Years ago, when I served on JFNA's Consulting Services Department Committee, I took issue with several of the federation Comprehensive Plans in which the Department participated (with, of course, a consultant...always, even then, a consultant). My issue was a simple one framed as a question: "What is JFNA's (it was "UJC" back then) responsibility to assure that basic federation principles are included in federation comprehensive plans in the preparation of which JFNA is engaged?" The answer was: "the customer is always right."
Is it? Is the customer always right? And, if the customer rejects, in these instances, basic federation principles, what is the obligation of JFNA, if any, to assert those principles? And, then, extend the question to those who conduct Federation CEO searches: are they just note-takers executing orders or do they have any obligations to the system and/or the profession (such as it remains today)?
I've been told, more than once, as indicated above, that JFNA must be responsive solely to the wants and desires of its customers. If the customer, the federation, wants to move away from the core principles upon which federation qua federation has been built, so be it. In the context of the CEO search processes if the community wants to move away from professionals trained in, steeped in and committed to the federation system, so be it.
But, really, is that it? Doesn't the umbrella organization of and by the federations have an obligation to stand up and be counted on behalf of the basic concepts underlying the construct of federation? Or, as in so many other things, is this JFNA nothing more than a bystander, a note-taker or, as JFNA likes to consider itself, first and foremost (and, some would say, only) a note-taker...a rubber stamp...for others. I can think of two instances of many where JFNA assisted local communities in comprehensive community plans that moved them far away from the fabric of federation -- one was Philadelphia (which has since certainly returned to the very bricks upon which community is built), whose "Plan" was so removed from the underlying tenets of federation that the then JFNA CEO demanded that his name and JFNA's be removed from the communal acknowledgments; the other, San Diego. These were two instances among many others. In none were basic federation principles ever articulated by JFNA or its vetted consultants.
Then there are the CEO searches. JFNA has made an investment in preparing and encouraging federation-trained professionals for communal CEO service. Yet, JFNA's CEO Search agent, at the Mandel Center for Leadership blah, blah, blah, has regularly acquiesced, if not encouraged, federations to search "outside the box" (that literally means today "inside the box" as, more and more, federation professionals who are aspirants for CEO positions are passed over for, e.g., camp or JCC directors) excluding those from inside the federations often completely. What, if any, responsibility...obligation...does JFNA have to the profession of Jewish communal service, to those excellent federation professionals who, if properly vetted, mentored, trained and presented would excel as federation CEOs? This used to not even be a question. Today, Silverman believes himself to be the paradigm -- and I agree (that's not a compliment).
I know great professionals, some sitting federation CEOs who wished to be considered for a new position who have been told that the federation Search Committee in question "won't consider a sitting federation CEO." Others have been counseled that they have been effectively "black-balled" by JFNA's CEO and should not apply. If the best and brightest of communal professionals are being excluded from CEO consideration for whatever the reason outside of their qualifications, then don't JFNA and its agent have a responsibility to the Jewish communal service profession to at least say: "Wait a minute; we think you should consider ______________ who has demonstrated great potential in (insert name of Federation here)?