Thursday, April 3, 2014


You will recall, as I do, that the "culmination" of the 2014 Jerusalem GA, occurred when about 1,000 (wow!!) participants marched in an expression of unity with the Women of the Wall to Robinson's Arch or thereabouts, to celebrate the historic compromise in which JFNA claimed a piece of this "victory." Well, it seems that JFNA has marked this as just another moment in time as its leaders turned their attention to but another shiny object -- legislation to liberalize conversions in Israel.

While all of us who read the Israeli press know that the "deal" with regard to open prayer on an extension of the Western Wall has fallen apart, you would never know it from the Briefings that JFNA supplies us so often. Since that ga March, other than over-stating the numbers, JFNA has written nothing -- not even one of its periodic inane letters to the Prime Minister. Perhaps they are awaiting instructions from Jewish Agency Executive Chair, Natan Sharansky, whose historic compromise appears to be on life support. JFNA's "partner" in this Jewish unity effort was the courageous organization of Women of the Wall; they are now objecting to the compromise because the Government's "company" has turned over Wall "operations" to an ultra-Orthodox entity that does not appear to support gender equality. JFNA apparently can't find the words.

But, onto the barricades on the conversion issue. You may recall that just a few weeks ago, JFNA sent out a "briefing" on the subject along with a "strong letter" to the P.M. using support for piece of legislation introduced by a member of the minority in the Knesset that would "open up" the conversion process beyond a tightly controlled Ultra-Orthodox Rabbinate. Then, a few weeks later, apparently JFNA "got religion." 

On March 15, JFNA published an epic Leadership Briefing. First, it read:
"Member of Knesset Elazar Stern from Tzippy Livni’s Hatnua Party), has proposed a bill that attempts to liberalize the process of conversions in Israel. Creating more options for conversion is a high priority and can impact directly the lives of hundreds of thousands of Israelis whom we helped make aliyah from the Russian-speaking world as well as many others. So, of course, we welcome such moves and are pleased that it looks likely that the bill will come up for second and final readings in the Knesset as early as this Tuesday."
OK so far? "we welcome" yada yada yada. (Except, of course, that it's Tzipi not "Tzippy" and Hatnuah not Hatnua but, so what?) But, then, same Briefing, new paragraph:
"When we were in Israel two weeks ago, we led an extensive series of meetings with Israel’s top political leadership on this issue. Our message was singular – no bill is better than a bad bill. A bad bill could even jeopardize moderate Orthodox efforts."
You may be as confused as I. Could our chachams not have anticipated that other Knesset members who do not look upon religious tolerance as we do or as Member Stern does might introduce their own amendments to Stern's Bill and piggyback it into the night? Are our leaders so naive? Do we support the Bill or not? Do we want it withdrawn?

Anyone with any sense of institutional memory knows that the "Who Is A Jew" issue can be the most corrosive and volatile one; one that has and can again divide North American Jewry from our Israeli mishpacha. But, there is that shiny object out there pulling our "leadership" in, apparently, two directions at once.

If it weren't so potentially explosive, it would be funny. Keystone Kops anyone?



Anonymous said...

The issue is at once too simple and too complex for the Becky and Jerry show. Too simple because the overwhelming majority of North American Jews, as do most Israelis, support civil marriage and
freedom of conscience for all in regard to matters of religion. Too complex because they worry obsessively over a perceived tension between Israeliness and Jewishness and hence jump at any rube Goldberg legislative solution short of the obvious separation of synagogue and state in the private lives of it's citizens.

Anonymous said...

As you have pointed out among the illnesses affecting JFNA is institutional ADHD. The pro so-called "leaders" are unable to concentrate for more than short bursts of attention to any single topic. They are terrible...and, yet, there they are.

Anonymous said...

Instead of working in areas where the possibility exists of actually accomplishing something, JFNA-Israel has led Silverman by the nose somehow convincing him that there is the possibility of success in areas like civil marriage, or the Kotel -- areas in which JFNA support would be helpful but where Caspi and Silverman want to jump the queue -- instead they have jumped the shark...again

Anonymous said...

Once upon a time JFNA had a classy spokesman in Israel, a VIP Department, a missions department and United Israel Appeal looking after our money and assets. JFNA Israel also provided some support to those Federations who had representatives in Israel working on Partnerships.

And Dayenu.

Now JFNA Israel has 25 or so employees in a superstructure doing nothing.

Forgive me. They are busy wasting your Federation's donors' money on things no Federation agreed too.

Excuse me, B***y, could you bring me another Diet Coke. D**i, passing any legislation lately?

How is Sheautafim doing? Any Federation approve the million or so of your Federations dollars that have gone to an Israeli organization you know nothing about?

Dear Michael and Dede: Free us from slavery and lead us to the Promised Land.

Dump the Vicar of Broadway. And free us from the witch of King George Steet.

Let my people go.