Smaller is better for revamped federation board

Smaller is better for revamped federation board

The table will be smaller when the board of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey next meets.

But the hope of the architects of the plan that slimmed the federation’s governing board is that what it lacks in numbers it will more than make up for in effectiveness.

With 108 members, “our board of trustees was too large to be effective,” said David Goodman of Paramus, the federation’s outgoing president. “When you have 100 people sitting in the room, you can’t really do a lot.

“It was also too much of an administrative burden on the staff,” he added.

Under the revised bylaws being voted on at the federation’s annual meeting on June 19, the board will have a maximum of 40 members.

The old board was so large as a result of the 2004 merger between the UJA Federation of Bergen County & North Hudson and the Jewish Federation of North Jersey.

“The plan was to pare down the boards, but it went at a very slow pace,” Goodman said.

Reducing the board size was among the recommendations of the strategic plan the federation adopted in 2010.

But while it will make deliberations easier, the federation’s leaders want to ensure that those people who will not continue to sit on the board will not feel pushed out and unwanted.

“These are people we value,” Goodman said. “They have served the community honorably and passionately, some of them for decades.”

The question became, “Where can these people best serve?”

Many of the departing board members already have been involved in the federation’s committees, such at the Jewish Community Relations Council, the Synagogue Initiative, or Hillel, Goodman said. “They’re passionate about those committees.

“This is the opportune time to focus on making these committees even stronger,” he said. “We’re encouraging those who were not involved in committees to get involved.”

In fact, said Goodman, he sees the slimmed-down board “as just another committee of federation.”

In the past, the board had an executive committee to provide hands-on leadership. Now the board’s only subdivision will be its officers.

One current – but soon to be former – board member said that the change in the board’s membership makes a lot of sense.

“When you deal with a not-for-profit organization, people really need to take their fiduciary responsibility seriously,” Leslie Billet of Englewood said.

“One hundred and eight people don’t necessarily take responsibility for the real activities of the federation,” she said. “This is a very important step for this federation to take in terms of trying something that will make it work better.”

Billet said she doesn’t know why she wasn’t selected for the new board roster, but “I didn’t bang my head and say, ‘How could I be left out?’

“I looked at the list of people who were selected and they’re truly excellent, people who have experience managing.”

Billet said she has plenty of other federation involvements to keep her busy. She serves on the Jewish Community Relations Council, and on the federation’s Center for Israel Engagement.

“That’s not going to stop,” she said. “If you love federation and you love the work of federation, being on the board shouldn’t be the reason you participate or don’t participate.”

Such groups as the JCRC or the committee that plans the federation’s annual Mitzvah Day “are designed to attract people to federation,” Billet said. “The role of federation is to attract people and find places to engage in Jewish life. If people want to come and participate, they’re welcome. Those boards are very open.

“The larger board exists to govern and oversee the organization. That’s where things are aired,” she said.

With the large board, “particularly during the financial crisis, conversations could take a very long time. By the time you get through an agenda, and then discuss the points that are of particular concern to members of the board, it could be a very long meeting.”

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