Monday, September 6, 2010


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.



Anonymous said...

You are aware that your blog reads like an 8 year-olds missive against the other "mean" kids who don't want to play with you anymore, right?? What a sad way to go out, Richard. Kind of pathetic, actually.

Seeing as your years of blogging have admittedly had zero positive effect on what you see as JFNA's wayward course, why don't you give up the ghost and find something more constructive to do with your free time?

Just wondering what makes you tick, because you must know that this blog does nothing to enhance your image in the community.

RWEX said...

Dear Anonymous,


There are just enough concerned federation lay and professional leaders out there to give me hope that you and those you presume to represent are on the wrong side of the history you would like all of us to forget.

Recently, someone was quoted: "...I'm a warhorse. And you know something about warhorses? Through the sleet, through the snow...they just keep going." I'll continue to "risk my reputation" in pursuit of the core values and timeless principles we thought the leaders of now JFNA were charged to pursue -- that you choose to either forget or ignore.

But, hey, thanks for writing.

Anonymous said...

Your exchange with the previous anonymous might explain why I can't recall the last time a Federation/UJA/UJC/JFNA board member or staff person tried something truly innovative or courageous and survived? We veterans have an extra al chayt this week -- for the sin of not speaking out in time forcefully when we could have made a difference or were faced with nareshkeit. (Guess this comment also makes me another bullyed 8 year old - hope my "seniors only" condo development doesn't complain!)

Anonymous said...

To the third post, (second anonymous) as another longtime veteran I disagree. We don't owe anyone an apology for not speaking up because many of us have in one way or the other. The problem has more to do with the question - Does a falling tree make any noise if there is no one in the forest to hear the sound? For roughly the first 4 years (plus or minus) of UJC there were people in the forest. For the past 6 years (plus or minus) everyone has left the forest and they aren't hearing the sounds being made.