Here is some of what one Commentator wrote six years ago:
"Like Mr. Wexler I have worked with many fine professional who have spent the bulk of their careers in Jewish communal work and have also come across some fine people who came mid career from a business or volunteer background. The success of the latter individuals is dependent on them internalizing the very real, specific, and unique skill set we all require of our pro's: managing process and the respective lay and professional roles; understanding the culture and idiosyncrasies of Jewish organizations; knowing how to effectively focus their personal talents in these unique settings and not least of all seeing our Federation enterprise in the context of a long and complex history. This calls for a "professional" and not some bright committed person who wakes up one morning and says (To paraphase Orson Well's character John Foster Kane) "I think it would be fun to run a Federation". Look at the track record of the transplants Mr. Wexler and you would see that acting on such a whim can in too many cases, but as I understand it not all, be an uphill climb."No longer do we look for that "unique skill set;" instead, like Monty Python, we see our federations and JFNA looking for "something completely different" never understanding the reality that there have been no successes to which a federations or Mandel or JFNA can point of hiring from a pool of neophytes -- those with no federation background or experience for the position of CEO. So much is beyond these new hires' comprehension -- starting with the values that we treasured, values too often unknown to those who come in from the cold and, now, into many places, values unknown to the lay leaders who are doing the hiring. What was once "trendy" -- hiring those with no professional background in Jewish communal life, has now become, as ejewishphilanthropy described it, a "tsunami" extending coast-to-coast, from sea to shining sea, including the New York UJA-Federation and, of course, JFNA.
Our values have been lost in the process of the "new and different." Take, if you will, the values we learned through a series of Mission experiences that meant so much to us in the growth of our Jewish experiences. As one terrific national leader recently lamented:
"There's not one of us who can't point to one moment on one mission that was a turning point in his or her life. Now? We're lucky if we can live via memory and/or remote control. As a devotee of ... missions ... it just makes me sad. Institutional neglect has reduced 'cutting edge' to 'public self-abuse.'"
JFNA in its ignorance now promotes the "virtual" Mission experience -- which, in reality, is not a Mission experience at all, more like watching someone's video of their trip.
We are well on our way to making of federations -- once the central planning body of the Jewish community and our link to the Jewish world beyond the borders of each community through our collective action -- nothing more than "just another charity." The defenestration of the professional "movement" continues without even hearing a word of protest from the professional leaders who built this system. Just think, in less than a generation we have willingly permitted the destruction of that which we and our forefathers built. And hardly a voice is heard in protest.
As one respected professional wrote me last week: "Richard: You continue to call it like it is. Eric Goldstein’s appointment blows my mind. The new movement to hire CEO’s from out of the field is a real shanda for those of us that have toiled in the field of Jewish communal Service for many years. The reason that AJCOP merged with JCSA a few years ago after 40 years was because many of the professionals who came in from outside the field thought it wasn’t necessary to financially support a Professional Association. It is really sad day for the field that I have worked and loved since 1964." Friends, with every hope that Eric Goldstein will be the brilliant CEO that New York-UJA expects, this is a sad time for everyone.
For those responsible, or irresponsible, look at yourselves in the mirror. Instead of perpetuating Community, we perpetuate self -- what's my next position, with whom do I have to curry favor to achieve my personal goals? Who must be ostracized because they might speak out? And, if the collateral damage of these personal quests is the destruction of community and collective, so be it.
We are on the cusp of being no more.