Sunday, August 4, 2013


About one month ago now, with appropriate fanfare, JFNA announced that CEO Jerry had hired an Executive Vice-President. I don't know Mark Gurvis but, unlike the other pros at the federations' national organization, he comes from a strong federation background, first as a senior pro in Cleveland, then as the Vancouver Jewish Federation CEO for over a decade. As one Commentator wrote:
"The new EVP is a smart guy, a mensch and a great pro... now all they need is a new CEO." 
While I would question the judgment of one who signs on to second a CEO in the last year of his contract term, I wish Mark every success.

If Gurvis was hired to bring a strong management hand to a JFNA that has seen silos like JFNA-Israel operate as if it is some organization independent of the federation members, b'hatzlacha. If, however, he was hired to offer CEO Jerry nothing more than another echo in the echo chamber, another Diet Coke when he needs one, this won't last. I would like to write that "time will tell," but there isn't enough time left to await outcomes. Inasmuch as I see Steve Hoffman's Rasputin-like hand in all things JFNA, hopefully Gurvis will know where to turn when need be.

I do know this. Back in the 90s, CJF's brilliant Planning Director, Norb Fruehauf, asked Kurt Rothschild, a great Canadian Zionist leader, and me to join him in Vancouver for a community consultation.We spent three days there engaging with communal leaders. We discovered a federation that not only was not the central address of the Jewish community, it hardly had an address, hidden as its offices were in a local agency's building. And, we found a federation with great potential floundering under the pressures of a suddenly underfunded day school "system," a moribund annual campaign but also the hope offered by a depth of lay leadership eager to build a "new federation." Just few years later Gurvis became CEO and moved this community forward in measurable ways -- the annual campaign strengthened tremendously (a Jewish population of about 25,000 (+/-) now raising over $7 million is no small achievement), strong lay leadership and good planning from what I have learned. 

So, congrats to Silverman on an excellent hire. This could be a lifeline for CEO Jerry; for JFNA. Then again, I am reminded of the saga of this year's Cleveland Indians, a sad baseball franchise after years of glory now forgotten. They started this 2013 season on a roll -- 9 games over .500 in mid-May, they then lost 15 of the next 19 games. One of their best pitchers observed: "As much as we've been on a negative skid, we can start a positive skid tomorrow.

Yes, indeed.



Shoel Silver said...

Those of us who have been involved in the Canadian equivalent of JFNA (yes, Canada is part of NA -- don't ask) know Mark as a great exec for his federation, but also as someone who brings a strong dedication both to the overseas partners and to national collective responsibility.

I don't think he'll be anyone's echo.

Anonymous said...

This guy sounds better than should be possible; the CEO, to echo a thought, must go....preferably NOW!!

RWEX said...

1. I apologize to all Cleveland Indians fans -- since I wrote this Post (over one month ago), the Indians have beaten my Chicago White Sox about 8 times and are riding a hot streak toward first place.

2. I keep hearing more and more good things about Mark Gurvis.