Tuesday, December 23, 2014


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?



Anonymous said...

While she may have officially resigned for face saving purposes, I have heard that--surprise, surprise--she was actually let go.

For this organization, any individual with any sort of institutional memory is a liability, as the past decade has shown.

Anonymous said...

You ask "why?" when the answer seems so obvious. At 25 Broadway you are only valued if you bow and scrape and applaud failure after failure as if failures are successes. If you don't, if you raise questions about ANYTHING, you place your job at risk. No wonder so many resumes are on the street.

Anonymous said...

rather than consultants on "branding" or "Pew", I think wise business leaders could agree that an objective look at management, culture, sense of team, inputs/outputs etc could be a good idea for JFNA. Not saying that this employee was an asset or liability, but with departures there comes a price. JFNA is about relationships and that is about people. Again, when people leave with them goes not only memory but invaluable relationships.

Anonymous said...

To the last Anonymous:

Sir, I beg to differ. Wise businessmen would not continue to employ Jerry Silverman.

If you want to ask wise business en ask the Children's Division of Stride Rite Shoes - Keds.

They were smart enough to not have Jerry in their employ - they have amusing comments.

If any of us had our families livelihoods at risk, "Harlem Shake" Jerry would not be in our employ either.

Eventually even Chanukah runs out of oil. It is time to put Jerry back on the shelf, where some other organization can benefit from his talents.

Anonymous said...

As the quality and stature of jFNA Senior Management at 25 Broadway has deteriorated over the last decade, the ability to appreciate a quality professional like Cheryl Lefland has been lost as well. After all, a true professional is a threat to all of those who aren't.

Anonymous said...

How annoying it must have been for Jerry Silverman to see Cheryl Lafland in the corridors of 25 Broadway and be reminded by Cheryl's very presence among his staff of his most glaring failures. Rather than work on correcting those failures, Jerry would rather have had Cheryl leave. It's so much easier, isn;t it?

Anonymous said...

You have almost pointed the finger at the right person within JFNA, the one who wanted Ms. Lefland gone because she was the reminder of his failure to understand the federation system and his failure to understand the moral obligation of the organization of which he is the supposed CEO to advocate for federation overseas allocations support. Yes, it's the failed Mr. Silverman protected by a laity that wants nothing to do with the organization that involves any work or potential conflict.