I am just a voyeur at an ugly, sad tragedy. I don’t like it.
Approaching 7 years ago (G-d, has this been going on for 7 years??) at the demand of a self-centered Chair with the acquiescence of a Search Committee eager to please her, and with total disregard for the impact upon the institution they were charged to steward, JFNA parachuted a know-nothing into a land where he neither understood the language nor possessed the intellect to learn it.
This was the inflection point for JFNA. The point at which JFNA turned away from assisting communities (except at times of natural disasters and through the great work of the long-standing Washington Office) and turned entirely to self-promotion, led, at almost all levels of its professional staff and consultants by those who have never worked in a Jewish Federation in their lives.* For, from its then newly-minted CEO, to its professional leader of JFNA-Israel, from its sole-sourced Global Planning Table Consultant, straight through the current FRD consultant…not a day has been spent working inside on a federation staff. (Before Jerry even began his CEO stint, at a meeting in Chicago, I urged him to pick a federation at each City-size and then to go spend one week in each of those Federation offices "shadowing" a Federation CEO -- he, of course, said "I'll get back to you"...and then, mirabile dictu, never did.)
Silverman's disqualifying flaws as CEO have metastasized throughout the organization.
Maybe Becky Caspi is to Jerry as Ben Rhodes has portrayed himself to be to Obama. And…that’s how she has kept her job. But, look around at JFNA's silos, and other than in its grantsmanship and some planned but as yet unimplemented FRD restructuring, nothing is happening.
And while Jerry smiles away, the truth for him is: You cannot recruit, you cannot train, you cannot retain, you cannot administrate. This, friends, is "failure" writ large.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: "You cannot achieve greatness without enthusiasm." Look at the best of community CEOs historically -- viz, Nasatir, Hoffman, Larry Fine, Darrell Freedman, John Ruskay, Barry Shrage, Alan Gill, Howard Rieger and so many others -- they are/were infused with enthusiasm for the cause and for the great communal work right to and through today or their retirement no matter what I think or thought of their results.
There is a form of institutional psychopathy at work -- it's reflected in a group mentality that rejects everything and anything that is outside the narrative set by the few and trusted; and the few and trusted just can't be bothered with evaluation because they are "too busy and, anyway, everything is fine."
Well, friends, look around if you can; you might notice things are getting progressively worse -- any, then, you might commit to doing something about it.
A guy can dream can't he?
* I apologize as I have forgotten that Mark Gurvis joined JFNA after 29 years in the federation field -- the exception that proved the rule, I think.