In a recent article in The Forward -- Infighting, turnover buffet the Joint Distribution Committee...-- on the continuing, perhaps growing, balagan at the top levels of the Joint we wrote about in our Post Whither JDC?, a minority of Board members appear to be continuing a battle they already lost when Mark Sisisky was elected the organization's new President. I'll leave this imbroglio to others suggesting only that all Board members and the new President engage in the introspection demanded of us at Yom Kippur.
Instead, I want to reflect on the demand by one Joint Board Member as demanded, according to a transcript of a contentious Board meeting: "Mark is the president, you either get behind him, or you get off the board." I have heard the same demand made of me back when I served of the JFNA Executive, and my objections to a given action were made at a meeting in private. These are not a demand for achdut; these are nothing less than a demand that a non-profit Board member: never dissent. This is not prescriptive for democracy; it is the precursor to autocracy.
Organizations have choices of what they want to be -- but one of those choices should never be to demand total obeisance to those in power. What should be...always...is total obeisance to the organization, its values, its purposes. And that obeisance demands expression, even dissent, when the emperor has no clothes.
Friends, achdut is not a matter that can be demanded; it can only be created through open debate. It can't be imposed. And, when and where attempts are made to impose unity; those fail. They failed at JFNA, they failed at the Conference of Presidents and they will fail at JDC.
Any Board Chair/President who demands that the organization's Board act in lockstep with him/her on all matters, in doing so has planted the seeds of organizational collapse. If good faith "dissenters" are forced into some form of ostracism; soon Boards become dysfunctional and institutions die. Non-profit leadership demands a certain amount of flexibility; an understanding that "I am not always right" -- a willingness to seriously consider dissenting views.
So, to that JDC Board member, whose demand frames the title of this Post, I'd suggest a possible corollary: If you cannot tolerate good faith dissent, you should resign.