Friday, August 8, 2008


Our entire federation system is premised upon trust. Where federations have the trust of the donors in the community, like Chicago or Palm Beach or New York City as examples, great things happen. Where trust doesn't exist, citations omitted, there can be no success. Jewish institutions, at the local, national or international levels, are not granted trust, they are not entitled to trust, they have to earn it and then they have to earn the right to retain it. UJC's leaders haven't a clue.

I have been accused by UJC's lay and professional leaders and some of the Blog's readers of undermining trust in UJC; I have responded by reminding UJC's leaders I can't undermine what's not there. Rather than building trust in UJC, these leaders have instead merely demanded it. They don't get the reality that they have failed to earn it. As many of you, I have heard the mantra repeated time and time again by these leaders: "trust us, look at us in (pick a time, 60 days, six months, a year) and judge us then, but trust us." Then, inexorably, the 60 days, the six months, the year passes and the mantra is restated: "trust us, look at us in..." Again and again, as this leadership leads the federation system...nowhere.

In 2007, the "Executive Summary" of the UJC Budget document stated as follows, in pertinent part:

"With our funding coming from the field, it is imperative that our budget be transparent,
and that our objectives be clear and measurable.
UJC's proposed budget for 2007-2008 is aligned with UJC's new strategies and goals
and allows the transition to a new business model. The proposed budget reflects a broad
strategic reorganization with a revamped focus on new areas and efficiencies."

OK, those are nice thoughts to live by. Of course that Budget included a blank check for $1.5 million unallocated dollars, but it was approved by the federations.

Then came the 2008-2009 Budget "Executive Summary" stating:

"UJC and the federations have engaged in a process, which will continue to the next
fiscal year, to further strengthen the work and focus of UJC. The accompanying proposed
budget of $37 million for fiscal year July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009, which is the beginning
of the process, includes new business models for greater efficiency and cost effective-
ness and provides new focus in investments in important areas."

Excuse me, the Budget says UJC and the federations have both "engaged in a process" and is at "the beginning of the process"? And, this year's Budget just repeats the false mantra of the prior year's Budget. Is this redundancy year-to-year, this obfuscation, written in the belief that the federation owners don't read...or don't care? Is this how UJC builds trust in the institution? Time after time after time, when you read through the "summaries" and the "Briefings," and just listen, as well, what you hear is the desperate need for new, before it's too late...if it isn't already. We need leaders who understand the difference between actions and rhetoric. Leaders who understand our donors and our federations. Leaders who understand what UJC was created to be.

As Tom Friedman wrote on Sunday, July 20,2008, in his Op-Ed in The New York Times -- 9/11 and 4/11 -- "There is an old saying in Texas that goes like this: 'If all you ever do is all you've ever done, then all you'll ever get is all you've ever got.'" Trust me, that's the truth.

Shabbat shalom, chevra.


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