Wednesday, August 13, 2008


UJC in a lengthy Leadership Briefing yesterday announced that it had determined to open a crisis Mailbox "for Jews and the general population in ... Georgia." The factual context presented in the Briefing was excellent. Let's first examine how UJC reached its "decision" failing, as always, to engage federation lay leadership under the false assumption that the CEO, a few of his Senior professionals and a few Chairs (and, of course, a broad spectrum of federation CEO's) are all-knowing. Suffice it to say that UJC consistently ignores Santayana's maxim: "Those who don't remember the past are doomed to repeat it" -- and in UJC's case, repeat it and repeat it and repeat it....

Here is what I have come to learn is the pattern that UJC's leaders followed; none of this will surprise you. The initial reaction of UJC's CEO and Chair was that the crisis impacting on the Jewish population within the territorial limits of Georgia was not worthy of a Mailbox -- not worthy of "another ask." Neither the Board Chair nor CEO considered placing this on an emergency call of UJC's Executive Committee or, even, the UJC Board of Trustees. Neither the Chair nor the Director General of Israel and Overseas/Global Operations (the perfectly "acronymed" "IO/GO") felt the crisis and its ramifications worthy of consideration by the 12 lay person IO/GO Council (just what does that successor to a large and engaged Israel/Overseas Pillar do exactly?). There may have been much discussion amongst Howard Rieger, Jim Lodge, Joe Kanfer and Toni Young but, apparently, none of them thought the crisis worthy of discussion and engagement with federation lay leaders beyond this inner circle. (But, to his "credit," it is possible that Howard convened the Executives conference call to override his top lay leaders' opposition to a Mailbox without his fingerprints being evident. If so [and we will probably never know], I am really getting more confused than normal and more certain of UJC's lay leadership's dysfunction. No doubt Howard will explain all of this with clarity when he appears on Fox News.)

Finally, the CEO decided to convene a Conference Call among professionals only. (Note that other Mailboxes during other crises, some of which affected only a non-Jewish population, were opened with no "process" whatsoever.) The results were published in yesterday afternoon's Briefing. The decision to open a Crisis Mailbox for the "Jewish and general population." (How these funds will be divided has yet to be established.) For reasons unclear, ORT's needs and efforts appear to have been ignored -- where was that decision made...and, by whom?

The result is the proper one. But, consistent with past practice, this UJC leadership continues to believe that that is all that is important -- at the end of the day, the ends justify the means in all things. Another opportunity to engage lay leadership at a critical moment in Jewish history...lost.


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