Brian is a treasure. He brings a skill-set and leadership skills to JFNA that have been sorely lacking since...well, forever. I have to congratulate Vicki Agron, JFNA's Senior FRD Consultant for this coup -- she has recruited a real winner. And, in so doing, and in the rumored recruitment of two Senior FRD Community Consultants yet to be announced, both with great federation experience, she has completed (??) her consulting task with brilliance. This is the first terrific hire at JFNA since Silverman brought back Mindy Hepner. Some day we'll learn what Brian was promised: and whether JFNA delivered."Dear Trustees,Brian Abrahams, a former director of National Young Leadership Cabinet (YLC) for the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) is returning to JFNA as its new senior vice president of financial resource development.His return follows a successful 12-year stint as director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)’s Midwest region, where, under his leadership, annual fundraising significantly increased.Brian likes to say he “grew up” in Federation, having served in both lay and professional roles since his college days as a volunteer fundraiser for UJA. Two years after he graduated, he got a job in UJA’s Washington office. On his first day, he was assigned to work with the group that ultimately brought 250,000 people to the National Mall for the 1987 march and rally for Soviet Jewry.Less than four years later, he joined Federation leadership to witness the historic Operation Solomon, which brought 14,500 Ethiopian Jews to Israel—what Brian calls “a powerful example of what the collective can achieve.”From there, Brian moved to Chicago and became UJA’s Midwest regional director. Later, as YLC director, Brian remembers chartering a plane of Soviet Jews from Moscow to Warsaw so that young leaders on a mission to Poland could accompany them on the final leg of their aliyah to Israel. He also recruited and trained emerging leaders from around the country, including some who have gone on to hold top national leadership positions.As a volunteer leader for the JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Brian started its high-tech committee and was on the volunteer organization committee when Chicago hosted the General Assembly. He also served on the board of Jewish Child and Family Services, a local Federation agency.I know you join me in welcoming Brian back.Sincerely,Richard V. SandlerChair, Board of Trustees"
There is one certainty -- by dint of timing, if not more, Brian comes into a position where he inherits a staff and consultants not of his choosing. This is like a situation Brian will remember -- when the NFL Chicago Bears hired Mike Ditka as their head in 1983, he was told by ownership that Buddy Ryan would remain as his Defensive coordinator; while they came to blows from time-to-time together they led the Bears to a Super Bowl in 1985. How Brian deals with this reality will be his first test of many. The next challenge may come in how Brian responds to a small group of lay and professional leaders who believe that "all fund raising is local" (more on that in an upcoming Post); who would relegate continental FRD to the margins. (Hopefully, Brian had just that conversation with Silverman and Sandler before he assumed the position.)
Now, it's fair to question why the announcement of a new Sr. V-P didn't come from the JFNA CEO inasmuch as staff hiring and firing is a professional function not a lay one but everything is so confused within JFNA that maybe no one knows the difference. Jerry did hire Brian, didn't he? Brian does report to Jerry, doesn't he? (And, Jerry would especially love the fact, not appearing in Richard Sandler's write-up, that Brian had left Jewish organizational life just this past February to join AvantCredit , a mass market lending start-up, as VP of Communications and Government Relations -- meaning he comes to JFNA from private industry -- sort of like Jerry came via Dockers.)
So, congratulations to everyone and anyone involved in this hire, especially Vicki Agron. And to Brian Abrahams, every success.