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November 22, 2002 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-22

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My Federation Odyssey

INT e think you may be too
young for this position."
That was the initial
reaction of the Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit's
search committee in its pursuit to
identify the next chief financial officer
for the organization. As a result, they
wanted a commitment of five years if
I was extended the offer.
Bob Aronson, Federation's chief
executive officer and my friend over
these past years, inspired me to look
at substance over form and to see the
greater opportunity for growth
beyond the position at hand. I accept-
ed the offer to join the Federation
team and assumed that at the end of
the five years, it would be time to
move on.
This month will complete my 10th
year of service to the community. In
the paragraphs that follow I reflect
upon what I fondly call, "my
Federation odyssey."
When Bob Naftaly first spoke to me
about the Federation position, I
expressed interest following my
father's advice, "Never turn down a
job you haven't been offered."
In reality, I knew very little about
Federation. Here I was, a 33-year-old
Detroiter (Oak Parker, really), raised
at Congregation Shaarey Zedek, mar-

Mark Davidoff is chief financial officer
and executive director of the Jewish
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

Behind every debit and credit was a
person — a donor, an agency staff
member or most importantly, a recipi-
ent of the services provided by
Federation, its 19 local agencies or its
national and international partners.
And who were these Federation pro-
fessionals? Why did they work so hard,
so many long hours? I knew it wasn't

to Israel, I take in their honor
the stock options. And what
and on their behalf.
was with these lay people? I
had worked for nonprofit
organizations before, but these
Finding Challenges
volunteers" were committed,
As Bob Aronson and the other
passionate, caring, devoted and
leadership have given me the
opportunity to expand my
In 10 years, I have met 10
role, I have found challenges
lifetimes' worth of people,
and opportunities around
each one with their own story,
DAVIDOFF every turn. Although the days
own connection to Federation.
and nights can be long and the
And each one has helped me
agenda unpredictable, at the
understand that my transition
end of the day, the 100-year-
to Federation was not just
old mission of the Federation
another career Move, but was
serves just fine as the order of the day.
an opportunity to catch the passion,
When queried about how it's going,
to make a difference.
I often quip that my license plate
As for so many in our community,
says, "No one should be having this
Federation has given my family and
much fun."
me the opportunity to visit and learn
Over the years when the issues at
from Jews all over the world. In
were difficult, requiring difficult
Russia, Ukraine, Cuba and, of course,
decisions, I used to say to the
Israel, it's all the same — Jews in the
Federation staff that I could get
struggle to do what we do here in
through it because "I get my love at
Detroit through Federation; help our-
home." And although that will always
selves, help others and teach our chil-
be true, I have come to learn that there
dren to carry the flame to the next
is plenty of love at the office as well.
So how is it that a guy who grew up
Each time I visit Israel (15 plus
on a street called Church could find
times at this point), I always think of
himself helping to lead the central
two people. My grandfather Harry
address of his own Jewish community?
Davidoff was a Zionist every waking
Well, I guess for all those who find the
hour, but never had the opportunity
need to chase the pot of gold at the
to visit the land he loved so much.
end of the rainbow, there are some of
My brother, Professor Gary Davidoff,
us fortunate enough to realize that
passed away before he could realize his
sometimes the greatest riches are in our
dream to make aliyah with his family.
own back yard. ❑
In some measure, each journey I take

view with the Canadian daily Globe
and Mail, Yahya said that Arafat pre-
vented him from demilitarizing the
police forces and overruled him when
he tried to fire several commanders
who had participated in terrorist
attacks on Israelis.
"The ones I did succeed in moving
are now back in their jobs," Yahya
said. "The issue of the commanders
in the police sector was a big issue,"
Yahya said. "It was difficult to con-
vince the leadership" — i.e., Arafat
— "to make changes."
Yahya was appointed in June with
the task of reforming the Palestinian
security forces, corrupt and ineffi-
cient organizations known to have
supported and even carried out
attacks. Yahya sought to streamline
the security forces and to "demilita-
rize" the conflict with Israel.

tions," adding that Israeli
"I was against any kind of
settlers "are not civilians."
armed struggle," he said.
Regardless of one's view of
Indeed, Yahya publicly
settlements, there can be no
denounced suicide attacks. He
justification for the notion
said the Palestinian bombing
that Israelis living in the
campaign "contradicts our
West Bank and Gaza are fair
religious, moral and cultural
game for terrorists because
beliefs" and called for replac-
"they are not civilians."
ing the "armed struggle" with
Were Yossi Ish-Ran, 14,
civil resistance.
and Kobi Mandell, 14, both
Within days after replacing
Spe cial
of Tekoa, who were bashed
Yahya as interior minister, al-
entary to death with heavy stones
Hassan — an Arafat crony
last year not civilians? Was
since the 1950s — publicly
Sarah Tiferet Shilon, 8 months, of
confirmed his approval of terrorist
Emanuel, killed in a West Bank bus
bombing last July, a combatant?
Speaking at a symposium in the
By appointing al-Hassan, who has
Arab village of Ramallah on the
stated this odious idea, to oversee the
Fatah faction's role in the current vio-
security forces, Arafat has clearly
lence, al-Hassan said: "The P.A. is
indicated his intention to continue to
opposed to the killing of civilians,
do nothing against terrorism. ❑
but it is not against military opera-

tied to Margie (another Oak Parker)
with a pretty strong Jewish identity
(we went to Israel on our honey-
But in some ways, I was typical of
many in our community; either
Federation found a way to lose me in
the shuffle or I found a way to avoid
Federation. However, as I began to
learn more through the interview
process, I became intrigued, if for
nothing else than by the fact that this
was a big business with big business
issues and big business opportunities.
I recall sitting with Michael Berke,
then Federation's executive director, at
the Big Boy on Orchard Lake Road in
West Bloomfield. I could not pull the
napkins out fast enough to take notes
as Michael shared his 20-plus years of
Federation and community knowl-
edge. When I started 10 years ago, I
assumed I would manage the debits
and the credits and those people down
the hall would worry about the rest.
That's where the learning began.

The People Factor


Justifying Terrorism

Washington, D.C.
pon the dismissal last
month of Palestinian
Authority Interior
Minister General Abdel
Razak Yahya, credible but uncon-
firmed press reports raised concerns
that P.A. Chairman Yasser Arafat
fired Yahya because the general had
sought to make genuine-efforts to
put an end to Palestinian terrorism.
Regrettably, these reports have
been fully confirmed. No less trou-
bling is the proof that the man Arafat
handpicked to replace Yahya, Hani
al-Hassan, approves of terrorism.
In a groundbreaking Nov. 12 inter-


Howard Kohr is executive director of
the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee. E-mail• update@aipac.org




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