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October 17, 2003 - Image 13

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-10-17

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phone calls over the past six months
from various people indicating that
they would like Aronson to take
Steve Hoffman's job.
This year, Aronson has pared down
his work for the Detroit Federation
to three days per week. He divides
his remaining time in the workweek
between work as a philanthropic
consultant for New York philanthro-
pist Michael Steinhardt, chairman of
Jewish Renaissance Media, which
owns the Detroit Jewish News, and
Auburn Hills philanthropist William
Some of the potential candidates,
including Aronson, were considered
for the post last time the top slot was
being filled:
Already, that list has fueled one of
the criticisms of the federation sys-
tem — that it caters to large cities.
Ifs just rotating the chairs in the
club," said one national federation
leaderwho asked not to be identi-
Others are focusing on how the
new top executive might lead.
Hoffman has developed a "wonder-
ful vision for the future," said Lee
Wunsch, executive vice president of
the Jewish Federation of Greater
Houston. "The success of that vision
is contingent upon his successor."
Houston's federation made Jewish
headlines after it sent a Jan. 13 letter
to the UJC in which the federation
threatened to suspend its dues until
"significant concerns are addressed to
our satisfaction."
The letter cited a "flawed" overseas
allocations process and attacked the
UJC for "lurching from crisis to cri-
sis" without "planning or prioritiza-
Since then, in the spring and sum-
mer, a flurry of letters have come
from other federations — Boston, St.
Louis and Chicago — sounding off
on similar gripes.
Resolution of all of the federations'
complaints will hinge on the next
leader, said Wunsch of Houston.
"The leader of an organization has a
lot to do with the direction it goes,"
he said.
Miami's Solomon specified
Hoffman's work to make the federa-
tion system more accessible to its
clients and build a "strong profes-
sional team."
Still, supplying the system with "a
talented pool of professionals" is "a
crying need," he said. "Alignment
among the federations with respect
to what we want to get out of our
overseas partnership" is also critical,

he said.
Robert Schrayer of Chicago,
national chairman of the UJC's fund-
raising campaign, has some different
"I hope that they'll have more
emphasis on campaigning, on fund-
raising and not necessarily on
Hoffman's vision that he laid out."
For his part, Nasatir said, "I am
absolutely not a candidate for that
Leaders close to Nasatir said he is
unlikely to accept the position unless
he could work from Chicago.
Asked if he would accept the title
under such conditions, Nasatir said
he is "not responding to that."
Solomon of Miami said he has had
only "informal conversations" about
the post. "I don't have any idea
where the search process is right
now," he said.
Asked if he was interested in the
position, Solomon- said, "I have no
idea," and said he would have to dis-
cuss the possibility with his wife.
In New York, Ruskay declined to
Some disparage the fact that the
rumored contenders spring from a
well of longtime leaders that perenni-
ally come up for the top position.
"As long as the large city execs con-
sider this position their private
reserve, all you can rely on is the best
of that group," said one federation
leader close to the search process.
Others concede the large cities pro-
vide the bulk of the funds to the fed-
eration system, and a representative
from those places makes sense.
"Central to the leadership of the
UJC" are the "relationships that you
must have with your largest partners.
And the largest partners are the
large cities," said Conrad Giles of
Bloomfield Hills, a former president
of the Council of Jewish Federations.
Furthermore, he said, "All of those
who would be considered for this
job, I believe, will have the requisite
sensitivities, while coming from a
large city environment, to appropri-
ately care for the needs of the smaller
Most agree, however, that the
choice is critical when the viability of
North American Jewry's central fund-
raising organization is at stake.
According to Solomon, there's "no
way one can overestimate the impor-
tance of coming up with the right



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