Monday, June 16, 2008


It's one thing to engage in vendettas, to act like children selfishly not letting anyone play in their sandbox, but what about the basic lack of common courtesy and even decency?

I do have a personal example of the lack of any sense of courtesy. Last October I, and my wife, Bobbi, were the national leaders of the last UJC Prime Minister's Mission. With other great lay leaders from around the country and, in particular, from Chicago and with some great pros led by Gail Reiss, now relocated to senior professional leadership at the New York UJA-Federation, and Beth Cherner and Barbara Gold, two of Chicago's best, we took 70 leaders to Paris and Israel. It was a great Mission, these great donors' raised their commitments by 15% for the 2008 Annual Campaign kick-off inspired by what they saw and felt. My Federation was effusive is its praise for the work of the Mission Co-Chairs. UJC leaders couldn't summon the courtesy to thank me or any of us -- not a note, not a call. I and the other leaders weren't looking for kavod; just common courtesy. A month passed; you know me, I sent Joe and Howard a note "suggesting" that a "thank you" might be in order...nothing...and that was well before this Blog...and nothing to this date. You think they might have a form letter somewhere, wouldn't you?

Amazing. But consistent. Consider this. UJC leaders asked one of the Washington federation's best lay leaders, to chair Israel@60. True to their word, these "leaders" offered no budget whatsoever and essentially left this great lay leader with an UJC professional, Gabe Most, to sink or swim on their own. And, they swam. They stitched together a multitude of Federation Israel@60 triumphs into a national label with no help other than their own. The Washington celebration, just two weeks ago, was so huge it merited coverage in the JTA this week. On his own, Washington's leader and other lay persons raised $100's of thousands to support this effort; notwithstanding the lack of support this lay Chair thanked UJC...he is a very gracious leader. I'm just guessing, but being a betting man I would wager that UJC has not yet thanked him for his leadership (or even acknowledged it).

As I write this, I am out of the country. All of us have had the experience of CNN International playing in the background...on what seems to be an endless loop...programs played over and over. In one interview, Carlos Ghosn, the Chairman-CEO of Nissan was asked to define the qualities of "leadership." Simple, he replied, "you have to really love people." Perfect. I really don't sense that love flowing from 111 Eighth Avenue -- without it can you have real leadership? A prime example. The Israel Emergency Campaign raised $362 million -- an incredible federation triumph for our People. Forget the fact that UJC's role in the IEC was minimal, cheer leading was important. As that incredible campaign wound down, a UJC Senior Professional meeting with Howard Rieger and his trusted sidekick, Sam Astrof, made the following suggestion: "Our UJC professionals and staff worked incredibly hard in this effort. Close the office at 3 p.m. and invite the entire staff to (a bar in Chelsea). You, Howard, can just briefly express your thanks to the whole staff for a job well done, and we will pop for some beer in celebration. It will be great for staff morale. If UJC can't pay for this, you do it or I will." Howard replied: "We'll think about it." The next day this senior pro was told by Howard (or maybe he delegated this to Astrof) that there would be no such celebration. Amazingly, this professional was told: "We don't thank people for doing their jobs." Not a lot of love there. Unreal. Is this how you run your businesses? Is this how, let alone a Jewish business, should be run?

Finally, this: before the UJC Budget & Finance Committee had made its recommendation to cut UJC's Budget by $3.2 million (all of you who think it should have been far deeper, raise your hands), the Chairman of the UJC Board announced in a JTA interview that UJC was planning to terminate 38 staff members even if the budget weren't cut. Is this the leadership our system deserves?

We desperately need leaders who love people.


1 comment:

metoo said...

OK, quick comment on all of your postings:

First, it is obvious that you care tremendously about the Jewish community and UJC in particular. You wouldn't devote such time to this blog if you, in fact, did not care.

I tend to agree with much of what you have stated concerning UJC/NY. During my time at UJC, I found it to be the oddest/strangest/laziest/snobiest (is that a word) Jewish communal agency I have ever worked for. I will say that out of all of my experiences within UJC, the only group that seemed to produce anything productively was the UJC/Washington Action Office. Particularly, the fact that they bring actual dollars into the system (federal earmarks, save programs that fund our Jewish Social Service agencies, etc.). I was wondering your thoughts on them.