Monday, February 19, 2018
From the DESK of Richard Wexler....
Back in the day -- the UJA "day" that is -- one of my great mentors, East Bay's remarkable philanthropist, Mort Friedkin, was asked by UJA's then National Campaign Chair Joel Tauber to Chair the first UJA Marketing & Communications Committee. No more than a month later, Mort called me. "I just quit." "What?" I asked. "I told Tauber if he is going to try to do my job when he should be doing his, he can do it without me."
I was reminded of this episode by a recent "From the Desk of..." missive from JFNA Vice-Chair Cindy Shapira. (And what's with JFNA, an inifinite number of Desks, a miniscule number of successes?) At its essence, Vice Chair Shapira was providing an in-depth domestic Fly-In Report on her visit to Houston with one of that community's preeminent leaders, Denis Braham, as Co-Chair. 5 unnamed Communities were also represented onthe Fly-In.
We all recall that Hurricane Harvey was the costliest tropical cyclone ever, causing approximately $125 billion in damage, primarily from widespread flooding in the Houston metro area. The Houston Jewish community was severely impacted. The Hurricane hit Houston on August 17 and did not let up until September 3 -- the Hurricane ended 4 months before that first JFNA Braham-Shapira "Fly-In" while impacts continue to be felt.
The Houston Community is truly "Houston Strong" as it has proved in the face of weather disasters time and again; none as devastating as Harvey. There is still so much work to be done, JFNA is to be congratulated for offering a series of "Fly-Ins." (The unasked question, of course, is why these didn't begin months ago.)
Best I can tell this is a 24 hour in and out; some important site visits; and a chance for a hands'-on experience in the community. And, for reasons totally unclear, the Shapira invite includes the important inducement that "[P]articipants are not being asked personally to make a gift." JFNA appears to wish to just put more nails in the coffin of FRD. Is that promise really going to attract more leaders to future "Fly-ins?" Is this the only way JFNA can recruit today? This is a terrible message from our Continental organization to our communities',
Oh, yeah, thanks for reminding me: what's this got to do with my Mort Friedkin story? It's this: Gail Norry, a fantastic leader from Philadelphia who has held many important positions from UJA Young Leadership onward, had recently been appointed the JFNA Chair of Disaster Relief (or whatever title responding to emergencies by opening a Mailbox and deciding allocations may be). Gail is to leadership of Disaster Relief today as Mort Friedkin was to UJA Marketing back in the day. I'm not suggesting that Gail resign; I am suggesting that she might want to remind the Vice Chair that a great leader knows how to share the spotlight.
In all events, if you can afford it, a Houston Fly-In would be an important 24 hours spent.
Now, I don't know about you, but I'm heading to my office, where I have a real Desk (not upright, no treadmill) to do some work.