Tuesday, October 13, 2015


As many of you have noted in Comments to so many Posts, never has there been a Jewish organizational Board so quiet, subservient or dormant than has been the Board of the Jewish Federations of North America. And one can only ask "why?"

This Board over the years has been made up of a group of exemplary communal leaders -- Federation Chairs, present, past and future, and CEOs, Women's Philanthropy and Young Leadership Chairs, and so on. These are women and men who in their home federations are not shrinking violets but seem overwhelmed into silence when they join the leadership cadre at JFNA. Never a question asked, rarely if ever a negative word spoken. Each a Bontsha the Silent. And one can only ask "why?"

Could it be that those who know full well what the meaning of "fiduciary responsibility" is within their local communities have a sudden onset of temporary amnesia when they step outside the narrow boundaries of a given federation? Or, hearing no questions from more experienced leaders, are those newer Board members cowed by the dominance of a few federation CEOs into their observed collective silence?

What is clear to this observer is simple: the moral/legal obligations imposed upon corporate Board members have been lost at JFNA. What do I mean? Here is what one expert on corporate fiduciary responsibility has written:
"(1) The duty of directors to reasonably monitor or oversee the conduct of the corporation's business, and, as a corollary, to take reasonable steps to keep abreast of the information that flows to the board as a result of monitoring procedures and techniques.
(2)The duty of inquiry -- that is, the duty to follow up rea-
sonably on information that has been acquired and should raise cause for concern.
(3) The duty to employ a reasonable decisionmaking
(4) The duty to make reasonable
At JFNA there is an evident willingness to "let the leaders lead" -- to abandon principles in the interests of "friendship" and sh'lom bayit and nothing more. There is no evidence of the exercise of inquiry by the Board; there is neither debate nor discussion on any matter. It has become as if the entirety of the agenda of every meeting were a matter of Unanimous Consent. This is not just the height of irresponsibility; with the current group of professional leaders, it is the height of absurdity.

So, whose fault is a this? Our leaders? No, they just see the easy way and take it. It's on us, friends; it is on each of us who doesn't care enough to act upon the responsibilities of Board leadership. It is on each of us who has decided by deed if not word to "let the other guy do it." Yeah, it's way too "risky," isn't it, to ask a question and risk one's standing in the leadership hierarchy. "Let's discuss the matter 'off-line' or not at all." That's the safe way.

That's the JFNA way.



Anonymous said...

I don't buy it. We don't need a strong JFNA Board. We need strong local Jewish federations, working in our communities. We don't need to be led by fake consensus-builders who impose their views from NY.

Anonymous said...

Richard, would you PLEASE reject Comments like the first one to this Post from people who clearly don't understand the question let alone have any answers. Thanks for the Post and for understanding that so long as JFNA's Board has no interest in governance we have no hope of these people exercising their responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

Reject comments? Sigh. That's why you're leaders without followers.

Anonymous said...

These Board members do not rise to the level of sheep.

RWEX said...

To Anonymous whose so-called "Comment" I rejected: you seem to have again forgotten whose Blog this is. When you have something substantive to add to the discussion, your vitriol will be published -- until then, your Comments will be rejected.