WASHINGTON (Nov. 13)
The outgoing chairman of the United Jewish Communities, Charles Bronfman, has challenged the UJC leadership to “change the perception out there that rich, old guys who write big checks are the only ones who count.”
“There are rich young men and women, who may or may not write big checks but who may have a wealth of ideas,” he said. “They may even have a desire to become more involved with the Jewish community. Will we give them the opportunity to lead?” Bronfman, said in his departing speech to the North American Jewish federation system.
“If a person in his 20s or 30s can lead a major corporation, why can’t she or he run a federation project or an agency or, indeed, a federation?”
Bronfman made his comments Monday at the UJC’s annual General Assembly, held this year in Washington.
Bronfman pointed out also that private Jewish foundations, which now have assets in excess of $25 billion and distribute more than $1 billion annually to Jewish and non-Jewish causes, have surpassed the federation system in their distribution of dollars. Last year, federations in the U.S. and Canada raised $920 million; its endowment funds total $8 billion.
“These numbers have to tell us that we are living in a very new Jewish philanthropic world,” said Bronfman. “Are Jewish foundations a threat to us or can we collaborate with them, now and in the future?”
In an interview, Bronfman said the “big question is how will the federations locally and nationally take advantage of good-hearted people who want to do good. Federations offer an infrastructure and delivery system and most foundations don’t have that.”
In addition, Bronfman suggested that the UJC was getting bogged down in its quest for consensus among its 189 federations. He said he hoped that in the future there would be “less consensus and more of a democratic organization” in which votes would be taken and the majority view would prevail.
“You can process yourself to death, and then you don’t make many yards,” he added.