As we approach another GA, even with the High Holy Days in our rear view mirror, it might be time for further introspection. I think.., however, by this time, there can be no one involved in American and Canadian Jewish life who is unaware of the reality that since the Los Angeles General Assembly we have seen our system literally waste over $100 million in Dues with a negative return on investment. Now let's look at the rubble and see what can be reconstructed.
It's already started. Jerry Silverman has blown through The Jewish Federations of North America like a breath of fresh autumn air. Speaking at federation major gift events (something that hadn't been done by UJC CEOs in its decade of existence), traveling to sit with federation leaders, reaching out, doors open, when possible he even answers his own phone...he even answers his own phone!!!! Jerry clearly loves people, loves a good debate and is open to new ideas. This will stand him in good stead wherever he goes around this continent.
For the last few years, the message "I'm from UJC and I am here to help you," has been as oxymoronic as "Senate Intelligence Committee" or "airplane food" or similar. Now, the times they are a'changing. And for the better. My friends at 25 Broadway tell me how happy they are with the new professionalism they feel wafting through the halls. Note to Michael Gelman: interrogate all UJC professional staff to determine who is speaking with Wexler.
Then there is Kathy Manning. I believe that she has promised herself, if not all others, that she will be the most hands-on Chair any of our organizations have ever experienced. Those hands are being felt everywhere. The test will come if Kathy's desire for control exceeds her otherwise strong leadership skills. The lay-professional partnership will be tested again in an environment that has never experienced the glory that a strong and balanced lay-professional partnership can create. Now, at the very beginning, would be the best time for Kathy to understand where the lay leaders' responsibilities end and those of the professionals begin. This is a skill set that comes from experience, from watching. Or, maybe it can be taught, if there are teachers and students out there. Just as Jerry will learn from mentoring, so might Kathy. Knowing what one doesn't know is just as critical as knowing what one does.
The Jewish Federations of North America need the best leaders. Now they will be tested as never before.