Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I hope that each of you had a wonderful first Seder and I wish you and yours a zissen Pesach.

I don't know whether the Federation CEOs, no matter their city-size grouping, in their annual retreats, actually talk tachlis with each other about what is going bad in their communities in an effort to assist one another. One would hope so. Yes, beyond the golf games, the distractions of staring at the barely dressed on Spring break, might they help those in need -- and there are so many in need. I am hearing that at least three Large City CEOs aren't "working out," are on the brink; and that's a real shame for them, personally, for their communities and for a system so badly frayed to begin with.

And, most sad, there is no national organization to which a CEO can turn. Because, along with almost the totality of lay leadership with any sense of history or best practices, there is not one professional at JFNA any longer with a background in federation. (Yes, for a few months more, Paul Kane is still on board, but one must ask whether anything in Paul's deep background at the New York UJA-Federation is a transferable experience.) In the past, the national organizations drew on the best and brightest of federation CEOs for their professional leaders -- from a Phil Bernstein, z'l, the pro's pro, to Marty Kraar,z'l, from Stanley Horowitz, z'l, who trained so many of the great LCEs, to Brian Lurie and Bernie Moscovitz, fonts of never-ending brilliant ideas, there was always someone at the helm for so many eras who could provide guidance   
or programmatic ideas or a group of national lay leaders on whom a federation  with a specific problem could draw. Who at JFNA today has any experience that would be of any value to any CEO (other than Bill Daroff) in any community regardless of size? The CEO has, to his credit, visited more federations than his JFNA/UJC predecessors combined -- but are those trips worth it when he speaks in that jargon of cliche and marketing (or are those the same) of how great we are and seemingly hears nothing (or, maybe, it's that he fails to understand what he is hearing)?

Wouldn't it be fair to think that after an investment in excess of $600,000,000...yes, $600,000,000...JFNA, our sad, pitiful JFNA, would have developed a team of federation-centric experts, a federation "SWAT-team," if you will, ready and able to quickly address and advise every federation in need as to how to address issues of campaign, organization, constituency, hrd...any issue; sadly, the cupboard is desperately, terribly bare. Instead, we have a "tool kit" for new CEOs...terribly deficient and totally inadequate. There are the CEOs themselves in conference calls and on their list serves, but those are hardly enough in these complex times and hardly a substitute for the capable national organization we had thought we would have had. (Mentoring might help if it really worked. I am reminded, however, of one new LCE who at a meeting with his peers lamented one thing or another. "We have to get you a mentor," one of his colleagues replied. "I have one," said the LCE seeking help, "It's you." Another CEO of a different City-size told me of his many calls to JFNA for help, and getting...nothing.) Instead, we have pros who send out Briefings about being at the White House, or writing an election report delivered by her CEO...

For far too long, federation leaders have allowed JFNA to be about...itself, and little else; lay leaders who view their roles as "follow the leader...irregardless of direction or the lack thereof; or, in the case of many...too many, "blindly protect the leader" without regard for the consequences. 

There are, it seems to this outlier, some very simple, very practical solutions. And, all of you know where to start...don't you?



Anonymous said...

There was once a much respected associate vp at CJF who ever so often wrote a piece of absolute brilliance. As a young upstart I asked him why he did not write more. His answer was something like, "Our Jews don't read, don't write, seldom listen and rarely respond. And those who do are written off as being luftmenschen". So Richard, better to sharpen one's golf game.

Anonymous said...

Kudos for pointing out the past leaders who cared about their colleagues, were willing to help their colleagues both with advice and if necessary to make field trips into the communities to help an exec navigate the troubled waters. Some of us were able to survive for years after a rough start only because there was someone or several people willing to intervene. In addition they had the respect of the local lay leadership because of their positions, experience and knowledge. Two of the most important people who you did not mention in this mix were Joe Cohen z'l and Norbert Fruehauf, who were among the most effective and someone who we, as young execs, knew we could call upon and get a meaningful response almost instantaneously. It should also be noted that they trained personally several field people who also were able to bring these skills to help our colleagues in trouble.

RWEX said...

Thanks to you both. And I apologize for the truly inexcusable omission of Joe Cohen, z'l, and Norbert Fruehauf -- both pro's pros. While I appreciated Joe's quiet authority from a greater distance, I considered Norbert my professional partner in so many good works.