Monday, August 10, 2009


The dissonant music of this past five years is rapidly reaching its coda...if a dirge can have a coda. I have looked back in trying to determine when it started to go bad. I think I have located the moment -- it started to go bad before it even started. Negotiations with Howard to become UJC's CEO were conducted in secrecy, of course. One of the two negotiators called me in disbelief: "Richard, you won't believe this. Howard is asking for higher compensation than we're paying Hoffman. We asked him why we should pay him more than someone who has proved himself? He told us: 'Because I am better than any of them.'" One we thought without ego had expressed an ego greater than all outdoors. It was downhill from there.

Jerry Reinsdorf, among other things the managing general partner of Chicago's White Sox and Bulls, talking about a bad trade said recently: "when you make a mistake, you own that mistake." (A bit like Powell's advice to W about Iraq, don't you think?) Well, we all own the mistake that UJC has become as its two top leaders prepare to leave. As if to prove that they are not lame ducks, as lame ducks do, they lurch from cause to cause (irrelevant other than in their obfuscation and divorce from reality and meaning to our system) and from "ask" to "ask" as if afflicted with some form of adult onset attention deficit disorder. They are searching for a legacy while ignoring the sorry one they have already constructed.

And what does the departing CEO leave behind: a diminished professional cadre afflicted by fear, destabilization and malaise; a lack of focus; an anger at any and all of those who pushed back at any point before or during his "reign," lay persons and professionals alike; and a totally destabilized and deconstructed organization. This is a legacy no one would want and even Howard's harshest critics would not have wished upon him. It turns out he was the wrong person for the wrong job at the wrong time.

KanferRieger were then UJC's perfect storm. Neither had or has any sense of the possible; so they conjured scheme after changing scheme that may have fed their vision of what UJC should or could be -- but these were always...always...a vision of the impossible. The results, as they say, speak for themselves.

It is so easy to get mired in the past and even the present -- I have been accused of being somewhere in the mire and admit that I am from time-to-time. The question is: will Kathy Manning and Jerry Silverman be capable of moving UJC away from the lowest of valleys to higher ground. They come into their new roles, however, burdened with this past, and must figure out the means to escape it. I pray they can do so. Can Kathy and Jerry move UJC to higher ground? The jury -- the owners --- will soon answer that seminal question.

As the current Board Chair and CEO come to the end of their terms and contract, respectively, the best that can be said about them is "they did the best that they could." It is also the worst that can be said of their leadership.



Anonymous said...

my $1,000,000 question: will UJC's new leadership bring richard wexler back into the fold?

i can understand why they might want to silence his incessant la'shon hora, but they placate him at their own peril. beware.

“He that whines for Glass without G/ Take away L and that is he.”

-Benjamin Franklin

Anonymous said...

You are likely correct that the Rieger regime’s problems were presaged by his negotiations for the position. But your analysis suggests that Silverman’s problems are even greater than the mess he inherits. That negotiations to bring him on board have been secret and that it appears his salary will be even higher than Rieger’s doesn’t auger well for his credibility with rank and file donors, if not local federation leaders.

In the interview with Manning and Silverman described in the Forward this week, Manning pointedly deflected the question about salary. What is she afraid of? Eventually, it will need to be made public. Is the leadership so out of touch that they fail to understand the importance of how they spend our communal money?

Thanks for your efforts to keep the spotlight on the issues at UJC and provide a forum for discussion.