Federation seeks lean but inclusive board of directors

Stuart Mellan
Stuart Mellan
Shelly Silverman
Shelly Silverman

The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona has announced its slate of recommended officers and directors for the 2014-15 program year. The list of 26 names (see below: Nominees for JFSA officers, board named ) marks a significant restructuring of the JFSA board, which previously numbered more than 100 members.

“For years now, nonprofits have found it’s more effective to operate with a smaller board,” says Stuart Mellan, JFSA president and CEO, citing the Tucson Jewish Community Center and Congregation Anshei Israel as examples of local organizations that have downsized their boards.

Regardless of size, says Mellan, the Federation board must continue to be inclusive, with not only synagogue and agency leaders and top philanthropists represented, but also a good assortment of volunteers and activists. “The Federation mission says that ‘we bring the Jewish community together….’ That’s what we have to be focused on as our community continues to celebrate its diversity. It’s so vital that there be an organization than can draw in leaders from all different paths.”

Mellan notes that the inclusion of representatives of Jewish agencies and synagogues has made the Federation board unique. To continue this tradition, the new board will include a rabbi and an agency leader from the Jewish Community Roundtable, a quarterly meeting created last year that brings together Jewish agency and synagogue leaders with key Federation staff.

Since the Federation has always had an executive committee of roughly 26 members, Mellan says, the new, leaner board essentially replaces that structure.

Many of the members of the larger board, which met monthly — attendance averaged around 70, says Mellan — will now be convened as a Federation council, which will meet for strategic discussions, along with the new board, likely three times per year.

That will be more meaningful, he says, than in the past where board meetings repeated much of the agenda of the executive committee, which could make board members feel they were just rubber-stamping policy.

“When you have a group of 105 it’s really hard to dive in and make decisions succinctly,” says Shelly Silverman, who brought the restructuring idea to the board — although, she notes, others also expressed frustration at the board’s unwieldy size. Silverman chaired a governance committee responsible for the new structure, which the Federation membership approved at its March 19 special meeting.

She did research on local and national nonprofits, especially Federations of similar size to the JFSA. She learned that over time, all the Federations had converted to smaller boards, “which gave me the motivation to push forward” with the project.

The Federation’s board members were extremely generous in encouraging the idea, she says, even though for most, it meant their roles would change.

“Moving forward, we were really thoughtful and purposeful [about] who we wanted to be seated around the table. We believe that we have got a fantastic group of people who will represent the community in every arena. Everybody in the community counts and they need to be represented,” says Silverman.

The new board structure will go into effect for the 2014-15 program year. The first Federation council meeting will be held in October, says Mellan, with Rabbi Hayim Herring, Ph.D., a consultant for nonprofits, leading a session on “what Jewish leadership should look like.”

Nominees for JFSA officers, board named

The Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona’s board development committee, chaired by Shelly Silverman, has recommended the following slate of officers for the 2014-15 program year: Kathryn L. Unger, chair of the board; Shelly Silverman, vice chair, board development; Tom Warne, vice chair; Jim Wezelman, treasurer/secretary; and Jeff Katz, immediate past chair.

Nominated as directors are Marcia Abelson, Jeff Artzi, Audrey Brooks, Marilyn Einstein, Deana Evenchik, Julie Feldman, Ellen Freeman, Madeline Friedman, Bill Holmes, Jane Kivel, Helaine Levy, Donna Moser, Mitch Pozez, Lowell Rothschild, Eric Schindler, Stuart Shatken, Michael Shiner, Richard White, Jim Whitehill, and, from the Jewish Community Roundtable, Rabbi Stephanie Aaron, chair of the Board of Rabbis, and agency chair Terry Perl.

Any 10 members may make additional nominations by delivering a signed written nomination to the Federation office with an acceptance letter signed by the nominee at least 14 days before the annual meeting, which will be held May 1 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center. Additional nominees will be presented together with the nominees selected by the board development committee at the annual meeting of the members.