I have been giving this a lot of thought -- in fact, one might conclude that many/most of the Posts on the pages of this Blog have been devoted to this subject. I have been a student of this thesis: over the years of JFNA, both in our Continental form and in our communities, what was once a dedication to certain core values and timeless principles has become the worship of individuals and the consequent abandonment of those very principles and values on which our system was constructed.
Several years ago I was confronted by a local and continental leader from Chicago, one I considered a friend, who had found a sinecure at JFNA -- he was angry, literally shouting at me: "If you can't agree 100% with the Board Chair, then you should resign from the Board." I was shocked, but I am not any longer. In this leader's view, shared by so many, there was no longer a place for those who had served a system built on principle and value if we failed to toe the line of a transient lay or professional leader who was leading the system away from those values and principles. We have been replaced by a new generation of the Jews of Silence.
The principle of collective responsibility is no longer even understood at the highest levels of our Continental organization let alone in so many, most federations. At JFNA there is the unshakable belief that the self-selecting method of choosing, then funding "Strategic Initiatives" reflects absolute dedication to collective responsibility as the vast number of federations will not participate in the funding or the work of these ill-chosen woebegone Initiatives. The concept has been so devalued that a federation which had just slashed its overseas core allocation by 50% can send out a message, at the onset of the terrorists' latest war on Israel, titled: "Milwaukee Jewish Federation Stands in Solidarity with Israel." The very organizations which have embodied those values which we built and nurtured and criticized and changed over history have been and are being abandoned by a steady sometimes abrupt and catastrophic underfunding as our leaders pursue the latest "shiny object." But, really, how can they possibly understand that which their actions evidence they reject because they don't wish to know? "Knowing," of course would interfere with the paths they have so mistakenly chosen to follow.
And those who we came to rely upon to stand at the gauntlet and shout to the rafters "enough;" where are they, where have they gone? Why are the Large City Executives and so many CEOs silent? Well, some would argue that they have grown old and tired, too fat and happy in their collective dotage, in the darkness of the approaching winters of their lives. I remember so well how they fought the first Co-Chairs of JFNA to assure that the first CEO/President would be "one of them" (and in the words of that professional's successor, at the time. "so it will always be"). Yet, when a JFNA lay Chair demanded a CEO from "outside the box" (that meant someone who knew nothing as it turned out), these same federation pros couldn't identify or push one of their own. So they determined to control the new hire from without thereby assuring, as it turned out, a disaster within.
Trust that there is no past leader of CJF, UIA or UJA who does not (or at least did not) want JFNA to succeed. But there cannot be any still alive and breathing who don't also agree that this organization is today nothing more than a shadow of what once was. It is without vision, purpose, mission or leadership. It is adrift. It is nothing.