Wednesday, August 5, 2009


There is a new book out on the World economic tsunami -- A Colossal Failure of Common Sense. The title would be equally applicable to the crisis of engagement that United Jewish Communities' faces on this, the cusp of the arrival of its new CEO. We are, as one of my friends termed it, "watching the UJC flame flickering out" -- grasping for relevancy at their time of irrelevance.

Where did this process of deconstruction begin? To this observer, it began when a conscious decision was made, in the interest of supposed "change," to eliminate institutional memory. The reason was, I would suggest, that there were those in lay and professional leadership of UJC who believed sincerely that those who had institutional memory were those dedicated to preserving the "silos" UJC was determined to tear down. They were wrong, but that didn't matter -- to admit they were wrong would have destroyed their narrative. The conscious decision was made to drive away professionals and lay leaders who could and would provide it. And it worked -- there is no institutional memory. And it failed -- without institutional memory, there was no internal pushback; no "emperor wears no clothes."

Those that could have steered KanferRieger back on track held back, perhaps in the hope that they would find their -- and, thereby UJC's -- way to relevancy without constructive criticism. Time and again a small group of Executives and a an even smaller group of lay leaders would step up to "sha" any criticism emboldening KanferRieger to even more destructive behavior. And UJC melted down even further as a result. It was a catastrophic failure of common sense.

All of this led to the meltdown UJC is experiencing today and has for the past 3 to 5 years. The meltdown has now culminated in UJC's leaders' bizarre quest for funding for the Ethiopian National Project. No planning, no real budget, no FRD Plan, just an "urgent appeal" for $3.7 million in the hopes that a "coalition of the willing" will come up with the funds. Add to this to the lack of any care that JAFI and JDC are operating on fumes and no support among the largest federations for this "ask" and the quest becomes quixotic. Then add to this "ask" the fact that the UJC lay leaders making this "urgent appeal" come from communities that have sent not a shekel in supplemental or additional funds for the ENP since its creation. (When one of the most supportive of federation leaders asked for a public accounting of ENP funding federation by federation, that leader met summary rejection by UJC leadership. No surprise.) What have you got: "meltdown" -- a total disconnect from reality.

"Urgent appeal" indeed.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

$750,000 for a new CEO with no institutional experience or track record in the federation world?!?! seriously?!?!

THIS IS INSANE! I pity my the day my community's Campaign Director calls me to discuss my '10 gift.

guess what? this donor is gone. poof.