I think if you have an IQ over 80 and you are a Pardes Parent, you are probably concerned about the postponed, or delayed, merger of Pardes and Jess Schwartz Academy. There are several questions that immediately come to the fore regarding this merger, which the stewards of our trust on both school’s boards attempted to pull off quicker than a prom dress.

1)  What was the mad rush all about? Surely Pardes would naturally end up with some of the remaining students from the defunct Jess Schwartz Academy.

2) Why merge, change the school’s religious affiliation to become Pluralistic, and change campuses?  All of these things were announced to us loyal Pardes Party Members by Comrade Ginsberg at that meeting of the JSA Supreme Soviet.

3) Why was the merger forced on Pardes?  Why was Pardes faced with the threat of alleged competition from a Hebrew Language Charter School that zero community support from any Rabbi, nor even our terribly mismanaged Federation?

4) Why was JSA’s management so intent on having their building occupied one year after their ill-conceibed merger with King David destroyed their own school and King David?  Why would anyone think that Reform Jews would support a Hebrew Language Charter school, and rush their kids out of Pardes?

Category:  I’ll take Mitch Ginsberg for a hundred, please.

Mr.Ginsberg is a mortgage banker, and I assume he is familiar with the mortgage that bears his signature as the Chairman of Jess Schwartz Academy. The mortgage on the Jess Schwartz campus is clear:

Surprise: Jess Schwartz Academy is in default of their mortgage. See the above paragraph on insolvency as a condition of default. Since the Trustor’s (JSA) existence as a going business has been terminated, the lender, J.P. Morgan/Chase, has the right to foreclose on the building. This is a very common clause in almost every commercial mortgage I have ever seen, because it is axiomatic that once a tenant or trustor ceases to occupy a commercial building, they will default. Statistically the lender knows that on average, a trustor will default on their payments within six months. If I have read the JSA financial statements correctly, they have a reserve fund that will allow them to make payments for just under two years on the mortgage, but they are in default if there is no school operating on the premise. The reserve fund is immaterial to the lender because the lender knows that the longer a building stays vacant, the less the building will bring at sale or at auction, so they will move to cut their losses. I do hope J.P. Morgan/Chase has been informed of JSA’s cessation even though I am not a shareholder of that bank. I am sure that the management of JSA has behaved ethically and informed J.P. Morgan/Chase that they are no longer an ongoing concern and that there is not a school operating in the building. Discard that last sentence, I just took the needle out of my arm.

Ta-da:  The JSA Board tried so hard to bully Pardes into defaulting on their campus and moving to JSA in order to save their precious building before it is taken from them. I am getting sick to my stomach again.

Why the Jewish News identifies Mitchell Ginsberg as the Jess Schwartz Academy Board Chairman, when the school is defunct, I will never know.  I am going to start signing my letters: Mark Greenburg, Board Chair of the Frank N. Stein Jewish Day School.   Like Mr. Ginsberg, I also have some vacant buildings with no students, so I guess that makes me an educator also.

More fun stuff about our Federation Health and Fitness Company in the next post.


PS – I have been asked why I have not pointed out the obvious issue of the ineptitude of the Pardes Board in this whole merger fiasco.  The answer to this is a bit more complex, and aside from some sick joy that I might feel from clubbing a baby seal, the fact of the matter is that I have been extremely critical of the Pardes Board over the issue of the merging the school with Jess Schwartz and I will continue to do so until Pardes calls off the merger once and for all and makes their financial information available to the general public.

I do not believe that the Pardes Board has ever acted in a manner that reflects mendacity, or that they have exhibited malice aforethought in an attempt to mislead the parents, or in any way have they ever done something that they did not believe was in the best interest of the school and the community.

I do believe however that they have exhibited incredibly poor judgement in certain instances (Pardes’ continued involvement with the JTO as example one, an organization whose misallocation of funding propped up JSA long past it’s life expectancy, allowing it to spread its mismanagement melanoma to King David, killing both schools in the process. The misallocated scholarship dollars could have been dollars allocated to Pardes Students which would have boosted enrollment and strengthened the school.  Instead, the Pardes Board has chosen to stay with the JTO because it is “good for the community”, a complete abrogation of their responsibility to the school) and in particular, with attempting to merge the school with JSA in haste, without parental approval, and choosing to do a merger with people as financially reckless, inept, and mendacious as the leadership of JSA.

That the board of Pardes was mislead and pressured by JSA’s leaders and our past Federation leaders, who have been responsible for the wreckage and disgrace that is our Federation, the JCC, and JSA, to merge is not surprising, nor is the fact that they buckled under pressure to do this merger surprising because people do not make good decisions when they are pressured, bullied or coerced.  So, this decision, as misguided as it was, is probably not entirely their fault.

It is certainly the case that these stalwarts of stupidity did not approach Pardes’ Board and say, “Hi there.  You know, we have built an unsustainable campus over at the JCC and even put JSA right next to it on adjacent land.  Unfortunately, even though the President of the JTO made sure that the Treasurer of JSA was the sole decision maker on the awarding of scholarships, so that we could continue to prop up JSA, we destroyed both our school and King David in the process.  Unfortunately, we are about to lose the buildings in foreclosure because they are not occupied, so could you help us out.?”  Instead, these “leaders” came to Pardes’s Board, proposed the merger, and backed it up with pseudo reasoning, including, but not limited to the imminent threat Pardes would face from a Hebrew Language Charter School, the miracle of Pluralism, the financial grants available from Ravsak and Peje, and the old reliable persuasion of doing the mensch-like thing for the community.  And the shame of the Pardes Board is that they bought into this vision hook, line, and sinker, seeing themselves as beacons of leadership for the Jews in Phoenix, alone in their ability to bridge divides, trading away what is right for Pardes for their new role as community leaders.  The Board of Pardes has no such mandate.  They are not the leaders of Phoenix’s Jews, they are just the Board of Pardes.

It is shocking that no one on Pardes’ Board had the courage to tell these “leaders” that their vision for the community has led to the ruination of the Federation, the JCC, JSA and King David and that their vision, continually resold like a line from Harold Hill in the Music Man, was not a vision that the Board could countenance.

I continue to be amazed that the fine example set by the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Phoenix is not the model that all Jewish organizations in the valley follow.  Had the Schwartz’ given their money to the JCF, or had the Levine Foundation chosen the JCF as stewards of their generous gifts, the openness and integrity that is imbued in their operations and governance would have prevented this disaster from happening.

It is equally true that the purity of the misguided intentions that I ascribe to the Board of Pardes stand in stark contrast to the contempt I have for the self appointed community leaders like our Federation geniuses, JSA Board Members, and JTO Leaders who suppress debate and destroy our assets through their ineptitude, mendacity, and bullying.  These “leaders” will not make the Jewish Community more vibrant, larger, or more welcoming, and they have no place in leadership roles for our community.  Shame on all of us for not using our collective strength and financial power to speak out and withholding our funding until we get leaders who are open, forthright, and encouraging of debate.