The great Conservative Rabbi, Ben Zion Bokser, z'l, once observed:
There are three prerequisites for effective criticism, according to the Talmud,
and they apply to anyone who seeks to correct his neighbor, which is the
ultimate goal of preachment. The person to be (criticized) must be willing to
accept criticism, the critic must know how to criticize, and he must be virtuous
enough to merit the role of being a critic.
I admit to my failure to meet Rabbi Bokser's standards for the role of critic; unfortunately for our system, there are those at the top of the UJC food chain who view all criticism unworthy and those who criticize, in any way, even less so.
Look at what has happened to those in lay or professional roles who have criticized the actions taken at UJC over the past two years -- they have been demeaned publicly and privately, shunned and ignored. Criticism is not merely ignored, it is not tolerated. While leaders prattle about "welcoming criticism," yada...yada...yada, their actions once again speak loudest. They...can't...stand...criticism. Almost anyone who has led a federation, a local or national agency, learns to deal with those who disagree with their actions and soon recognizes that most act out of a sense of shem l'shamayim. I can honestly state that some of those who were most severe in their criticism of me during my time in national leadership are today among my dearest friends.
We operate today in a "go along to get along" environment. And too many lay and professional leaders have chosen that easy path even as they express themselves privately to me (and probably to you) that as they can't effect change, it's a lot easier to "take the high road" -- that is to say to do nothing. Yet, that "road" is, again, the "Bridge to Nowhere" and that path is inconsistent with our responsibility for tikkun olam. For, at least to me, embodied in the concept of "repairing the world" is the obligation...the obligation...to speak out.
Sure, this Blog has been criticized by many as being destructive -- actually, most, if not all, of leadership's attacks on this Blog have not been directed at the substance of what has been written but with the fact that it has been written at all. (I suppose I would be gratified that these leaders read this Blog at all but I'm not -- I would be gratified if they were responsive to the substance in any way, shape or form instead of shouting out "look at what we have been suffering with" or "we can't work this way.")
I want all of the readers of UJ Thee and Me to know that through 2007 I attempted to influence change through private correspondence. It was only when that failed to evoke any...any...response from leadership -- and I would have welcomed even a "you're wrong, Richard, and here's why" (and I was being attacked as the alleged author of another Blog with, of course, no proof [as has been the case with a litany of other vilifying accusations] but always with absolute certainty) that I turned to writing more publicly here...in these Posts.
No, I fail to meet Rabbi Bokser's standards, but I will continue to try to live up to the principles that guide and the passion that motivates almost...almost... all of us in Jewish communal life.