For years too many to count I had a great professional partner at the United Jewish Appeal and, then, in its earliest years, at JFNA. Cheryl Lefland is a pro's pro, a person of incredible integrity, a professional who, over all the years we worked together, was honest and direct with her lay leadership, and with our federations. She was not known to too many outside of the offices 25 Braodway; but she was known by everone inside of them. She led the UJA Financial Relations effort for almost two decades. During the first week of December, Cheryl resigned and left 25 Broadway the same day. What happened or why, I can only speculate (and will) as Cheryl and I haven't spoken for what must be the last 8 years as she was ordered not to speak with me by... well, you may guess.
Cheryl was not only my professional partner. She led the UJA Financial Relations effort with my successors, Norman Tilles, z'l, and Palm Beach's Alan Shulman, as well. We weren't the easiest of lay leaders but Cheryl gave each and all of us the tools to execute our allocations and cash collection pleas -- her work with great CFOs -- Lee Twersky and Samuel Astrof -- bespoke her wonderful professionalism. Her work with those CFOs and lay leaders at year-end after year-end in a national and, then, continental cash collection effort benefited the Jewish People and the federations themselves. Cheryl worked through her own illness and rehab and through her husband's illness as well; such was her undeniable sense of responsibility and sacred obligation
I know the pride that Cheryl took in her work; we shared the frustration of declining allocations and long-deferred cash payments. She was no shrinking violet; when she identified a problem, she urged her leadership to address it. She pushed lay and professional leaders to do their jobs; when pushed, she pushed back; we respected her for urging us on in pursuit of our common agenda -- I am certain that others in this current regime resented anyone who had the temerity to suggest that they were ignoring their responsibilities and they would try to push her out, And I know that Norman, Alan and I strived to meet Cheryl's incredibly high standards -- too often we failed, but not for lack of trying and, certainly, never for a lack of passion. After a tradition of passionate allocations advocacy and planful year-end cash pursuit, it must have been painful for Cheryl to realize that JFNA had sold out to the cheerleaders, to a financial leadership, lay and pro, who would no more directly confront the challenges of lower and lower cash payments and draconian allocations than it would the failed leadership who preached a message of "sha...sha." Cheryl was one of those who embodied and was, a true moral compass; an oh so challenging role in a place that has so terribly lost its way.
So Cheryl Lefland has left JFNA and JFNA has lost a wonderful, bright, intelligent, caring, dedicated professional. How many of those are left at 25 Broadway? She will be so missed. And does anyone care any more?