The question must be asked, are these the right people, are these right groups to lead possibly the most important effort, combating the most invidious attack on Israel's economic existence and Israel's position among the family of nations? And, while among the organizations that did not attend the Adelson-Boteach Vegas "Summit" -- the system's own Israel Action Network, the system's Hillel, and the always silent JFNA (if any possible controversy might attach to any position it might take, it stands mute, as you may have observed), among others -- will the federation system, if it even exists anymore, have any role? And, if not, why not?
Of course, any activity in which mega-donor Sheldon Adelson decides to put his substantial economic weight behind is shadowed by his political views -- domestic or with regard to Israel -- right or wrong (or more right), whether one agrees with them or not. I can think of no "contribution" that Adelson has made -- political or charitable -- in which he has not demanded "control." This has been true with his annual Republican "summit" demanding fealty to his positions on Israel; true with his incredible contributions to Taglit-Israel, he demanded the termination of the then CEO and installed his "man" (a terrific leader); true in his home community where the community has sacrificed two excellent federation CEOs to Adelson's demands -- and probably true elsewhere as well. Or will Adelson use the BDS issue to further strengthen the involvement of his (yes, I chose the possessive intentionally) Israeli American Council in domestic Jewish affairs? The announcement last week that the professional leader of the Campus Maccabees will be the head of Christians United for Israel seems to answer the question of whether this campus effort will somehow reflect its founder's/funder's political views -- not in a good way, no matter this chosen professional's leadership skills.
Who knows who attended this Adelson "summit?" What we do know is that the recipe for on-campus chaos has been brewed while our central organizations...who knows where the hell they are. Then there's the Jewish National Fund chewing up yardage on the federations' side of the field wherever one looks. As The Jewish Week reported:
"The Jewish National Fund (JNF), better known for planting trees in Israel, announced Monday the creation of a $100 million Israel advocacy center intended to help Jewish high school and college students advocate for Israel and fight BDS. The center was launched through an estate gift by the late John and Dora Boruchin, California real-estate developers and Holocaust survivors."JNF will not be standing on the sidelines...but how will they coordinate their $100 million program with the Adelson effort, if at all? Don't know do we?
And, JFNA. You remember as I do that late last Summer, Jerry "We-Are-All-Over-This-BDS-Thing" Silverman was patting himself on the back once again (does his arm ever tire??) this time as JFNA, we were told, was the convener of all of the players in the campus anti-BDS effort. Then, as usual, as the applause died out, it turned out that JFNA actually did and was doing nothing. Maybe they meant that the IAN was doing so but the IAN is woefully underfunded given the challenges it faces 24/7. And the Jewish Agency is dispatching twice the number of its Israel Fellows to campuses across the country. Soon, I can picture a campus scenario where the Adelson Maccabees are recruiting JAFI Fellows who are recruiting JNF staffers to join the anti-BDS efforts while Jewish students watch in amazement at the confusion these efforts can create.
Meanwhile, once again, and as usual, our organization (which is hardly ours) is caught with its head in the sand while others fall all over each other funding and doing what we should be. Oh, that Adelson-Boteach Campus Maccabee "Initiative" by invitation only event? IAN and the Israel on Campus Coalition "decided not to attend."
Will anyone at JFNA's IAN even attempt to coordinate with JNF's new incredibly well-funded effort or the Adelson Initiative the funding for which is far less, for example, than the tens of millions Sheldon and Miriam Adelson contributed to keep Newt Gingrich in the Presidential race in 2011? Or will our system's efforts, so woefully underfunded as to be potentially meaningless, become just another non-event for the federation system? It's chaos.
Our shame never stops.