Our good friend, the past Chair of the Young Leadership Cabinet and the past National Campaign Chair, Mark Wilf, is, with his brother Zygi the owner of the Minnesota Vikings, the team that came so very close to this year's Super Bowl. Prior to that game Mark was asked why the Wilfs extended the contract of their saturnine and apparently uninspired Coach. Here is how Mark responded: "As an organization you have to stand up for what you believe in..." Words to lead by.
One Anonymous Commentator to a recent Post wished us "good luck in finding anyone at JFNA with the courage..." in that case to advocate on the conversion issue. My question is: where is the courage on anything? What are the red lines beyond which JFNA's lay leaders will not cross? At a recent Chicago meeting with Joint leadership, Chicagoans reviewed the merger agreement, the driving morality that said to Joint and JAFI leaders "we can give up our ownership of UJA because the new entity will be committed to the sharing of greater resources with us. They will be our advocates. They will lead the federations on our behalf." And, ten years later we find JFNA's leaders cowering in the corner fearful apparently of any advocacy on behalf of the organizations that made the merger that made their positions possible.
Oh, I know. It would be hard; it might even offend a few of the federation owners; there is no one who would predict its success. Many put-offs. What was it Mark Wilf said: "as an organization, you have to stand up for what you believe in..." And, just what is it that JFNA an an institution "believes in?" Well, there's Dues, JFNA "the brand," bond funding, Washington Office, new "partnerships in Israel," photo ops, special meetings with the President, the Conference of Presidents, Development (even as we do none), JFNA's constituencies and, did I mention Dues and "the brand?" I don't have a sense that JFNA's leaders are aware of the organization's own Mission as stated in the Merger documents that created the organization.
Months ago, on the eve of particularly important JFNA (then UJC) meetings, Gary Rosenblatt, in a magnificent and insight-filled editorial in The Jewish Week, called upon UJC, its leaders and federation leaders to seize the day. All they seized then and thereafter were the scruffs of their own necks as they ushered themselves away from their responsibilities and our values.
Jim Valvano, z'l, inspired all of us as he battled the cancer that would take his life. He challenged each of us and all of us to "do something extraordinary." That's all we have been trying to do -- to inspire the leadership of JFNA to be extraordinary. Instead what I see, and this is just me, the current leaders believe that the "extraordinary" for them is having achieved their positions. Having achieved that status they offer...nothing.
Friends, if you don't know what it is you believe in or what JFNA should stand for, and you lack the courage to stand tall for what JFNA should be doing, how would you respond to Mark Wilf's maxim: "as an organization you have to stand up for what you believe in?" The answer: you can't. We have a $30 million organization that stands for nothing today. None of us can afford that. But we do have a brand.