I found myself reflecting on the reality that not one of the United Jewish Appeal National Campaign Chairs whom I got to know so well over the decades left office without a feeling of incredible accomplishment as well as no small degree of frustration at not being able to accomplish even more. And I began to wonder, not for the first time, as to whether JFNA's succession of Chairs feel frustration as well.
I'm certain that Kathy Manning feels frustration today at the demise of her ill-conceived and terribly implemented Global Planning Table -- after all, she appointed herself as the GPT Chair and, then, nothing happened. But, Kathy has moved on to chair the ambitious Prizmah and we wish her and that organization well.
I don't know if Michael Siegal felt any frustration at the end of his Terms as JFNA Chair -- three years of well-run meetings and good will and the extension of Silverman's contract; three years of meh, of almost no results...no positive results. But, Michael has moved on to the role as Chair of the Jewish Agency Board succeeding one of the most passionate and articulate Jewish leaders, Chuck Ratner, and we wish Michael and that organization well.
These Chairs left Richard Sandler to lead an organization without a soul, and with neither vision, mission nor any evidence of core values. He has been left high and dry by his professional "partner," and together they have stood by while too many in lay and professional leadership look like a bunch of clowns piling out of a VW Beetle. A succession of leaders have allowed JFNA to become unhinged, unconnected from the passions and commitments -- to the federations first and foremost, to the legacy Overseas partners, to Zionism -- yes, the passions and commitments that drove our national system and the leadership of a glorious past discarded like so much litter into the dustbin of history.
Under a succession of leaders JFNA has come to resemble one of those Antarctic glaciers that are so far gone they will continue to melt even were global warming somehow reversed. That JFNA has been permitted to reach the sad state of irrelevance that it is in today is the direct result of leaders unwilling (not unable, mind you, unwilling) to confront these circumstances and exercise the leadership responsibilities with which they have been charged. As one of you recently commented:
JFNA is in a perpetual "wash, rinse, repeat" cycle. It is an organization defined by its failures; it doesn't hear federation leaders like the commentator above; its leaders choose to believe that because Dues (most) are dutifully paid, all is well, no need to worry and, certainly, no need to change...no need whatsoever. It remains the payment of those Dues that provides cover to a leadership perfectly willing to ignore all that is wrong...and that is how JFNA shall continue until the plug is pulled rather than until the necessary actions are taken to effect change starting...you and I know where.