Thursday, September 23, 2010


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.



Anonymous said...

Valerie is indeed a great person and professional, but to imply that UJC/JFNA is malevolently unique among organizations because a young professional resigned in order to advance her career is disingenuous at best. Ditto for your unwarranted indictment that she was not interviewed or wooed by the then CEO or Chair of the Board. This isn't SOP in any medium-large sized bureaucracy and you should know that. But, I guess this sort of selective animus is just par for the course on this blog.

RWEX said...


The use of the first name of this "great person and professional" would have been edited out of your Comment if I knew how to do so.The "disingenuity," "selective animus" and "unwarranted indictment" you find in the Post and Blog are exceeded by your assertion that she "resigned in order to advance her career." You, who appear to have been intimately involved in the process, know better.

Your argument that JFNA is just another "medium-large sized bureaucracy" rings so terribly false -- it is a Jewish organization that should distinguish it from the kind of treatmenrt that might be accorded, e.g., professionals in my law firm. But, if you're in a senior position with any HRD responsibilities at JFNA, wouldn't you know that?

Anonymous said...

So, what's your point, Richard? Perhaps she left because she was ready for a change? For a variety of reasons? Because there were things she didn't like about the organization? Are you implying that this only happens at UJC/JFNA? Give me a break. The same thing happens all the time at *every* organization - Jewish or otherwise, including the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. Trust me, I know. And would it really make sense for Steve and Skip to sit down with every Junior professional who resigns? of course not.

I know that you have some legitimate policy disagreements with JFNA and the federation system as a whole, but I think you undermine your credibility with arguments like these.

btw, kudos to your law firm. How many professionals do you employ?

RWEX said...


You have avoided the circumstances at the then UJC that existed at the time this superb young professional chose to leave. Senior professionals, role models for this professional, had been or were being purged. No purpose would have been served by the then CEO seeking this professional out to understand the reasons. The point was that given the course of conduct, the number of women at all levels of the organization who were directly or constructively terminated, the Chair of the Executive might have found the time to understand why. After all, the UJC/JFNA Executive Committee was structured to be an "operational executive" dealing with management and operations matters. She didn't and the organization suffered for it.

As to my Federation, there is neither now nor have there ever been circumstances paralleling those at UJC/JFNA. Had there been or were there to be, I have every confidence that both senior management and lay leadership would be engaged

And thanks for your concern with my credibility and for the "kudos."

RWEX said...


I will not print the libelous screed you sent to the Blog last night. Attacking professionals by name who were forced out of UJC is merely the best evidence of the culture it appears you created or helped to create there.

Further, attacking my federation and its CEO with unsubstantiated charges once again won't find its way to print in the Blog.

The fact that you hide your antagonism behind the cloak of Anonymity is but proof of your shame.

RWEX said...

Dear Anonymous 1 & 1A:

Such bile from those whose Comments are rejected because you haven't taken your medication today -- you seem to have forgotten that this is my Blog; and I have reserved the right, as I have written you both before, to reject Comments that offer no substance.

I am so sorry that this rejection has caused you such pain -- well, actually, not. If you would send me your names, we'll be certain you get the immediate medical attention you so badly need.

Chag sameach, by the way.

Anonymous said...

Gotta say - when I worked for the Washington office and had a number of opportunities to meet with and work with many of the professionals from the National office - I would have fired almost all of them. Male, Female - whatever. This was mostly during Howard's time, but never did I meet more professionals doing so little than during that time. There is a reason that the Washington Office shows so many results - they have a number of professionals that work hard, work smart and have an amazing work ethic and love of the Jewish community and our people. In New York, I couldn't figure out what any of them did. EVER!
The reason why Federations loved us from DC? We gave them programming, support, research, lobbying efforts and more that had an actual impact on their community, their bottom line and their mission. New York should take notes.