I was looking at the Board and Committee roster of one of our system's largest beneficiaries to locate the bio of one of its members when it suddenly struck me, the disease that afflicts our continental entity -- JFNA -- has now spread and metastasized in related entities. So I began to contemplate further...and here are some thoughts:
1. The Jewish Agency Board members from the United States, once appointed directly by United Israel Appeal, are now appointed by JFNA. In the face of real pressure from JFNA Chair Kathy Manning and predecessors, successive Chairs of UIA -- Jane Sherman, yours truly and Bruce Arbit -- UIA continued to assure that federation leaders were named to the JA Board. But, today, at a time in which the JFNA Co-Chairs are extremely supportive of UIA, the U.S. appointed JAFI Board members now include a significant contingent from communities which significantly under-allocate (based on federation averages) to the JAFI core. Sure, there are those who espouse, against all evidence to the contrary, the view that being "in the room" with others from more "responsible" communities will inspire those which under-allocate to higher achievement. That has never happened. These leaders are, almost to a person, terrific and committed individuals -- they should be told that it is their responsibility to positively influence their communal allocations as one of their Board obligations. Should they fail or refuse, they should be thanked for their service.
But, there is more. Whereas the American Board members to JA of the past -- from Max Fisher, z'l, Marty Stein, z'l, Alex Grass, z'l, to Marvin Lender to Shoshana Cardin to Richie Pearlstone to Jane Sherman -- were among the great federation philanthropists of their eras or, in so many instances, the Board Chairs of their federations who continued on long after their terms were over, examine the JAFI Board membership roster of today. Where does their cumulative and individual influence reside? Look at the roster and decide for yourselves. Then ask: how and why did this happen.
2. I called the Board Chair of one of our "system's" entities to question why two important leaders, one a past Chair, of that organization were not reappointed to the organization's Executive Committee. The response, after the suggestion that this was none of my business, was something like this: "No big deal. I abolished the Executive Committee." Think of it: a Board Chair, in this case a lawyer no less, believed he had the power to unilaterally "abolish the Executive Committee." This struck me as so crazy and so extreme that I was, at first, speechless -- then I came up with this brilliant response: "No, you can't." He said, "I did." And there we are. Perhaps this attitude of l'etat c'est moi is the result of some leaders never being entrusted with the Chair seat of their own federation where they might have learned process; or the failure of an organization's professional leadership to just "say no" to the extremes insisted upon by a transient lay Chair. Or, perhaps, it's just stupidity. Anyway, the Executive Committee of that organization remains "abolished;" whatever that means.
3. At the beginning of his Term, the same subsidiary Board Chair had charged two of his best and brightest with the organization's CEO to chart a new, exciting and ambitious course for the organization -- one that would give it new scope, purpose and program. The JFNA Co-Chairs bought in and all seemed to be in place. Then this organization's Chair just dropped it; absolutely walked away without looking back. Did personal ambition trump organizational priorities...again? Or was it a function, one that seems to occur within the ambit of our organizations far too often, of another organization whose chief volunteer officer never experienced a federation chairmanship? Or did someone whisper in CEO Jerry's ear that these new powers and programs would be bad for, e.g., the continuing futility of JFNA-Israel and/or the GPT?
4. Then there is this...The leaders of the continental organization -- and, in particular, its CEO -- believe that those who serve on JFNA Board, Committees and as officers no longer represent their federations but, instead, are somehow empowered by JFNA and JFNA alone. Sure, the federations place their leaders on the JFNA Board, the federations educate and support them but a CEO with no comprehension of the federation ethos -- after five years, he still doesn't get it -- just rejects it. And federation CEOs just take it. Maybe, at the end of the day, there is no federation ethos any more.
Oh, yes, it's a mess.