Friday, April 26, 2013


1. John Ruskay announced his retirement. On April 23 one of the best and brightest ever produced by the federation system,  John Ruskay, the President and CEO of the New York UJA-Federation, advised his Board that he would retire effective June 30, 2014. Gary Rosenblatt, the editor-publisher of The Jewish Week, has captured John's excellence and leadership as no one else really could in --but, no one can really sum up the extent of John's contributions to community and People in a single article no matter its length.

I am and have always been a huge fan of my fellow Ramah "graduate." Our system -- from UJA-Federation to JFNA to JAFI -- will miss John, his wisdom and compassion. But, all the more, I will miss his understanding that criticism can lead to constructive discourse, and that our discussions, the most recent of which took place in Yerushalayim in February, were always l'shem shamayim, no matter the subject matters or the outcomes.

2. The Conference of Presidents has chosen its next Chair. We congratulate the Chair-Nominee, Bob Sugarman, the immediate Past Chair of the ADL. We also congratulate the Conference Search Committee for rejecting the transparent "charm offensive" of the other candidate, the immediate Past Chair of JFNA. Sugarman will succeed our friend Richard Stone, one of the great leaders of the Jewish People.

For now, it would be fair to ask: what convinced the immediate Past Chair of JFNA (who had never attended a Conference meeting or participated on a Conference Mission until this past February [after her desire for this office was known]) to seek an office the recent occupants of which have been incredible leaders who embraced and embrace Zionism and Israel -- in no particular order, Shoshana Cardin, Mort Zuckerman, Ron Lauder, Alan Solow and Richard Stone, among others? I think the answer was: nothing more than a sense of entitlement and hubris. After all, the charm offensive worked over and over at JFNA, didn't it? (And, knowing how Nominating Committees in Jewish life work, Ms. Manning, as the disappointed office seeker who no doubt impressed the Committee at her "interview," surely was invited to "reapply." Oy.)

And, what if anything does this action by the Conference prove? You can't fool all of the people all of the time -- except at JFNA.

3. That "Leadership Conference Dallas." JFNA convened a three day Conference in March "entitled" (JFNA's word) "Be The Change" that was "...aimed at inspiring younger Jews who seek to be change agents in their communities..." Apparently the 200 "young professionals and volunteers" (does anyone at JFNA proofread this stuff before it goes out?) who "convened" were engaged with the Board Chair, CEO Jerry and JFNA National Young Leadership Cabinet Members and "other JFNA professionals..." Other than Chair Michael Siegal: (a) none of the named speakers came out of a federation background; and (b) the Event Co-Chairs come from communities that hardly qualify as federations under even the weakest of criteria (e.g., the so-called "Draft Second Membership Criterion").

So, I am confused -- how does JFNA convene a Conference that was to "...focus on providing a better understanding of the Federation system...., articulating the thinking of Jewish Federation leadership, and sharing ideas that can be used locally..." when the only speaker who has any understanding of the federation qua federation is the Board Chair? What a sad wasted opportunity.



Anonymous said...

An organization without leadership convenes a leadership conference.

That pretty says it all.

Anonymous said...

Good that the old guard (who was once part of the young upstarts) recognizes it's time to resign so that a new generation of women and men can lead.

When oh when will Chicago's leadership (who have been there far, far longer than Ruskay) similarly transition?