Coinciding with each General Assembly in my memory has been the publication of the Forward 50 -- The Forward selection of the 50 Jews who impacted upon our Peoplehood, our communities and our culture in the prior 12 months. Perhaps it's time for The Forward to consider publishing its list at some other time of year.
In the past I don't recall a year in which major federation figures, lay or professional, were not among the "50." True, last year our system was represented by but a single professional, named not for his communal accomplishments (for he had yet to evidence any) but, rather, for the trend in CEO selection that he represented. This year...none...not one federation or JFNA leader.
This tells us much about the perception of our system (admittedly by those who pay us little attention during the year) but, also, about the reality. Yes, as always, when Israel is threatened, we stand up, but the rest of the year, generally, we either slink back within the borders of our constituent units and/or we "develop" programs like Festivus and trumpet failure as success, thinking (hoping??) no one will notice.
What can be done? Blessedly, we have new Chairs of the JFNA Board and Executive. They can provide the inspiration, the energy and the sense of purpose so lacking the past six years -- inspiration, energy and purpose not just for JFNA but for the federation owners as well. They can do so (along with a strong new National Campaign Chair) by examining JFNA's basic purposes and committing themselves to them -- rather than, as has been the case for at least the last three years, continuing down a road of misbegotten, ill-conceived personal agendas.
I want to see the lay leaders of JFNA and federation lay and professional leaders in the 2013 Forward 50. Those identified for reinvigorating our national system and revitalizing our communities. It can be done.