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Editor's Report: Jewish Federation of Winnipeg Once Again Looks for Chief Executive Officer

by Rhonda J Spivak, June 16, 2015




The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg will once again be conducting a search for a Chief Executive Officer.


I am going to take the time to outline what in my view ought to be the ideal qualifications for a CEO of the Jewish Federation for our community.  I believe it is an appropriate time for the Federation leadership to take the time to reflect on the ideal traits for a future CEO:

 1. Honesty and Integrity: A CEO of the Jewish Federation in my view ought to be always above board, honourable, fair and trustworthy in his or her dealings. He or she must be a "mensch." He or she must understand what the role of a CEO is and must respect the limits of the power placed on a CEO. Ultimately a CEO is accountable to his or her executive and board, and to Federation's donors, who entrust the organization with charitable dollars. A CEO is not a King or Queen and the Jewish Federation is not his or her personal fiefdom.

2. Strong Interpersonal Skills: A Federation CEO must have strong interpersonal skills and judgement, and must be able to build one on one relationships with people, and cultivate donors.  A Federation CEO must be a "people person." (People give to people, and nice causes, too.)

3. Strong Fundraising Skills: In my respectful opinion, a Federation CEO must have polished and professional fundraising skills. There is no question that a key and core component of this job is as a fundraiser. It is a competitive market out there-with many Jewish and non-Jewish charities competing for dollars. The Federation ought not in my opinion to ever hire anyone who is not a "thorough bred" fundraiser, hoping that he or she can learn how to fundraise on the job. The importance of this cannot be underestimated in a community where the Jewish Foundation is not an arm of the Federation. In many if not most Canadian communities, a Jewish Foundation is an arm of a Jewish Federation-they are not separate entities.  Therefore, in Toronto or Vancouver for example, the Foundation and Federation work hand in hand to fund the community's priorities.


In these cities, a Jewish Foundation is not granting money to non-Jewish causes, or serving as a vehicle for Jewish donors to give to non-Jewish causes in any way. Jewish donors certainly do give to non-Jewish general causes in these communities, but never through a Jewish Foundation.


The sole and only purpose of a Jewish Foundation in these cities is to lengthen the life of a Jewish community, and the principles on which money is granted only have to do with Jewish continuity. In our community, because the Federation and Foundation are separate entities, the CEO's of the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation could at times potentially be competing against each other for the same donors.  That means if a Foundation CEO is a better fundraiser than a Federation CEO, the result may be that as a community  we put more away in endowment funds, including non-Jewish causes, for the future when current Jewish community needs are not being met. This could turn out to be a mistaken approach from the point of overall Jewish continuity. 


There ought not be a disparity between the fundraising abilities of the CEO of the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Foundation. 


[Note: This year due to the fact that the CJA campaign came in with over a $110,000 less than it was last year, every beneficiary agency across the Board was cut by about  3 %]




Should a CEO of a Jewish Federation be a member of a synagogue?

Does the Federation which defines itself as providing leadership in the issue of Jewish continuity think that its CEO ought to be a member of a synagogue (i.e. a permanent structure with a congregation that regularly meets, as opposed to a place where people meet once a year for high holidays)? In my view, a CEO of a Jewish Federation ought to want to be a role model and to thereby join a synagogue with his or her family, thus contributing to the maintenance and well-being of synagogue life in this community. If a CEO of a Jewish Federation does not join a synagogue, what kind of message is a Federation sending? i.e. If everyone followed this message and did not join a synagogue, then we would not have any ordained Rabbis in this community, or kosher kitchens or congregations who meet regularly for prayer and life cycle events. I do not believe it is a good sign if a CEO of a Jewish Federation is not a synagogue member, or planning to become one. It's a sign that the potential candidate is not a strong candidate when it comes to issues of Jewish continuity.



Should the children of a Federation CEO be attending the Gray Academy or ought they have sent their children to a Jewish day school? I think that this is the best model. If not, then the Federation ought to be wondering how they are going to answer the question of why a CEO it hires is not a proponent of a school system which is the largest beneficiary of a Federation.



A CEO's behavior and characteristics ought to be consistent with the overall tenets of Judaism--since he or she is tasked with encouraging and preserving Jewish continuity. It's not enough to talk the talk, one needs to walk the walk.



The candidate must not have an actual or apparent conflict of interest. 

A CEO's duty is to the organization and he or she must not involve themselves in any activities which could give rise to a conflict of interest. A CEO must go out of his or her way to ensure he or she is not involved in any conflicts of interest that would compromise the integrity of the organization.


In my view, a CEO ought to respect and understand the media. If he or she doesn't not know an answer to a question posed by the media, then he or she ought not to make something up on the spot. A CEO ought to say "I'll get back to you," take time to consider the issue in its complexity and then respond. If a Federation CEO does not have proper media skills, it's not a good sign. Should a Federation CEO be diplomatic? My answer is yes. And if they don't know how to talk to the media, then it's a sign they will not be very diplomatic in other situations either. 


9. MODEST EXPENSES: Donors to the Federation will expect that Federation expenses be modest and lean, especially since the campaign has been down this year, which has resulted in beneficiaries being cut.  A CEO must consider this issue in ensuring that the Federation retains the confidence of its donor base. 

10. KASHRUT: Should a Jewish Federation CEO have sensitivity to the issue of kashrut ? Absolutely, in my view. A Federation CEO is tasked with preserving Jewish continuity. Kashrut has been a definable characteristic of Jewish communities for thousands of years. Federation events (i.e. CJA events, staff lunches, office celebrations) ought to be held at kosher venues or kosher catered,since the Federation is a model for Jewish continuity.


If the Federation does not have a clear kashrut policy, its leadership ought to define a clear policy and clarify to the community what its kashrut policy is.


11.  MANAGEMENT SKILLS: Should a Federation CEO have management skills, including skills managing staff ? Yes. If a Federation CEO doesn't have this quality, staff morale, productivity, and office atmosphere will suffer, and you may find a high turnover in staff. 



 I've given enough food for thought for now.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.