~ So I'm just minding my own business in Jerusalem, attending very painful JAFI meetings and writing a Blog Post from time-to-time, when several friends approach me to tell me that Michael Gelman has been ranting that UJThee and Me is "destroying," "undermining" (you pick it) UJC. The inference being that but for this Blog all would be well with UJC...I repeat, all would be well with UJC. (My friends, this is not the first time that Michael has made this allegation -- at other points in his UJC leadership career, he has transmitted fabrications about my work within UJC and UIA [and I presume UJA, the NCSJ, my federation, etc.]. When I had corrected Michael, he ignored the corrections, never responded and went about his "Wexler is destroying UJC" message.)
Now, I admit that I have tried to shine a light into the dark corners where UJC makes its decisions, or ignores the decisions that have been made but with which they disagree but, really, chevra, the folks "undermining" and deconstructing UJC are those who are leading it into one dark corner after another, not I. As each of you who reads this Blog knows, I have offered these pages to Kanfer, Manning, Rieger and Gelman time and again, to correct any misstatements I have made (or which they believe I have made) in this Blog. By their silence they have essentially ratified the truth of what I've written even as they complain about it. I will just have to live with Michael's allegations, hard as that may be. But, with all due respect, it would be in UJC's leaders interests if they devoted the time they spend obsessing over this Blog (or on getting into the Prime Minister's Office on JAFI's coattails) on getting "in sync with community realities," as a great federation leader put it so much better than I.
~ So let's see what Michael thinks about this. Last night there was a beautiful Reception honoring Zeev Bielski on his 3.5 years of service as Chair of the JAFI Executive. Gracious speeches characterized the event -- from Tzipi Livni and Richie Pearlstone and Mark Leibler, the World Chairman of Keren Ha'Yesod, among others. Each of these leaders had moments of conflict with Zeevik over the years, most l'shem ha'shamayim, but last evening was a time to celebrate friendship and dedication. But not Joe Kanfer.
In a speech as ungracious and insulting as I (or anyone else) had heard before, the UJC Board Chair demeaned and insulted Bielski. The insults were totally opposite to Bielski's graceful thanks to Kanfer earlier in the day before the JAFI Board Plenary. Whereas Zeevik recalled with humor his first meeting with Kanfer on a basketball court at the Israel Forum two decades and longer ago, Kanfer (who recalled the event under the misnomer "Leadership Forum") remembered the moment as a place where he learned that Israelis "play dirty." He went on, like Don Rickles on a bad night, to disparage Richie Pearlstone -- "he writes letters, I prefer to speak." (Joe must have forgotten his vilifying letter to David Fisher but three weeks ago [And many more that he has written to, among others, me].) Joe went on to state that while he and Zeevik both carry forward the "hopes of the Jewish People, we have a differing means of achieving them." And so it went.
Not a person who was present (other than, perhaps, Gelman) felt anything but pity for Joe. "Pitiful" was the word I heard most often." "Wholly inappropriate" seemed wholly appropriate. We were there to honor Zeevik, and Joe chose that moment, that event, to bring dishonor to himself and, thereby, to UJC and, thereby, to every North American in the room. And, through us to each of you. Seemed consistent and disgraceful.
Michael, you're right. As with all else not going well at UJC, Joe's speech was my fault.