In Illinois we know all about sycophants. After all our former Governor, the epically comic defendant, now convicted felon, Rod Blagojevich (hereinafter "Blago"), surrounded himself with "yes men" and women, leading inexorably to a federal indictment and trial. As Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown wrote a few weeks ago: "Time after time (Blago's appointed Deputy Governor) said he made statements to the Governor that he didn't actually believe were true because he thought it would help him stay in good standing with Blago. You know the type. You've worked with them."
Brown continued: "In explaining one embarrassing conversation captured on the wiretaps, (the Deputy Governor) offered this interpretation: 'I was just trying to figure out where he was going so I could understand what he wanted so I could tell him what he wanted to hear.'"
Welcome to The Jewish Federations of North America lay leadership of the last six years, my friends. It is as if the immediate past and current Board Chairs posted a sign -- "LAY LEADERS WANTED -- ONLY SYCOPHANTS NEED APPLY" in determining who would serve in the highest "councils" of the organization. Those who aspire to inclusion in the minuscule group of JFNA "insiders" know that they will only be tolerated if they suppress their own opinions, try to figure out where the "leaders" are going and, even if they are steering the JFNA bus over a cliff, cheer them on. And the louder they cheer, the more the chance they advance, but with certitude they remain "inside."
These are women and men who, in their business lives, in their families and in their federation work, have never been shrinking violets never shying away from the expression of their strong opinions strongly. In not doing so at JFNA they have failed the organization, failed the federations they represent and fail the fiduciary principles that brought them to the JFNA table.
It is tragic when an aspirant to higher office at JFNA told me in confidence: "I know what they're doing is wrong. But I also know that if I open my mouth in opposition, they will shun me and my lay career at JFNA will be over." These "leaders" talk about the "new culture" they have created at JFNA -- and this is it!! You want to be part of JFNA leadership? Then be sure you read the virtual sign at the entrance doors at 25 Broadway: "ABANDON PRINCIPLE, ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE." Welcome.
They/we can be very proud.