Friday, February 27, 2015


In back-to-back Anonymous Comments following the Posts related to the Jewish Agency, two readers* (or, maybe, it was just one) went after me for my perceived negativity, for going beyond my field of vision in examining the woeful state of JAFI's administration (rather than JFNA's, I guess), for focusing on "personalities" and for, in those writers' opinions, offering nothing positive, failing in what they believe should be my unequivocal support for JFNA and the Jewish Agency, or, if not support, then my silence. The thrust of the complaints is -- go write about JFNA and leave "us" alone -- or, better, just stop writing. I will accept some, but not all, of that criticism and know that I take all criticism seriously.

My problem with the two Comments (beyond the fact that these friends decided to hide behind their anonymity in going after me), is that they ignore two realities:

  1. The problems and challenges facing JFNA are not structural -- except insofar as leaders have modified the structure they were handed to concentrate power among fewer and fewer -- they are problems created by a failure of lay and professional leadership especially over the last decade. This failure, with all due respect, could be cured with a leadership dedicated to doing so. There is a great Coach here in Chicago whose mantra is identical to that of the late Herb Brooks, Coach of the "miracle" US Hockey team that defeated Russia so long ago -- it is "do your job." My criticism flows from (a) the ridiculous choice made by lay leaders to hire someone ill-equipped to professionally lead JFNA, a federation-driven entity, and, then, after that person proved incapable of running the organization, rewarding him with an extended contract; and (b) a lay leadership willing to delegate away its fiduciary responsibilities to anyone else but themselves. Pleas to them to "just do your job" have been totally ignored to the point that I question whether they even understand what the "job" is.
  2. The problems and challenges at JAFI, which some Commentators wish me to ignore as they do -- as if these problems and challenges do not exist or are not worthy of examination, let alone confrontation -- are both structural and managerial -- and have arisen at a time when North American federation financial support and, thereby, influence are at an all-time low. JAFI governance is so byzantine, its processes so Babel-like (for example, who among the many dedicated leaders who attended the JAFI Board meetings just concluded knows how many "companies" JAFI "runs" and/or what they do or cost), that the most senior professionals who have been there way too long can manipulate the governance, the budget and the processes, and have, with a push of a piece of paper.
  3. On these many, many pages I have, time and again, suggested solutions to these challenges and problems that seem so self-evident: lay leaders must assert and exercise the powers they have to effect change at the professional/managerial level -- I have even suggested names -- and I have urged a succession of lay leaders to "do your jobs." Too many of us -- and I include any number of my friends in this -- fear demanding action from our leaders as such a demand might be an obstacle or, worse, a bar to their aspirations for higher position. I would like to think that a little courage on all of our parts would be respected -- but, based upon personal experience, I am no doubt wrong.

The fault dear friends is not in the stars, it is in ourselves. Do I believe that an educated laity will rise up -- be it at JFNA or JAFI or wherever a rising up is necessary? My heart says yes; experience and my head say uh uh.

So stop kvetching about me (or continue if you wish) and start doing something about the issues we have identified together. As the Toronto Maple Leafs coach demanded after another loss: "It starts with, the 'give a s__t meter' has to be higher." If we all just "do our jobs," think of where we could be. I do -- about every three days.


* It is evident to me exactly whom this/these Anonymous Commentator(s) is/ are. It saddens me that there is a belief among smart people that this Blog, the Posts, are the problem not the issues the Posts address.


Anonymous said...

You have put your finger on the identity of failure of JFNA and JAFI -- frighteningly incapable professional lay leadership coupled to a disinterested lay leadership -- the result is just what we have. Waste, institutional corruption and more waste.

Doesn't look like it will ever stop.

Anonymous said...

What a revelation, Richard. JFNA and JAFI wallow in failure. Who would have thought so? Probably everybody.

Anonymous said...

Woe unto you?? Woe unto all of us.