Real Music & Real Estate . . .

Yiddishe Cup’s bandleader, Bert Stratton, is Klezmer Guy.

He knows about the band biz and – check this out – the real estate biz too. So maybe he’s really Klezmer Landlord.

You may not care about the real estate biz. Hey, you may not care about the band biz. (See you.)

This is a blog with a gamy twist. It features tenants with snakes and skunks, and musicians with smoked fish in their pockets.

Stratton has written op-eds for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post.



The highest paid Jewish communal worker in America is Steve Hoffman, president of the Jewish Community Federation of Cleveland — a united charities for Jews. Hoffman makes $687,000 a year.

He makes more than double the Atlanta federation president’s salary; 86 percent more than the Detroit chief; 56 percent more than the Chicago president; and more than the boys in New York.  [Source: Forward]

This gives Cleveland Jews another excuse not to give tzedakah (charity).  Donors want reasons not to give.

“That’s disgusting. He should be in private industry,” said a friend of mine.

Another friend stopped giving to the federation because a volunteer called and asked my buddy to up his pledge. My friend didn’t like the personal touch; he stopped giving altogether.

I asked the federation to switch my pledge solicitor.  I was in the federation’s real estate division — where the heavy-hitters are — and I didn’t want a phone call from an owner of a “lifestyle” shopping center, on principle. Now I have a friend who solicits me.  And with email, it’s all pretty painless.

I give.

shande-sandwichBut when I read in the Forward last week that Steve Hoffman is making two cents for every dollar the Cleveland campaign raises, I had second thoughts on Hoffman’s two cents.  A sizable chunk of the federation’s annual $28.8 million campaign is going to Hoffman.

On the other hand, Hoffman is no doubt a capable executive, dealing with very finicky donors around the clock. He also oversees the federation’s enormous endowment and philanthropic funds. He was offered $687,000 a year and took it.  That’s not a crime. He’s probably a good guy. Just an overpaid good guy.

In my father’s day, the federation published an annual blue book that listed everybody’s contributions.  My dad was proud he was “anonymous.”  My former rabbi, Michael Hecht, differed.  Rabbi Hecht said it was best to attach your name to your contribution so peers would be embarrassed and/or motivated to give more.  (The bell rings . . . Rabbi Hecht vs. Maimonides.)

salvation-armyThe best place to give — at least in the non-Jewish realm — is to the Salvation Army.  The Salvation Army is a religion.  The Sallies — the troops — are almost like nuns. The Sallies don’t spend much on overhead.  They are in the streets, doling out food.  And don’t forget about their brass bands.

Every year I write on my Salvation Army donation: “I’m Jewish.”  I got a call from the major once.  He didn’t mention the Jewish part.

The most ardent fund-raising drive ever, surprisingly, was at Klezkamp — the artsy klezmer convention.  A spirited 80-something New Yorker took center stage and asked for pledges.  He announced the pledges and checks . . . $18, $25, $36, $50.  A musician gave $5,000.  That was Gates-ian.  When all the pledges were counted, the speaker said: “Here’s something I learned from our Irish friends.  It’s called the waving o’ the green.”  He took a dollar from his wallet and waved it. Klezkamp volunteers with buckets circulated through the crowd to collect bills the audience waved back.

It was good theater, somewhat creepy, and somewhat effective.  A buck goes into the bucket. “Transparency” in action.  Nobody at Klezkamp was making $687,000 from that bucket.

Please see the post below too.  It’s fresh paint.
And win a free CD — One Ring Zero’s Planets — by entering Zeek‘s First Klezmer Liner Note Contest. Zeek is a Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture. I wrote the rules for the Zeek contest. Click here to enter, or just to read the nutty rules.
Yiddishe Cup plays First Night Akron (Ohio) 7:30  Fri. , Dec. 31.

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1 Jessica Schreiber { 12.22.10 at 9:57 am }

$687,000 to the Jewish Federation CEO is offensive to me. When I support the Jewish Federation it is not my intention to give my “two cents” to this overpaid executive who seems detached from the mission of his organization. After reading your post, I will find other worthy causes for my charitable dollars. What happened to the United Way should be a cautionary tale for us.

2 Irwin { 12.22.10 at 10:58 am }

That was quite a shock to me. The superintendent of our school system makes maybe $120,000. Our principals make $60-90,0000. And they have loads of responsibility. It really feels like Hoffman’s salary is out of line. You should print this blog in the Cleveland Jewish News.

3 "Kenny G" { 12.29.10 at 9:53 am }

I thought I posted here regarding Hoffman’s salary…. Anyway, please see my Facebook – responses to Eric Silverman’s entry about same topic.

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