Friday, February 8, 2008


There are so many wonderful federation and campaign leaders within the ranks of UJC. All they wish to do is good, to engage in the sacred work of the Jewish community and the Jewish People. Many are extremely frustrated and conflicted, frustrated with the UJC's lack of focus and the lack of interest in their opinions (usually brushed aside with the comments -- give us your trust, see where we are in a year, you're going to be so happy -- and coupled with a pat on the head) , and conflicted between where they wish UJC would be and where they see it going. I recently exchanged e-mails with one of UJC's and our federation system's best and brightest. We wrote each other about the common perception of the marginalization of Development and the Annual Campaign. I won't reprint this terrific and thoughtful leader's letter to me out of respect for this leader's confidentiality (and that leader and I respectfully disagree with each other in certain areas) but I thought that my response might contribute to a dialogue for those who listen and hear...This is what I wrote....

"Thanks for your thoughtful letter. I have great respect for your leadership through this most difficult time.

Let me respond with regard to the critical issues you set forth with regard to what I would describe as the 'primacy of the Annual Campaign' and what I perceive to be UJC's role therein.
  • I know you are right -- by all "they," UJC leadership have done and not done, it is evident that they have no commitment to the Annual Campaign. They don't believe that UJC can impact on the Annual Campaign just as they believe that UJC can impact in Supplemental campaigns. Yet, there is no evidence that UJC can do so.....(and) given the state of the economy, for UJC to promote let alone run special Supplemental Campaigns in 2008, particularly those that are basically unplanned, will ultimately pit UJC against the very federations that own them. The IEC was not a national campaign, it is not a paradigm for a special supplemental campaign as UJC leaders would like to think. The IEC was the aggregation of 155 federation-driven special campaigns with UJC counting the money and assuring the distribution of the dollars.
  • There is demonstrable proof that a strong Supplemental Campaign can only be built upon a successful Annual Campaign -- see Chicago, Washington, Cleveland and Detroit among the best examples. there an example of a successful thematic/designated/supplemental campaign in a community whose Annual Campaign has failed or is stagnating. In fact, there is a trail of failure across the country from communities from the Pacific to the Atlantic of those federations which have tried and failed. The collaborative model as a "best practice" is built upon the success of the Annual Campaign "ask" in my own community which demonstrates, year-in and year-out, the continuing vitality of the Annual Campaign.
  • I think that most -- not all, but most -- of the Large Cities support the notion that their (UJC) dues are part of their collective responsibilities. They need UJC for very little other than a central national address and as a convener and, specifically, almost no Annual Campaign assistance. Yet, there was a time not that long ago, during another recessionary time, where that period's version of "Development" mobilized its lay leadership and barnstormed the country in suite solicitations in every Large City (and so many others). It can be done again and G-d knows it needs to be. Development remains the hope for increased resources for all other federations; the Large Cities, I believe, can be convinced that their support must continue -- or we will have no system at all.
  • I see Large Federations around the country focusing on the Annual Campaign as never before -- San Francisco has its first Challenge gifts as a matching vehicle for the Annual Campaign as Detroit has had for years; Chicago has a $2 million "Israel at 60" challenge match in place for the 2008 Campaign; a new Board Chair in one of our largest communities will use the example of his own doubling of his unrestricted Annual Campaign gift to ILR levels to inspire his community; and on and on. Why do these federations and so many more see the vitality of the Annual Campaign as critical to federations remaining (or becoming) the community's central address and UJC leadership can't? I haven't a clue.

(All of us) have to come to (our) own conclusions as whether 'it's time to join in and make the best of things as we all see fit...or to move on and let them do what they can.' Your answer to this quandary (and the answers of so many others) will influence so many outcomes. I spent four years of my life working with many others in lay and professional leadership to frame and implement this merger (that created UJC) at tremendous cost to my family and practice. During the merger process I promised so many that UJC would focus on improving the federations' lot, increasing revenues and, to induce UIA and UJA leaders, most if not all of them leaders in their federations, to join, representing that the new entity's focus would produce more donors from the campaigns and more dollars for the beneficiaries for whom they were engaged in our holy work -- those served by the great works of the JDC and JAFI. That meant a focus on increasing the Annual Campaigns and the allocations growing out of them. To me, UJC leadership is without that focus today -- their actions have marginalized Development, the resources available to JAFI and JDC for their core activities have actually reduced while the aggregate of annual campaigns have increased. I will use what little influence I have, in every way that I can, to argue in every venue available to me (and they are fewer and fewer), that the the purposes of the merger be achieved."

Some would utter the words of a mostly forgotten Country and Western song: "If you can't be with the one you love, love the one your with." All of you who read this have to reach your own conclusions.

Shabbat shalom.


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