Thursday, October 21, 2021

Richard Wexler z"l

It is with great sadness that we inform you that our dear friend Richard L. Wexler, former JUF/JF Board member, has passed away. 

Richard served on the board from 1979-1990, 1991-2005, and 2006-2012.  He was JUF Board Chair from 1985-1987 and served in many leadership roles in the organization, including Chair of OPAC, JCRC, Missions, and various JUF divisions and events.  He was the 2001 recipient of our community’s highest honor, The Julius Rosenwald Memorial Award.  He also received the 1978 Davis, Gidwitz & Glasser Young Leadership Award.  Richard and his wife Roberta were Silver Circle donors to the JUF Annual Campaign. 

Outside of JUF, Richard was a major national leader who served as Chairman of the United Jewish Appeal, National UJA Campaign Chair, Chairman of United Israel Appeal, National Operation Exodus Chairman, and Chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry.  In addition to lengthy board service on these national organizations, he also served in key capacities on the Board of Directors of JFNA, JDC, The Jewish Agency, HIAS, JESNA,, the National Jewish Community Relations Council, and The Great Books Foundation.

The graveside funeral will take place this Friday, October 22 at 10 am at Shalom Memorial Park, 1700 W. Rand Rd., Arlington Heights.  Shiva information to follow.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to JUF.

May the memory of Richard Wexler always be a blessing.

Thursday, September 2, 2021


1. President Biden's obstinate endorsement of his administration's pathetic, rushed initiation of the American abandonment of Afghanistan inspired, as one would have expected, an outpouring of hate on the internet among the usual suspects.

In short order, just one of my favorite correspondents had dropped columns of ascending offense. The authors? Larry Kudlow (still advocating for dangerous treatments of COVID, as well); Mike Pence arguing that Biden breached the Trump "agreement" with the Taliban; and Caroline Glick, the latter the most egregious building her hateful diatribe this time on several false premises the most prominent that the President needed to be dragged from vacation (he was at Camp David) to face the Afghan crisis. 

2. A recent headline in Haaretz  advised that the Chief Rabbi (this time Sephardi — Rabbi Yitzchak Yousuf) has opined that allowing women to take supervisory roles in Israel’s corrupt kashrut certification process will lead to sexual immorality. And, how does he know this? This kind of drivel spews forth with a vulgar frequency.

3. In the wake of Hurricane Ida, JFNA (for which FRD is but a vague concept -- so 1980's) broke out the old Mailbox but announced that this is a "dedicated Mailbox." Something new? Doubtful. Something impactful? Doubtful.


Tuesday, August 24, 2021


Pam Zaltsman has been a professional in and then leading the JFNA financial services operation. She has been the most loyal of professionals since she joined the United Jewish Appeal and UIA accounting staff in the 1990's. While her professional roles expanded over the decades, her loyalty did not. She always acted consistent with her professional responsibilities; loyal to a fault. She was an important support professional to Lee Twersky, the ultimate non-profit CFO. As Pam matriculated up the field of UJA's and then JFNA's organizational tree, Pam was careful to be always supportive of those in power. And, within JFNA she was a trusted resource.

So it came as a surprise to me to read of her "lateral move" from CFO to something called Senior Advisor to Israel and Overseas -- it's not clear from the turgid paragraph in the JFNA Release whether Pam has retired or continues in a reduced role or something else. But she will be "coordinating and supporting Federations in the fiscal operations involved in this important area of our work" whatever that means. 

Add another body to those who work under Becky Caspi. This time, Pam Zaltsman, whose brief job description sounds like one given a Chicago Alderman as a ghost payroller. (I can only speculate that as financial support for the communities' overseas work continues to crater to new lows annually, the I & O staff will soon make its allocation payments in packets of $100 bills. Give 'em something to do.) 

We wish the new CFO great success. I continue to hope that someday JFNA will undertake the forensic audit of the entire I & O operation that has been overdue for over a decade. 

The waste.


Friday, August 20, 2021


The outpouring of praise, always insufficient, memorializing the passing of one of the great leaders of Reform, of progressive, of World Jewry -- Rabbi Richard Hirsch -- has been heart-warming. I cherished my friendship with Richard, with Dick, as one of the things of great value from my work within  the Jewish Agency and the United Jewish Appeal.

When I became UJA National Chair in 1996, I convened a meeting of the leaders of the main Diaspora religious movements -- at Chicago's Hyatt Regency. I asked them what UJA could do to enhance their work. Richard didn't hesitate: "We want help with our capital fund raising." 

And Rabbi Hirsch didn't wait, he embarked on a campaign to raise the tens of millions to build an International Educational Center for Progressive Judaism -- he and the World Union already envisioned the site, the grounds, the building and in the vortex created by his enthusiasm I was right there with Richard. In 1971, the specifics of the Center were laid out and, now, finally, a quarter-century later, the WUPJ was moving forward with UJA. Hirsch's enthusiasm moved all of us forward. You should visit the Center. It's a beautiful achievement.

Richard's enthusiasm for this work was part and parcel of his vision of modern Zionism -- an inclusive, embracing Zionism. Breakfasts and lunches with Dick, often with the wonderful Bella, z"l, were like attending an educational seminar. I was blessed. I engaged with their son, Ammiel, now the Rabbi of the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue. Over the years. I learned so much.

For a brilliant tribute to Rabbi Hirsch's life and legacy, read his friend, the brilliant journalist, Gil Troy's, tribute in: My friendship with Richard was a constant joy. 

May his memory be for a blessing.


Monday, August 16, 2021


The Press Release from some organization titled The Coalition for Jewish Values landed in an email from a friend who often captures the bizarre and unlikely. This one was titled:

"1,500+ rabbis say ADL 'no longer competent' to identify, let alone combat, anti-semitism." 

Perhaps you share my sense that 1,500 + (don't forget the +) Rabbis couldn't agree on anything. But somehow Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the President, of this "Coalition" has mystical powers.

The Press Release continued that the Coalition "took renewed aim at the Anti-Defamation League." And, why: well the ADL annonced a partnership with Hillel International to do battle against the worst of anti-semitism on college campuses. And, why "renewed?" Is ADL or Hillel viewed as "competition?"

And, what was wrong with that emerging "coalition?" An ADL "spokesman" stated that "anti-Israel activism is not in and of itself is not anti-semitism" citing BDS support as requing investigation. While I disagree (and, perhaps 1,500+ do as well) I don't believe that this statement disqualifies the ADL as "incompetent."

If you go beyond the Release you will discover that The Coalition for Jewish Values must have a power of attorney from 1,500+ Rabbis because that same "number" supported the CFJV Resolution in support of Yeshiva U's opposition to an LGBTQ Club at that University.

Congratulations to Rabbi Lerner and his 1500+ of followers -- all Rabbis? Expect to hear more from them.


Wednesday, August 11, 2021


Recent correspondence and news has inspired a bunch of questions:

-- Of the 1000s of Jewish organizations, which one most closely mirrors Spirit Airlines?

-- Which Jewish organization should cease to exist? 

-- Which Jewish organization should change its name?

-- Does "Jewish Federation" continue to define your community umbrella organization? 

Your answers, please..... 



Sunday, August 8, 2021


I can picture the balabatim sitting around their Zoom boxes and collectively breathing a sigh of relief: "we can safely cancel the GA again -- COVID, you know." Now I am admitting to my own cynicism and I'm certain this meeting never happened. Nonetheless, this was a GA that should not have happened even were COVID not the threat that it remains. 

Eric and Mark should have held the funeral, said Kaddish and given the General Assembly the burial it deserved after year-after-year of failure, announced annual registration of a fictitious 3,000, and a general attitude by federation lay leadership of .... meh. But, up until the announcement, unbelievably, the GA in DC again(!!) was going ahead -- I have a feeling that the pre-Registration wasn't going well.

Before COVID struck and overwhelmed, dominated in 2020, JFNA leadership you will recall committed to a comprehensive look at the annual conference. That is a promise, like so many, that remains unfulfilled. I have reached out to many past GA Chairs, to learn if they had been consulted -- not one (including yours truly). Surprised? I'd be surprised if they knew whom any of the Chairs were -- they can call me.

This might have been a useful exercise. But JFNA is busy with other things. 


Monday, August 2, 2021


Zionist Organization of America President-for-Life, Morton Klein, could not be expected to hold back his vituperation for more than a week or two. So it was no surprise that he would issue a statement regardless of its inaccuracies; just surprising the lengths he would go on August 1 to attack Deborah Lipstadt, an American hero and a Jewish one.  Here is the Statement:

"The ZOA opposes the expected nomination of Emory University lecturer Deborah Lipstadt to be the U.S. Combating Antisemitism Envoy, because of her statements displaying partisan left wing bias. Lipstadt obscenely and falsely likened President Trump to Nazi murderers and propagandists; helped promote a video that wrongly did the same; promoted the Charlottesville Hoax (despite President Trump’s clear condemnation of neo-Nazis and white supremacists); and falsely called President Trump (the grandfather of Orthodox Jewish children) an “antisemitic enabler.” Lipstadt’s abuse of false Nazi and antisemitism charges against those with whom she disagrees politically should disqualify her from serving as the U.S. Combating Antisemitism Envoy.  


Lipstadt’s primary focus is antisemitism on the right (both real and imagined), at a time when the major threat is Islamist and far-left antisemitism. We are concerned that Lipstadt will ignore and/or give far too little attention to antisemitism from groups such as the Black Lives Matter organization, and leftist and Islamist BDS groups and Israel-bashing NGOs.


President Biden promised to heal and bring all Americans together when he assumed office. Nominating and confirming Lipstadt would increase partisan divides. The Combating Antisemitism Envoy is a sensitive position that requires someone non-partisan, who will honestly and strongly address all real forms of antisemitism, from the left wing to the right wing, and who will not make inaccurate charges of antisemitism to defame political adversaries. Lipstadt is a bad choice."

There was no "Charlottesville Hoax." Trump "decisively" proclaimed there were  "good prople on both sides" in Charlottesville. As American Jews we are fully capable of reaching our own conclusions about former President  Trump's statements providing comfort to Neo-Nazi anti-semites. It was shameful that Trump decided to support the Tiki-flamers who chanted their way through  Charlottesville: "They shall not replace us" as they marched on a Synagogue.

The position of Combating Antisemitism Ambassador is in excellent hands; the presidency of the ZOA, not so much.


Friday, July 30, 2021


 1.    An Anonymous Commentator, perspicacious to a fault, offered us some analysis and some questions:

"While I have no scientific data I do have observational data over about 40 years of involvement in the federation world. It appears to me that some of the same comments can be applied to dozens of the local federations. Doesn't this emphasis on re-cycling of leadership, not promoting from within, staying insular explain a good part of the reason that individual donors have declined by at least 2/3rds in the past 20+ years? Doesn't it also explain to some degree the reason that individual federations look outward for professional leadership rather than to cultivate upcoming professionals? Exactly what is the relationship today to YLC and the board of directors/board of trustees of JFNA? How are the local cabinet members being engaged in their local communities to assume leadership roles? Or are they? And what about the role of the GA? It seems to me that the LOJ biennial conference now plays a much greater role in developing leadership than the GA."

2.      So, my friends, isn't it time to do a true forensic audit of some of our favorite organizations. David Harris is retiring from his incredible decades of leadership  of the American Jewish Committee. Mort Klein must be nearing retirement at the ZOA, mustn't he? Does the United Israel Appeal even exist any longer? What does KH  -- as in Keren Ha'Yesod -- even do (and clearly one thing it doesn't do is raise money)? And, of course...JFNA. Over the decades we often repeated the mantra: "If ____didn't exist, we'd have to create it." Not any more.

3.   While certain institutional leadership speaks out against anti-semitism as if to really do so directly will offend someone, on Sunday July 25, Ron Lauder, in his role as President of the World Jewish Congress implored President Biden to exercise his moral strength and leadership. The question: why has Biden yet to do so?

I'm pretty exhausted. I'm taking a mental health day.  





Wednesday, July 28, 2021


 JFNA's response to Ben & Jerry's announced boycott in support of BDS:

"Boycotts do not advance the peace process. Jewish Federations call on Ben & Jerry's and Unilever to reconsider this decision."

This courageous declaration took the form of a Tweet. OK, to its credit JFNA announced that it is working behind the scenes to assure that states with anti-BDS legislation enforce these laws and regulations against the ice cream company's idiotic position. And is all that we want a "reconsideration?"  And all that the constituency got....a Tweet? Who did JFNA fear at Unilever?

I have written my local groceries demanding that they discontinue the sale of Ben and Jerry's. I have written the conglomerate owner of Ben & Jerry's, Unilever, urging action to reverse this perverse stance. I urge you to do the same. (I  imagine there is someone in management at Unilever wondering "did we  get into this mess for ice cream?") As Gristedes owner observed: "They politicized  ice cream."

Jewish Federations have laid claim (or want to) that they/we are leading the battle against the scourge of rising anti-semitism. Great for them but, if true, then they/we must let our umbrella organization, JFNA,  and its leaders know that this...Tweet...was totally inadequate and unworthy.


A FOB suggested this message from Endowment for Middle East Truth as a counterpint to Ben & Jerry's assault on Israel and truth:

ACTION ALERT: How to Respond to Ben and Jerry’s and Unilever

Endowment for Middle East Truth 
Date: July 26, 2021 
Contact: Sarah Stern 
(202) 601-7422 

Ben and Jerry’s, an ice cream company that prides itself on its “woke,” progressive politics announced last week that it intends on cancelling its distribution and sale in eastern Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, or the West Bank.  

This comes after 11 days of the terrorist group, Hamas, raining rockets down on Israeli cities and residential communities and Israel’s highly successful attempt to protect its civilian population, while attempting to avoid collateral damage within Hamas-controlled Gaza.  

Hamas cynically places its military production facilities and its operational bases near civilian areas.  It should be made clear that an element of Hamas’ strategy has always been to use “human shields,” to intentionally maximize civilian deaths of their own population in order to demonize Israel with the claim of “disproportionality." 

Israel has gone out of its way to avoid the loss of civilian life. In fact, even according to Mathius Schmale, the Director of UNRWA’s mission in Gaza (an organization not known for its profound love of Israel), Israel’s airstrikes were “very precise,” and they “didn’t hit, with some exceptions, civilian targets.” This was a statement for which he had to resign from his position and quickly get out of Gaza for fear of his life. 

According to Article 51 of the United Nations Charter, every nation has the responsibility to protect its civilian population. We know that if a terrorist group rained rockets on the United States from Canada or Mexico, we would not hesitate to respond in a manner similar, if not more aggressive, as Israel did.

Yet, according to the progressive agenda, what Israel did was considered “disproportionate."  

This reeks of a duplicitous double standard used to judge Israel, which would never be used against any other nation. It is meant to demonize and delegitimize the state of Israel. This is what lies at the very core of anti-Semitism.

Ben and Jerry’s is a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever, who, despite the rather anodyne comments of CEO Alan Jope, both the parent company and subsidiary are open to legal action because of laws already on our books. 

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Anti-Boycott compliance, within the Bureau of Industry Compliance, Part II of the Export Control Reform Act of 2018, as well as certain anti-boycott provisions set forth in part 760 of the Export Administration Regulations, “These authorities discourage, and in some circumstances, prohibit U.S. companies from taking certain actions in furtherance or support of a boycott maintained by a foreign country against a country friendly to the United States (unsanctioned foreign boycott).”

 As they write on their own website, “The anti-boycott provisions of the EAR encourage, and in specific cases, require US persons to refuse to participate in unsanctioned foreign boycotts. They have the effect of preventing U.S. persons from advancing foreign policies of other nations that run counter to U.S. policy.” 

It is vital that your representatives and senator understand that what Ben and Jerry’s is doing, and what its parent company, Unilever, is feebly trying to distance itself from, is a violation of  federal US Anti-Boycott Act.  

Unfortunately, Palestinian Legal has made this into a First Amendment issue. This has nothing to do with freedom of speech or the ability to express one’s ideas. This has everything to do with the discriminatory boycott of a product to one designated place on the globe, the state of Israel. 

There also have been 33 states that have signed their own anti-BDS laws. If your state is one of them, please call your Governor’s office, thank them for doing so, and politely inform them that now is the time to begin legal proceedings. If they have not, please call your Governor and politely insist that they sign state anti-BDS legislation. For a list of which states have signed the anti-BDS laws and your Governor’s phone number, please contact us at EMET at (202) 601-7422

And on the federal level, it is time that every member of Congress understands that this is not a free speech issue, but a boycott of a product against one specific country. Please call your member of Congress at (202) 224-3121 and let them know that what Ben and Jerry’s and Unilever are attempting to do may be in violation of US law and that immediate action, including a thorough investigation of the origin’s of this boycott and any Palestinian influence and/or involvement in the policy, is called for to eradicate this mission of hate towards Israel and the Jewish people."