Gail Hyman is a dear friend, my professional partner with so many other men and women of great skill and commitment to the sacred work of community. She recently sent me the letter that I reprint below.
"I have been quietly following your many posts on the UJCTheeandMe Blog with a mix of pride and fondness for your enormous capacity and commitment. Today's post really cut to the bone for me---as a past UJC staff member, as its first senior marketing professional and as one of those present at merger when all the possibilities for a great new organization were in the air and fed our imaginations and souls. So much has changed since those early days that it is almost impossible for me to read about UJC today (through your blog and other commentary I read) and comprehend what has happened.
I wanted to send these comments to your post--I have no problem with my name being attached to them--but for some reason I could not get the link to the comment area to open. Feel free to use my comments as you wish.
I don't know all the facts of what is/has happened at UJC since I left three years ago of my own volition. FYI, no one asked me to resign, I simply saw the direction its professional leadership was taking and decided I no longer fit in the master plan nor could I compromise my professional standards to conform to it. If even half of what you have written and what I have read and heard elsewhere from reliable, thoughtful leaders, old colleagues and friends, is accurate it saddens my heart to know that the promise of UJC has been so diminished. I only hope that its new professional and lay leadership will take it on a course correction immediately to do the hard work of rebuilding a sadly tarnished reputation.
Your latest post notes that in the latest staff reductions, many long-standing professionals in areas of real growth potential and innovation were dismissed by maintaining (rather than reducing) the high salaries of senior executives (none of whom were apparently dismissed) and by continuing an expensive branding program planned many months before the onslaught of the recession. As someone who was once one of those well paid senior management professionals, and was its senior marketing professional, I feel I must comment on your observations from my now somewhat distant but very clear perch.
First, in these most difficult times when so many people I know are struggling to make ends meet, and the costs of being Jewish are more out of reach of so many, I am dismayed and struggling to understand why UJC was unable to reduce the salaries of the top executives in order to keep the staff complement as complete as possible. I do not claim to know the arguments and conversations of those who struggled to reach the decision they did, but I do know that the public face of their decision damages not only those employees who were dismissed but also the heart and reputation of UJC itself. From my vantage point, the cost of this downsizing is far beyond the dollars saved. The cost of loss of prestige and reputation is inestimable--especially since (as I read) all those recently dismissed were women Could that be true?)
As a marketing professional who feels passionately about organizational brand and reputation, it may come as a surprise that I would find the much publicized UJC rebranding program an untimely abomination. In this environment and with all that has transpired at UJC over the past year or so, creating a new brand should be among the last things they should invest in--at least until they figure out how to rebuild reputation and confidence among their federations, supporters and staff. No one will nor should find a new name, a new logo or a catchy tagline very believable when the organization itself is still the object of such scorn and lack of respect.
I hope the new UJC leadership--and its yet-to-be-named new lead professional-- will have the fortitude to take on the very large task of rebuilding confidence and hope for UJC. It and our communities deserve nothing less.
And you, as the sole voice in the wilderness, deserve the thanks of our communities for speaking out even when it is not popular to do so. Thank you for being a real Jewish leader.
With fond regards,
While I appreciate the generous compliments, I have reprinted Gail's letter in its entirety because she has conveyed in such a pitch perfect voice the pain that so many of us feel. Gail Hyman knows the organization and our system so well. She served UJA-Federation of New York, the United Jewish Appeal and then UJC with distinction and with love. She and I and so many of you believe that one cannot just stand back and watch the disintegration of a life's work, whether as a volunteer of as a professional, with horror, doing nothing. Gail now runs a very successful marketing firm; she writes a periodic insightful column appearing in e-jewishphilanthropy.com.
Anthony Weiss has written a fascinating piece on executive compensation cuts at our major non-profits in this week's Forward. http://www.forward.com/articles/107575/ It's a must read with some striking comments from Federation Executives like Barry Shrage, Bill Bernstein and Doug Seserman -- each of whose quotes are echoed in their decision to cut their own compensation. As a counterpoint, Howard Rieger is cited as (a) suffering no shared pain as his compensation has not been reduced and (b) that he is "considering" a pay cut. And when might that be? After his contract expires in August?
Yes, Gail, "so much has changed"...and so much that should hasn't.