Just some questions and thoughts:
~ 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.