Wednesday, February 4, 2009


David Fisher, UJC's National Campaign Chair, resigned this week. He did not go quietly into that good night; nor should he have. Let me explain.

David is one of our system's best and brightest. Past Chair of the Young Leadership Cabinet, from a mega-donor family in Cincinnati, Chair of the ILR, a paradigm for the Next Generation of UJC leaders. The current leaders pleaded with David to take a second Term as National Chair (even as they floundered asked others to take the role). Kanfer and Rieger made a series of promises to David to induce him to carry on -- as will not surprise you, they reneged on every one of them. When New York's Morris Offit resigned as Chair of the so-called "Center for Jewish Philanthropy" (I say "so-called" because under Rieger [who was staffing it], it turned out to be the "Center for Nothing."), David asked to succeed Morris, he was denied by silence and a "we're going in a different direction." (That direction, like all things UJC, turned out to be nowhere, the role is still unfilled.)

David is a leader of great integrity and commitment, poised, articulate, extremely impressive. He leads quietly and by example. He is, as well, a team player. Kanfer/Rieger/Gelman just wouldn't let him play on their team. In his compelling resignation letter directed to Kanfer, David Fisher tells you all you need to know:

"I have found trying to lead during your term, frustrating, ineffective and unfulfilling and candidly, something that I believe you were not interested in allowing. There was the periodic lip-service to my role and contribution, but your resistance to my leadership and true involvement was palpable.

Following your lead has been a bigger challenge than I could have imagined. I have observed for far too long , the diminishment and destruction of countless professionals careers, the tacit dismissal of some of our system's greatest lay leaders and the squandering of UJC's capital in the Jewish world. Sadly, I have determined it is time to get out of the way.

During the past few years, there have been numerous acknowledgements by you and Howard that things could have been handled in a better way or communicated differently. They sure could have, however, the same pattern of handling things or communicating (or not) has been evident time and time again. A lack of process, or consideration of varying view points, and respect have all been hallmarks of your tenure and my (and many others) frustration..."

Kanfer's woeful response to David's resignation appeared moments ago in the JTA. "David did not share the agenda for change...did not share the same perspective for the future or change." While Joe Kanfer made this up out of whole cloth, consider this: If you dissent from Joe Kanfer's "vision" (and just who does support it?), you're out. Is this leadership? It is a remarkable and sad admission.

When all is said and done, the sad chapters of the Kanfer/Rieger years will be behind us and their successors in UJC or in a successor entity will clean up the mess with which they have been left. How is it possible that we could have permitted and continue to permit these so-called "leaders" (who actually believe that they speak for and represent the federation owners) to be dismissive of the leaders of the Next Generation while claiming to be dedicated to them; ignore the pleas of the federations they "represent" for, e.g., a reduced Budget, focus and the reconsideration of the Strategic Planning Work Group before its public airing next week; dismiss the historic partnership between our donors and federations while claiming that JAFI and JDC are our partners; engage consultants to advise our system on gender equality while pushing away senior women professionals with no consequences, etc., etc., etc.? How?

David Fisher will ultimately lead our federation system to greater glory. He will help us reconstruct UJC after these "leaders" are gone.


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