United Jewish Communities Founder To Step Down

By Anthony Weiss

Published April 16, 2008, issue of April 25, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

One of the architects of the national organization of Jewish federations is stepping down from his high-ranking volunteer post amid a bitter feud with the heads of the body he helped found.

In an April 3 letter, Richard Wexler blasted Joe Kanfer and Howard Rieger, chairman and president/CEO, respectively, of United Jewish Communities, the national federations’ umbrella organization whose creation Wexler helped engineer. Wexler announced in the letter that he was not seeking re-nomination to his post as chairman of the United Israel Appeal, a UJC subsidiary, out of concern that his ongoing conflict with the leadership would damage the organization.

“The UJC Board Chair and CEO have… been engaged together in a campaign of vilification and personal demonization toward me in a manner unbecoming the leadership positions they hold and, in particular, the Jewish leadership positions they hold,” Wexler wrote. “Under such circumstances, I cannot stand for a re-nomination.”

Wexler, a Chicago real estate lawyer who has been active for decades in local and national Jewish organizations, was one of the primary architects of the 1999 merger that created the United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization for the 155 charitable foundations across North America that last year raised $900 million in their annual campaigns. Wexler’s decision to step down, and his feud with UJC’s current management, highlights the dissatisfaction with the results of the merger, even among those like Wexler, who helped shape it.

UJC was founded through the merger of the Council of Jewish Federations, the United Jewish Appeal and United Israel Appeal. Intended to become the premier national address for Jewish philanthropy, UJC has been plagued since its founding by internal conflicts, a stagnant annual campaign and unresolved questions about precisely how the organization ought to function. Recently, UJC has faced rebellion from several federations over dues and is facing potential budget cuts in the coming year at the behest of the largest federations.

Wexler has been a relatively outspoken critic of what he considers the failings of the national system he helped create.

As of late, Wexler has begun airing his concerns in a blog titled “UJ Thee and Me.” In an April 10 entry, he blasted a “go along to get along” culture that stifled frank criticism.

“Criticism is not merely ignored, it is not tolerated,” Wexler wrote.

In the letter, Wexler said that stepping down would allow him to speak his mind more freely. Both Rieger and Kanfer declined to comment through a spokesman.

Bruce Arbit, president of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation and a UIA board member, will likely replace Wexler in his post.

In the letter, Wexler hinted that perhaps the UJC system ought to be scrapped entirely.

“UJC must either succeed or, as others have begun to contemplate and discuss, another entity will have to find its place in UJC’s stead, as the central address of the Jewish Federations of North America,” he wrote.






Find us on Facebook!
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.