Saturday, October 3, 2009


The pages of this Blog are replete with commentary that in the aggregate -- after the process abuses, the budgetary abuses, the mismanagement -- speak in the main to indifference -- to a national organization indifferent to the values upon which it was constructed and indifferent to the wants and needs of the federations which own it; and federations, individually and in the aggregate, which have grown indifferent to UJC and, out of their indifference, have articulated questions about the need for a national organization at this critical time. One would have hoped that those in power who must have observed this growing indifference that undermines both UJC and the federations would have said: "We must meet and deliberate and find a way to overcome this indifference before it destroys all of us."

A certain frustration sets in with the indifference that threatens what so many have worked so hard for so long to build. Watching UJC disintegrate over the past half decade has been like watching an auto accident unfold before our eyes -- slow motion leading up to the crash. We have suggested privately and publicly that UJC's new leaders convene a national meeting in the style of the McDonald's Retreat in Oak Brook, Illinois, eleven years ago; UJC's leaders (to date, still under Kanfer's thumb) have convened but one meeting, in Washington, of the current leadership, no "outsiders" invited. Unless this leadership steps aside, what progress can be made -- for the current leadership actually believes all is well. These "leaders" are truly indifferent to the mess they have made and will leave behind.

Looking to the future, the Board Chair-elect summoned the Executive Committee to 25 Broadway on the 23rd to look at certain matters that will dictate UJC's future. While this Executive (which Joe Kanfer so mistrusted [because it was chaired by another] that he created some form of a de facto Executive which he would control and which would exclude those who were "suspected" of actually possessing their own ideas) has some fine leaders, lay and professional, serving on it, in the main it has been an empathetic, sentient body where those who push back, who dissent if you will, have been run over roughshod to the point where even principled opposition has been deemed futile. This has not been a coalescence in support of a majority view (although it has been interpreted as such); it has been the imposition by dictate of the will of leadership. The result, indifference, when the free flow of ideas might produce a better result and, certainly, real engagement.

In the debate over the horrific incivility of a South Carolina Representative's "You Lie" outburst in the midst of the President's speech on Health Care last month, Congressman James Clybourn observed: "You have to come at these things from a position of strength. My father used to say, 'Son, always remember that silence gives consent.'" "Leaders" of UJC other than the Board Chair, have been intimidated into their shells, into total silence, and in so doing have "given consent" time and again to policies and programs that have disabled UJC:The Jewish Federations of North America. They have been and remain indifferent even to the extent of permitting by silence the Board Chair to arrogate to himself the powers of the Office of President and CEO in Jerry's predecessor's absence.

Kathy Manning has ample time before the D.C. GA to identify the lay leaders with whom she wishes to work. Those who she identifies and how Kathy organizes her leadership will tell us a great deal about not only her leadership style -- exclusive or inclusive -- but also about the direction UJC will take under her leadership. We shall know soon enough whether this "new UJC" will be able to conquer indifference and build a new engagement. Or whether we are in for more of the same. I'm betting we are going to see a new, relevant UJC emerge from the ashes of the present, that will conquer indifference. We'll be watching.


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