Jewish Journal


October 14, 1999

Call the Headhunter


Early last winter, a reporter asked Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., about her rumored plans to run for Senate. "I'm really not sure," Lowey said. "I don't know if that's how I want to live my life."

"That makes sense," the reporter replied, recalling dark tales of the Senate fund-raising treadmill. "If you want to spend your life asking people for money, you might as well go work for the United Jewish Appeal."

Lowey did a double-take. "How did you hear about that?" she demanded.

The reporter hadn't heard a thing. He was trying to make a joke about campaign finance. But Lowey wasn't joking. She actually had been approached, weeks earlier, to accept the presidency of America's largest Jewish charity. An odd coincidence, they both agreed.

And, yet, not so odd. As it turns out, you could just about fill a phone book with the names of distinguished Americans who were offered the top UJA job over the last year. There were Cabinet secretaries, Congress members past and present, university presidents, mayors, even a few professional heads of Jewish charities. In a sad commentary on the current state of the legendary fund-raising organization, just about everyone turned the job down, including Nita Lowey.

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