core concept of "the collective." But it is important to note that the Fund was approved by the JFNA Executive Committee -- this was great news for many of us had come to believe that the JFNA Executive Committee no longer existed.
3. Next week JFNA will roll out Festivus 3 in conjunction with the most appropriate Jewish Holiday for this thing, Purim, the promotion for which (that would be for Fest 3, not Purim) has reached new heights of patronizing (with some of the drinking references unconsciously demeaning to both the planners and the intended audience). This "it's not just a party" stuff suggests to me that it is just a party...a $1 million waste for now the third year fully distracting JFNA's Young Leadership Cabinet and Cabinet staff from the serious work of leadership as all of us remember that work. At one point, after the then JFNA leaders reviewed the first fiasco, one esteemed pro pointed out the folly of our national organization engaging in direct programming -- he was ignored...twice. Fiasco One was followed by Two and now Three. Are there no adults in the room to merely say...STOP THIS FARCE? (That was a rhetorical question.) The only beneficiaries of the FESTIVI are those who have the peanut concession at this circus.