I think it is fair to say that it is very easy to point out the mistakes that our Federation, JTO, Pardes, and the JSA have made. They are a mile wide and pretty tall, so it is like shooting fish in a barrel. I have been asked, and I think it is only equitable to offer an alternative vision of what might be a better plan for our community.
1) It is safe to say that unloading the Federation Health Club, campus et al. would be step in the right direction. I know this would be a crushing blow to our leaders who have donated money to this “Golden Calf” of “VOS Judaism”, but it would be better to cut our losses and plow whatever money we can get back into the Federation. This would allow them to fund their programs and get back to the core mission of being a Federation and not a health club. To assuage the egos of those whose vision fell so valiantly short, and who parted with so much cash to fund this structure, I would propose a dramatic statue, like the one at the Marine Corp. Memorial depicting the raising of the flag at the Battle of Iwo Jima. You could have all principles involved in this fiasco depicted doing very noble things, or on horses, or putting cream cheese on a bagel for a small child, or whatever, but at least these leaders and donors would be memorialized. Each synagogue could give a child on the occasion of their Bar/Bat Mitzvah a small copy of the statue, so that the efforts of our ancestors will never be forgotten. This might cut into the mini Torahs handed out, but I think it will promote healing.
2) Dismiss the board of the Federation in its entirety. Have the Presidents of the Jewish congregations in town (all congregations welcome, voting rights to be apportioned to the size of the congregation’s membership) form an interim board of directors of the Federation. It seems to me that if a successful congregation has 1,000 members, their President might just know a thing or two about how to engage Phoenix Jews and he should therefore have voting power that is greater than a a congregation that has ten members. Have this new board hire professional management to run the Federation in keeping with the best practices as established by the Nonprofit Board Best Practices, a document from the 2007 National Directors Institute put together by the Chicago law firm Foley & Lardner LLP.
3) Sell the JSA Campus. Take the money from the sale and retire the debt from the current Pardes Campus. It is embarrassing to sign contracts, mortgages, etc., and then approach donors and ask them to write off our obligations. It detracts form the willingness of people to treat the community seriously and work with us in the future. It is a blemish on the whole community, tarring us as deadbeats. Pardes’ strategic vision of growth is great, but unproven, and if JSA and King David could not operate from that building, I seriously doubt that changing the character of the school to become Pluralistic, is going to make matters easier.
4) Utilize the infrastructure that the Jewish Community has at its finger tips. The Congregation I belong to seems to have a ton of space. I know many of the other Synagogues also have quite a bit of capacity to host events. They also have vacant fields that could be lined for sporting events, outdoor events, etc. I do not think they have swimming pools, but I know that the Village Sports Clubs have swimming pools, basketball courts, etc., so I am guessing that there is a way to pick up the fitness slack. And, for those events that can not be held at a Synagogue because the crowds would exceed the Synagogue’s capacity, I think it is possible to rent facilities to host these events.
Relieving the financial pressure that our Golden Calf has created, while enhancing our sense of responsibility and survivability, might get the community thinking about things other than solar panels at the JCC.