Thursday, May 11, 2017


I am grateful to all of you who read these pages; and, in particular, those of you who write, even anonymously. What follows is a letter I received from one of our preeminent professional communal and thought leaders. I won't offer his/her name; it is his/her thoughts that should count:

"Hi Richard!
Hope you and your family had a wonderful Passover.   Just wanted to say hello and thank you for your having the opportunity to read your regular blog.  There are so few voices out there publicly analyzing the state of our global Jewish community and I’m thankful yours is still there and still loud and clear.
Reading what you write each week one thought come to the forefront over and over again:  with all the huge investments and focus on leadership development and next generation funding we have witnessed over the last three decades at least, why is there such a dearth of leadership, both lay and professional, across the Jewish world?
Where are all the graduates of those very expensive initiatives that focused on building a new generation of leaders and creating an elite cadre of Jewish global thinkers to lead us out of the wilderness?  Something is basically wrong when we keep pouring our energies and efforts into expensive programs that don’t deliver what they promise.   Private foundations have stepped in to fill that gaps left by Federations  yet the more these initiatives fail at really creating strong Jewish leaders, the more our community feels we need those same failed initiatives.  One need not have to look beyond efforts in the field of Jewish education, synagogue movements, Federation young leadership, Jewish social services etc to realize that not only is the needle not moving forward it’s going in the wrong direction. 
I can only conclude that the strategy of focusing on the elite to lead has failed us miserably."
Here is my response:
"Thanks for your “thought,” sad as it certainly is. These have truly become “the worst of times” in Jewish communal life and there appears to be no bottoming out. It is inexplicable to me that your former...colleagues have been willing to sit on the sidelines witnessing the debacle that the organization they demanded has become and the profession that has given them so much has been allowed to implode."
And, then, my friend's incisive response in part:
"I think the LCE communities have been facing huge challenges over the last number of years and the lack of leadership and concrete acts of collective action is often seen as a welcomed relief from the pressures of just dealing with the day to day of trying to keep their heads above water.    

The last thing many of them want is a call to action and as a result you jettison lay leaders who tire of this inaction and attract those who are at home with it.   Visionary leadership has stepped off the bus and the wrong people are driving it in community after community.  Left to their own resources each community determines its own benchmark for success, it’s own measure of what an “Annual” Campaign is and what is their commitment to Israel.  When there is no sense of collective direction you get a lot of bravado but nothing really to show."

Friends, lamentations aside, it didn't have to be this way; it doesn't have to be this way. It just is.  If every Federation Board member, every JFNA Board member and every communal professional leader would stand up, slam their hands on the table and shout "ENOUGH," and then act on their will and their fiduciary responsibility, perhaps...perhaps... things would change. 

Or not.


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