Monday, December 8, 2014


Shame, shame, shame...on us. When a terrific communal leader, and Past Chair of both her federation and of the termination of two top Wellesley Hillel professionals -- the Director and Jewish Chaplain -- by the College after their protest of strident anti-Israel/anti-Zionist attacks on campus, she asked the logical questions:  "Why doesn't the Boston Federation get involved? Or the national Hillel movement.  Are they going to leave these (young people and Hillel former leaders) to deal with this themselves." 

My sister might have included in the list of the silent: JFNA, the Israel Action Network and JCPA. You might not be aware that immediately prior to the GA, Chair Siegal and CEO Jerry If-There's-Trouble-It's-Somebody-Else's-Fault, let us know in a lengthy Leadership Briefing of JFNA's critical role in bringing together all of the "campus players" which would now coordinate campus efforts to combat the campus onslaught against Israel and against Jewish students. Turned out this meant nothing more than that JFNA joined with others in the critical act of calling a meeting. That was enough as, apparently exhausted, JFNA has had nothing to  say when Wellesley Jewish students cry out that they have "lost our support system"  at a time that a small group of anti-Israel pro-Palestinians attack Israel and them. To the date of this Post, all we have seen or heard from JFNA is...not a damn thing. (It should be noted that three days after the event, JFNA, apparently awakened from its Thanksgiving tryptophan-induced slumber, was able to issue a December 2 Leadership Briefing condemning arson and vandalism at the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Bilingual School in Jerusalem in the strongest terms. But, on Wellesley...nothing.) 

The terminations were first described in Haaretz and, then, in all of the decision's venality -- no notice to the Hillel laity, the campus Jewish Chaplain terminated by e-mail -- in the Boston Globe wherein one Wellesley official, identified as Jewish, actually stated that the terminations represented a "restructuring" that would somehow "anchor Jewish life on campus" for the Wellesley Jewish student community. Meanwhile, Barry Shrage, the oracle of CJP, the Boston Jewish Federation, had nothing to say. Still, this could just be nothing more than insensitivity and a lack of process; yet...

The IAN, the Israel Action Network, prides itself on issuing statements praising Scarlett Johansson's courage, publicizing a group of Presbyterian clergy's resistance to the organization's resolution for a boycott of Israel and publishing books and countless papers. Good for them...but, then, this happens and the IAN's futility becomes too evident.

In 1984, writing in Sh'ma Jerold Auerbach penned an article "Fighting anti-semitism at Wellesley" in which he concluded: 
"Anti-Semitism is always repugnant, even in an institution as benign and genteel as Wellesley College. No glaring episode, or ugly incident disrupted the normal security of college life. Instead, there was abundant evidence of a persistent pattern: a history of discrimination, a legacy of insensitivity."
And, now, three decades after Auerbach wrote those words, we have Wellesley officials not only engaged in "insensitivity" but in a "glaring episode"...and our institutions sit by in silence. While I have no reason to believe that anti-semitism played any role in these terminations, the dictat way in which the College went about them was unworthy of the institution and the apparent complicity of Hillel International in this non-process beneath contempt. Here is what Hillel said as reported in a Haaretz follow-up article:
 "On Monday, Eric Fingerhut, the president of Hillel International, defended the decision by Wellesley College to oust two representatives of the Jewish student organization, stressing that the move was meant to enable the hiring of a full-time rabbi on campus.
“I believe that the college is wanting to strengthen Jewish life on campus by moving to a model based on the full-time professional support of a rabbi on campus, which other schools have,” he told Haaretz.
 Fingerhut said, however, that the replacement of the Hillel representatives on campus “certainly wasn’t handled as well as it could’ve been.”*
The latest Haaretz article seemed to suggest that with no notice to the Wellesley Hillel laity or professional staff, Hillel International was busily "planning" with Wellesley College officials the professional Hillel campus leadership. Shameful.

 So, my sister -- you remember her from the first paragraph -- had a suggestion:
"Someone from one of our great agencies should notify the admissions office at Wellesley College that parents will be informed through Jewish news outlets, etc., that the Wellesley College environment is not conducive to a safe or appropriate Jewish life. Since so many Jewish families pay full tuition, perhaps the pocket book can change the attitudes of the administration."
The withholding of support is happening, the "change of attitudes" so much.  All around us, as always, is silence.

I so love my sister.


* Reporter Debra Nussbaum Cohen, as is always the case in my experience, has done a superb job of reporting the facts and just letting them speak for themselves.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps it's best that JS din't say anything because one never knows how he might embarrass himself and everyone else.

Anonymous said...

Don't think that the senior professionals at JFNA weren't holding their collective breath!

Anonymous said...

Rich, why would you expect JFNA to say anything about this sad situation -- the organization says nothing meaningful about anything. I participated in the JFNA "coordination" of campus actors and can tell you that JFNA offered nothing to the conversation other than to take credit for it happening (and it would have taken place without JFNA just as well).

Does any lay leader there have the courage to speak out?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Richard, this strikes me as one more badly handled personnel issue and not a national cause célèbre. If at the end of the day the 250 Jewish students at the college get a full time Rabbi and the dismissed P/T staff are treated fairly then lessons of better process can be learned and all can move on.

Anonymous said...

J (ews) F (or) N (othing) A (lways).........CEO Jerry reports "we've experienced another extraordinary super duper year!" la dues!!

Anonymous said...

When the leaders of JFNA cannot even rouse themselves to protest the most extreme of the proposed national laws in Israel as a real threat to Jewish Peoplehood, we have an organization devoid of everything but most critically...any principle.

These so-called leaders should just submit their resignations and let's move on.

Anonymous said...

The board chair, even if he was so inclined to do anything pro-active during his term, would never challenge this prime minister, on anything.

As to the other leaders, lay and professional, they just don't have a clue.

Anonymous said...

Richard, Maybe you should be grateful for JFNA's silence. After all, every time they do open their mouths, they just stick their feet in deeper.