So here we are again, facing the evidence of a system self-destructing yet one that senses that it is beyond criticism. ejewishphilanthropy published the cry of a communal professional who had, quite apparently and eloquently, seen the futility in the exercise of her responsibilities as she wrote brilliantly and poignantly: http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/40-plus-and-screwed-more-on-less-young-adult-engagement/?utm_source=Fri+June+21&utm_campaign=Fri+June+21&utm_medium=email
This is an article that must be read in full. I commend it because of not only its candor, but also because of the repercussions. The author, Michal Kohane, was immediately terminated from her position by a community in stasis; by an organization totally unable to stand outside itself and look hard at itself in a critical manner; one that needs every Michal Kohane it can get its hands on. But, that will never happen -- certainly not in a failing community, not in a floundering one. (Of course, the community in question has never been hesitant in its criticism of anything with which it has or does disagree.)
Dan Brown, the brilliant and incisive founder and publisher of ejewishphilanthropy, framed the question best when he learned of Michal's firing: "We must ask, why is it that our organizations act vindictively towards anyone -- employees, lay leaders, the media -- that say anything critical of any initiative or policy? Are their CEO egos so fragile? Are their missions so questionable that some behave like the worst dictatorship in history?"
Well, of course. But, where there is a balance in the lay-professional partnership -- a balance that ceased to exist at many of the organizations about which I have been writing over the past years, there is either a lay or professional leader with too much power (and in the case of the chief volunteer officer in too many places, too little experience) and way too little judgment --that sense of l'etat c'est moi. Where there is a balance, often the lay and professional leaders respond to the private criticism in a constructive way. But, more and more, any criticism, all criticism is viewed as negative and the critic, whether private or public, shelved.
In every organization that I chaired my door was open to my fellow lay leaders and to the chief professionals and their colleagues -- all of them were my partners. I heard their complaints -- about the organizations and, often, about my leadership. I attempted to learn from every encounter, and to both change myself and to effect change to make the organizations and their leaders better.
I read Michal Kohane's column as a scream of pain, one that came from both her heart and soul after failing to get the ear or, more likely, the understanding of her Federation's CEO.