Tuesday, February 26, 2008


As Ken Krug and I rode into Jerusalem together for the February Board of Governors meetings of the Jewish Agency for Israel, I got to know a little about this new Federation professional -- the Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Ken joined Federation directly from a long career with the Rand Corporation bringing new ideas and new reactions to old ideas to his new service to the Jewish people.

I reflected on this during a conversation with Don Sylvan in the lobby of the Inbal Hotel. Don, a past Board Member of JESNA from Columbus, Ohio, became JESNA's President and CEO in 2005. After sharing our memories of the South Side of Chicago where both of us grew up, Don told me, as Ken had, his excitement in serving the Jewish People. Here were two lay persons who joined the cadre of Jewish professionals. This is a great and absolutely necessary evolution.

I remember early on his career as President and CEO of the Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, I visited with Doug Seserman, who had left the marketing field to enter Jewish professional life. Doug came filled with new ideas, most, if not all, of which that Federation has put into play with success. Doug came to Federation and the adaptation of Federation to his new ideas has propelled it forward.

Then there is my friend, Beth Cherner, who played a significant role in Chicago's lay leadership until she "dropped everything" to join the staff of Chicago's Jewish United Fund as its Campaign Director where her energy and enthusiasm have driven our annual campaign to ever greater height.

These four -- Beth, Doug, Don and Ken -- are but examples of a new trend in Jewish communal professional life. They are joined by 100's and 100's more who came either from the business world or the world of lay leadership to Jewish communal professional life bringing new ideas and perspectives. We are fortunate to have them.



z'l said...

Wonderful, I guess that this is why so many great pros are leaving the field and that it is increasingly difficult to attract new young ones.

I love it: "100's and 100's more who came either from the business world or the world of lay leadership to Jewish communal professional life bringing new ideas and perspectives."

I guess that the 100s and 100s who grew up in the field do not bring 'new ideas and perspectives.'

So sad....

Tateh said...

Like Mr. Wexler I have worked with many fine professional who have spent the bulk of their careers in Jewish communal work and have also come across some fine people who came mid career from a business or volunteer background. The success of the latter individuals is dependent on them internalizing the very real, specific, and unique skill set we all require of our pro's: managing process and the respective lay and professional roles; understanding the culture and idiosyncrasies of Jewish organizations; knowing how to effectively focus their personal talents in these unique settings and not least of all seeing our Federation enterprise in the context of a long and complex history. This calls for a "professional" and not some bright committed person who wakes up one morning and says (To paraphase Orson Well's character John Foster Kane) "I think it would be fun to run a Federation". Look at the track record of the transplants Mr. Wexler and you would see that acting on such a whim can in too many cases, but as I understand it not all, be an uphill climb.