12 REASONS WHY MOST IF NOT ALL MEMBERS OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION BOARD SHOULD GRACEFULLY RESIGN

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Here’s a question for all members of the Board of Directors of the Jewish Community Association and a question for the broader Jewish community to reflect upon as you think about the abject failure of the JCA.  Mr. or Ms. JCA board member, are you a valuable, valued and responsible member of the JCA board?  If not, your immediate and graceful resignation may be good for you, the JCA and the Greater Phoenix Jewish Community.

12 REASONS WHY JCA BOARD MEMBERS SHOULD CONSIDER GRACEFULLY RESIGNING:

1.  You’re serving on the board more for personal benefit than for public benefit.

Do you or your business stand to gain financially because you are on the board?  For example, does your firm sell a product or service to the JCA such as health insurance?  Is the prestige you get from your board service helping to promote you in the community?  Was being a member of the board helpful for your wife to become the interim CFO?

2.  You have a material financial interest in a transaction with the organization that would be damaging if known by the public. 

See #1

3.  The organization’s values or activities are inconsistent with your personal values.

Do you believe in maximum transparency, high organizational effectiveness and efficiency, treating all employees with respect, demanding complete professionalism from the CEO, making maximum positive impact on the community, having an organizational brand that makes you feel proud and one that the majority of the community knows and admires?

4.  You are unable to support the organization when a board action is taken contrary to your vote.

Have you asked yourself why you continue to serve when the JCA board continues to bring shame to the organization because of errors of omission or commission?

5.  The organization is not operating consistent with the law and/or its own governing documents or policies despite your efforts to insist on compliance.

Have you ever read the bylaws of the organization that you serve?  Are you fully aware of the governmental laws and policies that govern the JCA?

6.  You’re not informed about the organization’s current activities and/or mission-oriented results, and you’re not informed about the performance of the organization’s executive.

Do you believe the JCA is well served by Stuart Wachs as its executive?  Have you provided direct feedback to Mr. Wachs about his performance or the way he is seen and talked about in the community?  Can you explain to supporters in specific terms what the JCA is accomplishing to improve the community – not in platitudes but in very specific terms? Do you believe that it is acceptable that 46% of the discretionary money raised by the JCA should be used for its overhead and undisclosed programs rather than being allocated to the Jewish agencies in the community?

7.  You don’t review the organization’s financials on a regular basis.

Do you have a good working knowledge of the JCA’s financial position?  Do you regularly review the profit and loss statement and the balance sheet?  Are those financial documents regularly reported on and discussed at the JCA’s board meetings?  Do you have significant questions or concerns but are afraid to raise them or ask them at the board meetings?

8.  You’re missing a significant number of board meetings and therefore unable to actively participate in governance-related planning, deliberations, and actions.

Do you regularly attend at least 80% of the board meetings and the meetings of the committees to which you are assigned? When you leave a JCA board meeting do you leave with a sense of pride and accomplishment knowing that your time was well spent and that it will make a positive difference in the community?

9.  You’re not contributing resources (money, time, connections, or other valuable assets) to the organization apart from the time to show up at meetings.

Are you making a significant annual financial contribution to the JCA?  When there is an additional appeal such as for Israel during a crisis do you make an additional financial contribution?  Are you actively soliciting support on behalf of the JCA’s annual campaign?  Do you regularly talk proudly to your friends about your association with the JCA as a member of its board?

10.  You don’t spend significant amounts of time thinking hard about whether the organization is effective at advancing its mission and how the organization could be more effective at advancing its mission.

Have you offered any input or suggestions about ways in which the JCA could be more effective in its fundraising, grantmaking, community planning, and reputation building?  And are you satisfied with all of these things? Do you wonder why there has been so much hiring, firing and resigning at the JCA staff?  Do you have any idea what current or past employees think about the organization and its leadership?

 11.  Your conduct at board meetings is viewed by the majority of other board members as disruptive, and you’re unable to work collaboratively with the other board members in a productive manner.

Are you a constructive board member at the JCA meetings either by refraining from disruptive comments or, perhaps even worse, by sitting quietly and not saying much if anything about the operations and condition of the JCA especially when you have something on your mind?  Do you wait until after the board meeting to vent your frustration in the parking lot or later with other board members who are also frustrated?

 12.  You intervene/interfere with the executive’s management of the organization by personally directing the executive and/or staff and falsely asserting rank (because a board member has no individual authority and no inherent rank in the organizational hierarchy as an individual).

 Do you do this? Or, to the contrary, do you avoid offering constructive ideas and input to the CEO or to the Chairman of the Board about their performance, the board’s performance and the overall performance of the JCA?

If your honest answers to most of these questions runs counter to these 12 questions then you should seriously consider gracefully stepping down from the JCA board.  Because the JCA is in VERY serious condition and as a board member the ultimate responsibility rests with you.  Not with Stuart Wachs.  Not with Joel Kramer.  But with each of the elected members of the board individually and collectively.  The buck (and the lack of bucks) stops with you.  If you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem and thus you must consider gracefully exiting the board.

If you’re unable to meet your fiduciary duties of care and loyalty to act with reasonable care in good faith in the best interests of the JCA, you’re failing to meet your legal responsibilities. While personal liability may be extremely rare for volunteer directors of nonprofits (absent some kind of intentional wrongdoing, fraud, self-dealing, or unpaid taxes), you’re also putting yourself at greater risk, including from claims that may not be protected by your JCA’s Directors and Officers liability insurance. Further, your failure to meet your duties may be holding back the JCA from better advancing its charitable mission and serving its intended beneficiaries.

If you’re able to meet your fiduciary duties but the majority of the board is not, and such deficiency results in an organization with serious compliance issues and values that don’t align with yours, you may also be putting yourself at greater risk. In such case, you may need to balance your duty to still meet your individual legal duties with your obligation to do what’s best for the organization and your interest in protecting your personal interests from possible legal and/or reputational harm.

(This Blog post is based on an article written by Gene Takagi, a California nonprofit attorney who has provided corporate, tax, and governance counsel to hundreds of nonprofit clients. He has successfully helped strengthen nonprofits and social enterprises with responsive and comprehensible guidance in areas including: formation, tax-exempt status, governance, legal compliance, document review, collaborations, mergers, earned income, advocacy, international activities, and dissolution.)

 

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Two Questions of Fact: Does Israel Kill Indiscriminately? Is the JCA Killing the Jewish Community of Phoenix?

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It is axiomatic that every time the residents of Gaza, the West Bank, or Southern Lebanon embark on a missile launching spree and Israel retaliates, that the international press agencies populate their headlines and stories with the the numbers of civilian casualties among the Arabic speaking population.  For news agencies marketing their intellectual property, this makes great sense.  There are far greater numbers of Muslims than Jews, and of course the Arab population is much larger than the Jewish population.  For the news agencies, which are part of businesses, it is prudent to market to the widest possible audience.  It is also axiomatic that every Jew you can speak to will lament the fact that the world is not examining the facts, and the press is not examining the facts, and that the stories are, of course, slanted against the Jews.

I have been encouraged to read two articles in the main stream digital press which actually address this question.  One article, which appeared in Slate, titled Is Israel Killing Indiscriminately in Palestine?”  concludes, with an analysis of the facts, that Israel’s conduct is actually the gold standard of behavior during warfare and that all nations, including Israel, should be held to this standard.  The second article I read with interest is called “The lopsided death tolls in Israel-Palestinian conflicts” which appeared in the Washington Post.  This article provides a more clinical explanation for these factors.  This article is neutral, but certainly does not in any way praise Israel, it is just an examination of the facts. Still, I am always encouraged when facts can be examined and the truth can see the light of day.

We are confounded by a very simple truth:  Jews everywhere demand that the world question the press and carefully examine the facts surrounding the oft repeated charges of indiscriminate killing by the IDF, but we allow The Jewish Community Association to operate without an examination of their facts.  There is no willingness on their part to be transparent, only a willingness to hide the truth.  As Mr. Kramer, board chair of the JCA, so eloquently explained to me: there are things the masses must not be told.  They will have until November of this year to file their tax returns from 2013, and it will be the close of 2014 and we will have no information for two years, while being asked to give our precious resources to them so that they can squander them any way they see fit.

When this Blog addresses the question of whether the JCA is killing off the Jewish Community in Phoenix, we have only their financial reports to examine (or the lack of their financial reports to examine), what we can piece together from the incessant turnover in the executive suite, and their lack of transparency and good governance.  We also look through their historical performance as the bankrupted JFED.  It is often said that past performance is the best indicator for future performance, but this is a gross oversimplification.  This only holds true if the following is true:

  1. High-frequency, habitual behaviors are more predictive than infrequent behaviors.
  2. Predictions work best over short time intervals.
  3. The anticipated situation must be essentially the same as the past situation that activated the behavior.
  4. The behavior must not have been extinguished by corrective or negative feedback. 
  5. The organization must remain essentially unchanged.
  6. The organization must be fairly consistent in its behaviors.

So, when one looks at the JCA, every condition enumerated above, 1- 6, holds completely true for the JCA.  Their behavior is the same, the board is basically the same, the economy of Phoenix is basically unchanged since the JFED was driven into insolvency, and nothing in their behavior suggests that they care at all about feedback from the community.

1)  We have no idea how it happens that the JCA’s financial statements are not yet available to the public for 2013?  Given their past performance, will they even be in business in 2015?  How is is that 46% of every allocable dollar goes to JCA overhead and never makes it to the Jewish Community.

2)  Stuart Wachs, the CEO of the JCA, has fired or replaced every one of his hand picked executives since arriving here in Phoenix.

3) Board Governance is still a disaster.  The JCA has made a $30,000 loan to Stuart Wachs, which is absolutely bizarre considering he received a raise from $198,000 (Head of Sabes JCC in Minneapolis) to $245,833 to run the JCA. In essence, money donated to the JCA has been loaned to Stuart Wachs because his $245,883 salary is just not enough.  Review this passage from Charity Navigator’s website to learn what they have to say about loans to insiders:

Insider Transactions and Conflicts of Interest

Summary of Sarbanes-Oxley Provision

The Act generally prohibits loans to any directors or executives of the company.

Relevance to Nonprofit Organizations

Nonprofits are presently highly regulated with respect to financial transactions that take place within the organization. Private inurement, excessive personal benefit, and self-dealing all cause serious penalties for any nonprofit that steps out of line. “Intermediate sanctions” laws specifically address compensation and excess benefit transactions with “disqualified” individuals, generally meaning board members and executive staff.

Providing private loans to insiders—the specific item included in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act—is not a common practice in the nonprofit sector. However, when it has occurred, it has raised problems either from the perception of a conflict of interest or because it has not been appropriately documented as part of executive compensation. In addition, in some states, nonprofit law expressly prohibits loans to directors and officers.

Recommendation

  • Because the practice of providing loans to nonprofit executives has been a source of trouble in the past and because this practice is specifically prohibited under Sarbanes-Oxley and in some states is prohibited for nonprofit organizations, it is strongly recommended that nonprofit organizations not provide personal loans to directors or executives.

  • If such loans are provided, they should be formally approved by the board, and the process for providing the loan should be documented, and the value and terms of the loan should be disclosed.

  • To guide the board and staff in independent decision making, the organization must have a conflict of interest policy with disclosure and this policy must be enforced without fail.

4) Now we learn that the Interim CFO is the wife of a Board Member of the JCA.  When Stuart’s contract comes up for renewal in the next months, I am guessing that there will be at least one board member who is thinking that if he supports Stuart, his wife might keep her job at the JCA, and this board member is a relatively new board member who does not have that legacy connection to the disastrous behavior of the agency that many of the other long-standing board members have.

5) There is a board Member who sells insurance to the JCA.  In fact, this board member sells $329,537 worth of insurance to the JCA.   I wonder if this board member will vote to renew Stuart Wachs’ employment contact?

It is beyond obvious that the Board of the JCA is abrogating their responsibility by allowing this type of disgraceful behavior to occur unchecked.

Here is what should happen:  1) The Jewish Community should withhold their money from the JCA until answers are provided.  2) The JCF should step forward and alert their fund advisors that there are serious issues of governance and transparency at the JCA and that there is no certain way to know whether the money earmarked for the JCA or VOSJCC will be delivered to an institution that will be actually functioning. The Community must step up and demand accountability, and it would be a prudent start for the JCA to reform their Board and ask the Board Members with obvious conflicts of interests to step down.  The lives that are in the balance here are not under immediate threat like in Israel, but they are under a relentless progressive threat that all but insures that there will be little to nothing left in the way of assets to care for the most vulnerable among us.

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FUNDAMENTAL DISHONESTY AT THE JCA INSTEAD OF HELPING ISRAEL

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It is rare that we follow up one post right away with another.  The primary reason is that we are understaffed, and in view of the tidal wave of propaganda that emanates from the JCA without any transparency, it is more than enough to keep everyone here very busy, so we must pick and choose our spots.  Furthermore, since we all have full time jobs, this is both a labor of love and of necessity.  That being said, we can not help but wonder whether the JCA is exploiting the horrible situation in Israel to raise money for their own purposes.  This is a horrific question to be asking, but there are lives in Israel in the balance, and it is the fault of the JCA and their lack of transparency that these questions have even come to the fore.

When you look at the plea sent out by the JCA to help Israel in her hour of need, you are asked to donate to a fund and told 100% of the money will go to help Israel, which I take to mean that the JCA will forgo their 46% cut that they take out of every dollar raised.  However, they do not specify this and the vagaries of this statement raise the eyebrows of everyone here.

How will the JCA accomplish segregating this money?  Their longtime CFO, Debbie Siebels has vanished and they have said nothing about who is replacing her.  Who will be handling these funds? Examine their plea for funds.  The plea says that 100% of every dollar donated will go to help Israel.  It does not say that 100% of every dollar will go to Israel.  The JCA has done away with targeted giving, so how are they now able to account for and accomplish targeted giving?  I donated $25.00 to the fund this morning and got nothing more than a reply to my donation, thanking me for my shekels.  They are somehow asking me to believe that they have the integrity and rectitude after they have my funds to withdraw my $25.00 (without subtracting their $12.00 for the Health Club Overhead) and send the whole $25.00 to Israel?  A non-profit organization with the track record of the JCA, who has not made their 2013 IRS 990’s public yet, who takes 46% of every dollar raised for overhead, who did away with targeted giving, now wants us to believe that at the snap of a finger they can make that happen.  I think what is more akin to the truth is that the JCA is simply exploiting this horrible tragedy to tug at the heartstrings of the uninformed and asking us all, again, to give blindly.  The sudden dismissal or resignation of the longtime CFO of an organization, coupled with the absence of publicly available financial statements and IRS 990s is not a badge of distinction nor does it provide comfort to the donor community.  It is not lost on us that the Interim CFO for the JCA,  Ms. Diana Feldman, is the spouse of a Board Member of the JCA.  How does one spell “conflict-of-interest”?  This is so embarrassing to the JCA it simply defies our imagination.

I also donated $25.00 to the Jewish National Fund this morning.  When you donate to the JNF, you donate by project you want to support.  You can access this link to the JNF by clicking here.  Their technology is not atom-splitting, it is just common for organizations who operate targeted giving campaigns.  You receive a receipt and a tracking number so that they know where to credit your money.

The JCA’s emergency plea centers on three organizations, and if one wants to donate to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to help Israel in this time of crisis, all one has to do is to donate directly to them, and they have a great site located here at www.jdc.org, and if one wants to support the Jewish Agency for Israel and donate, all one has to do is visit their website by going to http://www.jewishagency.org/.   And if you want to give to the Jewish Federations of North America, all one has to do is go to their website, which is located here http://www.jewishfederations.org/.  Not surprisingly, the front of the Jewish Federations Website has the same “Stop the Sirens” Campaign as what was set out by the JCA.  However, the payment gateway is different.  By the way, all three of these agencies have their audited financial statements and IRS 990s available on their websites, so one does not even have to ask how these agencies account for their donations.  That is not atom-splitting technology either, it is just the mark of transparency and integrity.

I think that if the JCA were truthful and they were actually going to send 100% of the money they are raising to Israel, they would have simply sent the campaign notice to everyone and the link would have sent them to the Jewish Federations of North America’s main site.  The JFNA Stop the Sirens site allows for the donor to designate which Federation should get the credit.   In the absence of any transparency one is left with the unseemly conclusion that the only logical reason for our JCA to handle these funds is to make sure they get to extract their 46 percent for their overhead.

We urge everyone to help Israel, but please make sure you donate to an agency that is reputable, that will send 100% of every dollar donated to Israel, agencies that will not skim off the top like our JCA for simply sending out an email. To see the contrast between the approach of two local organizations seeking support for Israel continue to scroll down and read the previous post TWO LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS APPEAL FOR SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL – THE CHOICE SHOULD BE CLEAR.  

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TWO LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS APPEAL FOR SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL – THE CHOICE SHOULD BE CLEAR

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It is hard not to be moved by the images coming from Israel and Gaza.  The nearly 1,000 recent Hamas rocket attacks on Israel have terrorized the Jewish state and caused nearly 5 million Israelis to live in constant fear of violent Hamas attacks.  Whether we know anyone in Israel or not our collective hearts go out to everyone whose survival depends on being 15 – 60 seconds from a bomb shelter when the almost constant blare of Red Alert Sirens start to wail.

Understandably, we Americans want to do what we can to help.  And help usually takes the form of Tzedakah and Tefilah – charitable contributions and prayer.  We should be generous with both.

So it should not be surprising to see organizations with an historical mission of supporting Israel directly or otherwise, all or in part, turn to the community for support.  Organizations like Jewish National Fund (JNF), Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF) and Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) are among those who are asking for a few shekels to help.

I am struck by the different ways in which two local organizations have reached out to their support base.  Here are the explanations of why emergency donations to Israel are urgently needed now by Deb Mobell-Rochford, the Arizona Regional Executive Director of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and by Stuart Wachs, the absolutely ineffective CEO of the ineffective Jewish Community Association (JCA).

Here are excerpts of the clear and passionate explanation from Ms. Mobell-Rochford of JNF which she posted on Facebook to explain how emergency donations to JNF can be put to immediate use to help save Israeli lives and what JNF is doing:

Help us purchase mobile bomb shelters. We need 50 more.

This is the recreational center/bomb shelter that I posted yesterday. We are keeping the center open 24/7 at a cost of $20,000 per day.  http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/07/10/israel-gaza-rockets-sderot/12486413

The Jewish National Fund is taking swift & decisive action on the ground in Israel. No other organization is equipped to act as quickly. We are resupplying firefighters, our first responders to rocket attacks. We have opened the 21,000 sf Sderot Indoor Recreation Center http://www.jnf.org/work-we-do/our-projects/security/sderot-indoor-playground.html  24/7 to house seniors & children who cannot move to shelters within 15 seconds. We are moving large numbers of children from the south to the north and we are assisting with Israeli’s disabled in Aleh Negev, http://www.jnf.org/work-we-do/blueprint-negev/aleh-negev.html  which is under rocket fire. In Halutzah, http://www.jnf.org/work-we-do/our-projects/community-building/a-new-chapter-for-gaza.html we are shipping and installing temporary bomb shelters where there are none.

It costs $20,000 per day to keep Sderot open 24/7 to feed and house.  It costs $30,000 per temporary bomb shelter to purchase, ship and install

If you have already contributed to our campaign please note monies raised CANNOT go to the emergency fund. They are already designated to other projects. Are you able to contribute to the emergency campaign? If you have not contributed and are waiting until the end of the year, we need these funds today. We are not waiting to see what we will raise. We are taking action today. Our community will be judged on what we do to help when Israel is in need. I ask you to consider an emergency gift. Please call me at 480.447.8100 x980. Please share this message. Am Israel Chai.

Who could ask for a more cogent and compelling appeal?  And who would not want to help the JNF in their important work to keep Israelis safe from rockets and missiles.

And then there is the 1,200 word message from Mr. Wachs titled:  Day 3: Update on Operation Protective Edge & Federation Response which is hardly a journalistic tour de force and way too long and self-serving to be published in its entirety here.  If you would like to read it click this link https://tinyurl.com/m47momd.  And midway through Mr. Wachs’ message and seemingly totally out of context is this nonspecific reference to a further communication yet to be distributed which apparently will tell us how our donations to the JCA will help Israel:

Due to the physical infrastructure damage, economic impact and incredible emotional toll these constant attacks are having, there is a need for an emergency campaign to assist Israel. It is our time to step up for Israel. We will be sending out information tomorrow about how you can help.

Apparently the billion dollar Jewish Federations of North America organization is on the ground in Israel but incapable of helping the JCA explain to its donors exactly why their contributions are needed and, if made, how their donations will be used.  I guess we’ll have to stay tuned for more urgent communication from Mr. Wachs and then see exactly how he frames the need for support.

And let’s also remember that it was the JCA, (in its last incarnation as the Jewish Federation) which told its donors that part of their annual campaign donations would support Israel but then failed to make good on its own commitment to Israel for a couple of years.  A fraudulent raising of money from donors whose gifts never made it to the State of Israel for several years and then the local Federation sent only cents on the dollar.

And lastly, let’s remember that the JCA’s cost of fundraising and its extraordinarily high overhead raises the question about how much of each dollar contributed to their Israel Emergency Campaign will ever see the light of day in Eretz Yisroel.

I don’t know about you, but no matter what message comes next from the JCA it won’t take a team of analysts from Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, Guidestar or any other charity watchdog organization to convince me that when it comes to supporting Israel the smart money is best put in the hands of the Jewish National Fund and kept far away from the JCA.

We sincerely want to know what you think.  Scroll to the top of this page or the top of any page in this Blog and click LEAVE A COMMENT to share your thoughts.  Comments will be published either using the contributor’s actual name OR, if they prefer, they may use a pseudonym to maintain their privacy.

To view the BEST OF THE BLOG, a selection of our most widely read articles go to https://jewishnewsphoenix.com/2014/07/02/best-of-the-blog/  and feel free to share this Blog with others.

SOME PERSONAL HISTORY

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I have been asked many times why I write this Blog and why my colleagues and I spend time researching the perpetual disgrace that is our Jewish Community Association (and the Jewish Federation before it).  I have been asked what my agenda is and what I hope to accomplish.  The answer to why I have written this Blog since 2011 is because there must be voices in our community that shine a light on organizations that operate in the dark shadows.  I write this Blog because it is unforgivable for the professional and volunteer leadership of our woefully underperforming JCA to have repeatedly driven this Jewish community into the ditch.

And the answer to what I hope to accomplish is simple.  I want to create enough concern on the part of good and decent Jewish Phoenicians that they demand change.  I want Jews in the Valley to do what Howard Beale (Peter Finch) did in the 1976 movie Network when he implored people to: “get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!  And as for the question of where my motivation and my passion comes from I thought it would be helpful to share some very personal history.  After all, the readers of this Blog who have read these articles more than 15,000 times deserve to know what’s behind all of this.  So a little insight into my personal story might just help answer these questions.

During the Yom Kippur War in 1973, I was just a kid and a few years shy of heading off to boarding school.  I remember sneaking out of services to listen to the reports of the war with my father that were being broadcast on the radio.  Although my recollection is most likely faulty, it seemed to be a bizarre play-by-play type of report of the different battles that were being waged at the war’s initiation on the various different fronts.  I had no idea what was going on in schul and less of an idea of what was going on in that war.  I think this is because there might have been twenty Jewish families in the town of 24,000 people that I grew up in, and I did not even really have a Jewish identity until I started getting my ass kicked for being Jewish when I went to boarding school at age 12.

My extended family is and was very small, and closer in age than is typical.  My mother’s uncle was just my uncle, and her cousins were just my cousins.  The concept of first and second cousins was simply unknown to me, they were just the only family I had.

My uncle was the town’s pediatrician, the only pediatrician. He made house calls, delivered babies – the whole nine yards in an era and geography where that was commonplace.  He was a very stern man, or at least he appeared stern to me, and I am sure that it was a combination of his coming up hard, having seen what he had seen in the second World War (where he served as a flight surgeon), and the fact that I was most likely a spoiled kid.  No one gave him anything, and he had seen quite a bit of killing.  A house call from him inspired fear, not because he would ever do anything other than what was best for me, but it would be accompanied by a lecture to clean my room, to do better in school, and there were probably so many things I was deficient at it is just impossible for me to remember them all.  I do not think I have ever met anyone who worked harder than my uncle, and although I am sure I disappointed him, he never stopped pushing me to do better.

As devoted as he was to his work and his family, I would have to say he was equally devoted to the State of Israel.  His office was adorned with photos of him with Golda Meir, Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, and Foreign Affairs Minister Abba Eban.   By 1972 he had already made 10 lengthy visits to Israel and was an extremely significant purchaser of Israel Bonds.  He was on the National Board of Governors of the State of Israel Bonds at a time when the influence and importance of Israel Bonds was extremely significant to the survival and well being of the State.

On the afternoon of October 25th, 1973, he called his daughters (we are about a decade apart in age) to inform them that the Yom Kippur War would be over that evening, that a truce would be announced.  The purpose of the call was to inform them that he and 29 other Americans had been summoned by Golda Meir and that he would be leaving immediately for Israel.  He informed none of his daughters about the nature of the trip and only said that we would be back home in two days and that he would call upon his return.  He was met at the Greater Pittsburgh International Airport by an agent of the Israeli Government and they flew to New York, on to Frankfurt, and then to Ben Gurion Airport.  When he arrived at Ben Gurion, they were loaded onto military helicopters and flown to the Golan Heights, to a battlefield littered with fresh corpses of Israeli soldiers that were being attended to by the ZAKA Units.  The corpses that he saw were of the mutilated bodies of Israeli soldiers, soldiers whose bodies were cut apart with axes, burned, with their fingernails removed, with their hands tied behind their backs, and shot at point blank range, executed.

After their tour of the battlefield in the Golan, they were airlifted to Jerusalem to meet with Golda Meir.  The meeting was of necessity brief, and they were simply told that it was their job to go back to the United States and make it known what they had witnessed, because there would be no way the international press would ever believe this if the reports came from the Israeli government.  My cousins, to whom he told this story upon his return, told me that it was the first and only time they ever saw him cry, and that he was unable to ever again speak of the atrocities he witnessed.  I learned of his trip when they gave me access to his notes in 2006.

My uncle died in 1983, having made more than 42 trips to Israel and having received the Prime Minister’s Award for significant contributions in philanthropy to the State of Israel.  He was able to enjoy the arrival of his youngest grandson, David, one year before he died.  On the 30th anniversary of the start of the Yom Kippur War in 2003, David was killed by a Hezbollah sniper while on his last day of service to the IDF.

When I first started focusing on the Jewish Federation, their default on their commitments to Israel was of great concern to me and perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Unfortunately, their re-constituted efforts as the JCA, under dubious and disgraceful leadership, is simply an example of putting lipstick on a pig.  There are so many people who have sacrificed everything for the Jewish community and for the State of Israel and I stand in awe of them.  Our so-called JCA leaders continue to humiliate our community by denying services to the elderly, by not increasing their commitment to education, by sending a pittance of the money they feebly raise to support Israel, and by squandering our precious community assets while propping up a failing health club that few in the community use.

Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying “The government you elect is the government you deserve.” In a very real sense the weak communal leadership we tolerate is the leadership we deserve.  So the choice is ours.  We can either continue to put up with a failing organization run by failed leaders or we can each raise our voice in protest and demand better.  After all, the future of our Jewish community is hanging in the balance and we all deserve much better.

We sincerely want to know what you think.  Scroll to the top of this page or the top of any page in this Blog and click LEAVE A COMMENT to share your thoughts.  Comments will be published either using the contributor’s actual name OR, if they prefer, they may use a pseudonym to maintain their privacy.

 

 

BEST OF THE BLOG

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In case you missed them here are some of the most widely read articles that we have published during the past several months.  We call this summary “BEST OF THE BLOG”.  There have been more than 15,000 page views of this Blog from individuals in nearly 50 countries making this Blog one of the most widely read sources of information about the Greater Phoenix Jewish Community. 

These articles take you behind the spin and public relations efforts and show you what is really happening in the agencies and organizations in your Jewish community.  We will give you facts and perspectives that you won’t find in any other publication. 

We are always eager to hear what you think so please leave your comments by clicking the LEAVE REPLY link on the top of any article.  And don’t forget that you can subscribe to the Blog which will ensure that you receive notifications when new articles are posted. 

July 20, 2014

12 REASONS WHY MOST IF NOT ALL MEMBERS OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION BOARD SHOULD GRACEFULLY RESIGN

https://jewishnewsphoenix.com/2014/07/20/12-reasons-why-most-if-not-all-members-of-the-jewish-community-association-board-should-gracefully-resign/

July 12, 2014

FUNDAMENTAL DISHONESTY AT THE JCA INSTEAD OF HELPING ISRAEL

https://jewishnewsphoenix.com/2014/07/12/fundamental-dishonesty/

July 11, 2014

TWO LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS APPEAL FOR SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL – THE CHOICE SHOULD BE CLEAR

https://jewishnewsphoenix.com/2014/07/11/two-local-organizations-appeal-for-support-for-israel-the-choice-should-be-clear/

July 5, 2014

SOME PERSONAL HISTORY

https://jewishnewsphoenix.com/2014/07/02/best-of-the-blog/

June 8, 2014

JCA DEBACLE DEMANDS AN INDEPENDENT, OBJECTIVE AND EXHAUSTIVE INSPECTOR GENERAL-LIKE REVIEW WHICH WILL LEAVE NO STONES UNTURNED AND NONE THROWN

https://jewishnewsphoenix.com/2014/06/08/jca-debacle-demands-an-independent-objective-and-exhaustive-inspector-general-like-review-which-will-leave-no-stones-unturned-and-none-thrown/

May 31, 2014

COMMENTS ON THE JCA’S SENIOR SURVEY FROM A CERTIFIED SENIOR ADVISOR

https://jewishnewsphoenix.com/2014/05/31/comments-on-the-jcas-senior-survey-from-a-certified-senior-advisor/

May 29, 2014

JCA CLAIMS JEWISH SENIORS ARE A PRIORITY THEN DEALS WITH ELDERLY ISSUES WITH ANALYSIS PARALYSIS, DELAYS AND SPURIOUS HIRING

https://jewishnewsphoenix.com/2014/05/29/jca-claims-jewish-seniors-are-a-priority-then-deals-with-elderly-issues-with-analysis-paralysis-delays-and-spurious-hiring/

May 25, 2014

THE JCA’S REPORT CARD – FULL OF EMBARRASSINGLY FAILED GRADES

https://jewishnewsphoenix.com/2014/05/25/the-jcas-report-card-full-of-embarrassingly-failed-grades/

May 15, 2014

IT IS TIME FOR THE JCA BOARD TO ASK FOR STUART WACHS’ RESIGNATION. IN THE ALTERNATIVE, FIRE HIM

https://jewishnewsphoenix.com/2014/05/15/it-is-time-for-the-jca-board-to-ask-for-stuart-wachs-resignation-in-the-alternative-fire-him/

May 2, 2014

JCA LEADERSHIP DOESN’T GIVE TO JTO – THEIR REPLY TO SOLAR FIASCO: THE MASSES MUST NOT BE TOLD

https://jewishnewsphoenix.com/2014/05/02/it-is-because-the-masses-shouldnt-or-cant-know-now-jca-leadership-channels-nixon-and-stiffs-jto/

April 26, 2014

8 MILLION DOLLAR SOLAR SCANDAL AND COVER-UP BY JCA

https://jewishnewsphoenix.com/2014/04/26/8-million-dollar-solar-scandal-and-cover-up-by-jca/

April 21, 2014

AN APOLOGY AND THE UNFORTUNATE TRUTH ABOUT THE JCA’S 2013 CAMPAIGN AND ITS 2014 ALLOCATIONS

https://jewishnewsphoenix.com/2014/04/21/an-apology-and-the-unfortunate-truth-about-the-jcas-2013-campaign-and-its-2014-allocations/

We sincerely want to know what you think.  Scroll to the top of this page or the top of any page in this Blog and click LEAVE A COMMENT to share your thoughts.  Comments will be published either using the contributor’s actual name OR, if they prefer, they may use a pseudonym to maintain their privacy.

THE TIME HAS COME FOR YOU TO BE THE JUDGE

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Since April this Blog has laid out a very clear case for why the Jewish Community Association (JCA) has been and continues to be a worst-case example of how a Jewish communal organization should be managed, governed and how it should conduct its business.  There can be little doubt that the JCA is one of the most underperforming organizations of its kind in the country.  The evidence was illustrated in our recent Post: “The JCA’s Report Card – Full of Embarrassingly Failed Grades” https://tinyurl.com/kk38hex.   The JCA continues to reach new lows in its mission of engaging Jews in the Valley.  And while the evidence of our case has been made repeatedly we will continue to make it as new information is brought to our attention.

But at the same time, if the JCA is an example of the worst-case we acknowledge and appreciate that there are other organizations and communities that represent the best-case examples of how Jewish leadership can exemplify the best in communal service.

Beginning with this Post our Blog will, from time to time, illustrate examples of communities, organizations and processes which have distinguished themselves through their excellence and positive impact.  And by offering these examples it should be clear to all that the JCA’s dreadful performance is not the standard and by no means is it a model for other agencies to follow.

The best way to make use of articles such as the one below is to read them carefully and along the way ask yourself if what you are reading sounds anything like our JCA.  If the answers are “no” then ask yourself “why not”.  The answer to “why not” is because volunteer leaders and executives of the JCA have no idea how to lead their organization or how to generate enthusiastic support for their agenda.

The following article will be the first in a series of whitepapers written by national authorities on Jewish communal affairs.  With the help of these excellent writings you can now be the judge of whether your JCA reflects a commitment to excellence.  And if you, like us, judge the JCA to be an abject failure, then we hope you will send a loud and clear message that it is time for the management and board of the JCA to go and it may even be time for this irrelevant organization to shut its doors.

THIS BLOG IS GRATEFUL TO eJP FOR GRANTING PERMISSION TO REPRINT THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE WHICH ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON www.eJewishPhilanthropy.com.  


The “Call to Action:” What Do Jewish Philanthropists Want to Hear?

 

Many nonprofits throughout the Jewish community still see the organization, not the donor, as the epicenter of the communal experience, and refuse to share. Bringing the donor into the life of the organization and making him or her a partner will greatly advance the organization’s appeal and its reach.

by Avrum Lapin

Visit the website of Boston’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies and seek out its page on Women’s Philanthropy. You will find the following statement:

“Together as women, we’re making a difference. Through fundraising, volunteer work and the collective strength of our voice, we’re addressing the issues closest to our hearts – from education and literacy to women’s welfare and social justice. Broaden your circle, add your strength and discover how you can make a difference.”

This pronouncement, framing the CJP’s call to women in their community, appeals to their personal sense of purpose and motivation. The traditional draw to the Jewish philanthropist of the Jewish Federation – help the Jewish community meet Jewish needs here, in Israel, and around the world – is not resonating as it may have in generations gone by.

Aside from the growing and increasingly significant role today of women in philanthropy, the conventional “call to action” focused only on the work of the organization is being replaced by an appeal to one’s sense of self, personal Jewish identity, and a commitment to the values of a democratic and pluralistic society. “Serve yourself while helping others” is a compelling and increasingly used draw to the emerging Jewish philanthropist today.

I believe that the entire Federation arena, indeed the entire Jewish philanthropic marketplace, must advance to meet the needs and expectations of today’s up and coming Jewish donor. Many nonprofits throughout the Jewish community still see the organization, not the donor, as the epicenter of the communal experience, and refuse to share. Bringing the donor into the life of the organization and making him or her a partner will greatly advance the organization’s appeal and its reach.

In “7 Golden Rules for Nonprofit Fundraising Success,” an article featured in the August 18, 2010 edition of Entrepreneur.com, excerpted from Guerilla Marketing for Nonprofits by Jay Conrad Levinson, the authors follow largely the same pathway by setting forth a series of simple concepts that, while seemingly obvious to many, remain elusive in the pronouncements and practices of many nonprofits today. They recommend the following:

  • Know your donors – research and listen, understand what they are looking for in their volunteer activity and how to match those expectations with the organization’s work
  • Educate your donors – Educate, build trust and let donors know the results that they have created
  • Help donors find personal fulfillment – connect the needs of the donor to the needs of the nonprofit
  • Build trust in donor relationships – the article notes that that 53% of Americans say they sense a “feeling of deception” about marketing … hence the need for transparency and trust in information
  • Respect your donors – vest your supporters in the principle of what your nonprofit does
  • Focus on current supporters – a happy and satisfied current donor is the straightest path to a new donor…keep them informed and happy
  • Make giving fun – make it pleasurable to be involved in raising money while still respecting the seriousness of the enterprise

Despite being veterans of the fundraising world, my team and I continue to and welcome learning from our colleagues and clients. We value that ongoing education and development as it makes it possible for us to always stay a step ahead of the marketplace. The central lesson that continues to resonate and gain traction every day is that the donor today is firmly moored at the center of the nonprofit dynamic. So, in that context, what does the donor want to hear? They want to hear that:

  • Your cause is just and that services are justly and economically delivered.
  • The mission is real, needed and achieves results.
  • They can learn and improve their own lives through their involvement.
  • The nonprofit is open and accountable.
  • The values of the nonprofit sync with theirs.

This sounds very simple but is actually a daunting challenge facing our Jewish philanthropic arena today. The nonprofits that invest the effort in engaging the donor on these terms will find greater success in today’s unruly world.

Avrum Lapin is the President at The Lapin Group, LLC, a prominent fundraising consulting firm located in suburban Philadelphia. The Lapin Group inspires and leads US-based and international nonprofits with contemporary approaches and solutions to fund, organizational, and leadership development, as well as nonprofit business planning and growth strategies. Avrum is a frequent contributor to eJewishPhilanthropy.com and speaker in the US and in Israel on opportunities and challenges in today’s nonprofit marketplace.

The Lapin Group on Facebook: www.facebook.com/thelapingroup

We want to know what you think.  Scroll to the top of this page and click LEAVE A COMMENT to share your thoughts.

JCA DEBACLE DEMANDS AN INDEPENDENT, OBJECTIVE AND EXHAUSTIVE INSPECTOR GENERAL-LIKE REVIEW WHICH WILL LEAVE NO STONES UNTURNED AND NONE THROWN

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For decades the worst kept secret in government has been the systemic problems within the Veterans Health Care System.  Members of both political parties of Congress, Presidents from both parties, cabinet officers, administrators, care providers throughout the VA (which operates the nation’s largest integrated health care system, with more than 1,700 hospitals, clinics and other care facilities), and most especially injured or ill veterans and their families have known this dirty little secret: The Veterans Health Administration has been in serious need of total overhaul for many years.

Not until Dr. Sam Foote, a recently retired physician at the Phoenix VA Hospital, blew the whistle and CNN reporter Drew Griffin started to relentlessly report on the VA scandal did the problems so widely known behind the scenes reach crisis proportion leading them to be covered on every newscast and newspaper in America.  It is only with a continuous bright light being shone on the Veterans Health Administration for all to see that heads began to roll.

The three top officials at the Phoenix VA hospital were the first to go.  Day after day we learned that the problems uncovered in Phoenix were not isolated to our community.  Rather, the entire VA health system seemed infected with cover ups, fraud, and a lack of transparency.  Before long it was discovered that VA hospital officials were “cooking the books” to appear more efficient.  They received sizeable bonuses despite falsifying and destroying records.  Ultimately General Eric Shinseki, the United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs, fell on his sword and resigned his cabinet post.

Today the VA scandal is being investigated by the Inspector General’s Office of Special Counsel, an independent watchdog separate from the VA which looks into whistleblower complaints from across the federal government.  One can only hope that an exhaustive analysis and assessment will result in a complete scrubbing of the long-troubled VA health system.  When the final report is issued we should expect that those who served in the Armed Forces and who deserve first class healthcare will be cared for with the same quality that matches their honorable service to the nation.

So, what does the VA scandal have to do with this Blog?  It is quite simple.  Despite the fact that the Jewish Community Association may not have placed lives in jeopardy during their decades of shameful and ineffective performance, the JCA has been an agency known to be both a failure and a disgrace to most intelligent and thoughtful Jewish leaders in Phoenix.  Past and current board leaders, donors (prior and present), staff, Jewish communal professionals, lay leaders, area Rabbis, and the JCA’s national umbrella organization in New York (the Jewish Federations of North America), all know what an embarrassing and humiliating organization the current JCA, and the Federation before it, have been.  Their attempts to serve as the central fundraising and planning agency within the local Jewish community have been met with complete failure.

By any measure, benchmark or metric, the JCA gets failing grades as was outlined in this Blog on May 25 in an article entitled “The JCA’s Report Card – Full of Embarrassingly Failed grades”  https://tinyurl.com/kk38hex

The best way to bring home the point that the community has stood by silently and ignoring the JCA/Federation debacle is by watching a 19 second clip from the American movie classic Casablanca:   https://tinyurl.com/a6h3lmc 

Are we really “shocked, shocked to find out…” that our Jewish leadership has allowed the needs of the community to be ignored while sitting around the board room table at their private health club, tolerating the least and the worst instead of demanding the best from themselves and the community?

So the time has come to treat the communal shipwreck which is the JCA in the same way that the failed VA health system is now being reviewed.  The Greater Phoenix Jewish community requires a totally independent and objective analysis of the JCA.  An Inspector General-like organization, with no vested interest in the outcome, should be engaged to conduct an assessment of the JCA’s capability, performance, capacity and take into account and measure the community’s level of trust and confidence in the agency.

To conduct the type of study that will be required to fully assess this issue will not be inexpensive.  The funding must come from a handful of authentic and genuinely concerned local philanthropists who know full well that their contributions to the JCA’s campaign are tantamount to throwing good money after bad.  If there are concerned and courageous members of the local Jewish community who, after reading this message, are sufficiently concerned and outraged and if they want to make a real difference in the future of the community, then I ask that they reply to this post or send a message to me via email at markgreenburg@me.com.

All comments made privately to me will be treated with confidentiality.  If there is sufficient interest in funding such an exhaustive study then a specific plan will be developed and reviewed with the potential sponsors of the study.

If there is no interest in this approach then this Blog will continue to expose publicly all of the examples of bad management, bad governance, and wasteful and questionable ethical and business practices by the JCA.

The fate of the Jewish community needs to shift from a self-perpetuating board of ineffective leaders and their current shameful management.  It is time to step up and step forward to say “enough is enough”.  Like the decades-long tragedy we have recently seen uncovered in the VA health system, there is no time like the present to take similar steps and take back the reins of the JCA from those who have repeatedly driven it into the ditch.

COMMENTS ON THE JCA’S SENIOR SURVEY FROM A CERTIFIED SENIOR ADVISOR

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I have a much better grip on the responses I have received to this blog and I think it is fair to say that criticism of the JCA is like touching that third rail.  I have addressed my distress regarding this in one of my comments, and it is very sad.  I had a lengthy discussion with Ken Berger from Charity Navigator and he had quite a few suggestions that we here at the blog will be putting into practice in the coming months in an effort to encourage greater transparency and openness on the part of the JCA.  What is sad is that the JFED/JCA is not alone, there are thousands of 501c3’s that end up squandering everything and one of the common features about all of them is that no one spoke up.  As the Once-ler remarked in The Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”  I would not dare to compare myself to the Once-ler, but you get the drift.

I had a fair amount of push-back after my last touch of the third rail regarding the role of Ms. Friebaum as the consultant to the JCA who has worked on the Senior project for the past twelve months, according to the Jewish News:

“The Jewish Community Association of Greater Phoenix is in the process of conducting a study to help identify the needs of the Valley’s Jewish senior citizens. The next step is a community survey, which launches June 1.

For the past year, Janice Friebaum, a senior services consultant hired by the Association, has gathered information about senior care, including demographics and existing services for seniors, to help determine what needs are not currently being met. About 80 percent of the research, including interviews with a large number of service providers, clergy, agency personnel and community members; focus groups; and the development of the community survey, has been completed, according to Friebaum.”

My point was that Ms. Friebaum, who I am certain is quite accomplished in the many diverse fields she has worked in, has no specific training in this field, and therefore, given the executive turnover at the JCA with the people that Stuart Wachs has hired in executive positions, it is reasonable to question this particular consultant’s qualifications, at least on paper.  As an aside, despite what was written in the Jewish News, I spoke with two very senior Rabbis of two large congregations and they have never spoken with Ms. Friebaum, never met with her, and had no idea who she is or that she was undertaking such a serious task.  To avoid that third rail, let’s give the benefit of the doubt to the JCA and assume that these two Rabbis just missed their phone messages.

On Thursday I asked a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA) to review the JCA’s survey as my gift to the JCA to make sure they are getting what they are paying for.  I asked the CSA for an analysis of the JCA’s survey, which is available in an hour on June 1st.  The analysis I received was the result of a relatively quick review of the survey, not a comprehensive assessment.  More suggestions would likely emerge if I asked for a deeper study of the survey.

According to the Society of Certified Senior Advisors:

“Anyone working with older adults needs the CSA certification. Today’s aging population is growing exponentially – and the need for qualified professionals to meet the multi-faceted needs of older adults and their families is greater than ever. The Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® is the leading certification for professionals seeking to supplement their knowledge and adjust to the rapidly changing age demographic by understanding the multiple processes of aging.  Earning the CSA®certification requires individuals to pass a rigorous exam, uphold the highest ethical standards, and complete recertification continuing education requirements.”

“What makes a Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)® exceptional is their application of the knowledge gained through the CSA Working with Seniors course combined with their professional experience. CSAs are committed to ethical behavior to benefit senior clients and their families. The CSA who builds their health, social, legal and financial knowledge in aging through continuing education and forms a strong network of strategic partnerships will act in concert on the behalf of the seniors they serve using a unified approach demonstrating the difference of holding the CSA certification.”

Here is the link to the JCA’s Senior Survey   http://tinyurl.com/lwjtm7g  

Comments on the JCA’s Senior Survey from a Certified Senior Advisor

While making a survey excessively long and complex can negatively impact the response rate, the lack of adequate questions will result in too little useful information for the survey to provide meaningful results.  As a result consideration should be given to doing some of the surveying by interviewing seniors rather than asking more questions in an online survey.  The survey in its current form is sophomoric and too elementary to provide the needed information.  Suggested additional questions have been added to obtain more usable information in order to formulate a plan to provide needed services for seniors in the future and to evaluate services currently being provided to local seniors.

Question #1 Your Age?

This would be a place to add data about how people feel about their health at their current age, asking if the person considers themselves to be in good health for their age and if the answer is no, then drill down to what their medical condition is, permanent or temporary, is it progressive and will they see themselves as needing additional care as a result of this in the future. If they answer that they think they will need additional care they should also be asked about time frames for additional care and contingency plans and their financial ability to deal with the situation.  Question #3 Current Marital Status, could be combined here and then ask the age of their partner and health status of their partner to get a more clear picture of the needs of this person or persons or family unit.

Questions #3 Current Marital Status? and #4 Current Living Situations?

This needs a drill down to find out if this living situation is by choice or only due to necessity and whether the person is happy or unhappy with their current situation.  If they are unhappy, there could be a question about what kind of living situation would make that better and what is needed to make that situation feasible (financial resources, etc). One could also ask if better options were available in the Jewish community, i.e., availability of Jewish senior housing in the community would that make a difference?  Many other Jewish communities have Jewish senior housing on the campus of the JCC, one of the best being St. Louis.

Question #5 Do you live in Greater Phoenix for more than 4 months in a year?

There is quite a bit more to know about this question.  One needs to drill down to see what may or may not change with that living situation i.e. will they become year round residents.  That way one can get a better idea of why they do or do not live here year round and whether that is going to change in the future so as to anticipate further need for services.

Question #6 Zip Code of your residence in Greater Phoenix?

The drill down on this question should include inquiries about length of residence in this zip code and plans to move in the future?  Another drill down should question the safety of the neighborhood the person lives in, whether the person feels stuck there and possibly unsafe?  Some additional valuable information related to zip code would be whether they have access to the necessary Jewish resources, the availability of transportation and whether the person still drives.

Question #8 What is your employment status?

There is a lot more important information to be obtained in this question than just a simple yes or no answer.  If people are currently employed it would be helpful to ascertain whether they are happy with their situation?  Would they prefer more or less employment, are they employed at a level that uses their skills and education?  Are they commuting excessively?  If they answer that they have been laid off and/or have lost their job it would be good to find out how long this unemployment has been in place and ask if they need assistance (i.e JFCS Job Counseling Services).  This question would also be a great place to obtain information about people’s willingness to help other seniors with their needs for Aging in Place, to determine what extra volunteer capacity may be available in the community.

Question #9 Do you have adult children? and Question #10 If yes, does one or more live in Phoenix?

Question #9 is a simple yes or no question which tells absolutely nothing.  One needs to drill down from there to find out whether or not there is a good relationship with these children?  Often, today, seniors are helping their own adult children, so the question needs to be asked, do you provide assistance to your children?  The other question that needs to be asked is can you count on these children to assist you?  And then this needs to be defined further in terms of on a regular basis, only in an emergency situation, financially?  Questions #9 and #10 need to combined into a question that drills down and asks about who helps whom, who needs help more; parents or children?  In this day and age a lot of seniors help support children who have lost jobs and need help given today’s much less forgiving job market and the existence of so many lower paying and part time positions than in the past.

Question #11 and #12 This starts a section entitled Caregiver Questions and the first question is a simple yes or no to – Do you presently have caregiving responsibilities.

At this point if the answer is yes it should add a question about the effect that this caregiving has on the senior.  Is the senior able to handle the extra responsibility comfortably or is it overly stressful and are they in need of outside assistance?  There are also seniors raising grandchildren due to their own impaired adult children.  Are these caregiving duties local or long distance?  Is this situation temporary due to short term illness or do they think it will be more permanent?  Does the person need respite assistance that they are not getting?

Questions #13 and #14 are the same simplistic questions about anticipating becoming a caregiver in the future with no further information asked for.  They need the same kind of clarification as questions #11 and #12.

Question #15 Begins a section labeled Adult Needs and Outreach

This is again an anemic section that does not obtain nearly the information that is needed.  The question asks what is the best way to inform you of programs and services offered for people 55+?  Before they even begin this question which includes email as one of the ways of being reached, the whole question of computer literacy should be approached systematically.  There should be a question do you own a computer and use email on a regular basis?  Can you use a computer without the help of your children or grandchildren?  Then there should be a check list of some major computer applications and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype, Facetime to determine if they use these or not.  The question should be asked if they would like to learn basic computer literacy.  Also whether the senior is able to  use a smartphone?

Question #16 Which older adult services do you currently utilize most or may use in the future?

The question needs to be two distinct sets of questions.  One needs to know what services the senior is using now and what services they anticipate needing in the future.  Also the question should determine from which providers they are currently obtaining services, how are needs being met, is it from within or outside the Jewish community?  Transportation is a huge issue for seniors and should be probed more in depth.

Question #17 What do you believe are the older adult service needs that are the most important for our community to address now?

Asks for the person to simply check off up to five items for what services are needed, without asking for commentary about the need behind the request and how prevalent a need this is in the community at large.

Question #18 Ask for thoughts or comments?

It is good to have a commentary section, however what could be more valuable would be a question about what programs, activities, organizations or institutions have you experienced in other Jewish communities that could be replicated here.  What were those model programs you would like to see in the Phoenix area and what communities did they exist in?

There is quite a bit more that could be said about the survey and what kind of methodology will be used to evaluate it, but this has been a brief critique of the JCA’s Senior Survey.

Well, I think that is all that we have for the moment.  Please feel free to comment, send in material for us to post (as long as it does not involve commentary regarding my mother’s virtue) and know that we are busying ourselves here with an action plan for the future.

JCA CLAIMS JEWISH SENIORS ARE A PRIORITY THEN DEALS WITH ELDERLY ISSUES WITH ANALYSIS PARALYSIS, DELAYS AND SPURIOUS HIRING

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For the past few months this Blog has made it very clear that the executive and board leadership of the JCA should step down due to their financial malfeasance and lack of transparency.  Their profligate spending, lack of accountability, extraordinarily high overhead, inability to generate significant public support, and the miniscule amount of money that is made available to Jewish agencies other than the Valley of the Sun JCC and the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus is in itself cause for the JCA to be put into receivership.

While the focus of this Blog has been on financial issues it is now time to demonstrate just how ineffective and insidious the incompetence of the JCA truly is when it comes to their self-appointed role as the community’s planning agency.  In this role, the JCA professes to know what the needs and priorities of the Jewish community are and how to address and meet those unmet challenges.  Let’s test that premise by looking at the issue of senior services and issues affecting the Jewish elderly in the Valley.

The front page story in the May 21 issue of the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix was “Senior study seeks community input”  https://tinyurl.com/lvq98x3.  It is hard to imagine anyone in the Phoenix area who would disagree that this community’s commitment to the Jewish elderly has been anything other than shameful.  So learning that the JCA is commissioning a study to find out what the community thinks about its seniors seems, on the surface, to be very appropriate.

The problem is that the JCA identified Jewish seniors as one of its top three priorities about 18 months ago.  And even then it was a proverbial day late and a dollar short.  The Kivel Campus of Care had closed the region’s only Jewish sponsored skilled nursing facility several years earlier because of a lack of financial support from the community.  The Senior Center was in danger of being shuttered when Beth El Congregation wouldn’t make an in-kind contribution of space that the synagogue had previously been paid for but for which funds were no longer available.  And then largely through the ingenuity of the Jewish Family and Children’s’ Service the Senior Center was moved to Chris Ridge Campus, a Jewish-friendly environment though not a Jewish facility.  And to top it off, the JCA’s predecessor, the Jewish Federation, worked hard to convince the community that the Federation was a major force behind the transition of the Senior Center from Beth El to Chris Ridge.  Taking credit for the efforts of others has been a hallmark of the JCA and its predecessor organization for years.

So when the JCA finally figured out that the needs of the Jewish elderly should be one of its major priorities in early 2013 it might have been reasonable to expect that the organization would devote significant time and resources to the problem.   And one might expect that experienced and talented consultants with years of experience in Jewish gerontology would be found to quickly and thoroughly answer the question: “what can we do to improve the quality of life for our region’s seniors”.  Would that have happened we might actually be able to see some real solutions described in the Jewish News.  But that is far from where we are.

So where are we?  Well, according to the Jewish News in its May 21 issue:

“The Jewish Community Association of Greater Phoenix is in the process of conducting a study to help identify the needs of the Valley’s Jewish senior citizens. The next step is a community survey, which launches June 1.

For the past year, Janice Friebaum, a senior services consultant hired by the Association, has gathered information about senior care, including demographics and existing services for seniors, to help determine what needs are not currently being met. About 80 percent of the research, including interviews with a large number of service providers, clergy, agency personnel and community members; focus groups; and the development of the community survey, has been completed, according to Friebaum.”

Apparently Ms. Friebaum was hired by the JCA 15 months ago to take the lead in analyzing the needs of our senior population and formulating recommendations about what the community should do to make their lives better.  And after 15 months Ms. Friebaum appears to have completed only 80% of her research.  And now she is getting ready to launch a community survey on June 1.

How long this survey will take to complete is unknown but what is known according to the Jewish News is that:

“Once completed, Friebaum will submit the study results and her recommendations to the Association’s Senior Services Taskforce, chaired by Richard Gottlieb, and the task force will evaluate them and then present recommendations to the Association board, likely in early 2015, on how to move forward.”

It appears as though it might be two years from the start of this work until recommendations are presented to the JCA board.  And what will happen to those recommendations?  Well, they will likely be discussed, debated and maybe even analyzed a little more.  But at the end of the day, whatever the report recommends it will undoubtedly require funding which has not exactly been the JCA’s strong suit.  And if the JCA leadership believes that even with a compelling rationale for support that the community will suddenly step forward to contribute significant sums of money to the JCA well that would be risking the welfare of the region’s Jewish seniors on a dysfunctional and impaired organization that has squandered its birthright as the central fundraising arm of the Jewish community.

And what about the judgment of Stuart Wachs whose hiring decisions have been nothing short of disastrous during his tenure at the JCA.  He was responsible for selecting Ms. Friebaum to lead the effort to analyze the needs and make recommendations about ways to assist our Jewish elderly.  That is a very weighty responsibility which the community might expect would be given to a highly experienced and well trained individual with considerable achievements and accomplishments in the area of gerontology.  And while Ms. Friebaum is no doubt an intelligent and committed individual she becomes another of Mr. Wachs’ inexplicable hires.

Ms. Friebaum’s resume is, by her own description, one that reflects “experience and expertise in an eclectic (but interesting) combination of professional areas”, her own apologia for what is a curiously rambling professional background with only minimal and likely accidental involvement with senior issues.

Her educational background includes a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Eisenhower College; an M.S. in Botany and Plant Ecology from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville; and an M.A. in Jewish and Holocaust Studies from the University of Chicago.

Prior to being hired as a consultant in the area of Jewish seniors and the elderly by the JCA Ms. Friebaum’s professional experience includes the following chronology of questionably short stints at positions that do not qualify her as an expert in the field of the elderly:

  • Less than a year as an intern at the Visitor Center/Herbarium for the US Fish and Wildlife Service at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, Seneca Falls, NY
  • Three years as a National Park Ranger/Naturalist for the National Park Service at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  • Less than a year as a Wetlands Scientist for CH2M HILL in Portland, OR
  • Two years as an Environmental Planner for the Intergovernmental Resource Center Vancouver, WA 
  • Two years as a Conservation Biologist for the Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources in Olympia, WA
  • Two years as Natural Areas Program Manager for the Washington Dept. of Natural Resources in Olympia, WA
  • Two years as Special Lands Acquisitions Manager Forest Practices Coordinator Washington State Department of Natural Resources in Olympia, WA
  • One year as Assistant Division Manager, Forest Resources for the Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources in Olympia, WA
  • One year as Special Projects Manager for Holocaust Assets Recovery at the Washington State Dept. of the Insurance Commissioner in Olympia, WA
  • Less than a year as an Instructor at Endangered Spirit in Chicago 
  • One year as a Natural Resource Specialist in the Broward County Department of Environmental Protection
  • One year as the Safe Parks and Land Preservation Bond Program Coordinator in Fort Lauderdale, FL
  • Less than a year as a March of the Living Instructor for the Jewish Education Commission in South Palm Beach County
  • Less than a year as an Environmental Studies Instructor at South Palm Beach Community College
  • Two years as Senior Vice President for Allocations and Agency Relations at the Jewish Federation of Broward County
  • One year as Executive Director of the League for Educational Awareness of the Holocaust
  • Two years as a Senior Services Planner for the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County where she conducted a senior services study to assess the unmet needs of Jewish elderly and make recommendations to address those needs
  • Two years as a self-employed consultant providing sensitivity training to front-line health workers who assist Holocaust survivors.

This is hardly the resume of a seasoned and highly experienced expert in the area of senior services.  The fault does not rest with Ms. Friebaum but rather with Stuart Wachs.  Why Mr. Wachs did not seek an individual with a national reputation in the field of the elderly is by now likely self-evident for those who are regular readers of this Blog.  Mr. Wachs hires individuals who are at best marginally qualified but who will be beholden to him for their job.  He has proven to be interested in those who he can control and who will be less likely to challenge his authority or his own minimal subject knowledge.

So when the protracted analysis paralysis ends and a report is completed what can we expect?  Likely a sophomoric product that will tell us much of what we already know without a credible action plan to make any of what might be reasonable solutions come to fruition.  In short, another JCA boondoggle which will see the plight of Phoenix’s Jewish elderly not improving and worse yet likely worsening.

Once more, the JCA fiddles while the Greater Phoenix Jewish community burns.  Thanks to Mr. Wachs, Mr. Kramer, and the board members of the JCA we will continue to see our local Jewish community go from weakness to weakness instead of from strength to strength.