Monday, May 11, 2009


An article in Newsweek (May 11-18,2009) on The Presidency concluded that "...George W. Bush lived in a bubble, partly of his own making, that walled off creative dissent or even, in some cases, common sense." If you sense a comparison with UJC over these past four years is are correct. This conclusion was drawn from a new book by Richard Haass, one of both Presidents Bush primary advisers who points out in War of Necessity, War of Choice the value a democracy... our democracy... places on dissent:

"This country was born of dissent (the Revolutionary War), defined by it (the Civil
War) and changed profoundly by it....Dissent has been hailed as noble and necessary
by our leaders. None other than President Dwight Eisenhower said that Americans
should "never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion." Former Senator J.
William Fulbright declared, "In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith."

Not in the current history of United Jewish Communities, however, where dissent is neither honored in the abstract or in practice. (With incredible disingenuity dissent is invited then treated as treason.) Haass goes on to cite Joseph Heller, who, in his parody novel Good as Gold portrays a Presidential aide telling a job applicant: "This President doesn't want yes-men. What we want are independent men of integrity who will agree with all our decisions after we make them." Welcome to our UJC.

Haass continues with the "dilemma" of dissent:

"Dissent is difficult. it can constitute a real dilemma for the person who disagrees.
On one hand you owe it to your conscience and to your (leaders) to tell them what
they need to hear rather than what they want to hear. Speaking truth to power is
actually a form of loyalty. it is the best and at times only way to make sure that...
any organization lives up to its potential..." (emphasis added)

To me, in my leadership roles, all I have experienced has taught me that better informed decisions come from real debate and real debate means that dissent will be heard. To UJC and its leaders and their enablers, debate (and certainly any public debate) is not tolerated. Period. End of story. The results are spread before us -- our national organization: suffused with hubris, disengaged from its owners to the point that 1/3rd and more will not pay full Dues, deconstructed. The actions of the leaders and their enablers, to apply Haass' logic, demonstrate the ultimate disloyalty to the UJC. Think about it; they don't.

In fact, in the case of UJC, too many have confused personal loyalty with institutional loyalty. This is an understandable confusion given that at UJC today, leadership themselves have thoroughly confused their roles -- l'etat c'est moi seems too often to be the operating mantra. And, we have all seen instances where individuals believe that by their positions, they are the organization...and at UJC this is exactly their behavior. Thus, those who submit their total obeisance to leaders are not being loyal to UJC the institution at all. They don't see it that way, of course.

And if you wonder whether those who blindly lead these cheers using their 20/20 hindsight, share any sense of responsibility for the dire circumstances UJC, the institution, faces today, then, you wonder alone because they don't. They condemn dissent; sha sha they say. Whose interests are they serving? Had we spoken out could 31 jobs been saved last week -- or even a portion of them? Had their been vigorous debate within UJC led by the federations, involving the federations. engaging the federations, would 1/3rd and more been on the cusp of turning their collective backs on the organization?

What do you think?



Anonymous said...

Richard - can you share the names of the 31 staffers 'let-go'?

RWEX said...

Dear "anon,"

UJC has properly withheld the names of those fired at 25 Broadway. We know some of the names -- and some of the people "let go" -- and I will write about some of them without using their names.

These are particularly sad times.

paul jeser said...

Is it true that they are all women?

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that they let go even more (37) last year, plus many other dismissals, force-outs and resignations in the past few years.

The upshot of all of this is that a top-heavy organization is now even more top-heavy.

So the lower level professionals and administrative staff--categories that are overwhelmingly female--have been especially hard hit.

It would be very interesting to find out the average salary of a UJC employee for 2009-2010, versus what it was five years ago. Even accounting for cost of living increases, that would surely raise some eyebrows.

RWEX said...


My understanding is that all of those fired at 25 Broadway last week were women.