Sunday, May 20, 2018

SHOSHANA, Z'L

When I learned of Shoshana Cardin's death, I was flooded with emotion and so many memories of this great, this historic leader of our communities and the Jewish People. In my time in Jewish communal leadership no one other than Max Fisher, z'l, had a greater impact on us, our institutions and the relationship between the Diaspora Jewish communities of the United States and Israel.

Shoshana didn't just destroy every glass ceiling she confronted, she just viewed them as opportunities to demonstrate that leadership isn't determined by gender but by an iron will and the courage of one's convictions.

I first met Shoshana as did so many of you, while serving as a Board Member of the Council of Jewish Federations during her Chairmanship (yes, Shoshana retained the title "Chairman" not "Chair," because she knew what she had accomplished...and so did we). 

Serendipitously, Shoshana was the speaker at the Annual Meeting of Metropolitan Chicago at which I was installed as the Board Chair and there began my leadership path that I took in Shoshana's wake for years to come -- I, like you, was in awe of this great leader. I was privileged to learn from her on Missions, in the deliberations that assured the independence and focus of what is now the NCESJ, and, with her blessing, when I succeeded Shoshana as its Chair during Operation Exodus, on the Boards and Executive Committees of the United Jewish Appeal and the United Israel Appeal. In every leadership role -- be it in Jewish life or in the State of Maryland -- Shoshana earned the respect that would eventually lead to her Chairmanship of the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations.

And I watched with incredible pride as Shoshana, who loved Israel as one who was born there and who helped build the country with total commitment, successfully mobilized our communities and led the successful fight  in the Office of the Prime Minister and on the floor of the Knesset to forestall devastating proposed changes to the Law of Return. 

That fight was followed but a few years later when, in her role as Chair of the Conference of Presidents, she spoke truth to power standing down George H.W. Bush after the President had angrily stated that Aipac, specifically, and American Jewry, generally, were a "Fifth column" in the United States.

During the merger process, Shoshana, as UIA's outgoing Chair with her strong right arm, UIA Executive Vice-Chair, Danny Allen, anticipated the potential diminution of American Jewish support from the absorption of UIA within what was to become JFNA. Leading that merger process I will forever regret the conflicts I created with Shoshana whose prescience on the outcomes became more and more evident over every year since. UIA...Shoshana... had demanded a "sunset provision" that would have restored the merging parties to the status quo ante pre-merger were the terms of the merger not met. That didn't happen and I apologized to Shoshana personally, directly as well as on these pages for my part in what we have become. 

Each of us have our heroes in modern Jewish life. On the lay side, my "Mt. Rushmore" has four -- Max Fisher, Corky Goodman, Marvin Lender and Shoshana. I am just one of so, so many whom Shoshana encouraged to express our leadership in Jewish organizational life. A long time ago, back in the 1990s, the Jewish Women's Archive wrote:
"A savvy, tough, and elegant woman known by presidents, dictators, and almost everyone else simply as Shoshana, she has become perhaps the most widely respected and successful lay leader in the Jewish community of the 1980s and 1990s."
"Savvy, tough, and elegant" -- a perfect description of this great leader. this great woman, this incredible Zionist, who inspired generations.

May her memory be for a blessing for her family and for all of us who mourn her passing.

Rwexler

Thursday, May 17, 2018

GA LITE -- DOOMED TO FAIL?

Oh my, JFNA appears to be dooming the Tel Aviv-centered GA ("GATA") to be an even greater failure than the General Assemblies have been since the last one in Israel.

For example, unlike at every prior Israel-focused, Israel-based GA, JFNA will offer no site visits. If a federation contingent wishes to visit a project it funds, b'hatzlacha; but the entire construct of past GAs -- to acquaint leaders with a broader set of projects/needs -- we won't be doing that any more. Why? Well, it's a mystery.

JFNA "plans" (and "plan" is cetainly a term inconsistent with what is going on here) to offer what Becky Caspi and her ilk are calling "real conversations" rather than meetings, site visits or other "events." Apparently, JFNA conflated site visits with "events" and then characterized them as "non-interactive" and, therefore, omitted.

Friends in leadership of Israeli NGOs tell me that JFNA-Israel has reached out to them to produce Israelis to be part of the GA Program (I assume in "real conversations"). Yet, when asked for specifically what JFNA wants, these leaders are told, "we need Israelis who have 'exciting' stories to tell." Some suspect that they are being asked to provide nothing more than "filler" to prop up an undefined event. JFNA appears to be hiding the lack of substance behind jargon -- you know, like "interactivity" and "connectivity." 

Vayezmir.

So, what the hell is going on here? As has been chronicled on these pages and in a series of JFNA Mid- (and Year-) End "Progress" Reports, JFNA itself has confessed error -- GA after GA have failed to interest lay leaders to Register. NOW...NOW...it certainly appears that the laity (and communal professionals) have even less reason to attend -- buy a round-trip ticket to Ben Gurion, pay for an over-priced Tel Aviv Hotel, pay the Registration Fee, pay for meals...and get even less of a meaningful experience than at the prior GAs you didn't (or did) attend in prior years.

Those who are leading this GA (and just whom are they??) appear to believe that Tel Aviv (and Jerusalem) and Israel are the attractions (just as last year they assumed -- incorrectly --that Los Angeles would be the draw) so Program just doesn't matter. Your takeaway will be the Beach or Dizengoff; it won't be learning (unless there is inherent value in revisiting an Israel project of your own community). 

For Registrants, if any, this GA will be the most expensive for you in history. The most expensive in every way. It's early yet so start saving up; you won't want to miss a General Assembly dedicated to "talking," to dialogue:
"Israel and the diaspora. What a relationship! For generations, we’ve been together. Through thick and thin. And this year, we’re celebrating 70 years of partnership. But even in the best relationships, misunderstandings can happen. A difference of opinion here. A misinterpretation there. That’s why we’re heading to Tel Aviv. To talk it out and ensure that our next 70 years remain strong. Together." "
If I have this right the GA will be about "Talking. Together." For three days. For G-d's sake one of the JFNA tag lines for the event is "We need to talk." (The other, at least for the moment, is "The GA takes on Tel Aviv" -- maybe you can explain that to me!!)

The Prelinary Program is available -- and I pray that it is strictly "preliminary." Here it is: https://cdn.fedweb.org/fed-42/2/GA2018_2-Page-Program_v11.pdf?v=1525282652  There are going to be "Rooftop Raps" and "Dialogue Dens" and a "takeover" of Rehov Rothschild when we "Take it to the Streets." *Sorry, I just threw up in my throat.")

If this is really the proposed GA Program, is it too cruel to ask whether Jerry Silverman can be forced to "retire" again?

So, if you can afford it, come to Tel Aviv to "[T]alk it out" and "take it to the streets."

We'll return to GA coverage when we better understand its purpose.

Rwexler



"and the diaspora. What a relationship! For generations, we’ve been together. Through thick and thin. And this year, we’re celebrating 70 years of partnership. But even in the best relationships, misunderstandings can happen. A difference of opinion here. A misinterpretation there. That’s why we’re heading to Tel Aviv. To talk it out and ensure that our next 70 years remain strong. Together."

Monday, May 14, 2018

THE "BRAND" AND NOTHING

In the New York Times Magazine First Words a few weeks back, Advertising for Humanity founder, Dan Pallotta, was quoted as follows: "Brand is everything, and everything is brand." This struck me as particularly apt inasmuch as JFNA is today just a "brand" -- empty and devoid of both purpose and meaning. It didn't have to be this way; yet, it is.

When the organization's then Supreme Leader dictated the hire as CEO a person with an arguable background in merchandising, sales and marketing a "brand," with neither background nor experience in the organizations -- the federations -- he was engaged to lead, what would one reasonably expect beyond "selling the brand?" I don't know, maybe nothing? Because that's exactly what we, the North American Jewish polity received -- NOTHING. 

And, in the midst of this nothingness, a leader who stepped forward to effect change after seeing the void, Michael Siegal, threw in the towel when there was push back from those who had hired Silverman in the first place. Not only did Michael back away, somehow he was convinced (maybe some day we will learn how this could possibly have happened) to renew Jerry's contract for another 5 years. (and, in doing so, Michael was unable to offer a single example of success over Silverman's first contract term).

So, the attempted (and, ultimately, failed) "building the brand" continued into another term of employment. Now, it could be argued that had JFNA dedicated itself to building the federation brand that might have been an important pursuit; but how could JFNA have done so when the vast body of its professional and growing consultant corps had never worked in a federation. As it evolved, under Silverman, JFNA would frequently call itself Federation as if were one/all when it was none.

As Gertrude Stein wasn't observed: "There's no there, there." Stein might have been referencing JFNA, the ultimate no there, not anywhere -- no distinctive identity, no significant characteristics. Nothingness. In JFNA's case the Brand became everything and everything became the Brand. And the Brand was nothing more than a Potemkin Village; a facade behind which...nothing. (Well, not "nothing" after all; there was/is JFNA-Washington. No small thing.)

One of my friends, who knows JFNA from its birth to its current state of worthlessness, observed in the aftermath of Silverman's "retirement:" "I hope there’s a serious search process that is far reaching. (JFNA) needs a total rethink and re-engineering." Many of you have expressed the same need underscoring that it is time for Jerry to depart -- not in late 2019 upon the expiration of his contract, but now.

As one of you commented:
"Yes, better late than never and yes, thank you. But why a whole year and a half at a direct cost of one and a half million Dollars - not to mention the indirect cost of letting this continue for another 18 months before there is even a chance of fixing what is so very broken? If the realization is finally here, how can doing nothing for such a long time and allowing this to continue be justified? When the leadership was in denial or didn't realize that things were so bad it was easier to accept the situation than it is now to let it slide for another year and a half!"
This is a task that must be started now, the Brand be damned.

It is already late...

Rwexler

Friday, May 11, 2018

AN EXCELLENT CHOICE

On the cusp of Shabbat here we received this announcement:

"Dear Colleagues,

I’m delighted to announce that the JFNA Nominating Committee (chaired by Sharon Janks of Los Angeles) will nominate 3 exceptional individuals to serve in the following top leadership roles:

Chair of the Board: Mark Wilf of Greater MetroWest NJ
Vice Chair of the Board: Jodi Schwartz of New York
Treasurer: Harold Gernsbacher of Dallas

These nominations will be brought to the JFNA Board of Trustees for action at our annual meeting at the General Assembly, which will be held this year in Tel Aviv from October, 22-24.

Mark Wilf will be an outstanding chair. In business, his accomplishments are many. He is an attorney and a partner in Garden Homes, a real estate development firm, and owner/president of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings. As a philanthropist, his generosity is matched by few.

Mark’s parents, Joseph, z”l and Elizabeth Wilf, philanthropists whose impact across the globe was immeasurable, were great role models for Mark. Drawing on their experiences as survivors who found a way to thrive, Mark has demonstrated a profound commitment to advocating for the needs of the Jewish people. The entire Wilf Family has long played an active and significant role in local, national and global efforts to ensure the welfare and vitality of the Jewish community.

Mark has held numerous leadership positions, both nationally and locally, including National Campaign Chair, National Young Leadership Cabinet Co-Chair, and President of his community’s Federation. Currently serving as Co-Chair of our National Holocaust Survivors Initiative, Mark has helped raise millions in funding, which will enable many survivors to live their remaining years in dignity.

Mark will have the support of a terrific team who share his philanthropic commitment and high level of professional acumen and Jewish communal experience.

Jodi Schwartz, from New York, who will be nominated as Vice Chair (she is completing her current term as Treasurer), is a Partner at Watchell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz. She is one of the world's leading lawyers in the field of taxation. Harold Gernsbacher, from Dallas, who will be nominated as Treasurer, is CEO of In Step Foodservice. Harold is the immediate past National Campaign Chair and current Chair of Secure Community Network (SCN). Rounding out the team is Suzanne Barton Grant, from Delaware, who will continue to serve so well in her role as National Campaign Chair. 

My thanks to Sharon and her Committee for conducting such a serious and obviously productive nominating process.

Shabbat Shalom.

Richard V. Sandler
Chair, JFNA Board of Trustees"

Sharon Janks and the JFNA Nominating Committee could not have chosen a better leader or a better person to succeed Richard Sandler. Mark has demonstrated through all of his leadership roles a passion for Jewish communal life and for Jewish Peoplehood, to those of our People most in need wherever they may live.

Kal ha'kavod to all of those who participated in this process; and a yasher koach to Mark and his beautiful family.

Shabbat shalom.

Rwexler

ASSAULT ON DEMOCRACY?

Only the most delusional could possibly find comfort in the Israeli Prime Minister's targeting of the New Israel Fund as the organization somehow "responsible" for Netanyahu's abandonment of the refugee deal he had agreed to with the United Nations on Israel's behalf. See, e.g.,https://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/244001 -- Netanyahu Launches Commission of Inquiry Against New Israel Fund. I offer no brief for the NIF, but...really? 

It is obvious, as in all things, after the PM reached a "deal" -- this time on the deportation of foreign workers -- dire consequences were promised by Netanyahu's coalition partners (this time, and not for the first time) led by Minister Naftali Bennett) were the "deal" to proceed and, voila, Bibi not only killed the "deal," he somehow conjured the New Israel Fund's invidious influence with...Rwanda...for forcing the breach. (Perhaps, the Prime Minister will now blame the NIF for other deals he has blown up over coalition politics, like, for example, the egalitarian prayer space deal, or the Conversion Bill deals. Just kidding, of course.) As it turned out, the Government wisely abandoned its deportation decision, at least for the moment.

It was a little over one year ago that the NIF COO, a former Federation Chief Executive, was held for 90 minutes and interrogated at Ben Gurion Airport before she was allowed into the country solely because of her position with the Fund, an American 501(c)(3). One of my mentors in Jewish organizational life, Brian Lurie -- the former CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Francisco, The Peninsula...and the United Jewish Appeal, before he revitalized the NIF first, as its CEO and, then, as its lay Chair -- Brian Lurie whose love for Israel knew/knows no bounds; to accuse any organization of which Lurie plays a leadership role of disloyalty to a democratic Israel is blasphemy. 

Yes, the New Israel Fund falls on the left wing of the political spectrum; and, yes, the NIF has funded Israeli NGO's intermediating with Palestinians -- it has been doing so, generally in very small allocations, for decades. On the very negative side, NIF's significant funding of B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence and Adalah,  Israeli NGOs whose activities are often anti-Zionist in the extreme, https://www.algemeiner.com/2018/04/17/another-week-another-new-israel-fund-scandal/, so much so that it makes it difficult to defend NIF. Yet, NIF is perfectly capable of defending itself.

And, this is the Fund's Mission:
"Achieve equality for all the citizens of the state regardless of religion, national origin, race, gender or sexual orientation;
Realize the civil and human rights of all individuals and groups through the protection of Palestinian citizens and other marginalized minorities, including the advancement of collective rights, and opposition to all forms of discrimination and bigotry;
Recognize and reinforce the essential pluralism of Israeli society and tolerance for diversity;
Protect the access of minorities to democratic channels for the expression of their interests and identities and the promotion of their rights"
It strikes methat this Mission statement is in support of Israel's democracy and civil societyOh, and here is the New Israel Fund's position on BDS:

"The NIF does oppose the global (or general) BDS movement, views the use of these tactics as counterproductive, and is concerned that segments of this movement seek to undermine the existence of the state of Israel as a Jewish homeland."*
There are those who find the NIF Mission "too liberal," "too left wing," "anti-Israel." It is clearly a Mission so out-of-step with the current Government's position on so many things. But have we, in the Diaspora and those of our extended family in Israel, moved so far, are we now so illiberal, as to agree to the propriety of the subjection of the New Israel Fund and, presumably, its leaders, to an Israeli "Commission of Inquiry" with regard to its alleged invidious influence with the Government of Rwanda? 

Does this make any sense whatsoever?

Throughout its long history, the NIF has always been an organization whose leadership has included, un-apologetically, American and Israeli women and men on the left of the political spectrum. The Fund has provided Grants, most of which you and I would consider small individually and  in the aggregate, to organizations among which are those which promote activities anathema to the sitting Prime Minister...but, this total misrepresentation?
"The ultimate objective of the fund is to erase Israel's Jewish character and turn it into a state of all its citizens, alongside a Palestinian nation-state that is free of Jews on the 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital,"
Adding to this pathetic and unsupported conclusion from the Prime Minister himself -- so McCarthyite in its "substance" -- Netanyahu threw in George Soros as the master manipulator of the NIF "plot."

Under the Law of Unintended Consequences, the NIF reports that these attacks have resulted in what it calls a "BiBi Bump" in its fund-raising. This article included the words of the Fund's CEO, Daniel Sokatch, another of the San Francisco past CEOs in Fund leadership: "We had nothing to do with pressuring the Rwanda government, it's an absurd claim." Underscoring that absurdity were the observations from Dan Meridor, once a Deputy P.M. in the Netanyahu administration:
"This whining and this wild attack on the New Israel Fund is a strange and serious phenomenon. First of all, does anybody know who NIF is...And , yes, they want a country that is just and that is equal. Most of them are outstanding Zionists their entire lives."
Oh, that.

And, after all of this, as reported in JNS: "New bill aims to cancel all government cooperation with the New Israel Fund." https://www.jns.org/new-bill-aims-to-cancel-all-government-cooperation-with-new-israel-fund/  As the article (written so poorly that to often defies understanding) discloses, that the right-wing NGO Im Tirtzu, characterized as a "Zionist organization" in the article, "...called on the government to cut all ties" with the NIF and a Knesset member responded with a Bill that offers neither fact nor due process.

I have always presumed to understand Israel's democracy; that presumption is wholly rebutted by "stuff" like this outburst from the Prime Minister, and, thereafter, by Knesset legislation. Outrageous. Next, will there be a Commission on Inquiry for Israeli-born Natalie Portman?

Rwexler

* Sadly, the NIF reserves the right in its policies to join in boycotts of goods produced beyond the "Green Line"

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

SOONER OR LATER

OK, friends, if I haven't been clear to date, after 9+ years of this Blog, let's talk some tachlis. History asks: "Which side were you on?" Were you a silent bystander to the debacle that JFNA is now and has been for years and years? Were you an active participant in support of the debacle? Or, were you for lack of a better term, part of the "resistance?" At one and the same time, we can see change in Jerry's retirement letter and understand that the same leadership who tolerated the lack of purpose or achievement finally screamed "ENOUGH" and it is they, whomever they are who joined the Board Chair in this change proces, whom I congratulate today.

This same JFNA leadership -- and you know exactly whom you are -- this leadership once sensed itself  so entrenched as to be immobile; unable and (NB, not "or," "and") unwilling not just to change themselves but to inspire positive change in others. They appeared to be frozen in amber. They were the masters of lese-majeste. And, yet, they, in the past weeks, months, they changed all of these descriptive phrases to past tensemonths, have seen a light...and have acted in a manner that can transformationally change JFNA and the system..

So, who will perform effect change going forward for JFNA? For a decade at least, I was certain that it wouldn't be the folks in power, for they appeared by inaction to have washed their hands of their responsibilities to the organization even while they were charged to lead it. These are the men and women who I thought vewed JFNA through a Panglossian prism that so distorted daily failures as to make them appear successes. And, yet, now, they have taken the reins and they have done something I thought would never happen.

Friends, all of you who read these things know that I have been unable to discern a guiding sense of purpose at 25 Broadway for almost a decade. Any sense of purpose? Anything at all? Now, though I don't know all who were responsible for change but change is happening...and, given my age and infirmities, I just wanted and want it to happen more quickly.

Richard Sandler...oh me, Richard Sandler...wrongly assumed from the jump that the strengths as he saw them that delivered his successful Federation Chairmanship in Los Angeles (where he had worked in partnership with a CEO dedicated to change with the strength to deliver it), would surely transfer 3,000 miles away to 25 Broadway where he assumed that Jerry Silverman was or would be a strong CEO and, it appeared from my distance from the decision-makers that Richard refused to believe that he was wrong. Both before and after a personal visit with Richard at his LA offices before he began his terms I felt, as I was told by those who knew him well, that Richard "did not and would not suffer fools," in fact, he did...and, now, he no longer does. Inasmuch as I know that the change that is occurring at 25 Broadway wouldn't have happened with the Board Chair, my normal question would be: "what took you so long?" is now "Thank you." 

 I sense that as it's Richard's name that has appeared on the transmittal of the so-called JFNA Mid-Year and Year-End Progress Reports (more new oxymoronic titles), he grew to realize, he grew to understand that they reported failure after failure. And, he decided to act.

From your Comments it is evident that amcha caught on and amcha was fed up. The realist in me senses that the action taken to date is not revolution. Whether it will be enough is on you, it is on us to assure.

It's time for those who could influence change at JFNA to answer the question with which I began this Post: "Which side were you on?" The forces for change are aligning. We can all be on the side of real change.

We are at the very beginning of something that could be/must be transformational; the end is not yet in sight. That light I see at the end of the tunnel may be the sun...or it may be a train coming at us. Let us hope for real change...and all of us need work to assure it happens.

Rwexler

Saturday, May 5, 2018

BRUNI ON "LEADERSHIP"

Frank Bruni recently articulated a strong condemnation of perverted leadership in an Op-Ed in the New York Times. What Bruni wrote resonated with me as I hope it does for you. In pertinent part, he wrote:


"A leader articulates a clear vision and set of principles, which become  a well-lighted path that well-intentioned people can tread.
A leader takes some share of responsibility.
A leader attracts top talent.
A leader knows whose counsel to seek and whose to be wary of. 
 ...a leader should...challenge himself -- and the rest of us -- to be bigger."
JFNA is now on the cusp of leadership change. The seminal question is whether the organization's Nominating Committee now and Search Committee in the near-term future (please G-d) will ask the right questions, make the right demands so that the next organizational leaders will be those JFNA needs so desperately.

There is a tendency in failing organizations for its leaders to look around, sing Kumbaya, and assume: "inasmuch as we are the leaders, everything must be OK." This has clearly been the case at JFNA for a decade and more. True, Kathy Manning may have been "well-intentioned" when she  "articulate(d) a clear vision" but the Global Planning Table wasn't just one devoid of principles, it proved to be incoherent and turned JFNA away from its purpose to drive the system up the road of collective responsibility. Since then, her successors have either thrown on the table beautiful pipe dreams not thought through like Siegal's "free" Jewish education or Sandler's NextGen thing -- both wonderful ideas for sure. (At some point both of the Chairs must have come to realize that the CEO was unable to execute these dreams -- or maybe they didn't/don't to this day -- yet, I see the imprint of both Siegal and Sandler on Silverman's "retirement." So, there's that.)

Frank Bruni offered some excellent guideposts for "leadership." Ya' think anyone at JFNA might follow them? Please?

Just asking.

Rwexler

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

THE AVATARS OF INEPTITUDE

For the last 9 years we have observed and commented on these pages on a veritable tsunami of failures. Failures driven by a disengaged lay leadership, a flummoxed CEO so overwhelmed by a job he has never understood that he should have resigned after Year 1, and a group of CEOs of all City-sizes who just kept their communities feeding the meter with millions in Dues year-after-year.

And, so, friends, here we have been with an organization obsessed only with rationalizing its 0own existence. We are now at the ultimate tipping point -- Silverman's retirement has already been announced. What's next?

Well, travel back with me 9 years ago. Kathy Manning created a Search Committee to identify a successor to Howard Rieger. Nice Job Description, nice group of leaders appointed to the Committee. And, then, that Search Committee followed the demand by Manning for someone "outside the box" and that "nice group of lay leaders' became "sheep in sheep's clothing," foisting on the system one whom by education and experience was singularly unprepared for the position he would then keep for almost ba decade.

And, now, a new Search Committee will be formed; and I am certain that that Committee will include not only Manning but a number of those who served so poorly back then. Why? That's the question. Were I asked I would argue that anyone who served the Search that chose Jerry -- as I recall because (1) he gave a great presentation to the Committee and (2) he wasn't a Federation CEO -- is prima facie disqualified from further service. Thank you very much. As agroup of lay and professional leaders came to the conclusion that change...real change...is needed; they, whomever they are, need to stand strong and assure that the next CEO is exactly what the times and the system demand.

BTW, my sense of how wrong the CEO decision is not 20/20 hindsight. It was so evident from Day 1. Yet, when I expressed my serious concerns to those on the Search Committee then, I was invited to either "shut up" or to resign my Board position because, as one "friend" told me, "...either support Manning or get out of the way." When I explained that each Board member's obligation, each Board Member's fiduciary responsibility is to the institution, not to Kathy Manning, this leader just walked away and has spent no small amount of time over the past decade telling all who might listen and whenever possible what a terrible person I am.

If we didn't know it before, Jerry's basic and constant ineptitude joined at the hip with JFNA's comatose condition, have proved absolutely that a strong, smart, experienced CEO is a/the sine qua non of a strong, smart, purpose-driven organization. How might that happen?

  • Populate the Search Committee with  new faces, men and women who have demonstrated that they are willing to speak truth to power;
  • Staff the Search Committee with professionals who know our system -- let the JPRO Network assign the staff or retain John Ruskay or Steve Nasatir to lead the Search process;
  • Don't spend weeks drafting a Job Description; the one in place and ignored in the last process was fine;
  • If the optimal candidate says "no," ignore her/him and bring the full weight of leadership, lay and professional, to bear on that candidate's decision --that's worked before
For those of you who remember (and you can find it even today on YouTube), the brilliant Martin Short appeared in a skit on Saturday Night Live in which he played a synchronized swimmer who could not swim. That is JFNA today and for the past nine years. That must end NOW.

Remember going forward that there is at JFNA a small leadership cabal who have been in the aggregate an insuperable obstacle to change. They must step aside or be sidelined if JFNA is ever to succeed. I have come to trust that change can happen...as it must.

Onward.

Rwexler

Sunday, April 29, 2018

WAKE-UP CALL

I am never surprised when one or more of you offers insights so much better than mine. The following is one of those,


"This is not complicated.

There is no shared purpose, therefore no alignment of human and financial resources to accomplish anything. And it is this way because those with capacity to influence the direction of JFNA choose not to use it -- they want it this way.

Plain and simple.

If they wanted a powerhouse entity that brought the federated world together to identify what to do together and how to do it, it would be so.

It is time to do one or both of the following:

1. Enforce the rules of membership in JFNA, and be prepared to lose federations who fail/refuse. Make it the coalition of the willing, and start to get stuff done.

2. Determine once and for all the JFNA is a trade association; not a strategic leader for the federations, not an organization with an interest of its own. But an organization that does those things where the economies of scale work to the benefit of the communities. Human resources, information technology, communications/marketing, certain purchasing (like software rights) for example. Maybe the DC office. This isn't meant to be exhaustive, just a sample.
                    Oh, and still enforce the rules or you're out."

The chances of this leadership making this happen are sadly...nil.

Rwexler

Thursday, April 26, 2018

SOFT LANDING?

As I write these Posts, I schedule them for publication three to four weeks in advance, sometimes even longer. While sometimes I have to shuffle them based on some new matter, in general, I can leave them in the order I have set for their publication.

This Post was written in part on October 21, 2017 and it was completely and absolutely wishful thinking. I sensed that the LA-GA would be the optimal time and place for the announcement that Jerry Silverman, after 8+ years of futility and worse would retire at the end of his current contract term. The niceties would be observed: Jerry will remain on board to mentor his successor, yadayadayada...but he will be leaving. 

My wishful thinking was five months premature. And I have no reason to believe that the decision to retire was anyone other than Jerry's himself. Even as others have speculated to me that Richard Sandler engineered this "transition," nothing in Sandler's non-performance as Board Chair suggests that he was up to that task.

While to some, it's "better late than never;" to me it's a "retirement" long overdue. I wish Jerry well in the future wherever his career, his retirement may take him. It's very hard to bring myself to congratuate Sandler and his claque for doing that which they should have done long, long ago; because I believe that had this been up to them, they would have just extended Silverman's contract beyon 2019 -- because this is what they do.

It is not just time for Jerry to announce his retirement but to negotiate a modest severance and be gone -- not in 2019...now. JFNA did not need Silverman as CEO -- he proved that for almost 9 years -- JFNA certainly doesn't need a lame duck Jerry 

I am concerned as always not just with the present but with the future. If JFNA is to have one, the Search process will have to be the first serious Search that has been undertaken in its history.

We thought there was a serious search to choose the first JFNA CEO at the time of the merger -- and there was until the LCE made it clear that the choice would be the retiring NY-UJA CEO, then the "dean of federation CEOs," usurping the search function and, in effect, making a mockery of it. The ones since were, first, a series of LCE succeeding that first one until incoming Board Chair Manning dictated that Howard Reiger's successor would be...Jerry Silverman, and a group of excellent, strong  Federation leaders serving on the Search Committee ignored that which was so evident to so many of us -- that Jerry was unqualified for the position by every objective standard -- succumbing to Manning's overpowering dictate. Disaster followed. (More on the disaster that is and continues to be in an upcoming Post.)

And the rest was history. As one of you wrote, in pertinent part, a few weeks ago:
"Which brings us to the next part of this saga: In creating the program to honor Jerry for his 10 years of leadership, what will the list of accomplishments look like?
Talk about fake news."
I'm sorry to say but the singular achievement of Jerry's almost one decade of service was that he kept a job he could not perform for almost ten years. Not just an achievement...a real miracle.

I pray that Richard Sandler populates this Search Committee with women and men of strength and knowledge; and that he first appoint an interim CEO so that the Search Committee is not pressured into a  rushed decision. Take the Job Description that was ignored 9 years ago, hire DRG or Korn Ferry or JCCA to staff the Search. 

Let's move forward...immediately. Jerry should step down at the Tel Aviv GA if not sooner...but certainly no later.

Rwexler