I am one who has a lifelong respect for Jewish communal professionals -- I have been privileged to have served within the lay-professional partnership and learned so much from the best and brightest of them. That respect even manifested itself in my unrequited attempt so long ago to join the professional ranks.
Danny Allen, Alan Engel, Lou Solomon and Peter Wells decry the deconstruction of their profession:
"Our “Profession” has declined. There are at least four key reasons: 1) There is very little if any sense of being part of a larger enterprise among senior federation and other agency staff in part due to their increasingly disparate backgrounds. 2) A decline in the effort by JFNA to cultivate such a community, to assist communities in their search processes for senior staff – now completely suspended so we have been told – and to help set the standard and requirements for our American Jewish collectivity. 3) We do not have a professional association/community of practice that is properly funded in order to be a key player and 4) The profound changes and shrill nature of the discourse in Jewish religious and organizational life that are now common and which reflect to our discredit the political/civic culture in both America and Israel and which our leaders and organizations are doing precious little to counter."We have chronicled this diminution of the professional Movement on these pages time and again. Now we are hearing the pleading from inside the system. As the authors wrote:
"With a collective biblical work experience of “120” years, we are optimists. We believe that among our colleagues, working and “retired,” there is a storehouse of energy, wisdom, ideas, abilities, and good will all of which can be placed in support of creating a community of practice which will serve our collectivity. We call on others to join with us in this quest, to unite with us as we begin the formation of a community of Jewish collective practitioners. This is not a request for funding – though it would not be refused. It is a request to use the vast human resources of our communities to be a link and strengthening agent for our people."
When a system-supported start-up designed to identify, enhance and prepare Jewish professionals for advancement and places the JFNA CEO, whose professional credentials can be summed up in one word: Dockers, on its Advisory Board, one has to question how much our system really cares about the profession it is supposed to support and grow. Not surprising, the article has not been referenced in that JFNA rag FEDWorld -- censorship perhaps; orders from on high?
One great professional who served our system over 4 decades, commented on the article as follows:
"It deserves further serious analysis. How is it that after FEREP, Mandel, Wexner, Schusterman, Brandeis, HUC, JTS, Spertus, etc., there is such a shortage of good people in this field? How is itThus, the authors left hanging the question -- what duty do those serving at the top of their profession owe to it? Most of them have received their professional organization's highest honor for their professional leadership. What do they owe back to a profession that has become more and more viewed as a vestige of another time? The evidence suggests that this not a matter that they think about very much if at all.
that CEOs and others looking to hire report that “there is no one out there” and leave vacancies on their staffs for months at a time? How is it that several search consultants are in business, commanding substantial fees for finding candidates, calling lists of the usual suspects to see if they “know of anyone”? And how is it that when CEO openings occur, search committees of senior lay leadership decide to “recruit out of the box”?….Do they feel that this is a good incentive for capable and ambitious people to stay in the field?"
One can only hope that the professional leaders who have raised the question have also lit a spark. Yes, we can only hope.