I'm sorry. Each time I have begun this Post, a feeling that I am about to vomit overwhelms me. I do thank The Forward for publishing its Annual Salary Survey of Jewish CEO salaries -- I only wish the list wouldn't continue to make me so ill after just the first ten names. Here, read it for yourself:
OK, you've read it. Any questions? Other than about the lack of fiduciary responsibility on the part of a great number of Boards and Compensation Committees? You should not have any further questions about why our federation system has fallen so far in public esteem and why many are questioning the value and purpose of once revered Jewish institutions.
What am I talking about, you ask. Well, look at the "Top Ten" for a moment. At the very top of this list you have a University President who has presided over a series of scandals and with the University in an apparent fiscal meltdown, this CEO took a $100,000 pay cut -- from $855,000 down to $755,000; a former CEO through 2004 of both then UJC and then/now a major (not the major) federation still earning as if it's 2004 and he were holding down 2 jobs (if, as some suggest, he is actually running JFNA by remote control, he's doing a terrible job at that); the septuagenarian "President for Life" of an organization that used to focus on anti-semitism, now branched out to, well, everything; the long time head of a pro-Israel pro-Zionist organization who presided over the organization's loss of its tax-exempt status; and attributed to a newly-hatched federation CEO who is still taking baby steps in what might be North America's most underachieving community (of any size) is not his salary, but that of his predecessor (sorry Forward, as it noted the reality in a footnote, the world's moving fast). (It's hard reporting this let alone reading it without periodically smashing your head into a wall in disbelief.)
The tally above inevitably leads to the outrageous compensation being paid to North America's most overcompensated -- if one is to match compensation to achievement. Yes, JFNA's CEO. When his predecessor was negotiating his compensation with then JFNA Chair Bobby Goldberg, Bobby, as he told me at the time, asked him "why should you be paid more that Hoffman?" Answer: "Because I am better." Ehhhhhh...no...not then, not ever. And CEO Jerry, what's the excuse for this compensation level? Hope, prayer, history? Certainly not achievement or execution. But this certainly is the simple answer to "why is this man smiling?"
Our system (in fact, all Jewish organizations) is one that is based on trust -- the trust of the donor in, e.g., federation, the trust, in turn, of federations in their national organization. Other than corruption, I can think of nothing...nothing...that undermines that trust more than egregious compensation that rewards failure and mediocrity as often as it rewards success. There is something rotten at the core of a system where its professional leaders demand more, more, more while the lay leadership expects and rewards less, less and less.
While that list also includes those whose achievements were truly amazing in 2011-12, including three Large City Executives in the "2nd 10," there are as many who just make you gag as there are those who should be applauded for their (and their Boards') restraint. And, how many women professionals are on this list?
Remember when Jewish service was a calling, a mission and when, like law firms and businesses, we rewarded success? Those days appear gone forever.