One of the continual themes that I have heard from select board members of both Pardes and JSA, and from what was attributed to past Phoenix Federation Chairs in the Jewish News is that this proposed merger is good for the community. I believe this is a very slippery slope because it assumes that the leadership of Pardes is now focused not only on the success of Pardes, but on making decisions about Pardes based upon their ability to divine what is good for the community.
When looking at the failure that is the Jewish Federation here in Phoenix, I have been told by several of their board members that the reason that the Federation failed was because they continually bailed out the JCC, donors backed out of commitments, key donors got indicted, and some passed away in tragic and unexpected circumstances, etc. Of course there are unexpected occurrences in every business, but planning for such events, not relying on a select group of donors to whom one becomes beholden, are the hallmarks of good stewardship in running any non-profit charitable organization. The collapse of the Federation is due to many factors, but bad management is at the top of the list.
When did running a health and social club, which is essentially what the JCC is, become part of the Federation’s mission? When did devoting the resources needed to fund the agencies that are dependent on the Federation, and fulfilling the Federation’s commitment to Israel take a second position to funding the JCC. While these decisions might be what is good for the community, I doubt it. I wonder if anyone who is in a self-appointed position to determine what is in the best interests of the community thought about selling the JCC campus to a health club company, which would allow the Federation to concentrate on their core mission of fundraising and delivering those funds to those organizations who need them the most? I suppose that the same people who built the JCC were also major Federation donors, so rather than making a determination that the community could not sustain a facility like that, they influenced the Federation to take on the JCC as part of their mission and reneged on promises made to the needy. Rather than admitting a mistake, they compounded it. I am not sure this is leadership that knows what is good for the community, nor am I certain that their input in affecting a merger between Pardes and JSA is wise.
It seems that our self-appointed community leadership has determined that the success of the JCC/JSA Campus is a Magic Kingdom, Phoenix’s Jewish Disneyland, and a priority above all else. For these leaders, it appears that there is some type of health club shortage and that the Jews will not be able to work out anywhere else, or that there is not another venue for the events that the Federation hosts. I guess that because all of the large synagogues have space that is vastly under utilized and could be used to host social events, and because there seems to be an abundance of health clubs, I am just unable to see the logic behind this so called “good”. Of this I am certain: When decisions are made for our community, cloaked in secrecy, and without input from our community, then there is no better excuse to fall back on in the event of failure than, “we did it for the community.”