There are many stories of disappointment over the past 6 years, now going on seven, of mismanagement and maladministration at, first, UJC and, now, JFNA ... too many...way too many. In terms of poignancy, however, in my mind none match the heartbreak of a single professional's history of her departure from the then UJC and the total insensitivity of a leader who believes she is sensitive to what was/is going on behind the four walls of then 111 and now 25 Broadway.
During the so-called "administration" of the immediate past CEO and President, in 2007 and 2008, it appeared that so many of the women professionals within the organization were going to be purged. This started long before this Blog began. When I saw what was happening -- a purge of many accompanied by incredible cruelty and a total lack of professional treatment to so many who had literally given their professional lives to our system, some to the predecessor organizations and all to then UJC, I privately raised my voice in protest. I called the former CEO and President and questioned how an organization premised in Torah could act in such a heartless and unprofessional manner. All I succeeded in doing was to further enrage the already enraged.
So I called the then Chair of the Executive, now the Board Chair. I asked her to intervene -- specifically, I asked: "Have you done an exit interview with _____ _____ or ____ _____ or any of the other women who have been forced out or fired by this regime which you Co-Chair to learn what is going on the organization of which you are one of its two most important lay leaders?" Her answer was both lawyer-like and revelatory: "I have spoken with some of them." (I learned shortly thereafter that she had called one or two of the worst treated, told them how sorry she was they were leaving and wished them well. No questions. No answers wanted.) I asked if she were going to do anything about what she had learned. She did not reply...because she had learned nothing...she had refused to ask, refused to get involved. No, in the choice between principle and ambition...well, you know...
But this is a story about repercussions. One young, brilliant Ukrainian Jewish woman with her family was given refugee status in the United States during the Exodus.She came here and excelled in all that she did and does. She wanted to give back to the communities that brought her here. Post-college, less than a decade after coming to America as a refugee, this wonderful young woman interviewed and gained a position at the then United Jewish Communities. Simultaneously she sought a Master's in Non-Profit Management. Her superiors at UJC and her colleagues knew her to be a "professional superstar."
And, then came the purges. This young superstar was not swept out with others but she could not stand the treatment she saw her mentors and friends receive. She could not abide this breach of her ideals...she resigned. And no one at UJC/JFNA seemed to care. No call from the Board or Executive Chair; no "I'm so sorry..." No, "why did this happen?" (If they read this, they would no doubt ask "who the heck is he writing about?") It was/is an organization both uncaring and unknowing. It was as it is...feckless.
Our young superstar was only temporarily disillusioned. She wanted to stay in the field, to "give back" as she would put it. And she has. She is now a senior professional of one of the great partners of the federations where she is and will be treated as the superstar she remains. She celebrates the 20th anniversary of Operation Exodus as a proud Jewish professional.
Her story broke my heart and, at the same time, inspired me. A wonderful history for the New Year.