She promised us that we had hired a new Moshe -- someone for the ages, from outside our system who would lead us out of Egypt. A successful businessman who spoke the language (ignore the cliches), not another of those "Large City Executives." He would be filled with new ideas. At last we would find our way to a new land of milk and honey. They flew in Moses from Boston. So far, truth be told, all we have experienced has been a deluge of toads.
Jerry Silverman was hired by a Search Committee filled with federation lay leaders heavily in the thrall of Kathy Manning, hand-picked, in the main, because they could be "counted on." Jerry was whom she wanted...demanded. Interesting resume, great success at the tiny Foundation for Camp (where he rebranded the organization), great presentation to the Search Committee...and he had Manning's support. This was a support that continued through what was described as an intense two year evaluation -- I was not one of the "evaluators" but, those of you who were, answer me this: Did Manning approach you as she did me with the following: "I want your opinion about how Jerry is doing." "Don't you think he has been doing great?!" That's "evaluation" JFNA style.
I think that any fair evaluation would positively accentuate: Jerry's accessibility -- he has visited almost every federation by now (although what he has learned on those visits appears to be negligible when it comes to advocacy for the federations' wants and needs to which he expresses great sympathy and understanding...and then does nothing); he has been our system's advocate in the halls of the Knesset on issues ranging from "Who Is A Jew" to incivility in Israel (but in trying to do so alone, he has disregarded the playbook from the demonstrable successes in the past); we do have a new "brand" (but the cost of "rebranding" and proselytizing for the brand which actually first emerged in 1999 have yet to be totaled up and, probably exceed $2.5 million); he has been unique among current JFNA professionals -- he has done some important major gift fund raising with Federation CEOs -- but not enough, not nearly enough; Jerry's professional hiring pattern has been awful: on the plus side, his efforts retained William Daroff, who continues, even with all of the tweeting, to be the JFNA superstar, brought back Mindy Hepner, and hired Matt Freedman away from Baltimore, terrific professionals (but what are they asked to do?), but he also brought in Joanne Moore, who appeared to have superstar potential, then deferred to a consultant and the Board Chair and the SVP for Israel and Overseas, leaving this professional of such potential no choice but to leave, and he brought over Paul Kane from New York UJA-Federation, perhaps at their demand, who has functioned as...what, exactly -- certainly not to protect and rebuild JFNA's FRD function -- maybe the consummate cheerleader.
Meanwhile JFNA has spent $90 million under this CEO with the same negligible results of his predecessor. A lost three years. Sure, there has been good continued programming in low level gift development. I-LEAD, and the like. But the big bucks have been thrown at, e.g., TribeFest 1 and 2, the Global Planning Table, Community Heroes, a futile Israel and Overseas effort that aspires to be something more when it can't show a single accomplishment over the last 6 years and branding, branding, always branding. And, now, Silverman sees himself as the little boy at the JFNA dyke, plugging gaping holes created by his Chair with his thumbs -- he'll need more of those, it appears -- and joining in the vendettas
When Jerry was on the cusp of his JFNA work, he visited with many of us, allegedly seeking guidance. Many of us told him to immediately hire an EVP from and of the federations. He demurred, "I want to first get the lay of the land." OK, and now it's three years later and... Hmmm. Rumors were he was searching for the right person earlier in 2012 but that there was such great pressure within the JFNA hierarchy from those not experienced in and of the federations on his senior staff that Jerry backed off. While Silverman now believes that he totally understands the federations because he has dropped in on all of them, he doesn't. The need for that federation-centric EVP continues, now more than ever.
Do I think Jerry should go? I think he needs Chairs who understand how the federation system works and give him direction. And, he needs to understand that his current Chairs need to be told "enough" -- enough with the Global Planning Table, enough with the total misguided micromanagement, enough with the vendettas.
So much rests on the shoulders of Michael Siegal and Dede Feinberg...because we all know what follows a deluge of toads.