Tuesday, March 1, 2011


It is so sad to see an organization with such great potential reduce itself to irrelevance. Each time it has an opportunity to act for the good of the federations Murphy's Law strikes. Viz....

The meetings of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors last week brought the leaders of JFNA to Israel. Rather than totally focus on the critical work to be done there (where it appears the JFNA leaders' main focus is once again on attempts to accrete power and position), inasmuch as they were in Jerusalem, they turned their attention to the Conversion Issue -- where, in thew aftermath of their "announcement" of the discussions and "results," they may have undermined months of work toward compromise and resolution.

You may recall that we have argued since the introduction of the Rotem Conversion legislation that JFNA take the playbook for vigorously opposing such legislation off the shelf, dust it off and implement it for our federations and donors. We begged for a comprehensive plan. What we got instead was the positive from Jerry Silverman's one-man show last year, a six month "moratorium" and nothing more than an expression of trust in the work and efforts of Natan Sharansky who sought to work out the very compromise that JFNA's leaders desired. Yet, inasmuch as they were in Jerusalem last month with little, apparently, to do, as they announced in a Leadership Briefing last week, and, in doing so, they wreaked havoc in their self-promoting way, may have set back the efforts at compromise and resolution.

JAFI invited the CEO and the Board Chair to attend a confidential meeting with the Interior Ministry. JFNA decided to publicize the meeting as if they made any contributions there. While Natan Sharansky has been the Prime Minister's and our system's designee for negotiations with all of those engaged on the conversion issue in the search for compromise, JFNA took it upon itself to condemn the Chief Rabbi curiously while extolling the virtues of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who has gone out of his way to attack non-Orthodox Diaspora Jewry, among so many others, over the past decades. The same Chief Rabbi who has called women "stupid" and "deviants" and condemned all Arabs...that's all of them...to death and disparaged all non-Jews as "existing solely to serve Jews!!" One would need Rashi to explain why Jerry and Kathy decided to act and speak unilaterally after almost 9 months of nothing more than "reporting" on the actions of others? These leaders demand that JAFI coordinate with them; but give no thought to acting unilaterally themselves. They, after all, "...are JFNA."

You remember: the legislation was introduced camouflaging total control of conversion, marriage and other civil actions in amendments to progressive legislation with regard to the conversion of olim. JFNA-Israel was totally surprised. Luckily, its CEO and President was in Jerusalem on a Mission and he did a great job of "presenting the case" against the amendments. Then JFNA leaders decided to declare a six month moratorium on its activities on the legislation over the course of which it could have planned an aggressive campaign, mobilizing major donors and the federations, revising Israel Mission content, etc. Instead, from all appearances, JFNA...did...nothing.(Correction, bringing Israeli Knesset staff and others to the States was an excellent idea -- almost as if JFNA decided to read one page of the "playbook.".) No plan, no mobilization...a big nothing as in squadoosh. And no plan going forward as the legislation returns to the Knesset. So here were the Chair and CEO in Jerusalem so why not do nothing (really nothing) but immediately thereafter, with no clearance with its "partner" issue a self-congratulatory, inflammatory press release -- its Leadership Briefing!! Why?

Why? My guess: "boredom." Our leaders are so much like the dinosaurs -- silent, quiescent animals who periodically would be stimulated to action. And, when stirred into action, they would flail around, destroying everything in their paths. The dinosaurs are, of course, extinct.



Anonymous said...

JFNA is hopelessly confused and over its head on this one. The issue begs both Israeli and Diaspora leadership and honesty - the courage to offer a clear solution and stand up against any singular (in this case right wing halachic) definition of who is a Jew and the destructive power of the rabbinate in Israel. The sensible solution is adherence to the liberal definitions of The
Law of Return and the passing of civil marraige legislation in Israel. Israel is the only democracy without a civil marraige option. The orthodox and haredi can then maintain their standards (and if they wish private geneological registries). The remaining majority of Jews can live as part of our people and make aliyah as they see fit. No one's integrity will be compromised - no one will be forced to live a lie or a life they do not choose. Isn't that the definition of a "free people in our own land"?

RWEX said...

Dear Anonymous,

Your suggestion of both a posture -- "...the courage to offer a clear solution and stand up..." -- and a just outcome, seem so right to me. If only we had a national organization that stood for something. Right now, JFNA's stance ("let's all sit at a table, reason together and talk nice to each other") really stands for nothing.