Friday, July 31, 2009
Anyway, let's close this chapter with this: UJC is still blessed, all of most senior management's efforts to the contrary notwithstanding, with some professionals who have actually raised money: Yitzchak Shavit, Beverly Woznica, Susan Solow Dubin, David Saginaw. There are still a few lay leaders like Lori Klinghoffer, Rani Garfinkle and Michael Lebovitz who have solicited. If none of them were available to go to Israel or, at least train Becky Caspi (assuming she would have thought to ask), then she might have turned to Alan Gill at JDC Israel, one of the most creative and successful fund raisers with whom she probably worked for many years or Jeff Kaye, JAFI's Director General Campaign and FRD. But, not our UJC Israel Director. She went to some book -- probably Fund Raising for ....." and produced her Ten Practical Principles... And, apparently thinking them of inestimable value, reprinted them in e-jewish philanthropy. Mistake, big mistake.
So, to the leaders of PresentTense -- this wasn't about you at all. We wish you great success.
Thursday, July 30, 2009
The article can be found at: www.thejewishweek.com/viewArticle/c36_a16399/News/New_York.html
Rosenblatt, the Editor and Publisher of the Jewish Week, titled the interview Can UJC Be Saved? Let us hope so. Jerry Silverman's ideas for engagement and listening are so refreshing in an environment and with a current leadership that has done and continues to do neither.
Thanks to reader Paul Jeser for bringing this article to our attention.
~ The Conference of Presidents issued a Statement challenging the Obama Administration's position on the "natural settlement growth" issue. This caused at least one commentator (who appears to always criticize Obama) to state that a "...huge crack has surfaced in Obama's Jewish base in the person of Alan Solow, one of the president's closest Chicago friends and long-time supporters," the Chair of the Conference. Talk of hyperbole. Alan was acting, as those of us who know him would expect, responsibly and reasonably as the Chair of the Conference. He understands that, sometimes, principle does have to trump friendship. We congratulate Alan, Malcolm Hoenlein and the Conference.
~ You all remember GA08 Jerusalem. The one where there were, by UJC's ever-changing count, 4,200 in attendance? Have you seen an accounting for that most successful event? Did it make a profit? Break even? Require a subsidy from UJC's Budget? Just asking?
~ And as to GA09 Washington D.C. The one where Registration will be $700 a person. I have heard that a "simple lunch" at an event will cost $85 a person. This could be the most expensive GA on a per capita basis...ever. Is UJC getting an override on every sandwich?
~ Just received an invite to the Jewish National Fund's Annual Conference. A two day event -- $395 Registration Fee. Yes, obviously, it's subsidized....or, maybe, they just know how to run a conference on a cost-effective basis.
~ But GA09 could be very exciting...exciting beyond the promise of the Program. This has the making of an international incident. That would make this GA historic in more ways than one. And, it's possible...very possible.
~ Before the Los Angeles GA, at about this time of year, the then GA National Chair, a wonderful, enthusiastic and creative Atlanta leader, was not consulted on a wholesale change in theme and resigned. No effort was made to retain her leadership even as UJC's professional and lay leaders knew how much time she had already invested in GA planning. Today, even with promises from the outgoing Board Chair that he would not interfere with this year's programming, just who is beginning to insist that UJC's "new new," not fully thought out (of course) venture into "Volunteerism" (or as UJC has now renamed it, "Community Service") be the focal point of GA09? One guess (or two). In LA, no problem, it became the Joe/Kathy Show for better or for worse. Could it happen again?
~ And, as I have been writing about the General Assembly, know that UJC has, once again, convened a GA Task Force focused on the frequency with which the annual Assembly should be held. Apparently, over the strong objection of at least three of the strongest federations in support of UJC, the Task Force will recommend that the GA be held on a biennial basis -- no more every year -- and, in the "off year," regional meetings. To me, a GA relevant to the federations and our partners must be an annual event; to move away from an annual, managed, even a right-sized, focused General Assembly would be an absolute admission of UJC's irrelevancy.
~ Word has reached me and others that the "race" for UJC COO has begun in earnest. During the Search process there were strong opinions expressed that a condition be imposed on the hiring of the new "President and CEO" that that person be mandated to hire (or promote) a Chief Operating Officer. That COO would "free up" the CEO to engage in direct FRD, engage with the federations, and so forth. As the person engaged as CEO comes from "outside," it was argued that a COO familiar with both federations and UJC be given prime consideration by the new CEO. Rather than waiting for Jerry Silverman to take the CEO chair, some staff and consultants to UJC appear to some to already be "positioning themselves" for the position. (One hears that there is an "early favorite" because the "Large City Executives like her/him;" another rumor: "it must be a woman." This in an organization that has demonstrated an antipathy toward women in senior staff positions.) And, of course, Sam Astrof has been serving as COO the last few years, doing a highly professional and ethical job. I would urge Jerry to make his own personnel decisions and keep his own counsel and choose someone who does in fact know how federations work, knows UJC and has a proven ability to raise money.
~ e-jewish philanthropy, which often offers insightful pieces on Jewish communal life, recently published one not the least bit helpful -- Ten Practical Principles for Raising Funds for Social Ventures. Penned by (and listen to this tile) the "Senior VP Israel and Overseas and Director General of UJC Israel." This overly simplistic and pedestrian recital would have gotten the presenter laughed out of a UJA or UJC solicitor training session. Next time, the "workshop for the PresentTensed Fellows" might wish to have a presentation by those who have actually raised real dollars for Social Ventures...like a few that I know at JDC. The Senior VP.......presenter closed with Beware donor fatigue! (emphasis hers)
~ Titles. We all know that in the for profit as well as the non-profit worlds titles often are a determinative of self-worth, and place in the bureaucratic hierarchy (see the paragraph just above for a beaut) as well as a substitute for compensation. UJC is no different, of course. Rieger has two titles -- "President and CEO" -- when one would be enough. (Before he appointed Sam Astrof as COO [Sam is also possessed of two titles -- COO and CFO], I suggested to him privately that he offer the Presidency to a professional with strength who could do that which Howard was unable to do at the time. No surprise -- never heard back.) On July 22, in a Leadership Briefing announcing the Regional I-LEAD Conferences, I was amused/bemused by two UJC titles -- "Senior Executive Advisor for Human Resource Development" and "Director of Learning and Development." I have written before of my suspicion that there is a staff position for the creation of acronyms; now I believe that position has been expanded to included job titles -- the position? "Senior Vice-President for Acronyms and Titles and Other Stuff." The SVPATOS.
It's always something.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
What did they (and the experts accompanying them) say that wasn't in the histrionic Memos that alerted everyone to the "urgent need" and consequent "ask" for $5 million marked down to $3.7 million? Nothing. But here's what they did not say:
~ This "ask" has no support from the federations which have provided the largest amount of funds for the ENP. In fact, UJC was asked by them to shut this "ask" down. They were ignored.
~ That this matter, arising from the Center for Jewish Philanthropy has never been discussed with the Center for Jewish Philanthropy. (Nor was it discussed at the Campaign Executive Committee [or whatever that body is now called].) They were ignored.
~ That there has been no consultation with either JAFI or JDC or, as would have been preferable, both of our partners, the ones who have allocated $10's of millions to the ENP to date on our behalf. They were ignored.
I have been reminded that in the terrible process followed for this ask, there was no planning, no consultation with the federations which have provided the bulk of funds for the ENP or with the Israel and Overseas partners who are on the front line with the Ethiopian Israeli community.
Quite a legacy.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
In my opinion, over the last three and five years respectively. United Jewish Communities' top lay and professional leadership have honored the memory of Michael Jackson every day by a behavior both clinically and institutionally dysfunctional. And, that hasn't been a good thing -- neither for UJC nor for the federations which own it. Yet, there are those who believe (and have articulated it to me) even after stating unequivocally that "they have created a disaster" that "we must continue to support them" -- not attempt to change them or even use the clout of Dues to influence them, but to follow them -- "our leaders right or wrong." This has led these same UJC leaders to believe that they can ignore process, ignore their own By-Laws and ignore the restrictions of their own Budgets with impunity, cloaked, in their opinion, in the protection offered without question or criticism. This should never have been allowed; it should never be allowed again in the future -- neither by UJC's leaders themselves nor by the cheer leading federation leaders.
The brilliant, award winning economist, Paul Krugman, in his column in the New York Times on July 13, wrote about Boiling the Frog. He asked if our country is "...on its way to becoming a boiled frog?" He explained: "I'm referring, of course, to the proverbial frog that, placed in a pot of cold water that is gradually heated, never realizes the danger it's in and is boiled alive...the hypothetical boiled frog is a useful metaphor for a very real problem: the difficulty of responding to disasters that creep up on you a bit at a time." While we know that frogs are traif, UJC has become our "Jewish organizational boiled frog." It all started with the initiation of Operation Promise. Rolled out by Howard Rieger at a Sunday UJC Board of Trustees Meeting in New York, he changed the entire program (previously agreed to by City-size groupings) without so much as a consultation with anyone other than Board Chair Bobby Goldberg. There was astonishment in the room and even objection followed by acquiescence (even as leaders like John Ruskay continued to raise objections to the methodology). Thus, was gradual heating of the cold water begun. Rieger, followed by KanferRieger, learned their "lesson" from the Operation Promise failure -- don't even bother to take matters to the UJC Board for a vote -- and hence the frog was boiled. The result, federation disengagement; UJC achieved irrelevancy; frog boiled.
When information is withheld, when it is not demanded by a Board, there are serious questions as to whether the Board Members are fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities. (In a moment of irony, as I wrote two weeks ago, when a Board Member, taking his responsibility seriously, challenged the UJC Budget Chair, Treasurer and Chair of the Executive-elect, on his failure to offer support to JAFI, the Treasurer and Chair-Elect stridently questioned whether he who raised the question understood his fiduciary responsibilities, thereby turning the entire concept of fiduciary obligation on its head.) Ask a question of these people and your loyalty is questioned. Welcome to my world.
In our "go along to get along" world, those who fail to question, those who cheer the Emperor even while stating privately that they know he wears no clothes, fail in their responsibilities to the very organization they believe in with sincerity. As Richard Haas has written, our duties are to the organization, not to the individuals in transitory positions of power. The claque, however, demonstrates obeisance to the latter and, thereby, have weakened the former and led it down the path of deconstruction. The bottom line: UJC's leaders have lost touch with the federations which own them -- that they have done so wishing only to do good and effect "change," offers them an excuse; the knowledgeable clique and claque that has applauded their every move like a Pavlovian reflex even while knowing that the path(s) chosen led to a precipice must shoulder the blame.
The title of this Post is a spin on the oft-quoted Admiral Stephen Decatur's "my country right or wrong." As you would expect, I prefer Senator Carl Schurz's version: "My country right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." The cheer leaders won't understand but "if wrong, to be set right," is our minimal responsibility in fulfilling our fiduciary obligations to UJC and to our Federations. Otherwise, my friends the frog won't be jumping out of the pot.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Over 18 months, we have reported on UJC's CEO's and Board Chairs "serial asks" for funding for one pet project after another. You recall -- the IAI (and when the federations failed to respond, JCPA was told to raise the funds itself); Hurricane Ike (and when the federations failed to respond, Houston was left holding the bag for the collective system); the Georgia-Russia War (and when the federations failed to respond...nothing); the Gaza War (and when most federations failed to respond...nothing); $800,000 for the "relocation" to Monsey (and, when only 59 federations responded, a "Confidential" memo cynically disclosing results to encourage more funding); a $5,000,000 ask to fund the Ethiopian National Project (and, when the federations failed to respond in significant ways...well, that's today's primer on the new, new, new UJC).
In the recommendations after ONAD's Year 2, federations were asked to maintain their core allocations and allocate an additional 5% to the ENP. Few did-- Chicago and Houston for two -- and UJC, as was its way even then, did no advocacy and no follow-up. Flash forward to 2009. Kathy Manning acting as UJC's mediator was to mediate, among other things with JAFI/JDC, the amount of core allocation to be distributed to the ENP. In the midst of that "mediation," Rieger, with no authorization to do so, sent a passionate appeal to the federations for $5 million....that's $5,000,000. Aside from thereby disqualifying UJC as the "honest broker" in the mediation, it was as if Rieger picked the number out of the air. No surprise, though there was no accounting of the amount raised, federation response was minimal -- after all KanferRieger had cried "wolf" so often about so much as to lack any credibility.
Then, as reported in an earlier Post, Manning, Kanfer, Rieger and Shep Remis sent a Memo to the federations seeking ENP funding -- for $3.7 million. (that's $3.7 million down from $5 million...how, why? Never explained.) Then, this "ask" was processed with UJC's Executive Committee -- an "Urgent Appeal for Ethiopian National Project" -- and the funds are needed within 6 weeks. In a turnabout -- for them -- UJC has convened a conference call this week to urge federation support of this "as" (as opposed to any other).
Look, no one can deprecate the ENP need. Yet, this entire "process" was undertaken without any...any...consultation with the ENP funding partners, the Jewish Agency and Joint. Part of KanferRieger's "Four Nos" -- "no" consultation, "no" discussion, "no" prioritization, "no" thought. No, no, no...and...no. Just throw the "asks" out there. What will be the result -- same as with all the others? Raise the ENP expectations without basis. Confuse the federations which receive this appeal with the following statement: "UJC Center for Jewish Philanthropies Chair Toni Young (who) reminded the (Executive) Committee that this is 'a voluntary effort and an opportunity to all these communities who wish to be a part of it.'"
The two partners for which there has never...never...been an "ask," JDC and JAFI, are the two partners who have suffered financially under the lack of UJC leadership the most. And I use the phrase "UJC leadership" loosely, to say the least. This latest action is beneath contempt. It is, sadly, the "new, new, new UJC" at work.
Friday, July 24, 2009
"UJC should take no further action on any matter until Silverman takes the helm.
The value of doing so is as follows:
1. There appears to be an inexplicable hiatus between the time of Rieger's official departure and Silverman's official starting date;
2. It would prevent last minute damage from individuals who shall go nameless.
3. Perhaps some resources can be focused on (UJC's basic) mission as opposed to (these leaders) constantly changing one.
4. It would reduce the amount of blogging you would need to do."
OK, so 4. above was below the belt.
Now some have told me that Howard is and has been for all intents and purposes physically gone from 25 Broadway; Joe is probably back in his UJC laboratory at Purell feverishly drafting the next 180 degree shift in his plans for UJC. But, just to make sure no further damage to the UJC body politic occurs, my suggestion is: that the entire Executive Management Team (you know the one that has been superimposed above the Senior Management Team) go on a 30 day unpaid furlough. (This would save the organization enough to cover the costs of several lower level professionals who might otherwise be laid off.) Or, more extreme, let's shut down UJC on August 1 (except for UJC Washington) and see if anyone notices anything other than the Dues that would be saved. And that Silverman be implored to hasten his arrival.
What are your suggestions?
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
"To: Wexler, Richard
Subject: Collective responsibility
One of the other aspects that has contributed to this problem is that the vast majority of federations never were directly on the ONAD committee but were always “represented” by others. These federations, predominantly small and intermediate were never exposed or even informed about the impact of core funding beyond what was publicized by the UJC. For ... JDC and JAFI this usually meant one or two paragraphs condensed into a “mission statement” type of paper. Never any overall comprehensive presentation.
Even when ONAD presented charts and graphs, they were so convoluted that the (federation leaders) not on the committee simply took it and filed it away, sometimes in the circular file. As I recall the ONAD committee, there were something like 19 communities on the committee made up of Chicago and NY annually, 8 other large cities rotating every two years, 4 large intermediate cities rotated every two year, possibly 3 intermediate cities and one or two small communities. Over the life of ONAD I believe there were two cycles after the initial two formative “study years." By my estimate there were probably a total of 32 federations (out of 155) that ever served directly on the committee. While the core allocations came largely from the big cities in real dollars probably 80 % of the federations never sat on the committee and had very little feedback from their “representatives” or from UJC about the importance of the core funding.
As JAFI/JDC ... began sending representatives into the field to visit specific federations for the 10% discretionary funding (over and above core funding) nobody was visiting the federations promoting the core funding assuming that was UJC’s job. In retrospect what would have been a far superior method would have been for UJC to coordinate all of the visits to federation with a uniform message identifying the impact of core funding first and foremost (since this was 90% of the budgets) and having a menu of discretionary projects for (the) organizations (including ORT). The UJC staff handling all of these visits would have been viewed as the “UJC Campaign Staff” treating each federation as the “donor”, developing individualized approaches to each federation based on areas of unique interests. This would have eliminated the competition that evolved, it would have provided uniform education and not ignored the critical element of core funding supposedly representing 90% of all income. It would have been able to address issues about transparency, mission of the organizations, and so forth. It would have also been better able to integrate into the FRD department of UJC as it would have provided a much better link to the “case” for the annual campaign.
If UJC had functioned this way it would have certainly been justified to take a portion of the overseas allocations to cover the budget collectively instead of ignoring this vital component and taking the budget out of each organization individually."
As my friend has written, the situation could have been far different today had UJC taken the responsibilities specifically delegated to it at the time of the Merger Agreement seriously...or at all. Instead, however, UJC and its current leadership walked away from its moral obligation as if the obligation either didn't exist or wasn't worthy of their "change mandate."
So what happened? The best/worst evidence is in the pathetic effort to raise federation commitments for the Ethiopian National Project. Begun with Rieger's bathetic letter to Federations earlier this year pleading for $5 million to what this week will be an effort to stir the Executive Committee to a an apparent recommendation to the federations for $3.7 million for the ENP, all at a time when (a) the federations as a whole and individually are staring down the barrel of the economic disaster that is 2009 and (b) JAFI has slashed $75 million in budget and JDC a comparable amount while continuing to fund the ENP on our behalf. Roused to advocacy, UJC's "leadership" (In this instance the original "ask" came from Kanfer, Manning, Toni Young and Shepard Remis -- whose federations' allocations to JAFI and JDC core one might wish to ask about. By the time this "Recommendation" comes to the Executive Committee tomorrow, it is a "CJP Leadership Recommendation" -- you might ask what and who are "CJP Leadership?" Let me know when you get an answer.), picks and chooses the "Urgent Funding Needs" with no consultation with the Joint or Jewish Agency further laying waste to the concept and construct of collective responsibility and our federations' historic partnership.
It is all so sad.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Now, I care not a whit what J Street or the American Jewish Committee have to say to our President. I care a whole lot what the leaders of AIPAC, UJC, JACPA and the Conference of Presidents have to say or not say. It's pretty apparent that they have failed to date to even understand their constituencies', their owners', their members' opinions of the stated Administration policies and thrust. That being the case, it must have been a nice visit -- as Kathy Manning recounted in a Briefing -- in her summary of her White House foray. I am certain that the President and his staff noted with amusement that American Jewish leadership are not yet of one voice (and probably never will be) on the issue framed by his stance on settlement growth. But, it was a nice visit -- these leaders appear to have been "dazzled by the light" as one of my friends put it so perfectly.
There was a day when our leaders stood tall. When Shoshana Cardin, then Chair of the Conference of Presidents, told President George H. W. Bush, that his public statements suggesting that the "Jewish lobby" represented a "Fifth Column" in America were unacceptable and bordered on anti-Semitism. (Shoshana surely put it far better and far stronger than I have just related.) But, that was then...and this is now. Where is the debate today? Where is the united front, if one is possible? Who speaks for me and for you? When Jonathan Tobin concludes that it is time to ask leaders who presume to speak for us "...why they are either silent or rationalizing a policy that they know is wrong," it's time to stop and listen.
A little consultation and a little leadership would be nice.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Having visited well over 100 federations over the past few years, I believe that I am qualified to conclude that that which propels federation leaders to reduce allocations to JDC and, in more instances, JAFI, is not, at its essence, a matter of philosophy or the organizations' changed circumstance or questions of performance or accountability by our Overseas partners; it is, pure and simple, a matter of communal resource development failure. Today, for example, there are large federations cloaking their reduced allocations to Joint and JAFI core resulting from the devastating collapse of these federations' campaigns in specious arguments about a lack of "transparency" or "outlived their usefulness" or "they fail to be accountable." None of these "issues" has a basis in fact.
Here is the thought process I have observed: a desperate Federation CEO ("CEO 2"), seeing his/her communal resource base crumble, reads that another Federation CEO ("CEO 1") has argued against the overseas allocation to one or both of our system's historic partners. Without regard to the facts, and with no due diligence (how many times have I read letters beginning "I have heard..." or "I have read..."), CEO 2 adopts the same arguments, usually, but not always, wholly specious. The "bandwagon effect" follows. For years, JAFI and JDC could rely on three sources to respond: (1) the agencies themselves respond point-by-point and are ignored, (2) other leading Executives would respond with the facts to their "colleagues" and/or (3) the national organization -- UJA or UIA or CJF -- would respond factually and passionately. Today, the Joint and Agency responses are muted, the federation Executives appear not to be willing to step forward outside their own communities and the national organization is represented by men and women from communities which are themselves unsupportive of the Overseas allocation and, therefor, have no voice.
A companion piece to the breakdown in communal allocations discipline is found in the competition between and among the international organizations for communal funding. In the past, even at a time of declining allocations, JDC and JAFI felt "represented" in the federations by the UJA...and, they were. Today, the internal communal representation of JAFI and, in particular, JDC, frequently make arguments for "their" organization at the expense of the "other." The unfortunate ONAD "process'" sole "contribution" was to increase organizational costs without benefit to any of JDC, JAFI or UJC. UJC's abdication of its moral obligation to advocate for greater resources for both the Joint and Agency, and the consequent decline in core allocations have literally forced all of our system's Israel/international organizations to enhance their North American professional staffing to engage in direct fund raising. This will only increase if collective resource allocations continue their steep fall.
Are there any solutions? Several that I see. (1) Federation Executives who recognize that collective responsibility is the principle that sets the federation system apart from all other charities must step forward and respond, privately and publicly, to those among their chevra who don't care or understand (and, while some do, not enough...not nearly enough). (2) UJC's next leaders must, first, comprehend that collective responsibility is the institution's primary obligation -- without collective responsibility, there is no need for anything but a continental trade association with Dues sufficient to support the salaries that UJC pays -- and, then, its leaders must become the public spokespersons for the collective. (The current UJC leaders appear not to comprehend that the payment of Dues is part of collective responsibility. They don't understand that among so many other things and, therefor, can't articulate it.)
Lay leaders who come from communities that fail to meet a minimum standard for overseas allocations (today, I can think of two [and there are more] who come from communities that fail to make an overseas allocation or one so small as to not register on the Richter Scale of communal responsibility) cannot be made Chairs of, e.g., UJC itself, or of UJC Committees or Work Groups whose primary obligations have to do with Israel or Overseas, no matter how generous or articulate they may be personally.
I find it deplorable that among UJC's current leaders there are those who refuse to "allow" engagement with the federations on allocations issues because, they say, "...it's just yelling at the federations." Friends, it has never been "yelling" -- it's always been about talking about responsibility (which admittedly, to a given federation may sound like "yelling") and, yet, these same UJC leaders never miss a chance to confront a federation which is failing or threatening not to pay its Dues, to threaten and cajole and threaten some more.
In all events, this subject is about institutional obligation -- UJC's and the federations. Advocacy is a discussion that ennobles our organizations. Let's hope the new leadership understands.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Sadly these past years at UJC have been hidden behind an opaque wall -- much like the Israeli security fence -- where decisions are made in secret and parsed out only on an "as needed" basis. Todd Purdum's description of the failed aspirant for Vice-President in a devastating article in this month's Vanity Fair applies perfectly to the leaders of UJC as well: "...she surrounded herself with an insular coterie of trusted friends, took disagreements personally, discarded people who were no longer useful, and swiftly dealt vengeance on enemies, real or perceived."
The result at United Jewish Communities: a perfect storm of mutual disregard. On issue after issue -- loss of membership, UJC-Israel, the so-called Center for Jewish Philanthropy, the division between Development and Supplemental Giving, the GA programs in successive years, the "Reorganization Strategy," the "asks" for the IAI and multiple other "causes," UJC behaved as if the federations did not exist; on the other side, the federations went about their business, particularly during this time of economic crisis, as if UJC did not exist. Two ships passing in the night without communicating with each other. A direct result of a lack of transparency morphing into disinterest and disengagement. And, neither the federations (which have spent from a high of $40.2 million down to $38 million during this regime) nor, certainly, UJC's lay and professional leaders, seemed to give a tinker's damn.
What if these past five years of wasted opportunity had been filled, instead, with a focused and followed UJC Agenda developed with the federations, not handed down by UJC as if from the top of the mountain, as if ordained by Ha Shem? What if UJC's leaders had sincerely understood that "we work for the federations" in pursuit of their interests rather than in pursuit of what UJC's leaders believed those interests should be? What if UJC had prepared itself for the economic crisis by cutting compensation at the top of its top heavy food chain? What if? What if?
In a demonstration of UJC's "culture," just last week the Forward reported that UJC, speaking for us, for the federations, UJC Now Lobbying for Universal Health Care. I, and many of you, may support Universal Health Care, but a substantial number of federation leaders do not. In fact, if one of the Administration's alternatives for financing this effort -- a 5% income tax surcharge -- passes, the damage to the philanthropy that sustains our system will be catastrophic. UJC, as is the norm today, just says: "Never mind. We're in it, even if our owners aren't." Where was the authorization, within what UJC governance body was this lobbying effort discussed, debated, approved? Looks like nowhere. That's just one example of "the new UJC culture" at work.
What exactly is transparency? It is decision-making in the open, with all of the facts on the table, consistent with governance requirements. It is not using the UJC income from federations as a bank from which leadership could make withdrawals without process or accountability. It is not, e.g., allocating $400,000 to "seed" the restart of the Trust for Jewish Philanthropy and then merely applying those funds to other purposes without accounting for them or getting approval for their expenditure. It is not spending now in excess of $2,000,000 for a Marketing, Branding and Research Study after approval of the expenditure of only $650,000. And, on and on and on -- as if UJC were a $40 million or $38 million family business.
What has emerged at UJC is, unfortunately, a culture alright -- it is the culture of concealment. It is as if we are at a carnival card game where the dealer shows the cards for 1/2 a second in a magic act and asks you to bid. It isn't a culture in which the departing leadership or their supporters (who might see the cards for 30 seconds) should take any pride. This new culture has the effect of excluding debate, ignoring or misrepresenting governance decisions at odds with the will of the federations where those are allowed to be expressed. It is a culture that breeds mistrust and disengagement.
So, my friends, it is clear that Kathy Manning and Jerry Silverman will have some incredibly heavy lifting to do. To move from exclusive to inclusive, from "UJC's agenda" to the federations', from thin skin to thick, from opaque to transparent, from trying to be all things to all people to an organization focused on what the federations' need and want, from talking about change to making real change, from the culture of concealment to the culture of openness -- new paths will be extremely difficult to walk down but, ultimately, if UJC continues down the same path it has been on in the most recent past -- what Kanfer in the Press Release announcing Jerry Silverman's hiring described as its "momentum" -- the current "momentum" will carry UJC over the precipice and into the void. It will be no more.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
By Jacob B. Ukeles
Published July 08, 2009, issue of July 17, 2009.
With the appointment of Jerry Silverman, a highly successful nonprofit and corporate executive, as the new CEO of United Jewish Communities, the troubled umbrella organization for North America’s Jewish community federations is hoping to turn a new page. So far, Silverman, most recently the executive director of the Foundation for Jewish Camp, is saying the right things. In his initial interview after his appointment, Silverman put his finger on two critical elements in turning UJC around: “developing a very clear vision and having a top-notch, results-oriented organization.”
In the 10 years of its existence, UJC has been unable to define a clear mission. At the most basic level, there has been the question of whether UJC should lead community federations or serve them. A UJC that leads is proactive; a UJC that serves is reactive. If the mission is to serve, there is a built-in paradox: The large federations foot most of the bill for the UJC budget, but need very little service; the smaller federations pay a small share of the bill but need more service.
UJC is owned by the federations. But the owners have been ambivalent about what kind of an umbrella organization they want. Most seem to want a weak central body. At the same time, paradoxically, they want visible results that can come only if they voluntarily give up some of their power. The owners of UJC need to come to grips with their own ambivalence. If they want UJC to lead, it has to have power; if they want UJC to follow, they can’t complain if it doesn’t lead.
UJC has attempted to meet differing and often contradictory expectations about its agenda. It has attempted to connect with a rich smorgasbord of issues, ideas, initiatives, programs and policies — all interesting, all important, all relevant — but, in the aggregate, overwhelming. With hundreds of important donors and interest groups, it has been virtually impossible to set priorities. When the federations press UJC to cut its budget, it is hard to know what to give up.
To meet these challenges, UJC will need to engage the owners, especially the largest federations, in a serious, open dialogue about a defined arena within which UJC is expected to lead collective action and the arena (probably larger) within which each federation will function essentially independently.
In defining a limited arena for collective action it is useful to start with the understanding that Jewish life in North America is highly decentralized (much more so than in other times and other places). The job of each local federation is to build and enable local communities. Each Jewish community has a unique culture, and each federation faces unique community-building challenges.
The key challenge for American Jewish leadership in the 21st century is to create or enable compelling, exciting and energizing Jewish communities that individuals will choose to identify with to enrich their own lives and those of their families. Whereas once Jewish community occurred naturally — most Jews married other Jews, lived in Jewish neighborhoods and had mostly Jewish friends — today that is no longer the case. Communities need to be created; they no longer just happen.
At the same time, in an age of high mobility and instant communications, there is a national and global dimension to community-building. UJC should lead in precisely those areas of building Jewish community that are beyond the scope of each individual local community. UJC should focus on a limited number of powerful initiatives (three to five) with significant potential for building the national and global Jewish community. This would provide a framework for a selective agenda and provide the basis for a leaner, more focused organization.
• We need a massive national effort to help the newer Jewish communities of the West and South to scale up their communal social and physical infrastructure to match an exploding population. Over the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic shift in Jewish population from established, well-organized Jewish communities in the East and Midwest to newer communities in the West and South.
• UJC should spearhead the American component of a global “Next Gen” partnership connecting young Jewish adults in Israel and around the world in the creation of new, grass-roots Jewish culture and in building global Jewish community. In this effort, UJC should partner with the major Jewish foundations, themselves committed to ensuring a vital Jewish future.
• We need a major effort to develop a national pool of senior professional leaders, men and women, especially for Jewish education, but for Jewish communal service as well. Most local communities have the resources to train teachers; few have the resources to train executives.
• UJC could help foster communities of federations — not by providing direct service, creating programmatic models or direct fundraising, but by encouraging federations to work together. Big federations should help smaller ones in their own region. UJC should use the Internet to disseminate the best applied research and models of excellence.
Especially today, in a time of great economic and fiscal stress, Jewish organizations, including UJC, need to focus their energies on doing a few very important things well, rather than trying to be all things to all people. With fresh professional leadership, UJC can play an important role in turning today’s crisis into an opportunity for improving Jewish life and Jewish community."
Jacob B. Ukeles is president of Ukeles Associates, Inc., a New York-based planning and management consulting firm. He is the author of “Doing More with Less: Turning Public Management Around” (American Management Association, 1982). "
Now, Jack may not be aware, but the current leadership has already discarded, e.g., an investment in the growth communities across North America -- the Emerging Communities effort, and he may be aware that UJC has offered lip service in other areas where he has suggested focus and investment. But, certainly, Silverman's arrival in the midst of UJC's deconstruction might...if he is permitted...be the moment that a new Executive and a new, if not so new, Board Chair may be able to apply CPR to the almost comatose body that is today's UJC.
Let's hope so.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
And, here we go again....and again. You may recall that the UJC CEO, with no authorization, has made serial asks for many causes...but never once for the core allocations to support JDC and JAFI. We have written about these inappropriate actions over the past 18 months. The causes generally have been areas of critical need -- yet, they appear to be requests that arise without plan or coordination. While time and again the federations have rejected these funding requests -- for the IAI, the Russian-Georgia War, the ENP, the remaining vetted aid to the Victims of Terror though after the IEC was shut down, and the "relocation" of Yemeni Jews to Monsey, and on and on -- Rieger and now joined by the few "trusted" leaders, continue the requests. And, never...never...are the federations (let alone the Agency or Joint) consulted.
So, it probably comes as little surprise that they're at it again. You will remember that at one point this year Rieger, with no vetting, validation or process, wrote a letter to the federations asking for $5 million in additional financial assistance for the Ethiopian National Project -- a partnership of the Ethiopian Israeli community, JAFI, JDC and UJC (which has historically been the funding conduit through United Israel Appeal and nothing more). In the second year of ONAD funding (you all remember ONAD, which UJC's leaders believe has morphed into the non-existent "Planning Table" of FLI fleeting fame), the request was made that the ENP receive an additional 5% supplemental allocation -- very few federations responded then, at a time of relative plenty, to what was a planful ask. To Rieger's almost spontaneous request for $5 million...silence and disregard. Now, the federations have been asked, in a Memo from four lay leaders whose communities aggregate core allocations, after UJC Dues, to the main funders of the ENP -- JAFI and the Joint -- hardly entitle them to even make this funding request, to participate in a call this week, the implicit purpose of which is to seek additional funding for the ENP.
And the funding for the ENP -- where does that come from? From the federations through JAFI and JDC and from the countries of Keren Ha'Yesod. The chutzpah of the current ask for increased funding is that it first arose in a Rieger Memo to federations while the Jewish Agency and Joint were in the midst of negotiations over, inter alia, that very subject and reappears (another "revote?) at a time of both drastic reductions in our partners' budgets and without any prior consultation with them. At least two of the leaders who sent this Memo come from federations which almost totally fail to financially support the budgets of the Agency and Joint.
So, the question is: can any lay leader, any UJC Board member, ask for funding for any purpose, from the noble to the mundane, just because they can? Is this what we have come to? Is this the "change" that KanferRieger believe, with their disciples, that they have achieved? Is this the "momentum," that Kanfer believes Jerry Silverman should build upon?
It just never stops.
Monday, July 13, 2009
"Concerning the initiative to help Yemenites desiring to move to the US, I wish to make it clear that the laity and professionals involved are not affiliated, organized, controlled or managed by the Satmar ultra-Orthodox sect. In addition, the local 'cash and in-kind contributions' for this endeavor (were) fundraised from thousands of Northeastern donors concerned about this vulnerable population and not from any particular group or organization."
I know Yis to be a sincere and committed philanthropist. But, really, the genesis for this entire "rescue/relocation" was the Satmar leaders intervention with the President and administration as reported in the Forward before the infamous Rieger Memo identifying the Satmar as UJC's "partner." If the Satmar are out and the Yemenite Jews arriving in Monsey and Rockland County will have true "freedom of choice" as to housing and location, certain critical questions will have been answered. The remaining threshold question remains: is it UJC's "mission" to fund "rescue" anywhere other than Israel? And should such a momentous decision be made with no process whatsoever?
So, although you can add this writer to the list of recipients (indirectly from 5 different people who received it directly), I will maintain the confidentiality except:
~ UJC is now, once again, referring to this as its "mission to rescue Jews in need worldwide." What UJC referred to for the past two months as a "relocation" is, once again, a "rescue." And, now, it is UJC, not JAFI, not Nefesh b'Nefesh, not the Government of Israel...which engages in direct "rescue" of Jews purportedly in need thereof.
~ The Swartz Memo goes on to reference the participation of a "consortium of Jewish communal institutions" by name, omitting any reference to Satmar's work (which triggered this "rescue" in the first instance) unless they are covered by the vague "funded through...locally generated cash and in-kind contributions."
~ Then there is another vague reference to the $800,000 federation "ask." Suffice it to say that the Memo speaks directly to "...59 federations have made pledges..." A little over 1/3 of the federations have "pledged" something. No reference is made to how much of the $800,000 has been pledged; no mention is made of what UJC's own contribution from its Budget might be (we're guessing $0000).
And, everything else is wrapped in Confidentiality. But, if you wish to know the rest, call your federation CEO and, then, shhhh.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
"It’s no secret that the United Jewish Communities (UJC), the umbrella organization of the North American Jewish federation system, has been viewed as a sinking ship for some time now, plagued by a shrinking budget, low morale after large-scale staff reductions and a persistent concern among many professionals and lay leaders in the community that a decade after its creation, the organization still lacks a clearly defined mission.So Jerry Silverman, named this week to succeed Howard Rieger as top executive of UJC on Sept. 30, was prepared for friends asking him why he would want to become captain of The Titanic. His response was that he believes the community deserves and is capable of supporting a strong national entity, adding that he was “humbled” by and “passionate” about the opportunity to lead.
His choice of those two words, from an interview on Tuesday with The Jewish Week, is a hopeful sign because UJC will need a leader who has both the willingness to listen and learn from others and an enthusiasm to inspire colleagues and lay leaders. Silverman has the credentials.
He was a high-level executive at Levi Strauss and Co. and the Stride Rite Corp. before leaving private industry in 2004 to head the Foundation for Jewish Camp. He made the move, he said, because of his deep love of the Jewish people and his gratitude for how Jewish camping had transformed his children. In the last five years, he helped raise tens of millions of dollars for Jewish summer camps, taking the foundation to new levels of growth.
There are plenty of skeptics who feel that UJC cannot be saved, buffeted by increasing demands for services from local Jewish federations around the country at a time when funds are increasingly difficult to raise. Some say that only a federation exec could handle the job. (Silverman’s three predecessors were formerly federation executives.) But even outspoken critics of the system assert that a national organization like UJC, which now raises and distributes about $3 billion a year from federation campaigns and other efforts, is critically important, though they disagree about what its primary goals should be.
For now, Silverman says he plans to do a great deal of listening and consulting with federation leaders across North America as well as his new colleagues at UJC, learning how best the system can “deliver significant value to its shareholders,” the federations. “We have to be nimble and proactive,” he said.A self-described “people person” who is widely admired for being a mensch as well as a successful professional, Silverman is the first to acknowledge that he faces a daunting challenge. But he has the support of many, including us, who are rooting for him to help strengthen a vitally needed national body at a critical moment in our history. "
© 2000 - 2009 The Jewish Week, Inc. All rights reserved.
I have learned from personal experiences over the years of the current lay and professional leadership, as many of you have as well, that they neither listen nor, if they read, comprehend. Jerry can start strong only if this leadership does not presume to demand that he follow the "negative momentum" that they have perpetuated and see as "good." An example -- UJC lay leaders, I am told by some professionals who have seen them in action, have been scurrying around 25 Broadway, pulling aside a very small number of Senior professionals...a very small number...telling them that their jobs are safe and urging them to stay through the transition. Sounds innocent, even noble. It's not.
None of these leaders appear to have learned through their own meagre resumes in Jewish federation leadership that the lay-professional partnership demands that the senior professional leader be responsible for creating his or her staff without interference by lay leadership. No matter your good intentions, your current actions don't help Jerry, they hurt him; they suggest to those you have solicited, that you have their backs; your actions undermine, they don't build.
I remember a time I was installed as Chair of a small effective national organization doing critical work for our federations. I asked to meet with the staff for the first time. I told them of my pride in them and the organization. I also told them that I and the Board are lay leaders. Professional decisions will be made by our CEO who will have my and the Board's total support. I said to them that if any of them disagreed with a professional management decision, they should take their concerns directly to the CEO, not to me and not to their friends on the Board. The latter would be looked upon with the greatest disfavor. Then I closed with some form of Knute Rockne's Gipper speech.
My fear is that KanferRieger (believing their own bull) will attempt to impose the current state of affairs upon an unsuspecting and unaware CEO. My hope is that Jerry will use the opening stanza of the symphony he will write to begin to find his own way using Federation CEO's from around the country and from every City-size as his guides -- for each and every one of them -- including those who have publicly expressed continuing support -- knows the disaster that UJC has become.
As to UJC's current lay leadership -- I ask these leaders to follow Howard's unintended example: disappear for a while. Give Jerry a chance.
Friday, July 10, 2009
At a time in which the Joint and Agency are suffering huge deficits and enormous Budget cuts, UJC has demanded that its Endowment Committee consider grants -- none of which were intended for the Agency or Joint -- essentially "seed money" to fund the unspecified "future work" of the Center for Jewish Philanthropy. Remarkably, if the income were made available to their CJP, it, the Center, would decide where and how to spend it. No accountability, no transparency. So, just what did UJC want? A couple of responsible professionals filled me in.
1. In the proposed 2010 Budget UJC stipulated that a $250,000 allocation to one of its "partners" in Israel, Sheatufim, be dropped. I have noted that the 2009 Budget never included the "grant" to Sheatufim to begin with. No matter, UJC Israel and the UJC leaders had partnered in a single conference in Jerusalem sponsored by this organization -- where UJC's leaders spoke, of course. Sheatufim's civil society dedication is admirable, but certainly no more so than JDC's established project with the same focus for Israeli NGO's. And, never mind, these leaders (many of whom attended the Endowment Committee meeting in a transparent attempt to intimidate) demanded that the UJC endowment substitute its funding for that which came from the 2009 Budget with no authorization. I listened carefully to the leadership's lament over the "lost funding" for this program at the UJC Board. Here's what I heard: (1) UJC made a three year (although it may have been a five-year, as UJC's leaders have used varying terms for an agreement that was never processed at UJC) commitment to Sheatufim -- actually it was a "commitment" of KanferRieger and Toni Young, not of UJC -- except to the extent, as I have written before, that these leaders believe that "UJC and they are one;" and (2) Ms. Young plans to solicit for funds for this "partnership" (apparently as part of her duties as Chair of the Center for Jewish Philanthropy). A mess. Amiss. Amuck. As always, stay tuned.
2. And, you may remember a Post in which I cited an UJC Israel fund raising project -- the UJC Philanthropic Venture Fund or "10 x 10" -- where 10 Israeli philanthropists and organizations would be asked to each contribute $50,000 to be matched with 10 North American philanthropists contributing the same to fund social welfare programs and projects in Israel duplicating the partnerships already in place with JDC and JAFI. I speculated that UJC had neither the capacity nor the prospects to raise a single $50,000 gift in North America. Never mind; UJC now planned to raid its endowment for seed money -- no fund raising necessary.
3. Then, the third chutzpah/corrupt practice, if you will. UJC attempted to convert overseas endowment income to fund the overhead attributable to a program that exists on paper only called "the Passport to Jewish Life" (actually, like that infamous Alaska Bridge a "Passport to Nowhere" as the program doesn't exist)-- a transparent attempt to take $150,000 from the Endowment and convert those dollars into the payment of UJC overhead for a "Project" that exists only in a five page paper -- so critical to UJC that it could not find a place in the 2010 Budget. UJC argues that a change UJC made to the Endowment justifies expending income not only for Domestic programs but for the overhead thereof. Unfortunately, the Resolution (passed by the Committee and no other body) provides for funding only "programmatic" elements of a Domestic project.
Now, some of you naysayers may argue that with reduced allocations and the most severe Budget cutting deeply into the bone and marrow of the sacred work of JAFI/JDC, any endowment allocations should support their programs and projects (as was intended at the establishment of the fund); others might assert that instead of going to federations with bills totalling $800,000 to fund "Rieger's Folly," the relocation of Yemen Jewish families in Monsey, New York, at a time of incredible pain in our federated communities, that endowment income be used to reduce the federation costs. but, to whomever at UJC conjured up these schemes, this wasn't about doing what is right or needed or necessary; this was about the personal agenda of the small group running UJC in a manner so opaque that their responsibilities to the federations can be ignored with impunity.
But not this time. A strong lay Endowment Committee did the unthinkable -- they thought through the lack of rational basis for any of these proposals and they rejected them -- 1, 2, and 3. All income will be divided instead as was intended -- for the needs served by the Joint and Agency. But, wait one minute -- UJC "leaders" demanded a "revote" at a meeting yesterday. (Were Robert's Rules applied, a "revote" Motion could only be called by a person who was on the prevailing side of the original vote. Never mind.) And, not only were these proposals once again rejected by a Committee doing its work, some at the meeting suggested a third vote -- let's canvass those who weren't at the meeting. That "idea" was rejected emphatically; Two votes appeared to be enough. But, trust me, these folks will attempt to repackage these again and seek another vote just as sure as Purell sanitizes your hands.
My...our...great friend, Lester Rosenberg, who remains struggling to regain his health at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, will smile when he learns what the Committee he Chaired accomplished in that first vote, and then the second. One corrupt practice down.
But...another. The 2008 Budget included a $400,000 line item -- dedicated funding to "restart" of the Trust for Jewish Philanthropy. Inasmuch as no effort...none...was made to "restart" the Trust, just where did those dollars go? Michael Gelman: that's a question for you, Treasurer and Budget Chair. When you have the answer, let us know -- that $400,000, like so much else, could have saved a lot of...many...jobs at UJC.
And where did that $400,000 go? It's your money, my friends, not theirs to do with according to their whim. One place those dollars did not go was to restart the Trust for Jewish Philanthropy.
A mess. Amiss. Amuck.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
When UJC announced Jerry Silverman's engagement, it sent out Talking Points to Board members anticipating we might be called by the press to comment -- or to acquaint us in a simple format with Jerry's qualifications.
That got me thinking a bit myself. And I am very upset. "About what," you ask? About the fact that my son, Jon, wasn't recruited for the position as UJC CEO and President. "Is he qualified," you ask? Well....OK, you decide.
He is from the "Now Generation" and could serve UJC for many years. He has led the design and marketing efforts for two of the largest athletic shoe companies in the world; he knows how to relate to his generation and generations younger. He is a great communicator. He knows how to team build within a complex organization. He met the wonderful woman who would become his wife on an Israel trip. He and his family keep a Kosher home. He likes to go camping with his family. He knows what a Jewish federation is. He would like to earn $700,000 per year.
Did my son receive a call from the UJC Search Firm? No. Was he disqualified because he is my son? Had his name come up, he might have been. Was he interested in the UJC job? Probably never heard of it. But, this dialogue in my head is about qualifications -- obviously, he's got those. For sure. in abundance. And, just to reassure you; he rarely listens to his Dad. So, had he been considered, you could have rested easy.
If Jerry does a great job as we hope... then for Jon, maybe next time.
In the meantime, I did get a call from the press asking for comment. I forgot the bullet points.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
~ The all new new CEO. Last week UJC leaders received Board authorization to enter into negotiations (which had already begun in earnest) with the prospective single candidate -- the "out of the box" Jerry Silverman. His new contract was announced one business day later. along with "talking points" designed to respond to any questions, criticisms, etc. But not all!!
Several Federation leaders have called me with essentially the same message: "How is this person to give advice to lay and professional leadership about an organization that is 'drowning' within the context of an organization and a system about which he knows nothing?" Fair question -- particularly in a circumstance where the outgoing and incoming leadership (a couple of whom at least) have yet to demonstrate much of a knowledge either. Members of the Search Committee who have called or written have assured me that Jerry "...is a great guy" and while that is reassuring (and refreshing), it strikes me that that is but one criteria for UJC's CEO; he has raised a tremendous amount for Jewish Camps (from about 4-5 Foundations); increased the Budget (!!) and improved the quality of the staff. OK. Jerry better be the greatest thing since sliced Challah.
Then came the calls insisting that "I have heard UJC (usually referred to as "they") has agreed to pay this guy $700,000 (or, sometimes, it's represented as $750,000)." This is usually followed by: "Are they nuts?" I don't have an answer -- I don't know what the "deal" is or will be. However, I can tell you that (1) the new, new CEO would have been "nuts" to accept such an obscene amount; and (2) those "negotiating" such a deal must feel that this compensation isn't the federations' business, it's theirs and they can do with our money as they see fit.
~ Threatening the federations... In one of the most extreme, let alone bizarre, reactions to those federations (growing in numbers) who cannot or will not pay full Dues, there are UJC leaders who have privately discussed doing direct fund raising within those federations. They sit around, apparently, puff up their chests and boast to each other how it would "be so easy" to raise money in _______ -- "they do a terrible fund raising job themselves...." When asked "what would you raise money for? UJC Dues?" the answer is -- "for Dues, JAFI and JDC." Insane and certainly beyond rational thought. If JAFI and/or JDC need fund raising assistance in a community, I would certainly doubt that either would ask for UJC's "help" at this point; if the UJC leaders who are discussing this are serious, they ought to look at the FRD that UJC has done itself over the past 5 years -- other than a PM Mission, a big goose egg. But it makes 'em feel good to threaten.
~ Dues. I have been chastised for asserting that "Dues deals" are in discussion between UJC's leaders and multiple communities. I am told by UJC that "no deals have been made or are in discussion." I would stand corrected if I did not know of specific "offers" made to or under consideration by multiple communities at this time.
~ Yemeni Jews. Anyone in the vicinity of Monsey, New York, spotted any incoming Yemenite Jews? Has there been a sighting? Has there been any response...any... by UJC leaders to the letters they have received from the World Zionist Organization on this "relocation?" And just how much of the "UJC share, " of the $800,000 "ask" has been received by UJC? Even the Satmar are learning that this UJC isn't the "partner" they had hoped it would be. Just asking.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Mazel tov, Jerry.
"I have just returned from my latest trip to Israel, where, in my role as Chair of the United Israel Appeal and a member of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, I was involved with the recent election of Natan Sharansky as the Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. I first learned about Anatoly Shcharansky, as he was then called, in 1973 when I lived in Israel. I remember his arrest in 1977 and his trial and conviction in 1978.
His crime was being Jewish and wanting to move to Israel. He was offered the opportunity to speak to the court prior to his 13 year conviction, his words are etched in modern Jewish history: â€œTo the Court I have nothing to say - to my wife and the Jewish People, I say Next Year in Jerusalem. I remember hearing those words and crying.
I have watched from the sidelines as this modern day hero has shaped Jewish activism and Israeli politics. Could he ever have imagined in the nine years of solitary confinement of the Soviet Gulag - prison that one day his books on democracy and identity would be read by American presidents? That he would receive the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor?
I want to share with you one moment from last week in particular. Natan rose to the dais to give his acceptance speech and he recalled the day when he and another prisoner of Zion - Yosef Mendelevich - decided to celebrate Israeli Remembrance Day and Independence Day in prison. They carefully calculated the exact moment of Israel's national siren that calls the country to a halt in honor of the soldiers who gave their lives in Israel's all too many wars, and then sang Hatikvah at the top of their voices in their solitary confinement cells of the Chistopol prison, dreaming that one day they could join their Israeli brothers and sisters so far away. At that point, it was only an impossible dream. But even then they felt connected to Jews in Israel and the world over. I heard this story last week and I cried again.
And Natan stood at the podium recalling that point in time, he brought us all into that dream and its reality. The Jewish Agency < http://jewishagency.org/> was created in 1929; its first Chairman David Ben-Gurion morphed the original organization into the government of the new State of Israel as he became its first Prime Minister; it has helped secure the immigration of three million Jews to Israel and has helped Jews all over the world live in safety and strengthen their ties to Israel and the Jewish People. Natan is no longer singing Hatikvah behind bars; he will now be the head of the choir in our Jewish homeland. Much remains to be done - the greatest challenge is maintaining and strengthening this and the next generation's connection and commitment to the Jewish People and the Jewish State.
We don't have enough heroes today, certainly not enough Jewish heroes. Take some time this week to talk to your children about how Anatoly became Natan, how Avital courageously made the case worldwide for her husband's release, how the Soviet Jewry movement lit up Jewish passion for justice. Talk about what the Jewish Agency does and the work we have ahead and what it means to have a Jewish hero living in our midst.
Last week I celebrated my wife Tanya's journey to freedom 20 years ago. This week, we celebrate American Independence. Let us not take it for granted
because not everyone in our world shares the same freedom. Perhaps this
year, we can be agents of change for others, bringing greater freedom to those who suffer.
And, Natan, thank you for making me cry."
Bruce -- our thanks to you and Misha.
That's why it was so shocking to me when, in 2007, I sat with the UJC Board Chair, one of Joe's daughters, Kathy Manning and a few others at a dinner I hosted in Jerusalem. We were talking informally about many things when I asked Joe's daughter whether she and her friends would contribute to help feed the elderly in the Former Soviet Union. "Of course," she answered, " but not a dime through federations. My generation won't deal with them." Joe merely shrugged his shoulders.
Then, just last week I read an exchange that appeared on Facebook in which one of Howard Rieger's sons, who had worked at UJC during Howard's term as CEO (!), in an exchange over the next generation wrote: "I can count on one hand the number of my under-40 year old Jewish friends who have ever made a donation to a federation," then, after his extrapolation from that personal "history" was disputed, concluded that "...the system's message has been turning them (the under-40's) 'off' -- we've been heading toward a demographic crisis for years, but the north american jewish federation system has been unable to respond in an innovative or coordinated manner." (I read this exchange in an e-mail sent to me by a friend. I don't fully understand the attraction of Facebook where all of this appeared.)
I cite these episodes not to criticize this young man or that young woman or to extol the virtues of my daughter. I cite the comments of Joe's daughter and Howard's son as examples of the futile, sporadic "dedication" of UJC to the critical next generation. From the Toronto General Assembly, where UJC's leaders committed the organization to a NextGen focus, forward, UJC's leaders have insulted leaders of the Next Generation -- David Fisher, Scott Seligman, Rob Mann, to name a few -- and, but for the Fisher Foundation's funding of "Flight" -- a model for the Next Generation the catalyst for which was Vicki Agron's (forced out by Rieger) initiative with Jane Sherman for the Fisher Family -- and the periodic "Lunch With A Legend" -- the continuing lip service paid this generation, nothing has been done...nothing..."to respond in an innovative or coordinated manner," as Alec Rieger noted, to the "demographic crisis" that the federation system has been talking about for years.
There are best practices in so many communities, other organizations (e.g., the Jewish Funders Network) that have been far ahead of our system, there has been incredible research by, among others, The Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, and there are so many young professionals around the country dedicated to bringing young women and men into federation life. I look at the leadership on my Federation Board, including our current Board and Budget & Finance Chairs, both of whom served as Campaign Chairs, and I see the NextGen emerge, bringing others along with them, in direct response to the challenge and in direct refutation of those who believe that there is no place in federation leadership for the next generation.
It is a real shame that UJC has squandered five years on so many "plans" irrelevant to the federations that own it. Yet, the federations have moved forward with no input or leadership from United Jewish Communities in this most critical area -- in this search for their communities' future. Today...yesterday...or tomorrow, maybe UJC could collect and disseminate the best practices that could influence the Next Generation. Maybe they could adapt the extant models in this area and see if they can change the minds of our daughters and sons.
Then, again, maybe they just want to talk about it some more.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Well, of course, there is the work of UJC Washington. (I probably just get William Daroff in troubled waters each time I compliment the achievements he and his staff have made.) Undeniable and worthy of a standing ovation. Nothing new only because these are achievements we have come to expect since well before this UJC leadership stepped up.
Peer Yardstick. Good work, appreciated by the federations. But the program has never expanded as the CEO said it would. Not close. I am certain UJC is doing a self-evaluation isn't it?
How about the Emerging Communities effort? The partnership between UJC and two high potential federated communities, Las Vegas and Phoenix, begun five years ago, literally abandoned without notice. UJC merely walked away. In the case of Las Vegas, the partnership would have had greater value during this time of economic crisis confronting the Jewish community; with Phoenix, abandoned even though, perversely, UJC demanded a written contract with the community before we began our work there. UJC is now in breach of that agreement. Never mind.
The Great Place to Work project. One can only presume that the project was abandoned after 70 staff members were terminated in one year, senior professionals were forced out and multiple professionals have their Resumes "on the street." One thing is certain -- UJC is not a "Great Place to Work."
The Israel Emergency Campaign and Operation Case Lead. UJC assumed the role of prioritizing the expenditure of funds raised without any involvement in raising the $362 million through the IEC. Good job of priority-setting. At the end of the day, UJC refused to establish a lay Cash Collections Committee (after committing to Chicago's leadership that it would do so) and to this day does not know where $10's of millions were applied by the federations while UJC-approved programs for aid to the Victims of Terror were never funded. In Operation Case Lead, UJC "approved" a $16 million federation effort and did nothing to implement it beyond sending a letter. How much was raised and transmitted?
The Next Generation. Let's see, UJC continued the Young Leadership Cabinets and the Jewish Leadership Forum, and implemented two programs -- "Lunch with a Legend" and "Flight." That's it. That's it? No, there was lip service as always and then there was more lip service. If words were dollars, UJC would be severely over-funded.
Relations with JAFI and JDC, our system's historic partners, have never been worse. KanferRieger have gone out of their way in their efforts to deconstruct the bonds that have tied us, as federations, to Israel and to the needs served by these partners around the World.
The breakdown of Development. These leaders, with the consent by silence of cheerleaders who should and do know better, belittled the value of the Annual Campaign publicly and privately. Development was marginalized both professionally and budgetwise. During this economic crisis UJC was totally unprepared to lead the federation system to higher ground; and, then, it was too little too late. In addition, of course, the CEO constantly bombarded the federations with requests for funding for projects without ever any process within UJC. Grade...F.
Worst of all Federation engagement. The withdrawal of interest by the federations in UJC has been manifest these past years. The lack of engagement has a direct correlation to this leadership's mandate that Committee size be reduced and that the number of leaders involved in any decision be reduced to a bare minimum. Never have so few been permitted to make decisions that impact so many.
And, finally, transformational change. Much lip service has been devoted to the UJC's leaders devotion to change. The results -- not much, if any.
I am certain I have overlooked something. After the cheerleaders and the claque have stepped back and examined what exactly has been accomplished after the expenditure of in excess of $100 million, will they begin to question themselves for the waste and the failure they have wrought? I doubt it; I really do. They will be back at the same stand, same place, with robotic applause without thought for things they would never...never...support within their own federations.
I used to joke that if it weren't for the 1990 National Jewish Population Study, the Jews of North America would have had no intermarriage crisis -- it was the disclosure in the NJPS 1990 that created the crisis. So these chachams who defend the indefensible at UJC believe that my writing of the insanity and waste that have been transferred from 111 Eighth Avenue to 25 Broadway, has been the fount of UJC's problems. The Comments to this Blog demonstrate that so many of you understand the simple truth: UJC of mid-2009 is in a worse place, a far worse place, than it was when we entrusted it to the CEO and Board Chair.
Are we better off today than we were before these leaders were hired/elected? (That's a rhetorical question.) For the cheerleaders...Kool Aid anyone?
Have a great 4th of July and Shabbat shalom.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Those of you who have offered Comments this past week to a number of Posts have offered some incredible insights albeit anonymously. The following Comment was to another Commentator who had mistakenly stated that Chicago's CEO, among others, had not taken a voluntary salary reduction. The conclusions are so right, reprinting it in this Post seemed logical:
"The FORWARD article from earlier in June says that Nasatir (Chicago) cut his salary by 10%. And don't forget the senior staffs of many Federations that have also cut their salaries, and frozen those at lower levels.
All of this is totally absent at UJC, even though their supposed "owners" are facing tough times. It's totally outrageous on so many levels...and a horrible reflection upon the Federation system and the wider Jewish community." (emphasis added)
Forget that the writer to whom this Comment was addressed had premised his/her response to a Post misstating the facts in a futile attempt to rationalize both Rieger's refusal to take a cut in compensation and to justify the compensation package apparently being offered -- after "authorization" of course -- the new CEO to drag him away from the Foundation for Jewish Camp, an organization 1/10th the size of UJC.
A horrible reflection upon the Federation system and the wider Jewish community sums it up for me in a single sentence. Shame on them...shame on us.