Criticism aside, we wished the guy and the community well. That was in August of last year. Less than one year later, he was gone. No more gaga pits* to conquer, I guess. Here's what Federation leadership wrote to the constituency:
Dismissive and, perhaps, unnecessarily terse. This was not alone a community's hiring error; it was as well a grievous error on the part of JFNA's CEO search practice and its selected "vendor," the Mandel Center for Excellence ( you can judge whether that title has become an oxymoron like "Airplane food"). For all the years of this Blog, I have suggested quite directly that JFNA get the hell out of the Search business. When it finally did so, sadly it wasn't because of failures like this one, but for financial reasons, JFNA no longer wanted to subvent the federation CEO Search business, period -- what JFNA termed its role in "Talent Acquisition" would be no more."The _______________ Jewish Federation has been the preeminent institution for our community’s Jewish philanthropy since 1920. We take very seriously our critical role in supporting the care of our community members, enhancing Jewish community education and connection, and assisting our Jewish brethren in Israel and beyond. Our legacy is rich and we have much to be proud of.We are writing today to share with you that _______________ will be leaving the ______________Jewish Federation this week. We thank _______ for his contributions to the ___________ Jewish Federation over the past year, and wish him well with his future endeavors."
And, almost simultaneously with the Federation unnamed above, one in the Northwest announced that its CEO, who made it through thee years, would be returning to his home State. When that leader was hired directly out of a lengthy term leading a University Hillel, I predicted on these pages that, with no evident federation background, he wasn't quite ready for the challenges he would be facing in a community struggling to find its footing after years of failed campaigns.
Those who were quick to criticize me in these two instances (and others) wholly failed to comprehend that I was expressing my concern, one that has only grown, that women and men were being hired without regard for the fact that, absent substantive experience, mentoring and a place to turn for guidance and counsel in the most complex of communal organizational environments, they were being set up to fail -- Camp directors, Hillel directors, United Way CEOs, etc., were being asked to essentially find their own ways -- they were put out on a slab of melting ice and told "don't worry" and then left to sink
What are the repercussions to JFNA? Oh, I'm sure it goes like this: "Hey, that's not JFNA, that's Mandel." If they recommended to you someone that failed to meet your expectations, "that's not JFNA's fault, you chose him." So, don't expect any compensation, any Dues relief. And, by the way, Mandel will be available for your next Search. But, setting aside the growing number of failed searches, it is JFNA that has failed these new hires; it is JFNA that has nothing to offer them in terms of support or knowledge that would assist them. Guess JFNA would tell them: "Hey, just ask FedCentral." And, then, JFNA walks away; "our job is done."
And there are really those telling federations exactly those things. And there are those in leadership who believe everything at 25 Broadway is just fine...fine, indeed.
* For those who don't recall:
"Ga-ga" is a variant of dodgeball that is played with one ball. The game combines dodging, ... The ga-ga pit generally consists of flat walls atop a smooth dirt, turf, or sand surface.