Monday, December 29, 2014


The Forward published its annual "Salary Survey" last month. While much of the data of federation CEOs were no better than 2013's or earlier, it caused me to reflect on the accusations fired at me when I published the reality that the then Board Chair had publicly objected to the inclusion of "Zionism" in a Global Planning Table Committee document as "too controversial" -- I was told I was "destroying the Campaign" and worse. That Post of mine had no impact on the Annual Campaign whatsoever, but no one seems to suggest that the salaries being paid Federation CEOs have a real negative impact on (1) the perception of federation and (2) the Annual Campaign when numerous donors question annual compensation.

You and I would agree that many of the CEOs whose compensation made the top of The Forward's list are doing a superb job, are terrific leaders and merit the highest reasonable compensation -- they have proved it year-after-year. Then there are the Jerry Silvermans who have proved year-after-year that the more one is paid doesn't always equate with results -- or, in Silverman's case specifically...ever.

You can read the entire Survey at, then, you can weep. Or, if you are Yeshiva University's Richard Joel, you may laugh hysterically.

When I looked at the compensation being paid to, e.g., a new Philadelphia CEO before day one on the job -- $462,000 -- measured against successful CEOs, I have to question the negotiating ability of federation lay leaders and ask "WHY?"  I looked at Philadelphia and was reminded of the newly retired Major League baseball player, Alfonso Soriano. He had finished a season of relative mediocrity in 2006 when the Chicago Cubs, bidding against no other team only against themselves, kept upping their offer until they agreed to pay Soriano $20 million more per year than any other team had offered for the same services. Those former Cubs officials must now have been the negotiators for Philadelphia. And since this professional was hired, how has the Philadelphia annual campaign or how have special campaigns gone?  Maybe these chachams are also the ones who negotiated, if one can even call these "awards" that ("capitulations" might be a better description) at JFNA and several other federations as well. 

Compare, if you will, the incredible annual success of Chicago, much of that directly attributable to the efforts of Steven Nasatir, to the abject failure at 25 Broadway and the respective compensation paid CEO Jerry I-Can't-Believe-These-Idiots-Pay-Me-This** vs. Nasatir; or the modest compensation paid Jeff Finkelstein, the Pittsburgh Federation CEO, who delivers year-in and year-out with that being paid the untested and unknowing (albeit promising) new New York UJA CEO; or compare any of these with the relatively low salaries being paid JNF's Russell Robinson and American Friends of Tel Aviv University's Gail Reiss and the success they have driven at their organizations. 

If we wonder at all why so many...a growing number...believe that the federation system is in unstoppable decline, all one needs to do is measure CEO compensation against federation success. The answer sure seems clear.


* I have been advised by a Commentator using a nom de plume that the salary ascribed to Philadelphia's new CEO is that of her predecessor, the chief professional officer she replaced. 

** It should be noted that JFNA has yet to file its 2013 IRS Form 990 -- the one that covers the 2013 Fiscal Year. Thus, the numbers for Jerry the Lucky are still those reflected in the 2012 990.


Anonymous said...

You mean to suggest that Richard "It's All Their Fault, Not Mine" Joel doesn't deserve gross comp of $873,000 as President of YU?

Rav Yoda said...

Richard, while I understand you point about CEO salary vs. success/impact, I believe you missed an important footnote for Naomi Adler, the new Philadelphia Federation CEO's salary. It indicates the salary listed is her predecessor's salary. The survey is a bit misleading. We will likely not know Ms. Adler's salary until next year to get a sense of how the Federation executive committee compensated her. I also want to note she has only been in the position for 6 months and needs time to implement her vision and repair damage done by her predecessor. Let's see how she does. You may find the interview with Ms. Adler that was recently in the Jewish Exponent interesting. It gives a nice sense of what she wants to accomplish and what motivates her. I have no love for the Philadelphia Federation, but am intrigued by her and wish her a lot of luck and success.

RWEX said...

Thanks...duly noted. We will all be watching.

Anonymous said...

Re your comments about Ms Adler and the Philadelphia Federation. Rather than just thanking Rav Yoda for the correction, maybe you should edit out that section of your original post? It unfairly and falsely makes a point and readers might not make it through the comments to see the correction and your acceptance of that correction.

RWEX said...

I have every confidence that the readers of this Blog read all of the Comments.

Anonymous said...

While I don't share your confidence that all of the comments are read by your blog readers, I do respect your footnote on the main blog entry.

Anonymous said...

Attn:all readers of the blog. If you don't read the comments please send Richard a note. I am sure that Richard will be happy to post the total of notes he gets.

Anonymous said...

Richard, Do you remember when Jewish communal service was a "calling"? And, nw, it's a ticket to over-compensation, to retirement benefits that make you want to cry, to "perks" (like high-end cars, country club memberships, fancy offices fitted out and refitted as if the occupants were captains of industry, and a coterie of those hired merely to serve the higher-ups). Too many of these professional leaders listed in The Forward are like pigs at their trough. laughing all the way to the bank.

Anonymous said...

Last anonymous......the generalistic nature of your comment is offensive to me as a community leader, donor, and someone who cares about organizational excellence. And, I hope that your comment is off putting to others......if our organizations are going to effectively compete, connect, excel and distinguish Federation in the crowded philanthropic field, we need the most capable, the most competent, and the most inspired. The system needs to reach for the stars and compete for the best. The market has set the standard. This is not to say that all hires are good. Hiring committess have an awesome responsiblity. Having said that, Jewish communal service should not mean a ticket to self inflicted the way, I heard a younger professional/"pig" speak at the GA. This individual has thousands in debt linked to buiding his educational credential and hardly has the income to pay bills and considering leaving the field........Let's be careful, smart and prudent.........professionals, the good ones, deserve our investment and respect.

Anonymous said...

As to the comments about the pay/salary of Jewish communal workers:

There is a growing divide between the relatively few folks at the senior administrative level and everyone else.

Most Jewish communal workers make a modest salary. Many are talented, hard working, devoted and loyal. When anything bad happens to the local Federation or JFNA, they are the first to bear the brunt in salary cuts, freezes and layoffs.

Meanwhile those at the top live quite nicely, thank you very much, with combined salary and compensation packages that would make most of us blush. Like Jaime Dimon at Chase, they don't get sacked when times are rough and rarely if ever bear a proportional brunt of any salary/compensation or personnel cutbacks.