Tuesday, September 29, 2009


In an hysterical preview of what promises to be an hysterical Coen Brothers film, A Serious Man, in The New York Times (September 27, 2009), Frank Lidz begins by recounting Jewish Joke no. 73:

"The story goes that during a Sabbath service a Rabbi is seized by a sudden wave of guilt, prostrates himself and cries out, 'God, before you I am nothing.'

The Cantor is so moved by this demonstration of piety that he throws himself to the floor beside the Rabbi and cries, 'God, before you I am nothing.'

Watching this scene unfold from his seat in the first row, the chairman of the synagogue's trustees jumps up, flops down in the aisle and cries, 'God, before you I am nothing.'

The Rabbi nudges the Cantor and whispers, 'So look who thinks he's nothing.'"

The joke resonated with me, after I stopped chuckling, because of a number of Comments I have received (including some that could actually be posted because their language wasn't as bad as others) suggesting that I have been "going easy" on Kathy Manning and Jerry Silverman because I want "back in" at UJC. One of the relatively mild Comments said I was "brown nosing." (Obviously, these harsh critics forget Posts dating back over one year wherein I urged Manning to assume a much larger role in UJC leadership: "As all of us know, she is articulate, she knows the right questions to ask and possesses the intelligence, grace, sense of humor and commitment so vital to leadership.")

Let's look at the facts:

1. This Blog has been and is all about my love for what UJC was meant to be, for the federations, for the beauty of our work, our history and our potential, working together in unity. UJThee and Me has also been about my anger and frustration at seeing UJC deconstructed from the inside while federation lay and professional leaders who should know better, did nothing. It will continue to be.

2. My "loyalties" have always been to the institutions -- federations and UJC -- as they were built and conceived. The concept so vital to all democratic institutions: that we are "..of laws not men (or women)" (which , in my reading, is derivative of caveats found in Pirke Avot) has driven my conclusions and my opinions. I wrote an early diary of the first years of UJC the subtitle of which was ...A Love Story. I still believe that we can recreate an institution if not worthy of our love, certainly our respect.

3. I have been urging new leadership for UJC since the current leadership turned the organization into a mockery of its intended purposes -- a place without focus, without priorities, without a sense of love for our People and the values that imbued UJC with meaning.

4. I think that there has been a growing realization among UJC's incoming leaders that on matters of substance and principle, even as they quibble over their perception of "the facts" (that only they possess), the Posts on this Blog dealing with a failure of transparency, a failure of process, a failure of engagement, a failure of accountability, a failure of voice and a management disaster have been failures that must be corrected...and will be.

So, in closing, ponder this all ye cynics: Rabbi Dan Sklar, who consulted on the Coen Brothers film, in the NYT article called the brothers modern-day Jewish prophets. He said: "The role of the prophet is to speak truth to power and to speak truth to the people." So that, I have decided, is what I am aiming for: not a role in UJC's new leadership cadre but prophet-hood. I am "brown-nosing" to be deemed a prophet, nothing less.



Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog from time to time since the beginning. I've always thought that you had legitimate concerns with an organization that, imo, has been broken since the beginning, but i regretted the fact that they were distracted by a lamentable and blind hatred for the former CEO. I've known Howard for years and certainly never experienced him as anywhere near the sociopath you portray. It's always been clear to me that his opinion of you is quite low, so it never surprised me that you reacted in kind. All the while I sat in the shadows and tried not to judge anyone.

But, Richard, what were you thinking when you wrote this post? it is the most staggering display of narcissism that I've had the misfortune of witnessing in quite some time. Likening your opinions to prophetic vision, for God's sake? what a humiliation.

I've never been so embarrassed for a colleague.

RWEX said...

Dear "Anonymous" -- I admit my narcissism and hope you will admit your lack of any sense of humor or proportion.

RWEX said...


I have appreciated the calls and e-mails, off line, supportingt me in light if this "Anonymous" in personam attacks. Yes, this "Anonymous" appears to be "one french fry short of a Happy Meal," and is "very confused about who has blind hatred for who" -- but what can one expect from someone who writes that "...I sat in the shadows and tried not to judge anyone" then stays in the "shadows" offered by anonymity and "judges?"

Oh me.

RWEX said...


The first "Anonymous" Commentator (if one so filled with vitriol and lacking any resort to reason or facts can be called such)struck again in a Comment that I have rejected. This time the "Commentator" almost showed the face behind the mask. His identity, though, would surprise no one.

Chag sameach.