"Be ye guarded in your relations with the ruling power; for they who exercise it draw no man near to them except for their own interests; appearing as friends when it is to their own advantage, they stand not by a man in his hour of need."All leaders should make Pirke Avot required reading -- my own beat up Hertz version still bears the inscription: "Presented to Richard Wexler On the Occasion of his Hebrew School Graduation." (That was 1954 for the inquiring reader!!)
We learn so much from Hillel.
"Hillel reminds us that learning is not a passive operation. To learn means to be an active participant, listening carefully, asking thoughtful questions, raising considered objections, suggesting creative answers. A passive person who wants his teachers to do the job of learning for him will never succeed as a student."Too often, in today's communal world, Hillel's admonitions would end with "listening carefully" -- there is no room, in too many places, for "asking thoughtful questions;" no room for "considered objections;" and never room for "suggesting creative answers." In fact, your lay leadership career is in jeopardy too often if you do any of those things.
I am reminded of a JFNA Budget and Finance Committee several years ago where a venerated professional leader, now retired, apparently frustrated with the number of questions being raised by Committee members scolded the lay leadership telling them that the Committee meeting was neither the place nor the time to raise questions (?!). The then Committee Chair agreed and the questions -- all appropriate -- died on the lay leaders' lips.
How many of you have told me in our chats about the Jewish World of the waste of time you find our organizational meetings to be? How many of you have tried so damn hard to make those meetings more relevant, more open, more inclusive only to be frustrated at every turn by a leadership disinterested in those very things, ultimately surrendering the hope for substantive change. (I fondly remember one leader whose idea of change was to seat a Board at meetings around small circular tables -- hoping I guess for more intimacy and printed as real "change.") How many of us have participated in "table discussions" at large meetings, to be told that "we will compile the results and recommendations and incorporate them in our plans and programs" only to never hear anything about them again? And our leaders can't understand the general cynicism that emerges.
Often, I have used these many, many pages to reflect on the reality that if one pushes back too hard, or pushes back publicly on matters of principle, on matters l'shem shamayim, one must be willing to accept the consequences -- ostracism, lech l'azazel, and worse. But if one merely acquiesces on matters of principle because to do otherwise is just "too hard," trust me, it becomes harder and harder to look oneself in the mirror.
Or, may be it doesn't.