Perspectives by Deborah Corber, CEO

Edition 9,  August 6, 2015

To Critique or Not to Critique – Is That The Question?

Deborah Corber When I began at Federation CJA, in September 2011, I got lots of friendly advice. Perhaps none better than the counsel of Marc Gold, former President of Federation CJA (and one of my favourite law professors a lifetime ago). Marc told me not to worry unduly about making mistakes. If you’re not making any mistakes, you’re probably not trying to do much, either.

I think about that advice often. And it seems to me that the question isn’t so much whether we’ve made mistakes – of course we have, what organization hasn’t – it’s about what we’ve learned from them, and whether we turn that learning into doing better.

A recent article online suggests that federations are allergic to criticism: that we don’t take it well from others, and even worse, that we avoid all forms of self-criticism. That would come as a big surprise to our lay leaders, board members, and professional staff, who spend a lot of time responding to criticism from others. Wherever we find ourselves – in a local restaurant, at a Jewish community event, enjoying a family simcha, even working out at the “Y” – we are the ear to our community’s opinions.

The criticisms range from constructive – from those stakeholders who are invested in seeing Federation succeed – to hostile – from those (fortunately very few) who have a long-standing grievance against the organization – to uninformed – from those who have only a vague idea about our business and base their views on hearsay, but who welcome the chance to learn more about the whys and wherefores of what we do.

The truth is that Federation CJA (and I would venture to say, nearly all federations today) spends a great deal of time critiquing ourselves and our organization. We constantly reflect on how we can do better:

  • raising more money
  • keeping our operating costs down while investing in the areas we believe will bring financial and human dividends
  • collaborating with agencies and other institutional partners
  • planning for the future
  • allocating strategically for maximum impact
  • deepening our volunteer network
  • strengthening Jewish identity today so that we’ll remain a thriving community for tomorrow
  • advocating with governments to advance our interests and protect our institutions, and
  • healing rifts within our community and building bridges to non-Jewish society.

We do this in many different ways: by listening to people with whom we interact daily, by studying our performance indicators and comparing them to results in the field, by researching and applying the best practices, and from time to time, by soliciting the views of the broader community, as we did several years ago through our Imagine 2020 process. In general, I think we have a pretty solid view of how we are perceived, where we perform strongly, and where we can improve.

As I see it, the issue is not about criticism: accepting it from others, or critiquing ourselves. The challenge is moving from reflection to action, from the status quo to change. And while change can be hard under the best of circumstances, it’s particularly difficult in a community enterprise. 

Federation CJA may decide to stop funding programs or activities that aren’t having the necessary impact, to intervene when we believe that institutions (schools, synagogues, or agencies) should be moving in particular directions, or to take a public position on a controversial issue. And whenever we resolve to act, we do so knowing that we risk a degree of backlash, which in the worst case, can lead to a loss of financial support.

But there is also another risk: that of being too cautious, too afraid to make mistakes. The goal is to find that sweet spot between risk management – understanding and managing the consequences of our actions – and risk avoidance – accepting the status quo because we fear the backlash of making change.

Federation CJA is committed to leading proactively in the months and years ahead; to standing ready and willing to try new things, to stake out difficult positions, and to insert ourselves into important conversations.

Like Marc said, if we’re not making any mistakes, we may not be trying to do anything bold, either.


Federation CJA welcomes any questions or comments from stakeholders. If you have something you'd like to share with us or ask us about, contact us here. We will try to respond as soon as possible.


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http://bit.ly/philanthropicEffectiveness

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http://bit.ly/CoderreRoundtable

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http://bit.ly/JewishSummerCamps

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http://bit.ly/TheodoreBikel

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http://bit.ly/NegevHorsPiste

 

A covenant of federation philanthropic effectivenessA covenant of federation philanthropic effectiveness
Federations in the 21st century will be as much about meaning as money, as concerned with results as much as with resources, and be held to higher standards of both efficiency and effectiveness similar to what they have imposed on their beneficiary agencies.
http://bit.ly/philanthropicEffectiveness

Netanyahu - Harper

Israel and Canada beef up free trade agreement
Pact expected to strengthen economic ties by reducing tariffs and other barriers; PM Harper calls Jewish state ‘a priority market’.
http://bit.ly/IsraelCanadafreeTrade

Coderre invites Jewish leaders to roundtable discussion on anti-Semitism

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Mayor Denis Coderre plans to ask Montreal police to consider setting up a new hate crimes unit.
http://bit.ly/CoderreRoundtable

Veteran community leader takes reins at JFC-UIA

Veteran community leader takes reins at JFC-UIA
For the next two years, Julia Berger Reitman, a veteran of Canada’s Jewish community leadership, will be chair of the Jewish Federations of Canada – UIA.
http://bit.ly/BergerReitman

Un parchemin hébraïque de 1.500 ans déchiffré grâce à la technologie -

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La haute technologie a pour la première fois permis de déchiffrer un des plus anciens parchemins en hébreu vieux de 15 siècles découvert près de la mer Morte, ont indiqué lundi des experts israéliens et américains.
http://bit.ly/parcheminhebraique

Jewish summer camps are booming

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Jewish summer camps are having their moment in the sun, so to speak.
http://bit.ly/JewishSummerCamps

For ex-CNN anchor who converted, Judaism sharpens focus on kids

For ex-CNN anchor who converted, Judaism sharpens focus on kids
CNN anchor turned education advocate Campbell Brown is launching a news site called The Seventy Four, referring to the 74 million school-age children in the United States.
http://bit.ly/FocusOnKids

Remembering Theodore Bikel: Tevye in ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ dies at 91

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Theodore Bikel, an actor and folk singer who was recognized in 1997 with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, has died at 91.
http://bit.ly/TheodoreBikel

Biking in the Neguev

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Les 35 derniers kilomètres de la piste cyclable du sud d’Israël sont achevés. Une bonne nouvelle pour les sportifs amoureux de la nature, curieux d’histoire et amateurs de sensations fortes.
http://bit.ly/NegevHorsPiste

 

 

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