, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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  

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.



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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”  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.



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Gallup poll study is hardly necessary to conclude that the performance of the Jewish Community Association (JCA) and the local Jewish Federation before it has made the Greater Phoenix Jewish Community one of the most underperforming Jewish communities in the nation. Even without hard data it would be difficult to find any knowledgeable and engaged Jew in the area who would contradict the premise that the JCA’s fundraising ability as reflected in its annual Campaign for Jewish Needs is embarrassingly meager. And as a result of such shameful results the JCA’s financial support of critically important and unmet community needs has been nothing short of pauperous and misery.

But despite what most knowledgeable people have intuited to be a failed fundraising machine for decades it should not be left to conjecture and assumption to indict the lay and professional leaders of the JCA for their shameful performance as fundraisers. That indictment deserves to be supported by facts and analysis by an irrefutable source… data that the local JCA itself has provided to an authoritative national study published by the North American Jewish Data Bank in cooperation with the JCA’s own umbrella organization, the Jewish Federations of North America.

A November 2013 study Comparisons of Jewish Communities – A Compendium of Tables and Bar Charts was prepared by the very distinguished Dr. Ira Sheskin, Director of the Jewish Demography Project at the University of Miami. The study contains comparative data on virtually every aspect of American Jewish demographics and behaviors in a 36 chapter report. But the one chapter that analyzes the relative fundraising performance of Federation study participants is found in Section 29 Donations to Jewish Federations. And the data is both revealing and chilling regarding the Greater Phoenix Jewish community. Data that the JCA has understandably been eager to keep out of public view. And data that JCA leaders are constantly trying to dodge and excuse as not relevant. When it comes to this data and its implications the JCA has done more spinning of this data than a school full of children with Hanukah dreidels.

According to the introduction of the report: “The compendium is a single source of tables and bar charts designed to provide a comparative context for understanding American Jewish communities. It is intended for local Jewish communities seeking to compare themselves to others as well as for researchers, teachers and students of North American Jewry. In short, it is an invaluable tool that is based on self-reported data by local Federations.”­­

The entire 67-page Section 29 Donations to Jewish Federations can be found online at: . Here are just a few highlights, or perhaps it is better to describe them as lowlights from this important benchmark study.

  • Phoenix ranks 48 out of 54 participating communities when measuring the number of households who donated to the local Jewish Federation in the last reporting year. Phoenix reports that only 25% of Jewish households donated to the JCA while eight cities report that between 50% to 61% of their households donated.
  • 71% of Jewish households in the Phoenix area do not contribute to ANY Jewish Federation which explodes the myth that many Phoenix Jews give to Federations in cities where they have a second home or where they emigrated from. Of the 34 communities reporting in this area only two cities (Las Vegas and Seattle) had a worse performance.
  • Of 44 communities reporting the number of Jewish households which do not support ANY Jewish charity, Phoenix reports that 49% of its community falls into the group that do not support any Jewish charity. Only four communities report a worse percentage of support for Jewish charities.
  • Perhaps one of the most shameful statistics is the average gift per total Jewish households in a community to its local Federation campaign. Phoenix ranked 50 out of 53 reporting cities with the average gift per household at an appalling $65. The ten Federations with the largest average household gift to their campaign are: Detroit $968; Tidewater (VA) $778; Charlotte $753; Minneapolis $731; Cleveland $716; Baltimore $617; Pittsburgh $613; Milwaukee $599; Richmond $582; Columbus $561. Tucson reports an average gift per Jewish household of $254.
  • A related piece of data shows the number of households and the total size of the Federation campaign in each community. In this chart Phoenix reports 44,000 households and a campaign total of $2,863,000. The cities with the closest number of households and their campaign totals are: Denver 47,500 households and $6,040,000; San Diego 46,000 households and $6,135,000; Essex-Morris (NJ) 44,500 households and $19,684,000; Baltimore 42,500 households and $26,241,000; Cleveland 38,300 households and $27,411,000; Detroit 30,000 households and $29,051,000; Miami 54,000 households and $21,695,000.
  • Communities with a much smaller number of Jewish households but with relatively remarkable robust annual Federation campaign totals include: Tidewater (VA) 5,400 households and $4,202,000; Charlotte 4,000 households and $3,013,00; Minneapolis 13,850 households and $10,131,000; Pittsburgh 20,900 households and $12,805,000; Milwaukee $10,400 households and $$6,232,000; Richmond 5,000 households and $$2,946,000; Columbus 11,878 households and $$6,658,000; Lehigh Valley (PA) 4,000 households and $2,176,000; St. Paul 4,700 households and $2,278,000; San Antonio 4,500 households and $1,883,000; Cincinnati 12,500 households and $5,111,000; Rochester 10,230 and $4,133,000; St. Louis 24,600 and $9,288,000; Jacksonville 6,700 and $2,327,000; Hartford 14,800 households and $4,684,000; New Haven 11,000 and $2,906,000; Seattle 22,490 households and $4,907,000 and Tucson 13,400 households and $3,400,000.
  • One of the charts in which Phoenix is notably absent measures “Familiarity with the Local Federation”. 37 communities responded with a range of 20% to 60% of local Jewish households reporting that they are not at all aware of the Federation. The fact that Phoenix didn’t report indicates that the local JCA is completely out of touch with what the broader Jewish population in the Valley thinks about the JCA or if they even know it exists.
  • And the last piece of data that speaks volumes about the disastrous market condition of the local JCA is the chart that measures the “Perception of the Local Federation”. In this chart, 34 communities report a range of 93% to 68% of local households that regard their perception of the Federation as Excellent or Good. And once again, the Phoenix JCA did not report leaving one to conclude that they are clueless as to the qualitative perceptions of their local community about their organization.

There is considerably more data available in this study but in no case does Phoenix ever report statistics that are exemplary or commendable. And there are at least 100 other Federation communities which did not even participate in the analysis so it is difficult to say how Phoenix would compare if the report was complete and comprehensive.

What can be concluded from this is that the JCA, and the Federation before it, have been woefully underperforming organizations in the past, they continue to show their inability to motivate and engage the community today and it is highly unlikely that they will be able to engender sufficient trust and confidence to lead Phoenix to become a high performing Jewish community in the future. The only thing that might change the JCA’s failing trajectory is to eliminate it completely, let the dust settle, and convene as a community to take stock in what the best way forward might be to create a vibrant and thriving Jewish community.



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I do not know Stuart Wachs.  I have criticized Stuart Wachs’ stewardship of the JCA based upon empirical analysis of the JCA’s IRS 990s and the IRS 990’s from the previous JCC he ran. I have criticized him for a lack of disclosure and truthfulness about the Solar panel scandal that has rendered the project both costly and useless, for not donating to the JTO, while urging the rest of the community to do so, and for having Joel Kramer, the Chairman of the JCA, call me up to see if I had a hidden agenda in writing about their malfeasance and ineptitude with the JCA’s assets.  Most notable in Joel’s call to me was his assertion that “the masses” could not know about the engineering report I published and that the “masses should not know” because the report was marked confidential. Evidence of managerial ineptitude is not a trade secret, as I pointed out to Joel and Stuart.  I found it notable that Joel, who is a CPA and was the Treasurer before he became the Chairman of the JCA, told me that my numbers are wrong and that the Solar panels would not cost nearly what the report indicated.  However, Stuart wrote to me in a letter (that I published in this blog) that the solar panels will actually cost the community nothing because he re-negotiated the deal, and that there is an “opportunity for savings”.  Joel Kramer has a pretty good reputation in his field, so I am guessing that he is telling me something closer to the truth.  Stuart, who has lied to me in what he has written to me, has exhausted my ability to find him credible. I am aware that giving the benefit of the doubt to Joel Kramer on this subject is akin to trying to decide who was the better sailor: the Captain of the Titanic or his First Mate?

A quick summary for the uninitiated.  In 2010, the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix and the VOSJCC were finally run into a ditch by an inept board of directors who had overseen the building of our own golden calf, which is what I euphemistically call the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus.  The Campus is routinely utilized by approximately 4% of the Jewish population of the Greater Phoenix area (this year the VOSJCC consumed 30% of the JCA’s funding allocations) and is comprised of a financially unsustainable collection of buildings that house the detritus of a failed Jewish high school, a poorly designed health club, a huge collection of costly and economically inefficient solar panels, the offices of the JCA, and several other Jewish agencies.  The JFED spent millions of dollars propping up the Campus that they built, and the propping up of the Campus contributed very heavily to the destruction of millions of dollars of donations to the JFED.  The inept leaders of the JFED who oversaw the creation of our golden calf got it into their heads that this was the apex of Jewish achievement for the Jewish Community, completely ignoring the fact that two previous JCC’s went out of business here.  They were somehow oblivious to this and undertook this new adventure with other people’s money which ended up in the same position.  So, after 6 years on the board, Bob Silver (who was the board Chair of the JFED in 2010) finally figured out the the Federation had a “structural deficit” as he called it, and decided that the only solution was to shut down both institutions, lay off half of the staff, merge them together under a new name (the Jewish Community Association), and start again.

Unfortunately, the board that oversaw this entire fiasco actually thought they were qualified, apparently based upon their previous lack of stewardship, to go out and hire a new leader for the Jewish Community.  This is how Stuart Wachs ended up darkening the Community’s door.  At this point in the story, it would be an excellent time to review an article that appeared today in entitled I Thought You Said You Wanted To Run Things Like A BusinessThe article is on point, and will take us to the next fiasco.

Stuart Wachs’s entire executive management team that he hired, since he arrived here, has been fired or has resigned, except for Alison Johnston.

1) Anthony Slayen – Vice President of Operations and Innovations – hired by Stu Wachs in August, 2012, fired or resigned in February 2013: 7 months

2) Kimberly Kur – Chief Development Officer – hired by Stuart Wachs in April 2013, fired or resigned in February 2014: 11 months

3) Jennifer Grossman – Vice President of Marketing – hired by Stuart Wachs in August 2012, fired or resigned  in April 2014: 21 months

Not Hired By Stuart:

4) Debbie Siebels – CFO – Seven years at JCC and JCA, abrupt resignation this week.

Executives hired by Stuart Wachs who are still in place as of the date of this article.

5) Alison Johnston – Chief Operating Officer of the Jewish Community Center, hired June of 2013.  This is a curious hire by Stuart because Ms. Johnston was previously at Ballet Arizona, and during her year there as executive director, their revenue decreased from 5.5 million dollars to 3.4 million dollars, a decrease of 38%, and their operating surplus decreased from 2.8 million dollars to $856,000, a decrease of 69%.  Another curiosity is that Ms. Johnston has listed on her CV on LinkedIn that she was the COO of Petsmart Charities Inc. for years spanning 2010 – 2012.  However, there is no mention of her in their IRS 990’s, which by law must list their officers and board directors, and Chief Operating Officer is an important position.  I just don’t think it was her position.  In fact, she was a Senior Director of Operations, which is a different position than the Chief Operations Officer of a $40,000,000 charity.  But she is not the only person to pad their resume, so in the interest of full disclosure, I admit I lied on my LinkedIn CV too and have claimed that I was a tofurkey fabricator at Akbar and Jeff’s Tofu Hut from 1981 – 1985.  I actually was employed as a marketing representative at IBM selling copiers, and I just thought it was less embarrassing to say I was fabricating tofurkey.  I am sorry.  But I do wonder what qualifies Ms. Johnston to run the VOSJCC.

6) Ofer Alphabet – Chief Information & Campus Operations Officer at Jewish Community Association – I have no idea what a Chief Campus Operations Officer does, but he has been there for a month and Stuart knew him from Minneapolis.

If Stuart is such is an accomplished manager and our great hope for the Jewish Community of Phoenix, how is it that every senior officer of the JCC that he hired has quit or been forced to resign? Turnover of that magnitude from his hand picked subordinates is a widely acknowledged sign of terrible management.  I suppose that we will soon learn why Ms. Siebels resigned, and we may have to look no further than the 2013 IRS 990, which is for some reason, not yet available.

I have excerpted the following information from an article by Ralph Heibutzki from a company called Demand Media.

Company Lacks Good Management

An employee’s relationship with his supervisor is often the most decisive factor in assuring his loyalty, according to “Forbes” magazine’s January 2012 article, “Why Your Employees Are Leaving.” Good managers who connect with employees are more likely to retain them, even if they’re making top money. Bad managers don’t communicate regularly with their team members, or express appreciation for their work, which makes them more likely to quit.

Employee Workloads Are Too High

Turnover can serve as a wake-up call to revisit workloads that trigger significant burnout and stress, according to a 2006 survey by the National Council of Crime and Delinquency. The council interviewed 297 former child welfare and juvenile justice workers, to determine why they quit their jobs. Sixty-five percent of the participants identified large caseloads as a factor in their resignation, while an additional 35 percent would have stayed on the job if their workloads had been more manageable.

Jobs Don’t Match Expectations

Thirty-five percent of 19,700 U.S. employees surveyed by the Saratoga Institute quit during the first six months because they don’t like something about the job, management consultant Leigh Branham states in his February 2005 article, “The Seven Hidden Reasons Employees Leave.” This situation results when managers soft sell a job’s less appealing aspects, asserts Branham, writing for the Center for Association Leadership. Once workers discover the truth, however, they’re out the door, which further aggravates a company’s turnover issues.

Opportunities Are Nonexistent

Opportunities for career advancement and growth play a key part in determining how long employees stay with a company. Eighty-five percent of the employees in the Saratoga Institute survey identified career growth as a key reward, but only 49 percent saw companies taking measures to promote it. Managers compound the problems by failing to praise employees who exceed expectations, Branham says. Staff members who feel devalued or unrecognized, in turn, are more likely to find an employer who acknowledges them.

Work Environment Is Stressful

A continual exodus of talent can indicate a stressful, unstable work environment of ever-changing job titles, workloads and supervisors. One reality of this situation is that some people lose their jobs, which doesn’t inspire the survivors to put down roots, according to “Forbes” magazine. This situation also makes itself felt through departmental turf wars that pit employees against each other. Faced with these situations, employees will opt to go elsewhere than stay in an unhealthy atmosphere.

If we want the best results from the JCA, then we must have the best people running that organization.  Unfortunately, Stuart is unable to create a culture of excellence and exceptional performance, and his hand picked executives have either left of their own volition or been terminated.  Stuart either has an inability to hire the right people, an inability to get along with people he hires, or he hires people who are incompetent and he has to fire them.  Stuart wrote to me and told me that it will take 3 – 5 years to turn around the organization he inherited, which might mean another 20 executives rotated through the management suite of the JCA.  In the meantime, the losses will pile up, the Campus will be propped up at the expense of the elderly and infirm, Jewish day school education, and helping kids get to Israel to spend quality time there.  Stuart will continue to collect his enormous salary, and we will be much further on along the road of destruction.  Keep that in mind when you are asked to donate to the JCA.

Rabbi Stephen Kahn’s Commentary On Rabbi Pesach Lerner’s Article In The Jewish News of Phoenix.


, , ,

Reprinted by Permission of the Author, Rabbi Stephen Kahn, Congregation Beth Israel, Scottsdale, Arizona

I am grateful to the Jewish News for printing Rabbi Pesach Lerner’s, “J Street Vote Heard Around the World” in last week’s edition. I would frame my response to his article in the context of the letter you received from one of your readers last week which seemingly disapproved of the Jewish News’ content. The writer’s critique stated that the JN is publishing “less meaningful content and more religious content.” I found this letter, along with some of the other critical letters you have printed over the past few months, to be ironic and baseless.

First, since the word “Jewish” is the descriptive word in the name of the paper, I am confused by the idea that “meaningful” and “Jewish” as either diametrically opposed or mutually exclusive.  Second, I believe the role of a community Jewish newspaper is neither to stifle debate nor to present exclusive opinions on the issues with a singular voice. If anything, by publishing pieces like Rabbi Lerner’s editorial concerning the vote by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations decision against admitting JStreet onto the Council, you have presented, without bias, one of the great paradoxes of organized American Jewry which represents one of the most “meaningful” discussions of our time.

Admittedly, I don’t really worry much about the Council of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations. Like many self-serving institutions and organizations in the American Jewish community, the Council is mainly anachronistic, and has no value or significance in my Jewish life and the life of my community. Furthermore, I would argue that most American Jews (at best) don’t know or (at worst) care, that the Council exists at all.

I would also add that I am not personally a JStreet supporter for a variety of reasons that I will not address here. However, while I disagree with JStreet’s principles, I fully accept that their members believe, with conviction, that they have something productive to say about the extraordinarily complex political, religious and sociological struggles of Palestinians and Israelis. However, I will not disparage their Jewishness based on their positions and, in truth I supported their acceptance onto the Council in theory. I also accept that this was not to be, and I agree with Rabbi Lerner when he suggested that JStreet’s leadership “responded [to rejection of the Council] with unbecoming condemnation of that same democratic process [which rejected their application for membership].”

But I don’t believe Rabbi Lerner’s article ultimately had anything to do with the JStreet vote but rather was an attempt to engage in the typical unabashed polemic directed toward the Reform and Conservative movements we have heard before. He uses the Pew survey results, to give his own sociological explanation while drawing on the survey’s results to remind us that all things Reform and Conservative should be painted with the same brush as the unaffiliated, intermarried and Jewishly detached – all of whom are implicitly undermining the future of the American Jewish community. He surmised, “Today, unfortunately, the ‘Jews of no religion’ are the fastest-growing Jewish group; they care little, if anything, about Judaism or Israel. In other words, for Rabbi Lerner, “Jewish of no religion,” and Reform and Conservative Jews are basically one-in-the-same, “both movements are shrinking, unable to predict where and what they will be by the time the next Pew report is issued,” he opines.

Rabbi Lerner’s socio-religious interpretation of the Pew survey as a frame for creating a polemic against non-halakhic (legally observant) Judaism’s role in the downfall of the Jewish community is not only objectionable, but ironically, the exact reason why so many American Jews run – not walk – away from the very Jewish institutions and organizations Rabbi Lerner’s is attempting to protect and defend.

The continuous attack on the bifurcation of American Jewish life which leads to the further separation of Jews based on the ideas of “us” versus, “them;” “pro-Israel,” versus “anti-Israel;” Jews “of no religion,” and Jews who are authentically religious is unconstructive and unrealistic. The future of American Jewry lies in enabling the 94% of Jews surveyed by Pew who claim to be proud of being Jewish the opportunities to engage, connect and feel safe when we draw them closer to the Jewish community.

Like many others in our community, I hope the JN continues to publish articles which offer divergent ideas so, as a community, these “meaningful” issues which speak to our future can be discussed, debated and argued within the pages of our community’s only Jewish newspaper.

Quick Update: Debbie Siebels, Longtime CFO of JCA and JCC Resigns Abruptly After 7 Years


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Unfortunately, I have no more news other than this at the moment, and I have no idea why Ms. Siebels resigned.  I am sure we will find out soon enough.  I read an article last night that is worth a look.  It is called Keeping Quiet About Wrongdoing and it is from The Chronicle of Philanthropy.  It is about what happens at 501c3 organizations when mismanagement and malfeasance is left unchecked.

My contributors and I are working on two substantive articles.  The first article is an analysis comparing the operation of the JCA with the operation of other JFEDS across the country.  This article should be a great gauge of our JCA’s effectiveness. As an aside, I highly recommend this article from, it is a must read if we want the JCA to be a paragon of good management.

The second article is an analysis of the operation of the VOSJCC, a history that will stretch back to 2007 and display an accurate financial picture of the VOSJCC and hopefully open a debate about whether continued support of an institution used by 4% of the Jewish population of Phoenix is warranted.  30% of the JCA’s annual support to the community benefits 4% of the Jewish population through the subsidy to this health club.  We should decide if this money can be put to better use.

Finally, I am going to travel to NY next week and I have appointments with several national leaders on the philanthropic front to learn more about how they can help our JCA be better at serving the needs of the community by being more open and transparent in their decision making.

Thats all for now.



, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Although I am not 100% certain of this, it seems to me that if the Jewish Community wants better results from the JCA, then maybe the community should be focused on a quantitative analysis of the performance of our leaders.  I would think that this is a reasonable and necessary yardstick by which we can measure performance. There is too much at stake for the community to resort to ad hominem attacks that, in the words of Stuart Wachs, the President of the JCA, “do nothing to help.”

Mr. Wachs recently wrote to me, voicing an opinion about my article about the solar panel disaster that the leadership of the JCA did not disclose to the community, which will result in $2,000,000 in excess cost to the JCA (directly contradicting Bob Silver, the Chairman of the JCA at the time, in the two interviews that he gave to the Jewish News. In each interview, Mr. Silver indicated that the solar panel project would cost the community nothing). The blog post can be accessed by clicking here.  Mr. Wachs’ well-reasoned reply to my post is below:

From: Stuart Wachs <>
Subject: Re: Greetings
Date: April 27, 2014 at 2:30:03 PM MST
To: Mark Greenburg <>

Clearly you are not the honest person you portray yourself to be. Even knowing your history of blogs against the organization I took over I responded including a willingness to meet and answer your questions / concerns. Then I see the blog you put out with you doing exactly what you are accusing the JCA of doing. Giving out miss or partial information.

I have dedicated my career to Jewish community and have always been honest, ethical and focused on impact of the community I was serving. Your damaging words do nothing to help and you could not even give me the benefit of the doubt as the new leader of the organization to address your questions as I said I would do.

As Mr. Wachs pointed out in his reply, my article is incorrect because: a) he believes I am dishonest, b) he offered to answer my questions, and c) he is a dedicated servant of the Jewish Community (now with a current salary of more than $240,000 per annum), therefore, there is no solar panel power disaster at the JCA.

In fact, I received a phone call from the JCA’s Board Chairman Joel Kramer today (05/02/14) and he informed me that I was wrong to publish the article about the solar panel problem because the report that was prepared for the board was meant to be confidential.  Mr. Kramer said to me:

Just to let you know, you are a very bright guy, and I’m sure you can think of a number of reasons why things might be confidential and they’re confidential for a reason, and that reason isn’t not to be transparent. That reason isn’t not to be transparent. That reason has to do with other things related to the issues.  And again, I am sure you are a very bright person, but just because things are issued as confidential isn’t intended because it is not intended for the masses because of other reasons, not because the masses can’t, it is because the masses shouldn’t or can’t know now, because what other things are going on, and…..    There is a reason for it, and it does not help publicizing that reason and it does us no good.  There is no benefit to the parties to publicize that…

I was, and still am confused by just about everything that Mr. Kramer told me, and it was very nice for him to compliment my intelligence, and everyone certainly appreciates a compliment. But the one thing I took away from our conversation was his insistence that the reason for the confidentiality of the solar fiasco report was that, as he put it, the masses should not know about this or can’t know now.  When I asked him why, I was just told that there are reasons.  The only possible reason to sit on this information would be if there are pre-litigation settlement discussions (with the parties that induced the JCA leadership to enter into this solar fiasco) and the solar company is afraid of publicizing any settlement paid to the JCA. Nevertheless, the JCA would have to disclose the inbound money from such a settlement on their Form 990, and Mr. Kramer assured me that there was no litigation over this solar panel fiasco, just as he so eloquently put it, the masses must not know.

In analyzing Mr. Wachs’ performance as a dedicated leader, one must start at the health club organization where he worked before arriving at the newly formed JCA. Mr. Wachs previously served as the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Minneapolis.  Although I have not asked anyone who was a member of the search committee which selected the JCA’s new President, I must give the committee the benefit of the doubt, err on the side of caution, and assume that no one on that committee had access to the internet and therefore was unable to access the IRS 990’s of the organization that Mr. Wachs was leading.   Their IRS 990’s are available and online, going back as far as Mr. Wachs’ 7 year tenure in this position.  The data for this chart is available on line and located by clicking here.


So, for the seven years that Mr. Wachs was at the helm of the Jewish Community Center for Greater Minneapolis, the organization had cumulated deficits of more than $2,000,000.  I did subtract from these figures, a onetime gift of property and equipment from the Jewish Federation of Minneapolis in an amount equal to 2.8 million dollars, in 2007.  For whatever reason, a gift of property and equipment to a non-profit was taken as income, instead of as paid in capital as it would be to a for-profit enterprise, and I suppose that this is correct because since they are not paying taxes and since they have no equity holders, it is immaterial from a tax liability standpoint.  It is not immaterial when masking the performance of a non-profit’s operations.

So, it looks like that after serving as the executive director of the JCC of Greater Minneapolis and presiding over more than $2,000,000 in operating deficits that this qualified Mr. Wachs to become the new president of the JCA of Greater Phoenix.

I am not sure that it is completely true that the best indicator of anyone’s future performance can best be indicated by their past performance, so I think that we should take a look at our JCA today.

I retrieved the 2012 IRS 990 yesterday by visiting the JCA.  They were very courteous and gave me a copy within ten minutes,  It is the first time I visited their offices and their staff was very polite and professional. If my recent memory serves me correctly, the purpose for uniting the JCC and the Federation was to improve the financial performance of both institutions.  Unfortunately, the numbers indicate that this has not yet happened. The chart below shows that the loss, once the JCC and JFED were combined, increased 67% in the first year to more than $967,000 dollars, increasing from a combined loss the year before for the two institutions of $577,480.  I find the chart below to be completely revealing.


While the most recent deficit in 2012 of $967,436.00 cannot fairly be attributed to any one person, I do think that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  I am wondering where are the benefits we are supposed to see from the consolidation of these two organizations.  I have no quantitatively analytic reason to believe Mr. Wachs will be effective in running the JCA. I do know that he just added another $967,000 to his aggregate losses as the President or Executive Director of the non-profit organizations that he has run over the last eight years, losses that aggregate at over $3,000,000 dollars.

One of the most interesting aspects of the phone call I had with Mr. Kramer was when I asked him what the purpose of his call to me was.   Mr. Kramer indicated that Mr. Wachs had showed him a response that he was prepared to send to me, and that after speaking with Stuart Wachs, Mr. Kramer said to Stuart that he wanted to know,

What is Mark’s purpose in all of this?  Because I am not sure an exchange is worthwhile for any party until we understand the purpose of his blogs and his writings.  Is there an end game, is there an intention, is there a purpose, or just a desire to write.

When I told Mr. Kramer I did not understand his question, specifically what he meant by what was the purpose of my blog, he said,

You are posting blogs, and the purpose of the blog is to what?

I am still at a loss about this question because I think that their question is irrelevant.  However, I do not think the reason that they asked the question is irrelevant because it demonstrates a paranoia in their thinking as if I must have a hidden agenda in writing the blog.  Rather than dealing with the issues I have raised regarding transparency, accountability and sound financial management or addressing the fact that I am asserting that their stewardship of these sacred Jewish assets can be quantified as abysmal, they seem to focus on me, thinking that if they just uncover my secret SMERSH membership card, that all of this mess will blow away.

My last questions to Mr. Kramer – Stuart and the JTO

It is reasonable that people have differences of opinion about whether the JTO is good or bad.  Years ago I supported the JTO, took advantage of the 1 for 1 tax credit, and took the deduction.  After discovering an issue with the governance of the JTO, I stopped giving, voiced my concerns publicly, and the JTO changed their governance policies.  I still believe that they have a short distance to travel before they are 100% Simon Pure and Lily White, and the fact that there are board members of the JTO whose children are benefitting from JTO scholarships raises a few eyebrows, but they are a paragon of virtue and financial disclosure compared to the JCA.  Also, and by law, they must pay out in scholarships 90% of the money they raise.  So if one supports the JTO, it is clear that by and large they are doing the job they are supposed to be doing and Linda Zell should be commended on that point.

I have been given a brief tour of the JTO’s donor list, and from what I have seen, Stuart Wachs did not give to the JTO in 2012 or 2013, and I have asked him why, and I know he has seen my email (because Mr. Kramer told me that he saw Stuart’s reply and that is why he was calling me, to find my “purpose”).  I still do not have his answer, and we as a community are entitled to know why.   This is especially relevant because Mr. Wachs just published a Commentary in the Jewish News, (in response to criticism about the fact that 46 cents of every allocable dollar that is donated to the JCA is wasted by expenses, expenses that will most likely be hidden from “the masses” that Mr. Kramer spoke to me about), and Wachs implored “the masses” to support the JTO.  Because it is clear from Mr. Kramer that he and Stuart are not members of “the masses”, the JTO deduction would obviously not apply to Stuart Wachs and his $240,000 salary.

Do you remember that great scene in A Few Good Men when Jack Nicholson explodes at Tom Cruise?  If you don’t remember the scene, it is worth watching and you can see it by clicking here.  This is your JCA.

My final comment is this.  Mr. Kramer explained to me that Stuart is a very busy executive and in a dismissive way indicated that it takes too much time to write a response to what I have written.  I explained that I had no desire to pull Mr. Wachs away from his obligations in training for this weekend’s marathon, and Mr. Kramer scolded me for being sarcastic.  I am sorry if I offended Mr. Kramer, but as a member of “the masses”, my etiquette, education and the manner in which I conduct myself obviously needs improvement.  I promise to get to work on that.


From: Stuart Wachs
Sent: Saturday, May 3, 2014 5:38 AM
To: ‘Mark Greenburg’
Cc: Joel Kramer
Subject: RE: Good evening


There is in fact a number of things that are inaccurate in your blogs and in your email. That is the problem when you take partial pieces of information and make the assertions which you made.

– I do contribute to the JTO to the highest tax credit level. I do not believe that this is accurate and I will not be able to retract this until I see cancelled checks or credit card receipts for the two years in question.
– The Solar project will not cost the Association or community anything. When I arrived here I discovered a problem with the current structure and we worked closely with the Solar company for many months to restructure the arrangement so that it will not have any negative impact on the organization or community Why would Mr. Kramer call me yesterday and wax on eloquently about the fact that the masses are not to be told about this problem because it does the parties no good, if there is no problem?  I do not believe this assertion, but I am more than willing to sit down with you and have you explain this to me, and if I am wrong, I will also print that I am wrong.
– In your most recent blog you attacked my record at the Minneapolis JCC. If you called any of their board leadership or the Minneapolis Federation leadership they will tell you I was applauded for turning around the organization from a mission, engagement and financial perspectives. If you go directly to guidestar and look at the financial performance my last three years the 990’s show a net operating results 2009 – ($114,000), 2010 – $119,000, 2011 – $263,000. The search committee did do extensive checking and referencing on me.
– As for operating results of the VOS JCC, Federation and now Association. Both of these organizations have had a number of years of poor financial performance. I agree, the operations of the JFED and the JCC were disgraceful and I applaud your candor in this admission.  Why are the board members who oversaw this disgraceful performance still on the board?  Is it that they do not understand what you have written here about the past performance?  What can they possibly add that will be helpful to you in your attempt at turning this devastated agency around?  How does their expertise in wasting the community’s assets help you do your job?  I was brought in to help turn them around as I have been successful at doing at previous agencies. A turn around does not happen in one or two years, can take significant initial investment and we are making some positive progress. Or measurement will be over the next 3 to 5 years in net operating results, campaign achievements, engagement and impacts on our community.
– I would be happy to walk through our financials and our financial modeling. While your comment about charity review and others looking for a 10% “overhead” is not at all accurate, as a matter of fact they (who is “they”) came out a few years ago in a public statement that overhead is not an accurate way to measure a not-for-profit. Our operating budget includes much more then overhead however as we add resources to grow campaign and impact the community, our campaign growth will greatly outpace any expense growth and the percentage of our operating budget to campaign will decrease. It is important to also understand that the Association raises other dollars and has other earned income outside of the campaign so simply taking the operating expenses as a percentage of the campaign total is not an accurate measure.

Your latest blog was again done in an inaccurate and attacking way now directed at Joel Kramer and myself. This is not correct and I have very accurate notes of my conversation with Joel Kramer from the call he placed to me.  I completed classes in court stenography when I was 16 at the Ohio Valley Business College as a way to cope with my very slow and illegible hand writing and I take very accurate notes.  If Mr. Kramer was not forthcoming to you about what he said to me on the phone, I will be happy to print out a complete transcript of the conversation.We are both very dedicated to making the Association have a growing impact on our community. My reputation and commitment over my career and since I have arrived here stands its own. Given the fact that we have never met and you have never engaged in a conversation with me or asked me any questions you seem to have a lot of opinions about who I am and how I and the Association operate.

You also mentioned you have a number of documents form a “leak”. First of all we want to let you know that if those are not pubic documents and are clearly marked confidential that unless you officially received them from us, which you have not, they cannot be read and distributed. Your focus on this issue of confidentiality and  Joel’s focus on the same issue during our phone call of yesterday and your instruction to me is absurd.  Your concern about keeping secrets, rather than being open and transparent to the community in your actions and deeds, is the entire focus of the blog. Your assertion that because a document is marked confidential means that it is a trade secret, or proprietary, would be laughed out of court. Documents that demonstrate ineptitude of management are not protected by any laws I am aware of, and if you are claiming some type of privilege, there is none.  In fact, the better argument would be: The non-disclosure of the problem highlighted in the report is a type of fraud that was perpetrated on community members who willingly donated to the JCA without knowing the true extent of the financial situation that has engulfed the JCA.  If you are claiming that documentation of  JCA and prior JFED financial ineptitude are somehow protected or proprietary, you should first sue the IRS for forcing you to make your Form 990s public.  We are however willing when we meet to address your questions and also request the return of any confidential and proprietary.  I am happy to meet with you.  I will not keep any details of the meeting confidential, so you must know that in advance.  I asked Joel Kramer yesterday in our phone call how the bad debt of the JCA increased in 2012 to $674,000 from about $110,000 the prior year.  Joel informed me he is a CPA.  He is listed as the Treasurer of the JCA on your tax return.  He informed me that he did not know the answer to my question. So, if this is an example of  what disclosure will look like and what information will be revealed to me in the meeting you are proposing, you should be prepared to be reading about it here.

Please let us know if you are willing to sit down with us so that we can make sure you have a complete picture and we can answer your questions and address your concerns.

Stuart Wachs, President & CEO
Jewish Community Association


From: Stuart Wachs <>
Subject: RE: Good evening
Date: May 3, 2014 at 6:28:21 AM MST
To: Mark Greenburg <
Cc: “Joel Kramer”


I also just took a little time to look at the figures you are using to paint the financial picture of my time in Minneapolis. First off the years you would need to use are 2005 – 2001. I was not running the JCC in 2004. If I used your numbers for those years and added in the 990 numbers for 2011 it would be (884,000) not (2,000,000). (this was with your own selection to adjust the one ear and remove the one time gift of equipment and property from the federation. It is impossible to try understand real operating gains/losses from a 990 in non-profits for a number of reasons including how GAP requires certain expenses and revenues to be recorded this does not always reflect operations. If I accepted this statement as accurate, which I don’t, then this is even more of a reason for you to be more open and transparent, not less.  Why not make your books and records, after provisions for donor privacy are made, open to the public?  Why not make your audited financial statements open for review, as many responsible 501c3’s do?  Why not answer some of the following questions that everyone should know?

1) Exactly how much does it cost to run the JCC?  The community needs to know that because our assets are going into supporting the JCC, and now that the two entities are combined, how does one know what is a JCC expense and what is a JCA expense?  

2) Is part of the bad debt expense a write-off of JCC rent?  

3) Has a study ever been done about the long term viability of the campus?  Do you know whether or not you are just beating your head against a wall and trying to salvage a JCC operation and a campus that might not ever be able to be operated without a deficit being created?   As the leader of the JCA, now responsible for this sacred trust, do you ask these questions?  I would suggest that the JCC will never be able to be operated efficiently because it is not important to the Jewish Community of Greater Phoenix.  It should not be about applauding you for narrowing a loss, (as you have said was something you accomplished in your previous job), but whether we should continue supporting money-draining and possibly anachronistic institutions that might never be able to operate without a deficit?  

4) Would it not be more intelligent to spend the precious assets of the Jewish Community by supporting Jewish Education and reducing private school tuition for the community’s children, or an increase in aid to help get more kids to spend time in Israel, or more support for the aged and elderly?

You were hired by a board that destroyed the JFED and built an unsustainable campus and JCC that I am guessing can not be operated profitably.  Instead of being tasked with doing what is correct for the Community, you have been tasked with doing something arbitrary, which is to try and make the people responsible for this mess look presentable by saving their campus. Just as you chose to remove the one time transfer of property there are a number of expenses in some years that do not reflect operations for example how depreciation is reflected, some expense related to the property transfer your removed and others in other years. Even a well informed and knowledgeable board needs the auditors to walk through a 990 and explain the variances to operations and why numbers are reported that way.

On the surface from the way you presented numbers look at the miraculous improvement from 2004 to 2005. While I would like to say I improved operations by over one million dollars in my first year, which is what your numbers show, that is not accurate. What I can tell you is that I led a very successful financial turnaround for an agency with a 15 plus year history of major operating deficits to during my 7 years here we had all but one year at break even or better based on true operating results.

Stuart Wachs, President & CEO
Jewish Community Association

8 Million Dollar Solar Scandal and Cover-up by JCA


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In 2012, the Levine Campus embarked on a great solar power project that was created under the leadership of Bob Silver, the President of the Federation, during a tumultuous period when our leaders finally succeeded in running the Jewish Federation into the ditch. This was certainly not Mr. Silver’s fault alone, but according to the explanation given at the time, the leadership of the Federation just figured out, after many years on the Board, that the Federation had a “structural deficit”. There is a very detailed analysis on this blog in an earlier post entitled: Smarter Jews Needed, Or Maybe We Just Need A Few Decent Ones. A Salute to the Federation’s New Donors.

I questioned the qualifications of the leadership of the Jewish Federation and the ineptitude of their Board of Directors.  I singled out Bob Silver at the time and wrote:

Bob Silver should also step down at once. He has served on the Board since 2002, and if he is just now, in January of 2011, discovering that the Federation has a structural deficit, then I question what he has been doing as a member of the Board for the last 9 years. See article from Jewish News. Additionally, Mr. Silver was quoted as saying that they have done a very poor job in engaging the community. So, the next question that begs to be asked is why is Mr. Silver, a Board member for the last nine years during which this disaster was unfolding, now tasked with solving the problem? What specific skill does he now possess that has been dormant for the last decade? For that matter, the following board members, who have also served for the last nine years, should also step down:

Ann Zinman, Lanny Lahr, Joel Bernick, David Weiner, Sandra Scheinbein, and Barry Zemel (Zemel served since 2005)

In the January 13, 2012 issue of the Jewish News, we were treated to a story entitled Going green, which highlighted a a new solar panel project for the Levine Campus.  Mr. Silver was quoted in the article:

“This no-cost approach to ‘go green’ was perfect,” said Silver in the release. “We knew this would make a huge impact economically for the campus. It demonstrates to the 25,000 people that walk through our doors each month that it is the right thing to do financially and environmentally.”

First, there are not 25,000 unique visitors to the Levine Campus each month. That would equal 1/3rd of the Jewish population of the greater Phoenix metropolitan area.  It is closer to 3,000 unique visitors, but that is for another day.  Second, we were treated to another article when this no-cost solar project was completed, entitled Campus completes greening.  The article highlights include:

The green initiative kicked off about 18 months ago with a campus recycling program. In January, a solar panel thermal system was installed by Arizona Solar Concepts. The panels, located on the campus roof, are expected to provide energy to more than 70 percent of the facility’s thermal hot-water heaters, according to a VOSJCC press release. The system is scheduled to turn on at the end of the month, said Dae Williams, campus facilities director.

The next phase of the project, through Green Choice Solar, involved installing about 400 solar canopy parking spaces in the campus parking lot. In addition to providing covered parking for campus visitors and employees, the panels are expected to meet 90 percent of the campus’ energy needs and are anticipated to save 11 percent in APS costs, according to the release.

The renovations were done at no cost to the community, Bob Silver, association board chair, told Jewish News at the start of the project (“Going green,” Jewish News, Jan. 13, 2012). The vendors took advantage of tax credits, government programs and rebates run through the utility companies.

Here is what we were not told.  Instead of saving the JCA more than $6.6 million dollars in energy costs over a 25 year period, it will now actually cost the JCA more than $2,000,000 in higher energy costs.  In the first year alone, this so called “no cost” solution of solar panels that the leadership of the JCA was happy to publicize actually cost the JCA more than $120,000 in higher energy costs.  I have a copy of the report that was commissioned by the board of directors of the JCA and prepared by Energy Management Advisors, LLC.  Download the report by clicking  ILJCC Solar Installation Situation.

This is everything that is wrong with the JCA.  Instead of being truthful and informing the Jewish Community that they made a serious mistake by investing in the solar project and that there will be an 8 million dollar swing in the benefit projection, which will ultimately cost the JCA more than $2,000,000 over 25 years and has already contributed to a cost increase in their energy bills of $125,000 in the first year, they have told the community nothing.  I would say that higher energy bills of $125,000 per year contradicts the “no cost to the community” statements made by Mr. Silver.

I think it could be argued that the Jewish News has not done the job they are capable of doing and has done a disservice to the community by sitting on this story.  As a community newspaper, they must walk a fine line between appealing to advertisers and informing us all what is going on.  If the story was important enough for the Jewish News to run two stories on the wonderful greening of the Levine Campus, it was important enough to tell us that the whole project has been a financial disaster, not the “zero cost to the community” wonder that they have written about. The very community the Jewish News is supposed to serve is being trampled under foot by JCA management and the Jewish News appears complicit through the sin of omission.  The Jewish News of Phoenix sat on relevant news of this disaster that would clearly make people question or change their giving strategy after being pressured by the JCA.  They must decide whether or not they will a be a newspaper that informs the community of the issues facing the Jewish Community or a newspaper that focuses on appeasing advertisers. It stands to reason that people have given to the JCA not knowing what the Jewish News knew about this fiasco and more money will most likely be unnecessarily squandered.  This is unfortunate.

Circling back to the subject matter of my last post, this is one reason that 46% of every dollar you give to the JCA goes up in the smoke required to run the JCA.  Gross financial mismanagement, a lack of transparency and accountability, and the sins of commissions and omissions. If the JCA was a public company, these omissions would spark lawsuits and most likely an SEC investigation.  To ask the Jewish community to donate to the JCA, when their leadership is not truthful about their managerial errors and the true state of their projects to protect our future, is an outrage and a moral failing from people we are supposed to be able to trust.  The JCA is nothing more than a financial organization that can not tell the truth to people from whom they want to raise money.

PS – At the rate I am being sent information, I might have to quit my day job.

An apology and the unfortunate truth about the JCA’s 2013 Campaign and its 2014 Allocations


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When I first started this blog, it was in response to the outrageous behavior of the Jewish Tuition Organization and the manner in which they allocated money.  The blog ebbed and flowed with the vicissitudes of the mismanagement of our Jewish leaders, reaching an apex with the poorly thought out and hastily announced merger of what was left of the Jess Schwartz Academy and Pardes Jewish Day School.  My attention then drifted to the behavior of the Jewish Federation and their relentless and pernicious mismanagement of the future of the Jewish Community, highlighting the interlocking directorate that existed between the JCC and the Jewish Federation.  Now that those two poorly governed entities have merged, it will be a bit easier to shine a very bright light on what continues to be a threat to the existence of Phoenix’s Jewish Community, or at least their financial assets.  My apology is for an over reliance on invective and sarcasm which diminished the impact of my message.  The blog could have been more effective, could have really helped bring about change, and I squandered an opportunity to highlight the malfeasance of what is now the JCA, and things have gotten worse.  I will not make the same error twice.

This blog had a great following once, with readership hovering around 10,000 visits per month, and I am committed to publishing the same critical analysis with less sarcasm, less invective and opening the blog for people to contribute their own articles, anonymously or with attribution.  So without further delay, here is my first story of the “new” and “improved” blog.

The Unfortunate Truth about the JCA’s 2013 Campaign and its 2014 Allocations

I have been trying to get a copy of the JCA’s IRS 990′s to really learn what has been happening there, and they are not available on either Guidestar or Charity Navigator, so I am relying on information on the allocations by the JCA that were recently published by the Jewish News article on March 26 entitled “ $1.3M Allocated to Local Programs.” and on a Commentary published in the Jewish News on April 16 entitled “Community should increase help for Jewish day schools” both of which included data on the JCA’s 2013 annual fundraising campaign and their 2014 allocations.


The JCA reported in the March 27, 2014 Jewish News that its 2013 campaign raised $3.2 million.  Of this amount, $338,208 was donor designated and thus not available for allocation by the JCA.  It should be noted that many of the donors who make designated gifts are “double dipping” by making a restricted gift to the JCA and getting donor credit for that contribution while at the same time channeling support to the Jewish causes of their choice.  Through this plan these donors are in essence getting credit or kavod from two organizations for the same gift.

It is my understanding  that approximately $500,000 of the JCA campaign total comes from  endowment funds created at the Jewish Community Foundation by donors interested in providing a perpetual income stream to the JCA.  While reported as a part of the total campaign, this amount is received by the JCA automatically each year from the Foundation resulting in no development efforts or expenses to be expended by the JCA.  This means that the actual money raised in the campaign through the current efforts of staff and volunteers is approximately $500,000 less than the amount reported.

The 2013 campaign of $3.2 million less the designated gifts resulted in $2,861,792 of allocable support over which the JCA has full grant-making discretion. From the allocable amount of $2,861,792 the JCA allocated $250,000 to Israel or 8.7% of the total allocable amount.

After the $250,000 allocated to Israel there was $2,611,792 available for the support of local causes in the Greater Phoenix Jewish Community.  This $2,611,792 was allocated as follows:

$99,000 3.80% Jewish Day School Education
$525,000 20.10% Valley of the Sun JCC
$78,000 2.90% Bureau of Jewish Education
$33,000 1.20% Council of Jewish with Special
$80,000 3% Hillel at ASU
$259,000 9.90% Jewish Family and Children’s
$81,000 3.10% East Valley Jewish Community
$3,000 0.10% Arizona Jewish Historical
$1,000 0.03% Chabad ASU
$6,500 0.20% Friendship Circle
$3,500 0.10% Jewish Student Union
$7,000 0.20% Phoenix Jewish Film Festival
$5,000 0.10% Jewish Arizonans on Campus
$15,000 0.50% Jewish Free Loan
$5,500 0.10% Jewish Genetic Diseases Center
$5,000 0.10% Kivel
$7,500 0.20% Smile on Seniors
$22,500 0.80% Valley Beit Midrash
$5,000 0.10% BBYO
$50,000 1.90% Israel Center
$9,000 0.30% Israeli Camp Counsellors

Of the total allocable dollars available for JCA grants, approx. 54.2% was allocated and approx. 45.8% was retained by the JCA for its own operating costs, overhead and undisclosed programs.


I could wax on forever about the wisdom of propping up the campus and the JCC, and whether it is prudent to be spending JCA dollars to do that, but here is what it boils down to.  Give a dollar to the JCA and about half winds up benefitting Jewish charitable causes.  Presuming that donors are OK with the agencies getting allocations and the way in which the pie is divided, the idea that your dollar is diminished by so much and has such minimal impact begs the question about whether the JCA is the most effective way of supporting the community.  Another way of saying this is that it costs more than $1,196,200.73 dollars for the JCA to operate or to raise $1.6 million dollars.  Generally speaking, Charity Navigator or Guidestar would rate this performance as failing.  General and administrative expenses greater than 10% would raise eyebrows, so general and administrative expenses of 45.8% for every dollar donated means that there is only a possibility of 54.2 percent of the money you donate ever getting to the organizations who need it.  If you donated the money directly to the organizations you wanted to support, your money would go twice as far.

Consider the donor who has a Donor Advised Fund  at the  Jewish Community Foundation.  Their dollar contributed to their fund actually grew by more than 19% last year through prudent investment management.  So they now have $1.20 to give and that $1.20 can be granted to  any charitable organization where the donor feels the need is greatest.

So it boils down to effectiveness, efficiency and impact and when you look at it that way, giving to the JCA is just not a smart business decision for donors who really want to make a difference.

PS – Special thanks to my research and accounting colleagues who did the heavy lifting here – MG

You have to work out which ditch you are prepared to die in.


, , , , , ,

I attended the “70th Annual Meeting of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix and the Inaugural Meeting of the Jewish Community Association of Greater Phoenix.” I am 48 years old and I would say that I was on the younger side of those attending. Well dressed Jews, listening to speech after speech from well meaning volunteers and donors, either discussing how important the Federation has been in their life, or how important the Campus is to the sustenance of the Jewish Community. I could not help think that the scene was probably akin to the atmosphere in the lounge of the Titanic as that vessel cleared the English Channel. Well heeled people, listening to their friends being congratulated, smug in their place and position as leaders, people of substance. Lot’s of inside jokes about this or that board member, introducing one another as neighbors, and not a person under 30 in the room to appreciate this wonderful evening.

There is an old joke about the two greatest lies ever told. The first lie is: “the check is in the mail”, and the second lie should be, “the Levine Campus is the Center of Jewish Universe of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area.” Joel Kramer’s discussion of the JCA’s new $12,000,000 Endowment scheme, of which he is the Chairman, euphemistically entitled “Fulfilling the Promise”, was as riveting as watching a three card monty game, and mercifully, just as short. But Joel, like all people in charge of perpetrating a confidence game, came through with just a few morsels of information so that those in attendance and beyond could contemplate their next opportunity to stoke the Titanic’s boilers, basking in the glow of admiration from their fellow lemmings.

Joel asserted with confidence that the Campus was the greatest achievement of the Jewish Federation of Phoenix, and that the new “Fulfilling the Promise” Ponzi Scheme/Endowment would be the greatest achievement of the Jewish Community Association. And then he dropped the bomb: 25,000 people visit the Campus every month. There are about 83,000 Jews in Phoenix, and at first blush that seems like a pretty huge number, and would appear, if you had a very solid third grade education, that more than 30% of the Jewish population is visiting the Campus. But, since I am a very proud graduate of high school, which were the best eight years of my life, I think that we are really not talking about unique visitors, and I am going to say that with membership hovering in the neighborhood of 3,000 members, that this number represents about 833 people per day. Since health club members, day school attendees, and others who use the Campus are pretty habitual users, I am going to basically give the JCA the benefit of the doubt and agree that there are 1,600 people who use that facility each month, and that accounts for the total number of visitors to the facility. I am probably being very generous here. However, given my generosity, even if we doubled that to 3,200 unique habitual visitors to the facility each month, and that they come to the facility month after month, we are still only talking about 3,200/83,0000 people. I would be surprised if more than 3.8% of the Jewish population makes use of the Campus.

So, if 25,000 aggregate visits from 3,200 different people make that facility the center of the Phoenix Jewish Universe, then I am going to guess that Chompie’s delicatessen plays an even more important role in Phoenix’s Jewish community. This is because between their three locations, they must be getting more than 700 Jews a day through their doors. I also believe there is a higher possibility that they are unique visitors, because if you ate deli every day, you’d be dead.

When I began attending boarding school, I was 11 years old and someone at the school had the bright idea of housing the middle school boarders in the dorm that housed the Seniors, thinking the seniors would be more mature, more compassionate, and would haze us less. There was actually a Senior named Adolph who lived in my dorm, and no shock there, he was a pretty big Jew hater. He took a special delight in kicking my ass every day of the week, and he hazed me like crazy. But the thing about Adolf was that I could always see him coming. I mean, for the love of Christ, if you name your kid Adolf and he is American, you are most likely going to have an affinity for snappy brown uniforms, red armbands, shattering the windows of store fronts, and passing these passions on to your kids. But in those lonely moments of getting my ass kicked, I never once shied away or was ashamed of identifying myself with being Jewish. Now that I live in Phoenix, and knowing how we are behaving towards the most vulnerable amongst us, taking money from their support to support the Campus, I think I am more comfortable hiding my Jewish identity here, because I could not bear being considered as a member of this group.

At least the Jewish News had the strength to highlight this in their latest issue. When you give money to the JCA to support the Campus, ask yourself if this this the ditch you are prepared to die in? Are you the type of person who thinks that a building that is used by less than 4% of the population, designed to glorify the contributions of the few, is the greatest achievement of the Jewish Federation? Is it a great achievement to reduce funding to the needy and skip out on our financial commitment to Israel to support a building that few of us actually use? Can being a good Jew or even a great Jew be defined by building and owning a cool athletic facility? If that is the case, I am guessing that the list of the greatest Jews the world has ever known could be amended and might look like this: Abraham, Moses, Maimonides, Jones (Jerry), and Hofheinz (Roy).