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October 8, 2004     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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October 8, 2004

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PAGE 16 HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, By Rachel Pomerance NEW YORK (JTA)--Jews fighting is hardly news--af- ter all, the joke about two Jews and three synagogues is familiar to Jewish communi- ties around the world. But when the quarreling Jews also work together, it makes their jobs difficult. That's often the case with the lay-professional relation- ships at the top echelons of American Jewish organiza- tions. "Given the fact that this relationship is so central to our operating system, it's extraordinary that we do so little to prepare volunteers and professionals to work together effectively and to ad- dress some of the challenges, inequities and tensions that are inherent in this relation- ship," says Shifra Bronznick, a New York-based consultant for many Jewish groups. Volunteers and profession- als often misunderstand their roles, resulting in simmering tension or outright feuds. Both parties have been known to complain of a lack of respect for their time and expertise, compromising their potential to work ef- fectively. An uneasy relationship in lay-professional leadership can destabilize the groups that set the course for the American Jewish commu- nity, many involved in these organizations say. Often it's a key reason for professional turnover in Jew- ish communal life. The lay.professional, re- lationship long ~aSrb~t'l a struggle, but several ors have exacerbated the prob- lems in recent years. As organizations ha, be- come increasingly complex and driven by professionals, many lay leaders have told JTA they feel sidelined from decision making and kept out of the loop. Both parties can become mired in a bureaucratic pro- cess that leaves professionals feeling undermined and lay leaders spent. The relationship is compli- cated by the fact that a lay leader's influence often is a product of his or her wealth, prompting professionals to mince words to avoid losing donations or even their jobs, observers say. Choosing leaders on the basis of money not only excludes less wealthy can- didates, but also may result in the choice of a lay leader who is otherwise ill- suited to the task or who feels that his wallet should allow him to dictate the group's course, community activists say. In trying to strike the right balance, communication and mutual respect are key, ac- cording to a recent, survey on Jewish communal profes- sional leadership authored by sociologist Gary Tobin. But the "power differen- tial" can get in the way, he says. Lay-professional relations are the "real elephant that's in the living room," says Jonathan Schick, a Dallas- based leadership consultant who works primarily with private schools. "When boards don't under- stand their roles as trustees of the organization," they "have a tendency to getmore in- volved in the day-to-day the here-and-now, and they don't have the long vision," Schick says. The issue is universal in the nonprofit world, he says, but stakes are raised in faith- based institutions where pas- sions run high. Indeed, ethnic ties can allow a sense of family ties, and their consequent sensitiv- ity and volatility, to override professionalism, observers say. But without professional standards, a board member can fire a professional on little more than a whim. One Jewish professional who recently became the executive of a Jewish orga- nization said he was told to work out a contract with his senior lay leader. When he suggested that lay-professional trust made such a document unneces- sary, the lay leader responded: "You trust me, and I trust you--but the next person who sits here might be an S.O.B and you may need to be protected." That indicated "a major problem with lay leaders' views of profession- als," he says. On the other hand, the professional says, he once was told by a senior execu- tive at another Jewish group to do something against the wishes of his own board. "That person's response was, 'The hell with what the board wants. This is what we need to get doneYAccording to Daniel Al- len, executive vice president of American Red Magen David in Israel and president of the Association of Jewish Communal Organizational Professionals, "I think there is a mutually visceral dis- trust, which unfortunately is all too often real, in terms of how people treat each other." Close observers say volunteers and professionals can harness their governing power and avoid professional clashes by clearly defining their roles. It's up to the professional to define those roles at the outset, says Shula Bahat, as- sociate executive director of the American Jewish Com- mittee, who is responsible for the group's lay leadership structure. "When it's not done, things are tested through crisis and there's no model to follow," she says. At the same time, profes- sionals must give lay leaders room to lead--and not waste their time. The professional must "in- volve the lay leader in a con- structive way," Bahat says. Howard Rieger, the new president of the United Jew- ish Communities, the um- brella group for the North American Jewish federation system, sa'id in a recent interview that "there's too much of a sense of trying to fit every volunteer into some kind of cookie-cutter mold," like "putting every word in their mouth so they can deliver the message." Mak- ing lay leaders into "window dressing'--withoutthe power to make real decisions--only infuriates them, says Rieger, who served for years as presi- dent of the United Jewish Fed- eration of Pittsburgh Profes- sionals also must empower themselves, he says. "You can't survive in this kind of arena if you truly are not in a position to say everything you want to say. You should say it with civil- ity, you should say it and treat people with dignity, but you need to say what you need to say," he says. ,I find that the only way to do that in this business is to empower yourself." Meanwhile, prepa- ration for both professional and lay leadership roles is sorely lacking. Lay leaders often accept positions without fully un- derstanding their demands, and then burn out or become bewildered. "One of the hardest jobs in Jewish leadership is syna- gogue presidencies," says Richard Joel, president of Yeshiva University. "There's precious little done to prepare people for that job, and it's a microcosm of the entire lay structure." Richard Wexler, the UJC's vice chairman, says lay leaders don't mentor as much as they used to. "We used to grow up learn- ing as part of our mother's milk of federation life, and today, often lay leaders are just thrown into their posi- tions without that training," he says. But some still manage to strive for excellence in their relationship. Take Gary Weinstein and his lay leadership, for ex- ample. After dozens of years in the federation system, the last several as executive vice president of the Jew- ish Federation of Greater Dallas, Weinstein got a job coach. He and his lay leaders decided a temporary coach would help ensure his and the federation's continued success, he tells JTA. Most federation profession- als hail from backgrounds in social work and need business training to adapt to new de- mands of running nonprofits, he says. Through his coach- ing, Weinstein has made dras- tic changes like delegating major responsibilities to free himself up for fund raising and policy work. The example highlights the complex pressures on a Jewish organizational direc- tor and the critical work with lay address them. Alternatively, recalls an exchar many years ago hunter seeking a executive. The flabbergasted described his ship with Stev longtime CEO of Federation of Chicago. The the headhunter the professional less just as a paid and the lay no more socialize person than show respect, in far too man, he says. "They don't that the resents the any organization.' observers say one safeguards of the sionai relationship, a longevity of the and the she is anchored in munity. However, this system where. way to move up" promotion at nization, That not onl fessionals and but it's lay people and it's! in between lay leaders. [R vity in a professional the depth for a of continuity. ram over By Linda Bachmann Atlanta Jewish Times ATLANTA---Duke Univer- sity's decision to host the Palestinian Solidarity Con- ference on its Durham, N.C campus October 15 to 17 has led Atlanta's Davis Academy, the nation's largest Reform day school, to withdraw from the college's Talent Identifi- cation Program (TIP), which provides a range of enrich- ment activities for gifted middle-school students. Shortly after Davis an- nounced its decision, Atlanta's Greenfield Hebrew Academy also withdrew from the pro- gram. Students qualify for the Duke program based on their scores from the high school SAT, which they take during their seventh-grade year. Rabbi Steven Ballaban, Da- vis head of school, explained his position in letters to Davis parents and to Duke President Richard H. Brodhead. "I feel it is contrary to our mission to continue our rela- tionshipwith Duke University as long as they host a group that supports the use of ter- ror against families of our students, faculty and admin- istrators," wrote Ballaban. Free, lance writer with knowledge of Jewish community to work on various assignments. Photography experience a plus. EWISH NEW E-mail samples of published articles to with subject line Freelance. "In view of [the univer- sity's] position to host the [Palestinian Solidarity Con- ference] we will no longer administer the SAT in a man- ner that provides results to Duke University, nor will we complete recommendation forms for Duke University for our students. In addi- tion, we will no longer host Duke's TIP recruiting forums in Atlanta." Duke's decision to allow the conference was based on free-speech issues, Brodhead told a crowd es- timated at more than 100 people at the University's Freeman Center for Jewish Life in mid-September. "Freedom of speech is the freedom of speech that might be found offensive," Brodhead told the audience. Brodhead, who became Duke's president in July, de- cided in August to allow the Palestinian group to meet on campus despite objec- tions by some Jewish groups that say the PSM endorses terrorism against Israel. Conference organizers told the Winston-Salem Journal that the group only promotes peaceful pressure--such as divestiture--against the Israeli government. In recent years, the group has held similar conferences at the University oT Califor- nia at Berkeley, University of Michigan and Ohio State University. Reaction by Davis parents has been "100 percent enthu- siastic and supportive of the decision and supportive of Is- rael," said Ballaban. "Parents are proud that we're living up to our mission, not sitting by and ignoring a decision that is really appalling." One of Ballaban's daughters--now a high school junior--attended a Duke TIP program, which he says attracts a"significant number" of Jewish students. As an alternative, Davis will encourage its middle school students who qualify to consider similar enrichment learning programs offered by Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University. According to the Pal- estinian Solidarity Move- ment Web site, its guiding principles---which do not include peace with Israel-- are the "full decolonization of all Palestinian land, the recognition and implemen- tation of the right of return" for Patestinian refugees and their descendants and "an end to the Israeli system of apartheid and discrimi- nation against the indig- enous Palestinian popula- tion." The organization's main campaign has been to convince individual and institutional investors to divest their stock portfolios of Israeli companies. In an August 24 press release, the group said it supported the Church USA to vestment from nesses. Jonathan tive director of Center, said in an e while Jewish are upset by the conference, Duke Universit to allow the occur. Attempts to event are not only succeed but will attention to the and its messages, "We do opposing freedon~ or exercising ower over the Gerstl, other communities with took similar For all of that leaders are rael rally October Shabbatand tuber 16. "We want to be participating junior Adam the student Duke Chronicle. "We don't chaos and the two groups."