Auld Acquaintances

I read that when President George Bush and President-Elect Barack Obama met soon after the election, Obama suggested that they gather again before the inaugural along with former presidents Jimmy Carter, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton. President Bush thought it was a great idea and has invited them all to a high-powered lunch meeting on January 7th.

What a great message that sends out especially after we have all endured such a long and often nasty political campaign season that seemed to go on forever. And what an opportunity it creates for President-elect Obama to hear directly from those very men who have held this highest office and to build a little consensus at the highest level of national leadership. Maybe I sound a bit Pollyanna-ish but I think we are overdue for some optimism.

I mention this upcoming historic event because it is an idea we can apply to our Jewish community, especially after such a bruising last few weeks that saw some of our most respected organizations damaged by the Madoff scandal. As the news continues to unfold on this mess, even those who were not directly affected by it are still stung by its poison and are left questioning and re-examining their practices.

I know some Jewish organizations already do bring together their past leaders from time to time to brief them and to gain their insights about important issues. But we now face a unique and challenging moment that will require every organization to redouble its efforts to lead and communicate strength, wisdom and trust. Among us are many past leaders whose intelligence, experience and passionate concern for our community are just waiting to be tapped in a serious and meaningful way.

Take a page from the Bush-Obama January 7th get-together and bring your past presidents and chairs together to begin work on repairing and strengthening our future. It’s a triple play or maybe even a homerun. It will make your past leaders feel good to be recognized and valued, will give your organization the benefit of their wisdom and, if properly communicated, will enhance your standing with your community of supporters.

As the old song goes, “Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to mind?” I don’t think so.

Have a happy New Year.

Gail Hyman is a marketing and communications professional, with deep experience in both the public and private sectors. She currently focuses her practice, Gail Hyman Consulting, on assisting Jewish nonprofit organizations increase their ranks of supporters and better leverage their communications in the Web 2.0 environment. Gail is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.