I recalled Bob's eloquent and insightful thoughts as I read JFNA Board Chair Richard Sandler's plaintive message to his constituency a few weeks later: "Let's Not Stop Caring About Each Other." I mean -- who can argue with that? This is how Richard closed:
"What ails the federated Jewish world is not the absence or quality of leadership. It is the absence of an informed, sustained, multi-generation conversation among the many on our collective challenges and directions.
By seeing our future only from the top down we will simply recreate a failed system where hasbarism has replaced a truly honest 21st century engagement with Israel and where our domestic agenda is overwhelmed by foundation- funded outreach and continuity initiatives predicated on the thoroughly insulting notion that Diaspora Jews neither care or (sic) understand what it means to be Jewish.
How we create local structures responsive to the grass roots and imbued with a radical notion of inclusiveness is a task that goes beyond the question of who our next generation of gurus might be, or who have what lay and professional titles moving forward."
"We have survived and made a significant difference in this world for over 3,000 years because of our common values and tradition. It is also what propels us to do the sacred work of caring for people in need all over the world. The very best in us is imperiled when we let grievances and disagreements rise to the level of disrespect and enmity. Our people look to us as leaders to guide them through this wilderness. Let’s be true to our task of being a light unto the nations – and to our own people."Yes, of course, and by all means, let's care about each other. However, shouldn't we be hearing from JFNA's leader just what steps JFNA will take to bring us together? What steps JFNA will take to move us forward...on anything?
Bob Hyfler outlined some, but certainly not all, of the challenges we need JFNA's leadership to confront, if not to solve, to take us down the path toward developing solutions. And, what do we get: a plea for the "unity" that eludes us and nothing more.
Were JFNA more than a virtual organization; were it a vital one, Sandler's plea would immediately be followed with a series of steps from JFNA that would drive us toward "unity." And those steps would be debated by federation leadership. And from those debates might emerge an actual plan the implementation of which would be managed by JFNA.
But, friends, as has been too often the case, Richard's well-articulated plea is once again nothing more than a one-off without thought of how to follow up.