Friday, May 22, 2009


Only at United Jewish Communities. I will change most of the names because most of the characters in this most recent chapter are folks I genuinely like and respect and don't wish them to view this Post as personal to them. See if this sounds familiar and draw your own conclusion.

I chaired a once important UJC Committee from the merger through 2006 when, quite properly, I was rotated off my chairmanship -- six years is way too long for anyone to serve (actually 3 years has proved to be way too long for some). My successor, a terrific leader, called me to tell me of his new role and asked me to remain on the Committee which I, of course, agreed to do. Time and again in 2007 this Committee's role was usurped by the Board and Executive Chairs and the Treasurer, but that seemed acceptable to the Committee Chair, so be it. In early 2008, the Committee Chair called to tell me that the Board and Executive Chairs and CEO had demanded that I be "fired" from the Committee but that he had insisted I stay on --I thanked him and believe I was helpful in the, as I recall, two instances where the Committee was called upon to take any action last year. (This would be all the more curious if many...many...federations paid no 2007, but if that was the case, the Committee was never advised. And, one must assume, if many did not pay 2007 Dues, it follows that many...many...more failed to pay in 2008. By the By-Laws terms, the membership of federations which failed to pay Dues terminates without further action by UJC. So, did UJC leadership just sit on this information and may have refused to share that data with the Committee Chair.)

Two weeks ago I received a generic form letter advising me that I was being rotated off the Committee. OK, seems appropriate after 9 years. Then one of my outspoken comrades, who I had appointed to the Committee, also from a Large City, forwarded to me a copy of the same form letter, more or less, that he had received. We shared a laugh. Then another of my outspoken comrades, who I had appointed to the Committee, from another Large City, forwarded the generic form letter he had received, discharging him from the Committee. It was no longer funny.

I got a call from my friend, the Committee Chair. "Richard," he said, "I was going over the list of Committee members with ______ (the Committee staff director, a terrific, dedicated professional) and we thought it was time to rotate everyone off who had served more than four (I think he said "four") years. Now, we did keep two people on (both of whom had served for the same length of time as I; I had appointed them) just for the history they have and continuity." So, it appeared at the time, with no consultation with our Federation CEOs, three of us were being purged. So be it.

Then, only at UJC. One of our number spoke with his federation CEO about what had occurred, nothing more. That CEO inquired of a senior UJC professional "just what is the term for UJC Committee service?" I guess the answer was "there is none" (although I would add "subject to good behavior" which as any reader of this Blog knows means "do what we say or you're out!!"). Two days later, my friend, the Chairman called my friend the former Committee member whose federation CEO called UJC, to say in effect: "You know, I have been thinking this over quite a bit and I think we made a mistake. You should stay on the Committee."

And, thus closes the latest, chapter... in the sorry saga of United Jewish Communities. You have to just shake your head in wonder, shock and awe. You have to love these guys.



Anonymous said...

If the JTA rumor blog is correct, there are no sitting, or former, Federation execs in the running for the UJC CEO position. While I am not in favor of the next exec being chosen from an exclusively Federation exec populated field, I am disappointed that no sitting execs - if the rumor is accurate - are in the pool.

I have heard that none really wanted the position, or if they did/might, UJC would not accomodate the fact that they might not want to relocate with family to NYC.

It is a sad situation that the many excellent Federation execs find the state of UJC to be such that it is not a place they would like to lead. Likewise, if the best and brightest require a creative solution to where their home will be, then it is unfortunate that we might end up with 2nd, or 3rd best with the driving (no pun intended) factor that they either live or will relocate to NYC.

This organization needs the best it can find, both in lay and professional leadership.

RWEX said...

To "Anonymous,"

Amen on all points.

I share your fear that if UJC chooses a new CEO based on an amorphous "out of the box" criterion, the results will be predictable. I urge the incoming Chair and Chair of the Search to find someone who knows the federation system inside/out...and if the Committee has yet tro identify such a person, install an interim CEO to help the new Board Chair right this ship.