In past Posts I have lamented the fact that the "Circle of Trust" at UJC is drawn so tightly that only a privileged few are permitted inside -- and those are fewer and fewer today than ever before. Before I posted on this issue that I believe weakens UJC dramatically, I communicated my concerns privately to Mssrs. Kanfer and Rieger over the last two years plus -- with no response other than their evident anger toward me for raising the issue at all, let alone privately. As each of you who reads this Blog knows from your personal experiences, the more that our national organization or our federations act exclusively rather than inclusively, the trust necessary to build the institution erodes and the institution ultimately dies.
This issue was brought home to me in vivid ways this week. A communal leader active in UJC wrote me with a list of institutional concerns -- important ones. That leader went on to express real fears about bringing these issues directly to Kanfer or Rieger "...for fear that my questioning might be ruled as disloyalty will surely end my...UJC volunteer role." Can you imagine a lay leader in your federation having to live in fear, my friends, of raising questions about the organization? Welcome to UJC. But, of course, that's not all....
Over the past weeks, three critical Development and Center for Jewish Philanthropy lay Chairs -- the Chairs of Campaign, the Center itself and Planned Giving & Endowment -- have resigned. While each has left for a different reason, the result as they say speaks for itself. David Fisher, this terrific NextGen dynamic leader, a mega-donor, declined the traditional second year of the National Campaign Chairmanship; Morris Offit, one of NewYork's great leaders, a mega-donor, the founding Chair of the Center for Jewish Philanthropy, and who should be immediately considered for Chairman of the UJC Board, has resigned (The Center's focus and mission have been like UJC's themselves, never defined in consultation with lay leadership and now UJC's leaders, with no consultation, have decided to "restructure" the Center Chair's role); and Toronto's dynamic lay leader, Paul Morton, who has served as UJC's Planned Giving & Endowment Chair for just months, resigned in frustration with UJC's lack of process this week. (Maybe Paul was frustrated in being told that PG&E would henceforth report to Development all under the CJP umbrella without any prior discussion...just a guess).
This is our UJC -- decisions are announced without discussion; lay leaders fear even raising questions; lay leaders resign and are told to "keep it quiet;" new lay leaders are recruited, promised support and cooperation and are then ignored. Now, lay leaders, who come from deep federation involvement in their lives are refusing to tolerate this dictatorship any longer...and our system is the ultimate loser. And this lay and professional leadership just goes on without reflection or introspection...or, G-d forbid, change.