Wednesday, July 29, 2015


One Anonymous correspondent accurately captured my own sense of the decline in our system when he explained an earlier Comment:
"I didn't say the system didn't have the best and brightest. I said the best and brightest aren't coming. Perhaps there was a time when top notch Jews came to work for federations. Today, it's not the case -- and in many communities it's not just that top notch professional aren't interested, in many community with smaller Jewish populations, it's very difficult to find a pool of candidates for a federation job. It is common knowledge that federations are lousy places to work. 
Professional development? No. Salary to afford Israel trip, Jewish day school or even camp for multiple kids? Yeah, right. Mutual respect with lay leaders and volunteers with shared understanding of roles? No way.
Are federation pros dedicated to mission? Yes. They'd give anything for sustained inspiration -- the confidence that goals are attainable and that when accomplished actually demonstrate progress. It's not the pros. It's their professional and lay leadership that is failing."
 And we heard from others with a counter-point as well, including: 
"Like many of my colleagues, I have on occasion worn rose-colored glasses when discussing the past glories of our federation movement. But it's true. There is real talent coming up in the ranks and we shouldn't be afraid to say so. Those of us who are already in senior positions should be raising the bar for mentorships, better salaries and better working conditions. Now there's a task for a national system."
Could a real (as opposed to faux) national organization dedicated to its intended core purposes make a difference here? Of course...just not the JFNA we have now. Why would JFNA as presently led be focused on federation recruitment, education and retention at all levels when its CEO and its Sr. V.P. Global came not out of the federation experience? They don't believe one needs it -- after all, look at them. Yes...please look at them.

And, after all. JFNA has outsourced almost the totality of its professional development, CPE and recruitment to that Mandel Center for Leadership Excellence, not because Mandel gives any evidence that it can do it better, but because JFNA has provided every evidence that it, JFNA, can't do it at all, as presently staffed, and, worse, has no interest in what was once a core value of both of the predecessor organizations -- UJA for those in the Campaign and CJF for federation professionals.

Friends, how do we make federations the best places to work? I recall a young lawyer with wonderful skills, a great personality and eagerness to leave the practice of law to work at a major federation. At every point, he was discouraged by a bureaucracy that passed him along wit comments like these "you're over-qualified," "you would be bored silly in an entry level position" and the like. Try as he would, he could not convince those who could have used a person just like this and who insisted he would begin at the bottom just to learn and prove himself. I was so disappointed for him. And this year, JFNA and Mandel "decided" that these two organizations would now only offer search services for CEO positions -- as if they are doing such a great job with those.

JFNA is so bereft of campaign talent that for its now annual Fund Raising University, the numbers "admitted" are maintained at an artificial maximum and the entire "University" is essentially run by consultants -- because at JFNA, there's no one home. 

And, on the subject of the lay-professional partnership that ennobled our system for decades, who resides in the vicinity of 25 Broadway or in Cleveland at Mandel, who could even claim to understand this "partnership" so critical to Jewish organizational success? It appears that the answer is no one. (Certainly the incoming Board Chair doesn't -- just read his recent interview in ejewishphilanthropy...and weep.) The CEO clearly doesn't as any number of his Senior Management team can attest (but won't if they're smart) to the amount of time spent listening to Jerry complain about lay leaders and CEOs who push back.

Chevre, none of this is going to change unless you force change to occur. The observations of the Commentator cited in the first paragraph will remain in place and our system will further decline unless you demand more. Carpe diem.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

JFNA needs to change or to be replaced.
If it is incapable of changing and restoring campaign as its core activity then we need to create (recreate) an organization that can.
UIA should be allowed to do its job and JDC should be brought inside as well so that a new United Jewish Appeal can become a dominant force which will strengthen our collectove system by revitalizing local campaigns and at the same time ensuring that our overseas agencies can continue to do the good work that they do on our behalf.
Except for the Washington Office, most of the rest - especially Global Operations which is wasting our money trying to imitate and compete with existing organizations - should be laid to rest. Everything should be evaluated in terms of its contribution to our core mission - campaign.
For the past decade we have been systematically destroying all remnants of unity and collective vision. The time has come for leaders of courage who care to rise up and reclaim our collective mission - either with or without JFNA - before it is indeed too late.