Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I watched the AIPAC Conference 2011 with great pride. Imagine a Conference of (mainly) Jewish leaders from across the land, standing in support of Israel, in numbers -- over 11,000 -- that not even in its wildest dreams could JFNA and, sadly, our federations -- conflate in their wildest dreams. A JFNA that to the date of this Post still has been unable to summon the koach, the strength, to speak out in opposition to President Obama's articulated formula for deconstructing the U.S.- Israeli relationship. JFNA instead, days after the fact, hid its statement in a Briefing applauding Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech to Congress, Here's what Jerry Silverman said (ostensibly on our behalf -- used the "we" quite often -- but maybe he meant just Kathy Manning, Michael Gelman and himself):
'We thank President Obama for his strong statements that Palestinian attempts to delegitimize Israel will fail, that attempts to isolate Israel internationally will not produce a Palestinian State, nor will attempts to achieve a unilateral declaration of statehood at the UN; that Hamas must renounce terror, and that the Palestinians must accept Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State,' said JFNA President and CEO Jerry Silverman."

And, yes, the President said that -- but he also said so much more and so much worse, as noted in strong op-eds by, e.g., Steve Huntley in the Chicago Sun-Times and Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal. But my/your organization
parses the President's words in an apparent search for good.

One organization, AIPAC, its Mission clear; the other, JFNA, unfocused, with no priorities and lacking courage. One attracts over 11,000 to its Policy Conference; the other attracts 2,500, if that, to our GA. As one great professional who attended the AIPAC Conference concluded, "Imagine, Richard, 11,000 Jewish leaders meeting together with a sense of common purpose!!" I can hardly remember the time when in fact we did have common purpose. Guess we will keep our seats in the House gallery occupied by Kathy Manning and Susie Stern today on our behalf.



Anonymous said...

Mr. Wexler your hatred of all things JFNA has gotten the better of you this time. While many American Jews may agree with your assessment of our President's speech, at least an equal number (and roughly half of Israel) were comfortable with his formulation and disappointed with the tone and tactics of the PM. I cannot imagine JUF saying anything different than Kathy. But what I just said is just context for what should be your own point that Federations must stick to our philanthropic agenda of taking care of Jewish needs worldwide and not wander into right left political battles. Isn't that what sticking to the knitting is all about. What you should be upset about is that at a time when Israel must make difficult political choices and need the support and increased visits of diaspora Jewry, we are pandering to the travel set with south American missions.

paul jeser said...

Dear anonymous,

You seem to forget a key responsibility of leadership (lay and pro) - that is to LEAD... (even if, at times, taking positions that may not be in sync with some of the community).

In this specific case, the fact that the leadership of JFNA responded in a very PC way just continues to dilute its leadership role in the community.

If one continues to support some of what Obama has been saying there will be no philanthropic agenda for us to worry about.

Anonymous said...

Why was JFNA's strategy of delaying a comment worthy of rebuke while they basically mirrored AIPAC's strategy? There was no AIPAC comment on Thursday after the Obama State Department speech. No AIPAC statement after Bibi's comments in Jerusalem or after the Obama-Netanyahu 'fireside chat' at the White House.

Frankly, the formal comments (AIPAC's being less comments and more their reporting on the comments during the Policy Conference) are basically the same.

Anonymous said...

No, AIPAC "comments" can be found in the words of those invited to speak to its Policy Conference. Replay those. Or listen even to the criticism in the words of Lee Rosenberg. There is a clear difference between what AIPAC said and did and what JFNA didn't say and didn't do.

Anonymous said...

Groups like ADL and AJC actually applauded Obama's speech, while AIPAC had a somewhat different take.

So if JFNA is supposed to represent us all, why should it come out combative against Obama?

Sorry to say, Richard, but AIPAC does not represent all American Jews and many Jews have big problems with Bibi, including some of what he said while in DC.

It's not just J Street--don't try to marginalize the growing number of Jews who feel this way, are involved in the Jewish community but are fed up with its political myopia.

Anonymous said...

Dear Paul and Richard,

Paul, you (as it so appears) may support a right wing version of a one state solution..I think you are wrong but that is your right. Richard, you may see broad daylight between Obama's speeches and Bibi's -- I think you're wrong but that is your right. However the board rooms of federation are not the place to demand political correctness or impose a non-consensual political agenda on the the community. We all have other forums from ZOA to J Street and organizations in between.

As you both, I've successfully solicited right wing Jews and very left wing Jews and we never say one thing to one that we would not say to another. One people - one message of peoplehood.

When inevitably those left behind new political borders need to be brought home, I, you. and our fellow liberals, centrists and rightist, along with every Federation, JAFI and JDC, will be there personally and financially to welcome them with the greatest respect and compassion and assit in making their lives whole.

First anonymous

Anonymous said...

First Anon,

Assume (wrongly) that American Jews are split 50/50 in support/opposition to the manner/tone/timing/substance of the President's remarks on Israel these past days. If so, should JFNA "applaud" the President in your view? Isn't that "taking sides" without consensus? Or, assume that 90% of American Jewry support Bibi's response, should JFNA not even mention the points/counterpoints in its statement of "applause?"

And, finally, is anyone going to respond to Richard's suggestion that when JFNA cites "we" in any action it takes, should the organization not be transparent enough so that all of us would know just what segment of JFNA makes up "we?"

paul jeser said...

First anonymous...

Your assumption is wrong. I do not support a right-wing anything in Israel.

I support the who ever the current democratically elected government of Israel is. Always have.

If I want to effect Israeli decision making, instead of being critical from comfortable and secure homes in the States one should make aliyah, pay Israeli taxes, serve in the IDF, send their kids to serve, in other words, put your life where your mouth is. Until then no Americn has the moral right to do anything but support a government democratically elected by its citizens.