Like all of you, or at least most of you, I have received a steady stream of e-vites and follow-ups to the Young Leadership Cabinet celebration of its 50t5h Anniversary scheduled for month's end in Park City. I am very impressed by the names of the Registrants (not so much by the program, but that's not the point is it?. This event is about nostalgia, about reignition, about memory.
My own memories of my days on the Cabinet are as sharp today as if they happened yesterday rather than almost 40 years ago -- the nights with Yitz Greenberg, dancing through the halls of the long defunct Harrison House in Lake Bluff, Illinois, chanting/screaming David Melech Yisrael and Am Yisrael Chai to the shock of the all-Gentile hotel staff, the full disclosure mini-caucuses, the moments with UJA's leaders, the inspiration and perspiration and the joy of being with those who shared a passion for Jewish life, for community for Peoplehood.
And I remember my visits to the Cabinet Retreats of the 90's as UJA Chair where I saw the future of our communities and national and international organizations -- a seriousness of purpose and a continuing passion that inspired me each and every time.
In large measure the Cabinet experience of the past was also an exercise in elitism -- when being part of an elite was not a bad thing, it was a special thing. And it was good. When the Cabinets became all-inclusive with a minimum gift -- as opposed to the capacity giving of the past -- something was lost, and won't be regained. When I wrote earlier about my misgivings that a Cabinet Reunion invitation would be accompanied -- in bold type no less -- by a line "There will be no solicitation of funds," I was admonished by leaders whom I respect with the observation "that was then, this is now." And, that's the point, isn't it?
Today's Cabinet is no longer about capacity giving or Washington Conferences, it has become, like JFNA itself, about nothing much. Its lay leaders embrace TribeFest because they have nothing else to embrace; the per capita gift of Cabinet members does not bespeak leadership (although there are some gifts that do). and there is no sense of immediate leadership roles for Cabinet graduates in the mainstream of larger communities. The YLC has become but a shadow of what it once was, now it's a nice social experience. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
It would be terrific if there were a discussion at this Reunion not only about memories of what The Cabinet once was but about what the Cabinet could be once again. But that would require a degree of self-examination of which JFNA appears incapable.