Monday, April 27, 2009


Friends, when I began this Blog at the end of January 2008, this is how I framed it:

"I am totally committed to the success of UJC, our collective enterprise. Should UJC fail, many of our dreams will be at risk as well, None of us can afford to let that happen. All of us, not alone UJC's lay and professional leaders, have a real stake in UJC's success. At heart I am a fund raiser, so I always have hope. I have always believed that Joe, Kathy and Howard have a far greater commitment to the successes and achievements of UJC than any of us. They are committed leaders capable of recreating UJC as we had envisioned it at the time of the merger...or better. That is their charge. My differences with them are, have been and will no doubt be l'shem shamayim -- perhaps, someday, they will come to understand that.

Friends, if the federation professionals -- not alone the Large City Executives but the chief professional officers of all federations of every City-size -- engage fully and constantly (and, if appropriate, critically) and the lay UJC Board members demand proactive engagement consistent with their fiduciary obligations, then UJC will succeed beyond measure. For if UJC's owners -- the lay and professional leaders who are the representatives of their federations --abdicate their ownership obligations then surely, the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, it is in ourselves."

I was so terribly wrong about where I expected UJC to be today.

Now, some 195 Posts later, my concerns and yours, in so many instances, have been highlighted, if that is the word, by the crisis of UJC today -- a UJC so disengaged from its owners that its Chair actually told the UJC Executive Committee that the Federations are not Owners "just members." Using a country club analogy the Board Chair...the Board Chair...made the argument "..if you don't pay Dues, you can't play on our golf course." Reductio ad absurdum, indeed. Never has UJC engaged in any introspection -- soon all that will be left will be retrospection.

UJC was warned, well before, months before the economic crisis was upon us, that federations were withdrawing their financial support because of a lack of return on investment from a bloated Budget which failed to address their needs and a refusal by UJC to engage on their concerns. These warnings were ignored -- he or she who delivered the warnings attacked. And, when federation after federation advised UJC that they could not or would not pay Dues, in whole or in part, UJC's response was to scream at or about them asserting what they would lose if "membership" were terminated -- never was a single federation told how much they would gain from their continued ownership. For three years some federations were "bought off" with positions on the Budget Committee and even the Executive Committee but, without a dedication to the federations' needs and wants, these patronizing actions were soon seen to be just that. Not one of the federation leaders with whom I have met whose federations were forced by the circumstances described to express a need to reduce Dues ever indicated to me a desire to reject their ownership -- they were truly pleading with UJC to be meaningful to them. And this UJC just couldn't/wouldn't hear that.

When an organization grows so out of touch with its owners, it inevitably withers away. That is exactly what is happening with UJC today. And when an organization's leaders deal with its owners and its own professional staff out of an attitude of hubris and imperiousness, those should no longer be our leaders. When I quoted a Federation CEO in The Tragedy and Travesty of UJC Today who articulated the pain he/she felt after a conference call on which the CEO literally insulted a group of federation chief professional officers, that moment in time told so much. When the attitude of UJC's Budget Chair is reflected in an answer he gave to his Committee in response to a question as to why the highest compensated professionals' compensation wasn't proposed to be cut so as to potentially save some jobs at lower compensation levels -- "we talked about it but decided it would be bad for morale" -- he spoke volumes about priorities. (He did go on to say that as the 2010 Budget would pass through increases in health insurance costs "that would in effect reduce compensation" not mentioning, of course that that pass through would impact all.) Let's get this straight -- in these folks' opinion, terminating 31 staff members is better for overall morale than cutting compensation at the highest paid levels which could save some jobs?? (And, in a pained anonymous Comment to this Blog, it was reported that the Chair sent all staff members a pocket-sized squeeze bottle of Purell.) The "let them eat cake" attitude has further poisoned UJC.

So, what could be done at this point? Some suggestions for our Federations -- the owners:

1. Immediately, form a "coalition of the willing" around the federations which have expressed a commitment to support a realistic Budget for this "new UJC" and the core allocation to JAFI/JDC. All federations would be invited to participate.

2. That "coalition" would, with a sense of urgency, convene a meeting with JDC and JAFI leadership to explore alternatives to funding the partners and ORT and support the "new UJC" as well. I know that our partners understand the value of a strong continental partner in North America.

3. The "coalition" would elect an Interim Board Chair and two Federation CEOs would be ask to serve on a rotating basis as an interim "Office of the CEO" of a "new UJC." The on-going "search" which is still, according to a report to last week's Executive Committee, interviewing (this after, what, six months since the Search started?) "candidates" would be terminated. The "coalition" sitting as a Committee of the Whole would seek out and recruit a Chief Executive Officer and conclude that process within 60 days.

4. The coalition, in full consultation with JDC/JAFI, would formulate a workplan (see, for example, the Post OK, Big Shot, What Would You Do?) and budget for its implementation. Federation lay and professional leaders joined by leaders of the "new UJC," JAFI, UIA and JDC would deploy to the federations across North America seeking their support and joinder in this effort to rebuild our national institution. (For a more detailed suggestion, see my April 2 Post -- Ends and Beginnings.)

This reconstruction won't be as easy or as quick as UJC's deconstruction has been. But, when you have a Board Chair who tells the Executive Committee that "We'll be better off with 1/3 fewer 'members,'" it's beyond time for change. It's been beyond time. Ein breira, chevre.

And ein breira brings me back to the title of this Post. I have great appreciation for the constant support I have received from so many readers of this Blog -- lay and professional leaders of every City-size. Those of you who have told me that I speak for you and your communities have given me the strength to continue to urge, to question, to reveal and to challenge. On the other hand, over the past 195 Posts, very close friends of mine -- lay and professional leaders of our system, past and present -- have advised me that "this Blog must stop." I have been hurt immeasurably that this Blog has strained friendships of a Jewish communal lifetime -- friends who have told me, more than once, that I have done damage to my reputation (such as it may have been) without any impact whatsoever. (And I am well aware of the definition of insanity as constantly banging one's head against a brick wall expecting the wall to fall.) I have been accused of "egomania, narcissism" (both no doubt true) and far, far worse. Yet, the purposes of UJThee...and Me have not changed. I would like to think that these same leaders who have urged me to cease and desist, usually in the same sentence that begins like this "I know UJC is a disaster, but..." find saying anything negative about a federation-owned institution to be threatening even if mine have been expressions of principles that they themselves otherwise hold dear, perhaps even more dear than I, as well.

Bottom line, each of us must stand up for what we deeply believe. No one should any longer be permitted to say "we need a strong national organization to accomplish federations' purposes and will" yet support what we...we...have allowed UJC to become -- an expensive, horribly expensive, mistake. We can remake UJC to reflect the vision that gave birth to UJC way back then. And, when we do, this Blog will cease and desist and I will dedicate myself not alone to the "new UJC" to the extent that I am permitted to do so but to rebuilding the friendships that I have strained along the way.



Anonymous said...


You've got quite a bit of work to do when it comes to rehabilitating your reputation and mending friendships, but I do commend the fact that you realize this work is necessary, if not impossible.

After all, awareness is a necessary first step.

Good luck on your path of T'shuvah.

RWEX said...

Dear "Anon,"

My thanks. But please be aware that while I will work to rehabilitate friendships strained, I don't believe that I have any reason to repent. Thus, my path to rehabilitation may not be your suggested "path of T'shuvah."