Perhaps, some of you will remember. In the earliest years of Monday Night Football, as each gamecast on ABC would draw toward its end, color commentator Dandy Don Meredith would sing:"Turn out the lights, the party's over." Now, JFNA over the past decade has been no party, but it sure is time, past time, to "turn out the lights" and begin .again
Every reader understands my view that the hiring of Jerry Silverman and his subsequent extended tenure have been disastrous. Even now, when Silverman might be accomplishing something for the federations, I read that he was the new JAFI Chair of the Executive, Isaac Herzog's, travel guide to some federations in the East. Jerry is the lamest of ducks; he should, instead, just be gone; pay him off for the final year of his contract and bid Jerry farewell. It is already too late. 9+ years too late, but who's counting?
Yet, I have hope because, in its wisdom, the JFNA Nominating Committee, seeking a successor to Richard Sandler, nominated Mark Wilf as JFNA Board Chair. And, hope is in the air...hope that Mark will assert himself in the Search process (Richard Sandler appointed himself its Chair) and assure that the disastrous mistake of a decade ago, perpetuated by a Board Chair and a supine Committee then, will not be replicated now.
Mark Wilf has succeeded not alone in business -- with his family in New Jersey development and in the ownership of the Minnesota Vikings -- but in every one of his leadership roles in organized Jewish life. He and family's commitment to the sacred work of caring for Survivors is known to one and all. Mark does not need me to vouch for his leadership skills; he has proved himself time and again, most recently in leading JFNA's successful efforts on behalf of programs that will fund, in part, programs in support of Holocaust Survivors in our American communities.
Mark will need the strongest professional partner just as he has had in his prior Jewish organizational leadership roles. Mark is not a professional volunteer (Helloooo, Ms. Manning); he will be a great partner in the lay-professional partnership. The evidence is that while, back in the halcyon days of yore, there was a depth of the best and brightest who would have delivered what is now JFNA to heights never achieved -- I'm talking about Steve Nasatir and Bob Aronson and Steve Hoffman, among others -- today the field is very thin. Recruitment of the best will need to start now; it will require all hands on deck.
I have no doubt that Mark Wilf understands the challenges; and, knowing them, it is great that he is willing to take on this leadership mantle. In order to allow him to hit the ground running, as the JFNA Board Chair role demands, Sandler should take one more critical step -- give Silveman a "soft landing" outside the organization, and appoint an Interim CEO fpr whatever the length of the Search for a permanent CEO shall be. Preferably, that Interim CEO will be a professional or lay leader from the system but not one on the JFNA Staff -- a John Ruskay, or a Darrell Freedman or a Lee Wunsch.
We all want Mark Wilf to be the person to turn on the lights at 25 Broadway; to divert the organization toward the light and avoid the current projecion that the next lay and professional leaders will be turning off the lights and locking the doors behind them.