"The answer is simple: Zionism worked. The chances were infinitesimal that a scattered national group could be assembled from some 70 countries into a sliver-sized territory shorn of resources and rich in adversaries and somehow survive, much less prosper. The odds that those immigrants would forge a national identity capable of producing a vibrant literature, pace-setting arts and six of the world's leading universities approximated zero."Yet, today, even some Jewish leaders question the Zionisms place as a driving concept, a modern Jewish value. Some find it, in the face of attacks, a concept too controversial.
Then there was the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago's Michael Kotzin, special counsel to the JFMC President, writing in the Times of Israel, who earlier than Oren's victory declaration called for the creation of a new narrative reflecting Zionism today, "a Zionism that is at once authentic, honest, and contemporary."
"The ultimate purpose ... is to advance understanding of the basis of Israel's existence and to enhance a sense of personal connection with the state and its people. The practical goal ... is to rebut the mendacious, all-too-common demonization of Israel as an evil colonial power and of Zionism as a racist ideology, and to counter the misleading Palestinian narrative that is used to attract adherents to the delegitimization cause."
Would it not have been spectacular if JFNA and, for that matter, the Jewish Agency, Joint and World ORT had jointly and severally embraced this new Zionism as a cause. It would have been spectacular if JFNA devoted its resources to this Movement -- to developing a curriculum for our schools and for our organizations. Sure, there is no one at JFNA capable of doing so, but, maybe...possibly...JFNA could have devoted its not insubstantial resources (that's, um, "Dues") to engaging Wexner or Fisher/Bernstein (or, even, Mandel) to consult/lead this project.
But, JFNA can't be distracted from whatever is currently distracting it (beyond the glorification of self) to actually focus on something it might achieve. No...that's not the JFNA we know and love. That JFNA, so ill as it is with Institutional Onset Attention Deficit Disorder, can't concentrate on anything (other than the historic TribeFest and its ilk) unless authorized and permitted by the Large City Executives. This means the only good idea is one of their own. (This is not a recent phenomenon. I remember when the brilliant Stanley Horowitz, z'l, was the UJA CEO. Stanley was a former revered Federation CEO, no one knew the system and its professional leaders better than Stanley. He had just convinced the Large City Execs to reverse course and endorse a major UJA FRD effort. I asked him how he did that. He replied: "Easy, I convinced them that it was their idea.")
Then there are the institutional barriers within JFNA -- the Global Planning Table, for one. So long as there remain leaders with influence who believe that even the use of the term Zionism in a GPT document that will be forever unread shall be forbidden, dedication to the creation of a new Zionism will be overwhelmed by opposition. Oh, sure, that opposition will be as "underground" and opaque as these "leaders" who operate best in the dark can make it. but it surely will be there. Support for Zionism among this unknowing leadership is as distant as is the same leadership's comprehension of the term, That has to change before...well, before anything positive happens.
If you will it, it is no dream? Eem tirtzu ein zo agada. Perhaps some day JFNA may find the will...perhaps not.