Tuesday, 9 February 2010


No, no, don't worry, I don't mean a real divorce, at least not from my wife. (Could you actually imagine either one of us coping alone with 3 offspring??!?)

It has been said - and credit for this saying coming to my ears has been given to my wife - that leaving a place of work is like going through a divorce.

It is!

To be honest, no relationship (except for mine with my wife, of course ;-) ) is perfect. There are ups and downs, times when one partner invests or appreciates more than the other, times when one is required to support the other, times of shared joy or sadness, times of doubt and uncertainty. Through all of the good and the bad, reaching a decision to end it all is an incredibly large leap into the unknown.

Whether you are the dumper or the dumpee, and even if the eventual break-up was looming, the actual *rip* to RIP is shocking.

For years - 2 in this particular case - an ongoing process of intertwined growth has been weaving "me" into the fabric of the organization, and vice-versa, as friendships are made, experiences are shared, and more waking hours are spent in the (tzniusdik) bosom of the workplace than even at home with one's "real" family.

As in anyone's relationship with an extended family, particularly on a spouse's side, there are those with whom the connection is stronger, those with whom you would even share a beer outside the compulsory framework, and the annoying little cousin who just bugs the hell out of you but you can't hit them because your mother-in-law guards them like a jewel - so it is within the bounds of an 800-strong workforce (actually about the same size as my wife's family).

There are friendships that have been forged here that I hope will last for years, those that have been functionally pleasant, and others that I will do my best to quickly put behind me - but even those have been an integral part of my life for long enough to necessitate a mourning process...

..but there is no time!

As I recall, when one breaks up with a girl/boyfriend, obviously from a more meaningful relationship rather than a meaningless fling, there is a need to take stock. As the fable of the scarred heart describes well, if in a very schmaltzy manner, each encounter changes the very essence of our person. I am not the same Jonny as I was before working at Mayanei HaYeshua. My experiences here, and the atmosphere in which I have lived here, have altered the way in which I look at the world, and the way in which I react to it - some of this will wax and wane, but the baseline will have shifted from its place pre-MYMC.

As in the extreme example set by Jewish mourning ritual, the stages of grief and re-emergence into a new reality allow for a gradual understanding that you have suffered a life-changing loss, accepting that this situation is irreversible, and readjusting in order to be able to rejoin society having come to terms with the fact that you have no choice other than to re-find your place and happiness in this new paradigm. This process takes time. If the necessary breathing room is not facilitated, crisis is due to follow - rebound relationships, sudden realization, unrest and inability to return to an effective existence.

Unfortunately, in the separation from a place of employment, most of the time we are not afforded the luxury of proper closure.

This is not the first time I have changed job (stop laughing!!), but it may rank up in the top 3 most difficult separations I will have gone through.

Without a doubt the breakup that had the most profound effect upon me was the untimely end to my Shlichut. That my family had changed their life-plans in order to go and temporarily resettle in the frozen tundra of Western Canada only amplified the pain of having the ideological professional position of my dreams cut short by a budget cut caused by a political rift 6,000 miles away. The disappointment was overwhelming, and the loss of potential will be something that I will mourn for a long time to come.

The fairly cataclysmic end to my period as CEO of the World Union of Jewish Students is another wound that has left a painful and visible scar. At the turning-point of a process of organizational overhaul to be told by a new political leadership that your services are no longer required, and to spend the next three years in lawsuits just trying to get some of the salary and other payments that were illegally withheld from you, was a trauma that has definitely left me, and all of those around me whether directly or indirectly affected, with a "healthy" dose of PTSD.

The political maneuvering that led to the end of the WUJS upturn was a sad thing to see. I see quite clearly the fundamental flaws in the system of the organization that made such a happening possible. Although I am called a fool by some for the way I view the actions, I fully accept that it was the right of the new elected officials to do WHAT they did, but HOW they did it - criminal! Disgustingly criminal! (See: Of innocence, ignorance and downright cruelty) The phrase that sums up that period in my career is that of John Kenneth Galbraith: "Never underestimate the power of very stupid people in large groups."

In stark contrast to that organization, and that behaviour, the phrase that sums up my time at Mayanei HaYeshua is the popular mantra: "The boss is not always right, but he is always the boss."

Mayanei HaYeshua Medical Center is not a place I would ever have imagined myself working, much less so growing to love.

As it happens, this 20-year-old, ultra-orthodox, 800 staff-strong hospital is an incredible place to have spent the last two years. The rich tradition of a warm, caring family atmosphere is given the sharp focus of groundbreaking forward-thinking halachik rulings on practical medical issues, and the vision of a hospital that may not solve the shortage of hospital beds soon to become apparent in central Israel, but it will do more that any other hospital capital project is doing today to improve the situation.

My "State of the Union" report on fundraising at MYMC I will post after I have actually taken my leave at the end of the month, but let it be said that I have never seen an organization with more potential, a more powerful cause, and more readiness for action than this... but...

"The boss is not always right, but he is always the boss."

I wish the next person to take the position luck - he'll need it. I will pass on all of the information I can, and will do my best to persuade others to accept him, in spite of the logical conclusion to his efforts. He, like me, will eventually understand that there is no way to make that damn horse drink! I didn't believe it when my predecessors warned me, and I am sure that all but the smartest of those who come will fall into the same trap of believing the impressive promises of support, cooperation and available resources.

When the time comes, and the management (I can't bring myself to type leadership) constellation changes, I will definitely be one of those most actively willing to jump back on the horse and realize the potential of this place.

But until that day comes...

As I mentioned, in the separation from a place of employment, most of the time we are not afforded the luxury of proper closure.

With the everpresent responsibility to provide for mortgage, education fees, bills and taxes... and food, time to go through a proper process of closure is never really an option.

Ah well, as they have been heard to say in the Israeli OCS: "This is what there is, and so we will succeed with only this".

I look forward to writing about the new place when the ink is dry, and this place is behind me, and may the move be free of personal "baggage", rebounds, and the like.

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