A Commentator with real insight and experience wrote:
A friend wrote to tell me, in pertinent part: "More to the point, even if it weren’t true originally, Mandel became a placement service for the execs. Represented their interests, not those of the federations. Period, end of sentence." JFNA has now dropped out of the search field entirely (didn't want to pay for Mandel's work; not because Mandel had proved to be inadequate), much attention is being paid to the embryonic LeadingEdge, the creative creation of major foundations, and its so-called "CEO on-boarding." But, LeadingEdge CEO, Gali Cooks, who may be (and probably is) brilliant, has vast experience but not a moment spent in a federation work environment. You can go to the LeadingEdge website -- http://leadingedge.org -- and examine its professional its leadership, almost none of whom with significant federation background or experience, and ask how can this become anything more than the blind once again leading the blind (one merely need note that Silverman serves on its "Advisory Board").*
"I do believe in the past JFNA and it's predecessor organizations did a positive job of identifying and placing talent at all levels of federations. The old adage "you have to move to move up." People were being recruited and wooed to other communities. FEREP (graduates) were a "big deal."
All of that changed when you have people in charge (Jerry and Deborah Smith -- that is her name?) who have, as you point out, no Federation history or understanding. The most successful federations have 'insiders and lifers' (some albeit too comfortable and too long in their roles) running the operation -- while those suffering (you mentioned two above) bring people with mainly outside experience.
I believe that the Mandel Center professionals and communities got blinded by the idea that we need outsiders to 'fix' our issues. And the Mandel Center even encouraged it.
I know of 2 cases where solid pros went through search processes and lost out to 'outsiders.' In each case the Mandel Center people told these individuals (highly successful in their long-term Federation work) that maybe they should leave the field for a few years and come back with outside experience. That says it all.
Finally, people always question who the customer was for the Mandel Center -- the community Federation looking to hire a person or the individuals searching for opportunities. They wanted to do both -- but you cannot. And thus the Mandel Center was just happy to fill the position no matter what happened to that person placed (yep, check that one off the list) and at the same time always told people we are here to advance your career. Too many good pros are now gone."
A superb comprehensive and daunting article was shared with me by a great professional leader: "In Search of a New Generation of Jewish Leaders" in Hadassah Magazine. You should read it in full at http://www.hadassahmagazine.org/2016/09/28/search-new-generation-jewish-leaders/. The author, Uriel Hellman, offered us an array of the options and opinions of that "new generation," some of which are astounding. The first, a young woman who was inspired to follow her dream when as a college student she interacted with Kathy Manning. Now, at 32, a senior professional at Hillel International, she concluded: ” And, I would agree that some those of those characteristics -- women, gay, disabled, millennials -- are great. But, in the words of our President: "C'mon man."
Hellman offers some sobering statistics and conclusions but no real explanation of why, as our Anonymous Commentator above has concluded, the federation system itself has, through its agents at JFNA and the federations themselves, discouraged so many of its best and brightest one the past decade, from their aspirations to move up the organizational charts and even aspire to communal and organizational leadership. And my finger points, as it often does, at those who have taken on the role of stewards of our communal values. And you know who you are.
You are the ones who sat idly by while a single lay leader mustered overwhelming support for Jerry Silverman's -- he so ill-equipped then and now for the position -- hiring as JFNA CEO. You are the ones who have watched in silence (except amongst yourselves) while community after community in their CEO searches have turned away from the best and brightest our system has produced to outsiders not even understanding that they themselves, all of whom came from inside the system, would not themselves have been hired today. While JFNA's selected Search firm, instead of offering the system's values -- values they never bothered to understand -- for those seeking to become CEOs of our communities turned the communities away from the system's best to outsiders, so many of whom, absent any and all support from JFNA, failed and failed quickly...and will continue to do so.
Because no one is talking about what has happened, one can only intuit the following: After the wrong-headed dictation of Silverman as CEO, the well-paid elusive Deborah K. Smith and her ilk at Mandel, none of whom had spent a day working inside a Jewish Federation, decided that the crumbling system would be best-served by ignoring (see the quote with which I opened this piece) the best and brightest of the next wave of federation professionals (or in the main, experienced federation lay leaders aspiring to "turn pro"). In addition, if a federation Search Committee actually stated they wished to "go outside the system" that's all Mandel needed to hear; if the federation didn't go in that direction, they were often steered there. I know of at least four instances where great federation pros were told "you need not apply; you won't be considered." The deconstruction of the federation professional cadre was underway.
I was reminded in all of this of a quote from the late, brilliant Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko:
Mike Royko, jokingly suggesting the city motto be changed from "Urbs in horto" -- ("city in a garden") To:`Ubi Est Mea' -- `where's mine?'Yep, these leaders got "theirs" and almost none of them has actively intervened to assure that trained professionals now "get theirs." The system is dying and it is an entire generation of CEOs, through their ambivalence, their lack of interest, their federation brand of introversion, who are performing the last rites. If they had any shame they would be ashamed, but they have none. Meanwhile four great professionals, leaders of their national organization, JPro, have begun to rally fellow professionals to join in a community of interest building on their call, their cri de coeur for their profession in ejewishphilanthropy.
There was a time, now pretty long ago, when a lay leader was in the running to be the first CEO of JFNA. A supporter, a major federation lay leader himself, asked Steve Hoffman, even back then the Cleveland Federation CEO, whether he might support this lay candidate. Hoffman's response: "I like _______ but it will be over my dead body when anyone other than a Federation CEO gets that position."
I guess that Steve died 7 years ago.
* It should be noted that Ted Farber, served as CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, for a long time until he was succeeded by Dr. Misha Galperin. Ted serves a consultant to Leading Edge through his firm. You may judge Ted's effectiveness as a Federation CEO on your own; someday we will be able to judge his work for LeadingEdge when we know what it is/was. I do know this: certainly Farber has probably forgotten more about the federation system than almost every other participant knows about federation in this process.