Saturday, June 16, 2018


Michael Siegal
The Jewish Agency for Israel

RE: The Next Director General of the Jewish Agency

Dear Michael,

It's been a long time since I have written you -- then it was in your capacity as Chair, JFNA; now, Chair, JAFI. This letter will parallel those I wrote you on JFNA -- parallel in that this correspondence, like those, is about professional leadership, this time with regard to Alan Hoffman's successor upon his retirement.

One article, Judy Maltz's in Haaretz, stipulated that at year-end, with Natan Sharansky's and Alan's respective retirements, the Agency would be "leaderless;" another, Gil Hoffman's in the Jerusalem Post, stated, at its end, that the long-time JAFI Secretary-General, Josh Schwartz, had already been named CEO, further, speculating that Josh would be the professional leader to succeed Alan. 

If Gil Hoffman was correct, Josh would be appointed Director General without regard to JAFI's By-Laws. (As an aside, there would be a certain consistency to this lack of process: when one prominent American Jewish leader had exhausted her terms as a JAFI Board Member, she demanded that Josh assure her that she would continue as a member of the JAFI Executive -- a most peculiar request. Josh assured her continued Executive Committee service. So I wrote Josh requesting the same treatment...NOPE, no special treatment for you.) 

Those JAFI By-Laws provide a process:
"a. Selection

1. The principle underlying the appointment of senior staff is to ensure excellence in carrying out the responsibilities involved.

2. The senior staff members are the Director-General of JAFI, the Secretary-General of JAFI
, the CFO, the Legal Advisor and the Deputy Directors-General of JAFI.

3. The Director General of JAFI and the Secretary General of JAFI shall be appointed by the Board of Governors upon recommendation of the Executive following a formal search process based on a written job description."
I know that you will demand that this process be followed.

And, Michael, it's on you to assure that the absolute best professional succeed Alan. If not the irony of the title to Judy Maltz's article will be realized. JFNA cannot be allowed to become truly "leaderless."

Michael, please reflect on this JAFI reality -- I, and so many others, have had the privilege of working with a succession of Directors General who were assuredly among Israel's best and brightest: Shimshon Shoshani, General Giora Romm, Aaron Abramovich, Moshe Vigdor and Alan himself. Of these great men only Alan Hoffman came from within the ranks of JAFI professionals -- and Alan's achievements within the Jewish Agency as its Education Department Director General were recognized worldwide. I know Josh Schwartz to be a good professional; he's demonstrated that he can work well within the JAFI bureaucracy, Josh knows the JAFI lay and professional leadership well and he really wants this job. 

But, Michael, what JAFI requires in 2019 and going forward is a chief professional officer of the preeminence of all of the Directors General who preceded he or she who will succeed Alan. If not, JAFI will truly be "leaderless."

Ein breira, Michael. Be strong.




Anonymous said...

Be strong? Michael will follow the dictates of a certain LCE who thinks he knows best.

Anonymous said...

Like you're going to get a response. If the Jewish Agency is going to have a real future, it needs the strongest possible Director eneral side-by-side with a Chair of the Executive who is not merely the detritus of the Israeli political system. You've written about only oneside of the equation, Richard, the other side is equally if not more important. What we have read in the Israeli press is evidence of nothing more than the politicization of the JAFI Executive; when are you going to write about that?

Anonymous said...

"Leaderless" is the story of Jewish organizational life today. Everywhere.It is as if the organizations have thrown in the towel. As if the leader is irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous 6:28: "Leaderless" may be the story of some (and perhaps even most) organizational life today, but it certainly is not the story of all Jewish organizational life. I can personally attest to any number of top quality leaders I have worked with over my adult life as a professional in Jewish communal life for over 40 years and as a lay leader over the past many years as well. For fear of omitting some highly competent and qualified "leaders" both lay and professional, I won't name any.

Anonymous said...

Good try -- a lack of leadership at JFNA has resulted in an expensive annual mistake that costs my federation 7 figures in Annual Dues. Each time these costs are considered, I (and others) are told, if we don;t pay these, other comminnities will blame ours for JFNA's demise. There is no argument for continuing this debacle only guilt.