With UJC sinking faster than an investment bank, and at this time on the Jewish calender for introspection, and for al chait, it is time (some of you I know, believe it long past time) for me to put this Blog on hiatus. I have been writing these past almost 10 months of the systemic disappointment that UJC has become under the current lay and professional leadership; I sense no updraft from the downward spiral of UJC. Yet, I remain confident that UJC can be fixed and will be fixed when the current leadership leaves the scene. Enough of you have written me and called me -- federation lay and professional leaders from across the country, from every City-size group -- for me to know that you "get it," that change is in the wind -- not change imposed by the current misguided national "leadership," but change driven by the federation system, UJC's owners. Those changes should be immediate. (Read the escalating compensation that Howard Rieger has been paid over the years since he took on the CEO position in this week's Chronicle of Philanthropy, compare his salaries with the UJC's results and this will tell you all you need to know of the air of unreality that exists at 111 Eighth Avenue. Is there really a Compensation Committee at UJC?)
Since Howard Rieger announced his decision to retire next August, he has been telling his senior staff, and federation professional leaders around the country, that the "problem" at UJC has been Joe Kanfer's interference -- stating UJC positions without consultation, constantly demanding that UJC change course without prior discussion, and leaving the UJC professionals to take the system's heat. On this one I give Howard the benefit of the doubt. Yet, in many ways, Joe is Howard's "creation" (for more on this read my book to be published in the first quarter 2009 -- United Jewish Catastrophes..the Love Story Ends) and, therefore, Howard is not free from blame. May this be the last time our national organization is led by a Chair who doesn't understand how federations work or what they need, and, it appears, who doesn't understand the lay-professional partnership.
Anyone who has read my Posts understands my commitment to and passion for a strong central address for the federation system. We didn't create UJC to be either a reincarnated UJA or CJF ( and does anyone believe that in the midst of a financial catastrophe that is the economic equivalent for federations as Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster for so many communities, that either of the predecessor organizations would be silent, without a plan as is UJC?) but an entity that would be better than either, better than the sum of its parts. We appeared to me to be on the cusp of that success at the time Steve Hoffman resigned as CEO...and, then, it all fell apart through federation disinterest, paying dues without regard to the ever-diminishing return on dues investment, an evermore exclusive lay leadership circle consisting of those who nodded their heads in agreement with the Board Chair's and CEO's wants and desires, apparently never questioning "is this what the federations want or need" (and G-d forbid, we ever talk with them about their wants and needs) and terrible personnel management. I have questioned where has the passion gone, where are the charismatic leaders, what is the organization's dedication to the Mission and Vision set out for it at its inception (not as Rieger unilaterally rewrote it, springing it on the owners in a View)?
I have banged my head against this wall for too long. I look forward in this New Year to a new cadre of lay leadership and a new professional leader who will deliver a UJC in which we can all take pride -- one that will engage all of us in this holy work. The sooner the better.
G'mar hatima tova,