1. Last month the JFNA Board Chair, speaking for all, sent a letter (oh, wait, it was a Statement) of congratulations to Shimon Peres on receiving the Congressional Gold Medal and the Lantos Human Rights Prize. It was nice.
3. And, you remember the JFNA letter to the Prime Minister demanding access to the Kotel by Women of the Wall? JFNA has moved on -- now, thanks to the brilliant "non-planning" by the Global Non-Planning Table JFNA has turned its lack of attention (it has an institutional attention deficit disorder, you know) to, marriage in Israel. Shiny objects, you know?
4. On June 19, Board Chair Siegal sent us a letter warning us that despite the great work of the Israel Action Network, the Presbyterian Church USA would "likely" vote to divest its investments in specific companies doing business in Israel. When Geri Palast, the "Managing Director" (oh, the titles, the titles) of the IAN (are we the best creators of acronyms in history), wrote a letter seemingly only moments later to advise us of our "sadness" that PCUSA had voted to divest one could only ask "why the Siegal 'preview'"?)
Yes, at JFNA letters and statements are the Emperor's New Clothes, to make us think something is actually being done.
Yet, every once in a while, there is also a moment of clarity, even excellence -- even in a letter:
This week, a delegation of JFNA leaders had the unique opportunity to represent Jewish Federations in Israel. While our agenda was full, the most memorable part of our trip was the time we spent with the families of the three kidnapped boys, Eyal, Gilad and Naftali. We talked, hugged and shared thoughts with the boys' mothers and fathers, assuring them that throughout this ordeal, they are not alone.
This horrible event hangs like a cloud over all of Israel – and the entire Jewish world – as we worry about these three teens. During our visit, our delegation listened while, one by one, members of the Knesset expressed their deep resolve to support the IDF’s effort to find our sons. We also joined the Israel European Congress’ session as they spoke with the boys’ mothers and offered the love and support of Jews around the world.
We then had the opportunity to spend time with the families in a more intimate setting. They shared their deep appreciation of our support and were very much aware of all the vigils and activities taking place throughout North America. The families were humbled by the response of our communities, regardless of affiliation or religious stream, and inspired by our efforts.
They asked us, as representatives of the Jewish Federations, for two things:
1. That we continue to come together and pray for their boys to come home safely. We must let it be known in our communities that this crime will not be tolerated; and,
2. That we reach out to the influencers in our communities and in Washington, D.C. to continue to put pressure on those responsible.
As Dede Feinberg, Executive Committee chair, said to the families, “I am a mother, and I cannot fathom the pain you are feeling. However, know you are not alone, and won’t be alone, until they are home.”
Upon our return from Israel, we learned that President Obama began his conversation with Israeli President Shimon Peres by offering his prayers and support for these boys and pledging to do whatever possible to help bring them home. I speak for everyone at Jewish Federations when I offer a heartfelt thank you to President Obama for prioritizing this issue and continuing to put forth pressure to bring these teens home.
As Federations, we have a responsibility to continue to advocate for Eyal, Gilad and Naftali at every gathering, and to encourage our respective agencies, congregations, JCCs, camps and all Jewish organizations to do the same. This is our family and they are our boys. We pray that they come home safe and very soon, b'ezrat Hashem.
President and Chief Executive Officer, JFNA"