Marla Gilson's plight
03/29/2011 - 19:22
James Besser

Somehow you expect more from Jewish organizations when it comes to relations with employees – who, after all, are mostly in it because they care about communal causes, not because of the big paychecks and great benefits.

So it's especially infuriating to read stories like Ron Kampeas' long, depressing account of what's happening to Marla Gilson, a veteran Jewish representative on Capitol Hill who has worked for AIPAC, Hadassah and now – unfortunately – serves as CEO of the Association of Jewish Aging Services.

That group, Ron wrote, unceremoniously dumped her when she got sick.

“Marla Gilson found out in January that she had acute leukemia,” Ron writes. “By March, she learned that her disease had cost her not only her good health, but her job leading an advocacy group for the Jewish aged.”

Gilson's request to work from home during the critical recovery time after a bone marrow transplant was denied; so was her offer to use part of her salary to hire a consultant to fill in the gaps caused by her inability to get to the office.

Read Ron's story; it will make you a little ill, but there's also something awe-inspiring about the friends and colleagues who have rallied to Gilson's support. And it says something important about Jewish groups that expect their employees to care about the cause, not just their paychecks – but who sometimes reserve the right to treat those employees just like any big for-profit corporation treats its lowliest workers.

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Somehow one expects more from columnists than re-dressed sliced baloney. Your blog story on Marla Gilson shows how the personal, vindictive actions of the friends of Marla Gilson can be translated to an attack on a small (less than 100) organization which depends entirely on its CEO to travel and maintain grass roots contact with its members. No one raised a "peep" about the legitimacy of Marla's plight, particularly when there is no comment from either Ms. Gilson or AJAS on the matter. Therefore, there is no kowledge of whether her termination was fairly treated, nor what offers might have been passed back and forth -- which is privy only to Ms. Gilson and the AJAS board. However, the furious attack mounted by friends, family and supporters ignores the reality of the organization's need to survive and fulfill its service responsibilities to its members (it is only a 3 person office -- including the CEO), but delivers up AJAS and its board as an unfeeling,insensitive and callous. This is Jewish liberal activism at its worst!

On a day when we rallied at the Supreme Court for Wal Mart women who have been systematically discriminated against and mistreated by one of the world's largest employers, it is disturbing to once again learn of another example of immoral workplace behavior -- this time by a Jewish organization! This would be disgusting even if it weren't someone who is a valued and respected colleague who has given great service to the community. Our hearts are with Marla! Thanks to you and Ron for exposing this injustice!