Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I write this Post filled with sadness -- sadness triggered by UJC's ultimate failure. What I report below is a direct result of UJC's pathetic current leadership's inability to prioritize, lack of engagement with the federation owners and a total lack of real commitment to or understanding of how our federation system works.

As the readers of this Blog know well, I have written time and again of UJC's uncoordinated (and sometimes unauthorized), multiple "asks" of our federations, time and again since its budget was reduced by $3.2 million. The result of the evident lack of priorities in all that UJC has done or not done under the current leadership has been that none of the "asks" have produced much in the way of federation interest. And, we are not referring to trivialities here -- funding a broad Coalition effort to fight Iran's efforts to acquire nuclear weapon capability, funding the Ethiopian National Project, funding emergency relief arising out of the Russia-Georgia conflict, and, now, disaster relief to federations significantly impacted by Hurricane Ike. This tiny group of what passes for UJC leadership today has had more "narratives" with less shame than the McCain Campaign.

Here's how this leadership operates: it either sends out a letter to Federation Executives (and, sometimes, Chairs as well) or it opens a Mailbox -- and, that's it!! Or, maybe, if it's important to him, maybe a mention in a Howard's View. The results -- well, as you would expect. In connection with the Mailbox to aid JAFI and JDC for their heroic efforts in response to the Georgia-Russia Conflict, at last report, $22,000 has been raised through this Mailbox (excluding Chicago which allocated $160,000 directly) of a $1.6 million need. Have you seen or read or heard anything about that Mailbox since it was opened? And, as to Hurricane Ike relief....well, that's the worst, the specific subject of this Post. the example of the depths to which this iteration of our national system has fallen. It is time for this leadership to go. It is past time.

On October 23, The Fundermentalist Blog posted an article worthy of a JTA story -- Post-hurricane woes continue in Houston -- and it could get worse. "In total only $50,000 has been raised through a mailbox UJC set up, and right now it seems like no one will be able to pay the reconstruction bill," the author, Jacob Berkman, reported. Discussing the efforts undedrtaken by the Houston federation for itself and the devastated Galveston Jewish community, Houston's incredible CEO, Lee Wunsch, stated that "...the call he and ... United Jewish Communities put out to the national Jewish community immediately after the hurricane struck has gone largely unanswered."

All of us know that the one highlight of UJC under the current leadership was its response to Hurricane Katrina -- Rieger has repeated this so often it has become his mantra. (As his ship sinks he will be heard to mutter "Katrina...we did great for Katrina...Katrina.") Shouldn't Houston have expected a parallel effort...something more than opening a Mailbox and "surveying the situation?" That's our UJC today -- open a Mailbox, send a letter...and move on. "We did our job, we sent a letter out. If no one responds, that's the federations' fault, not ours." I just read UJC's Leadership Briefing last Friday -- UJC Tackling the Economic Crisis. Still "developing contingency plans," congratulating New York on the relative success of its Greenberg Event and offering template letters to donors, calls to campaign chairs and the like months after it should have been mobilizing all of its efforts...too little too late as has been the case everywhere and in everything but in its response to Katrina. If Katrina represented UJC at its best, Ike and the "response" to the world economic crisis are UJC at its leaderless worst.

This Post, like its predecessors, isn't addressed to UJC's "leaders;" there's no one home there. It is addressed to you, the federations, UJC's owners. What do we, you, get for your $37 million dollars? What do you, we, get for our dues? We have the reverse of a federal bail-out; we, the federations, have been bailing out UJC for the past 4+ years. Isn't it past time for a change? Past time for a change?


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