Monday, October 19, 2015


Friends, the references to incoming JFNA Board Chair Richard Sandler's questionnaire responses in ejewishphilanthropy upon which I reflected in a Post on the potential "post-Fantasyland" era being ushered in at the Jewish Federations of North America have been the catalyst for an important dialogue on the lay-professional partnership that is tab the core of the success of the federation endeavor. One of you wrote anonymously:
"Lay leadership must oversee and guide our professionals - not just select them and then let them call all the shots.
This requires lay "leaders" - not just lay "people." They must set the objectives, goals, strategies and policy - then oversee implementation. They must set the highest possible standards and demand that they be maintained.
What we now have and must correct is a situation where too much power is in the hands of the Executive Directors as opposed to Chairpeople and Board Members.
We need proactive leadership that demands accountability and results at all levels.
We need for those that care to first believe in themselves and then to get together and change the paradigm, change the rules, change the game."
This is not a matter of disrespect being shown toward the professional cadre; it is a matter of respect being shown toward the institution of federation...the institution to which, at least arguably, both lay and professional leadership are totally dedicated.

Achieving "balance" in the relationship between professionals and lay leaders requires mutual trust and mutual respect. Both are too often lacking in the relationship causing it to break down. There must be recognition on the part of lay leadership that the professionals -- and most significantly, the CEO -- represent continuity in the position whereas the lay leaders are transient. We take our positions for one, two or three years and then hand the baton over to our successors whereas the chief professional is presumed, by contract to otherwise, to remain for a more extended period of time. Lay leaders set policy; the professional staff implements. The concept of working together; standing together; of working through; of truly being peers, one lay-one professional...established where it does not exist; reinforced where it does.

And, who is going to deliver this message? Will it be JFNA where, other than Mark Gurvis, the most senior professional leadership have never worked in a federation environment? Doubtful...almost impossible to conceive. No, the JFNA senior professional leaders have no federation experiences upon which to draw. They can't counsel that which they fail to understand. And were there a book they could read (and there is none) would they even bother?

We are in trouble, folks...but you know that to be the case.


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