1. And you thought JFNA had no opinion on the Iran deal...On September 9 the forever useless FedWorld "announced" in its preface: "JFNA chair Michael Siegal discusses why so many in the Jewish community are wary of the Iran nuclear agreement" citing a nonsensical "analysis" by the JFNA Board Chair that appeared in JNS. So here is that insightful aid provided by our Chair:
“Viscerally, when some regime says ‘Death to Israel,’ and they say, ‘death to America,’ and in many case say, ‘Death to Jews,’ our history does not allow us to ignore it,” Michael Siegal, chair of the board of trustees for the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), told JNS.org.
JFNA has refrained from taking a position for or against the deal, instead choosing to facilitate the efforts of the more than 150 local Jewish Federations under its umbrella."What can one say other than, thanks a lot Michael for the brilliance...the insight...and the "facilitation." JFNA speaks...and says...nothing at all. There's no sense of shame there; in fact, reading the New Year's bloviation from CEO Jerry, made me reflect upon this fact -- every conference call that JFNA co-convened featured exclusively a supporter (or framer) of the Iran Deal (other than Dennis Ross who "cautioned" against the Deal and Robert Satloff who clearly was warned to not state his own opinion of it). Was this done because JFNA was told that if JFNA came out against the deal, it would be "punished" by taking away its "co-convenor" status? That Siegal wouldn't "question" the President on one of those calls? That Jerry's multiple invites to the White House might cease? Or am I being just too cynical?
2. And then there's JCPA. A long, long time ago, as I served as Chair of my community's Jewish Community Relations Counsel, and for a while thereafter, when I served on the Board and Executive Committee of what was then the NJCRAC, now the JCPA, I grew increasingly frustrated and impatient (surprise, I know) with the seemingly endless processing of every issue, the seemingly constant parsing of every position back then. Dear friends and lay leaders whom I venerate to this day -- Shoshana Cardin, Maynard Wishner, z'l, Jackie Levine, Arden Shenker and many others -- guided me through the NJCRAC maze. And I developed a great friendship with one of our system's best professionals, the late Al Chernin, z'l, a pro's pro, with whom one could disagree in the search for common ground without alienation.
Then, there's today. There seems to be no process at JCPA: its chief professional signs petitions the subjects of which may be inconsistent with national consensus; votes are made (at, e.g., the Conference of Presidents) which may not represent the organizations that are its constituency; and its President, at least, appears to have an opinion on every issue, always available to the Jewish press. What used to be a cumbersome, lengthy deliberative process now appears to be no process whatsoever. Yet, on the most critical issues that confront our system today -- silence.
Here is the JCPA Mission Statement:
When a diligent researcher took a look at those who enjoyed the most visits at this White House, you should know that JCPA's then President was right up there with the other "most important people." If only the White House knew.
"The Mission of the JCPAThe mission of the Council is to serve as the representative voice of the organized American Jewish community in addressing the principal mandate of the Jewish community relations field, expressed in three interrelated goals:
- To safeguard the rights of Jews here and around the world;
- To dedicate ourselves to the safety and security of the state of Israel;
- To protect, preserve and promote a just American society, one that is democratic and pluralistic, one that furthers harmonious interreligious, inter ethnic interracial and other intergroup relations."
Then, there's money. JCPA is a member in good standing of the Federation-National Agency Alliance, that most woebegone of entities under the JFNA umbrella. It receives one of the largest allocations of federation dollars of any funded national agency and, in addition, it has been the recipient of millions in its role as JFNA's operating partner in the "Israel Action Network." There would be an excellent place for a rigorous audit of how our communal dollars have been spent. Yet, with all of these fund sources, JCPA today has begun a search for an FRD Director apparently to raise funds from within the federation system that currently provides it with its resources. Does JFNA know anything about this? Do the federations? Does anyone bloody care?
Rabbi Steve Gutow served JCPA as its President with distinction for a decade and announced his retirement a while ago. Steve's liberal background appeared to serve his similarly leaning leadership as they had wished. Yet, as the community relations field, along with our Jewish polity, moved from left to center and, now, evermore toward the right of center, JCPA seemed not to be able to move with it. It will be interesting to learn of the results of JCPA's search for Gutow's successor.
Is JCPA fulfilling its role? And...what exactly is that? Rhetorical questions. BTW, JCPA couldn't even claim Michael Siegal's insights with regard to the Iran "deal;" had they, it's fair to ask, would Rabbi Gutow have been appointed just days ago by President Obama to the President's "Faith Council?" Just asking.