Wednesday, September 27, 2017


At the NewYear, we are called upon for introspection...serious introspection...

There were many paths available to the leaders of JFNA that might have propelled the organization forward. Yet, for the past decade, at the east, every choice those leaders made, every path down which they have driven this Klown Kar, has been the wrong one.

If those who believe that the federations are dying or dead were looking for a host body into which to inject their virus, they found it in Jerry. I don’t believe that was then Board Chair Kathy Manning’s intent — she merely arose from the larvae of a small Federation city,   (though she never failed to remind any and all within earshot that she was raised within culture of the Detroit Federation), and by dint of very hard work, diligence and self-promotion had risen to the position of Chair with only the most modest of experience in federation life or governance — she just wanted to appoint someone “outside the box;” viz., someone with less federation knowledge than she and one who would know that he owed his job to her and her alone. Manning insured Jerry’s engagement by appointing a Search Committee made up, in the main, with those who felt it was more important to unquestioningly follow her lead than to even think about let alone dare to question the fitness of her choice for the position; sadly, their loyalty was personal not to the institution.

As JFNA morphed into the ether of its nothingness, the dictate of management guru James Collins in his seminal work Good to Great that mergers will fail if core values are discarded, was more and more and more ignored -- ignored until those core values on which our incredible system was built were forgotten because no one was left who either recalled them or wanted to be reminded of them. What was left? Jerry.

JFNA would perpetuate the fiction that Silverman, from a "corporate executive background" would bring for-profit business skills to his new role. The evidence is that those skills were so lacking, so demonstrably lacking, that the Board Chair who succeeded Kathy Manning, who had dictated Jerry's hiring, Michael Siegal, took away all of Silverman's management responsibilities a little over one year after taking office. If there were transferable skills from either Jerry's work at Sketchers or his professional leadership of the small but successful Foundation for Jewish Camp, they, too, weren't evident in an organization of the complexity of JFNA any one of whose constituencies overwhelmed by size and sophistication any environment in which would have overwhelmed any and all of Jerry's prior experiences by a factor of infinitesimal.

The comparison of Silverman's expertise and experience to the Search Critera that defined the CEO position at JFNA is impossible -- because applying those Criteria to Jerry would have led to his rejection as a candidate, let alone a finalist, let alone his emergence as the chosen CEO. Thus, we can only conclude that Jerry Silverman became CEO because...

  • There was no viable candidate from among the Federation CEO cadre;
  • The Board Chair from the outset was demanding a candidate from "outside the box"
  • Silverman made a passionate and persuasive presentation to the Search leaders and Board Chair
  • No one carefully examined Jerry's educational or professional background and experience
Unexpressed, but obviously compelling, was Manning's clear preference for Silverman, the one "candidate, " whom she knew (a) knew less about the federation system than she; and (b) having been personally curated by her, would never stand in the way of her grandiose and outrageous schemes to create a Global Planning Table and diminish the place and influence of JAFI and JAFI's leaders in communal allocations. She knew Silverman well although she knew him very little.

While Kathy Manning apparently couldn't or wouldn't see it, Michael Siegal quickly saw that Jerry had "no bench" on his staff. It was Michael and his leadership that assured that Mark Gurvis and Renee Rothstein were added to the staff. It remains my belief that Michael made these moves in anticipation of Jerry's termination. What happened? Nothing.Those within Michael's lay leadership "team" led by Manning insisted that Jerry should not be replaced; the LCE offered not a single potential successor (as they had done with Hoffman and Rieger) -- and neither Siegal nor the Chair of the Executive, Dede Feinberg, were willing to fight, to insist that change was required.

So, here was Silverman, who had stated quite clearly that "if the Global Planning Table fails, JFNA is done," not only remaining in place but given a new contract. No successes whatsoever in the years of Jerry's first contract Term have since been followed with more years without success. There have been only failure and a total lack of accountability under Manning, under Siegal and, now, under Sandler. The perfect storm of lay leadership matched with the lack of professional leadership and no one cares.

So that is how JFNA "got here." A nice place to be isn't it?

This is a cautionary tale for every organization from which to learn what will forever be known as the sad story of the Jewish Federations of North America.



Anonymous said...

And, unfortunately, the current Board chair has said/done nothing to give any indication he will even consider not renewing Silverman's bloated contract - again. JFNA's complete failure under Silverman can be laid at the feet of a board (and board chair) who has no understanding of their governance responsibilities and a few LCEs who apparently just don't care.

JProactivists said...

The original design was to have as chairman of the board a mega donor in the chairman of the executive a good hard-working person from the Federation system. That idea and maintain the balance of inside and outside as well as have a make it down to be the driving force for campaign. The leadership was to be tripartite chairman of the board, chairman of the executive in the campaign chairman. What we have now is not a campaign organization who is a valid purpose was to raise the overseas allocation but a trade organization which divorce to the lowest common denominator her of his professional staff. Even Solender, who actually got you Ujc Started in the wrong direction at least have respect for the leadership and occasionally listened. Sadly that is not the case. The global planning table was not only a failure it was a major diminishing aspect of what is now a sad and be reft enterprise