In the typical Presidential campaign the challenger to the party in power asks "...are you better off today than you were four (or eight) years ago?" The answer often determines the outcome. In national Jewish communal life, we rarely ask that seminal question, we just go (or in the case of UJC, limp) along, unquestioning, even cheer leading; perhaps, with the belief that if we just leave leadership alone, things will get better. Well, this leadership has destroyed that hope, among others.
One year ago, in response to a number of federations objecting to the UJC Budget and the consequent dues, UJC's Chairs and CEO put the "full court press" on these recalcitrant federations, visiting them with the articulated promise that went something like this: "trust us. Give us a year and you are going to see the impacts of our reorganization. Then, and only then, make a decision on paying your dues." (Of course, knowing these leaders, it took them at least 1/2 to one hour to state their premise.) Well, hello, a year has now passed. UJC has sent out a lot of Views, reorganized once again, agreed to the imposition of a cap on its Budget for purposes of dues, but what do the federation owners have to show for another year of a $40.2 million investment? With firings this week, with committed professionals forced out over the past two years, with a total lack of focus, with Blue Knot and Limudim programs, once so cutting edge, summarily eliminated, with the Missions Department almost totally destroyed by thoughtless, unplanned terminations...where is UJC today? As my philosopher in residence, Yogi Berra, observed, "if you don't know where you are going, you might end up someplace else."
Look around you, Federation leaders, are you better off today than you were one year ago thanks to the efforts of UJC? Where has been the positive impacts of the national system on our federations and our donors? Katrina? Sure. The Washington Office? Agreed? Federation Peer Yardstick? Good. The Bond Program? Thanks, Chicago. All else are programs and services cut back or eliminated to enable funding the redundant UJC Israel, UJC's Headquarters and a Marketing/Branding Study that has been put on hold awaiting the arrival of a new Sr. VP Marketing and Communications and a highly paid cadre of senior professionals. Where oh where has $40.2 million gone? Gone.
When UJC was a newborn entity struggling to establish itself, its start-up failures were shrugged off with the mantra : "It's 'cultural issues,' this is marathon, not a sprint." Over the last three years, these same leaders have been heard to observe: "Holy s---. This is a disaster." But, as the Chair of the Board was quoted to have said about the UJC Budget, UJC was hearing only from a minority of federations. Some applauded the Emperor's New Clothes. The rest, it appears, stood silent and UJC's leaders took that silence as total approbation. Sad, but true.
Are we better off today than we were three, two or even one year ago? That's for you to answer.