Friday, September 15, 2017


Image result for alfred e neuman images

If you are, as am I, of a vintage that remembers Mad Magazine, z'l, with the same affection and reverence as I remember the United Jewish Appeal, you will recall the strange grinning face of the immortal Alfred E. Neuman, and his signature phrase "What, Me Worry?" That likeness and that phrase capture Jerry Silverman to a "T" (although Jerry certainly doesn't look anything like the fictional Alfred.) For it has been clear that with a laity who should all be wearing "Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil" tee-shirts, even a non-performing CEO has nothing to "worry" about.

As I mused about Alfred E. Neuman Jerry Silverman's great good fortune to be unaccountable to anyone, I saw a full page magazine ad for "Hunger Action Month." Perhaps, you saw it as well; the tagline: "Nothing runs on empty." And, that line is so wrong as JFNA proves that at least one thing "runs on empty." Nothing runs on empty more that JFNA. 

One of my personal philosophy gurus, Casey Stengel, watching the earliest version of the  New York Mets was heard to utter the immortal question: "Doesn't anyone here know how to play this thing?" It appears more and more that this question has become seminal when asked of those at 25 Broadway. Casey ultimately proved that the right leader can turn a disaster around; JFNA's CEO has proved that he can no more do that for our continental organization than could Alfred E. Neuman (and Alfred was a a fiction; Jerry appears to be real.)

We have catalogued on these pages the pathetic history of a leaderless JFNA but it's not necessary to have read it here (after all JFNA leaders disbelieve anything written on these pages to the same extent as President Trump disbelieves polls -- FAKE NEWS anyone?); Richard Sandler and his claque can read it all on JFNA's own Year End Progress Report. For JFNA leaders to claim "process" on any front, demonstrates what a recent Newsweek article termed "...the perils of faking it." And JFNA's fakery only works when its leadership is willing to ignore the failure that is right in front of their eyes.

Before Richard Sandler took his seat as JFNA's Board Chair, he made it abundantly clear that his vision of his role was to "let the professionals do their job," and just "get out of the way." It appeared to me that this vision didn't accommodate the lay leader's proper role in a co-equal partnership with the professional leader but Sandler's accommodation might still have worked had JFNA had as its CEO a professional leader of even minimal competence. It didn't; it doesn't. Had Sandler any interest in assuring accountability by the CEO to the organization; change would have already happened...years ago. 

To me, chevre, Sandler has faced/faces a true Hobson's Choice: "...a situation in which it seems that you can choose between different things or actions, but there is really only one thing that you can take or do." There is no real alternative to replacing Silverman; the only choice is whether to seek out an interim CEO to right the ship and position it for a permanent replacement with the promise of institutional excellence or leave the position open while engaging in a lengthy CEO search process.

Some will argue "leave it be, there remain less than 18 months for Silverman's contract to expire." The obvious response: "JFNA cannot afford even one month more of the now baked-in failure of the Silverman regime." If any of you can offer a single reason for retaining Jerry as CEO at this time, please write us, give us that reason(s). 

In the meantime, all of us can understand why Jerry Silverman is smiling...all the way to the bank.



Anonymous said...

And he will continue to smile for the next 18 months.
The tragedy of JFNA is that it is totally leaderless. To note, 18 months is a good time to announce that Jerry will be leaving at the end of his current term and that a search committee comprised of anyone who hasn't been on the last 2 that hired Jerry initially, and then secured him his most recent contract, has been formed to strategically find his successor.
The type of thing that the Mandel Center would counsel a Federation that was in a similar situation.
But is anything going to be done?
I think we know the painful answer to that question.

Anonymous said...

No, it would be the appropriate time for Sandler to announce that Silverman is leaving NOW; or he dooms his own tenure to the same failure that Siegal exerienced before him. But terminating Jerrymeans that Sandler would have to actually work at his role; something he appears unable or unwilling to do. Does Richard really think that popping up from time to time to, for example, forward a commendation to the Israeli Government for their allocation of $1 million in support of Houston relief efforts, is what is expected of the Board Chair position? I'd say: apparently so.

Anonymous said...

Need another analogy: Mad Magazine is not dead yet. Still alive and at the newsstands.

RWEX said...

Thanks for the correction -- think it is as good as it once was? or not close. Hmmmm.

RWEX said...

To the Anonymous Commentator who believes that his/her anonymous condemnation of those who Comment anonymously in a manner with which he/she disagrees will be printed. I applaud you for your persistence as well as your stupidity in believing that your screed will be printed on these pages. If you wish to continue what has become your private correspondence with me, feel free -- your parents would be proud.