In an otherwise fascinating article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine on January 3, What's A Bailed Out Banker Worth?, the author reflected on various methods for controlling what appears to a vast majority of North Americans as excess compensation for corporate executives. I found the analysis that Yale Law School's Jonathan Macey offered: it is the corporate board that is the only sure path to real change: "It's not that people in charge don't know how. It's that they don't want to."
Macey hit the nail squarely on its head. More and more, in our system, the one we built and the one we must now rebuild, we find Federation and national agency and JFNA Board members who have abdicated their fiduciary responsibilities to the few. Their attitude seems to be that community and national Board service is nothing more than an honorarium -- they will "leave it to others" in whom they have, if not absolute, relative confidence. Leave it to the few to read the background papers, to understand the Budgets, to resolve the controversies. Put a Motion or Resolution in front of them and ... "no questions? Let's vote." When asked for "trust," they give it without even a moment's thought on the implications.
I wrote about an unnamed community several weeks ago (actually a composite of several) only to learn that debate in one of those federations on at least one critical communal issue, if not more, has been more thorough and involving than in so many others -- even with all of the other issues there, on matters of substance, debate has been thorough and the issues transparent. Yet, whether it be the JFNA or the Alliance or so many federations, there is an attitude that "what happens behind closed doors, stays behind closed doors."
One of my friends recently bemoaned what she perceived to be the continuing "army of one (or, now maybe two)" at The Jewish Federations of North America. "How do we constantly allow this to happen," she asked. It's the seminal question of the day.
Friends, our system is at best in disarray in so many venues. To too many this has meant that the era of the "federation as central address" is over; that we can't debate the meaning of "the collective" in 2010, until we debate the value of our institutions. While I believe the nattering nabobs of negativism are wrong, I hear no national response...other than to close the doors and their ears to any criticism or to any suggestions for change. And, so goes the newest chapter in this continuing saga. Few of you have probably heard (or remember) the great song Wake Up Everybody by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes of yesteryear. It has some great lyrics the most relevant being the chorus: The world won't get no better...if we just let it be... The world won't get no better...if we just let it be. Just simple truths, my friends.