JFNA's wholly unnecessary often silly now annual Community Heroes program has, or if JFNA had any institutional sense, proved to be an annual embarrassment. And, not just because the "winners" have so not represented the federated communities and not just because there has been ballot box stuffing. It's because Heroes has been (from the beginning) a "game" without rules.
This year, an activist who can best be described as emerging out of an organization whose stridency can be charitably described as anti-Israel pro-divestment, pro-sanction, pro-boycott was nominated as a "Community Hero.". Having no criteria for who might be a nominee, JFNA applied its unilateral judgement and removed the nominee from consideration. (Should there not have been some disqualifying criteria, set in advance? Duh.) Friends reminded me that in the first year of Heroes they had nominated me, that I was doing quite well in the voting as a matter of fact, when, presto-changeo, I was no longer on the ballot. So, at least two criteria seem to apply: if you are out of favor with JFNA, you are out; and if your organizational support comes from those who are out of step with the JFNA/system's message on Israel, you're out as well.
Let's carry this a little further. Peter Beinart was a/the featured speaker at last week's desultory General Assembly. Beinart, the estimable CUNY Associate Professor, who has begun a significant second career bashing American Jewish organizational leadership and the Israeli Government, has published, among other trash, The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment. Contrary to actual research findings, Beinart has concluded that Jewish young People have distanced themselves from "right wing, anti-liberal" Israel, yada yada yada. He embraces the message of Shulamit Aloni, Avrum Burg and others of that ilk. I would assume, given the actions taken to remove a woman organizational leader from Heroes consideration because of an alleged anti-Israel message; Beinart, were he nominated, would be removed as well. Or maybe not. Hypocrisy runs amok.
But...this hypocrisy didn't end with Beinart. Columnist Caroline Glick, a Jerusalem Post editor, with whom readers of these Posts know I often violently disagree, blogged after the GA Jewish American Community in Danger (November 11). She not only cited Beinart's GA appearance but that as well of "...the Boston Globe's resident anti-Israel columnist James Carroll" and she condemned the organization "...which presented several panels discussing whether anti-Zionists should be embraced by the community..." But, then she got it wrong when she wrote: "But who among the well-funded American Jewish leadership has the courage to tell these young people (who chose these speakers) that they are deranged?" It was not "young people" who chose these speakers -- it was the professional leaders of JFNA. Those who should know better...don't. And the lay leadership of JFNA and this GA -- busy thanking everyone for "the great GA."
I suggested in the midst of the first Heroes exercise that JFNA promulgate standards for the nominees. A silly suggestion when having no standards allows JFNA the power (dearly loved by those now in power) to remove candidates at will. Why give that up? I have a better suggestion, give up on this entire futile Heroes thing. And, given the speakers at this year's GA, shame on all of us for doing nothing.
Last week Peter Beinart headlined the JFNA General Assembly. His appearance was deemed so important it merited an interview on the GA Daily Report. And the annual Heroes fiasco continues. Please discuss and report on what our system has gained from this annual waste.
This is Emperor's New Clothes stuff. So terribly sad.