Here is but one of the historian's findings:
"Sometimes, however, Jewish leaders start out as firebrands and then gradually get tired, or even co-opted. Sometimes – and this is true of some leaders today as well – they start to really enjoy the “kavod” of having their photo taken with prime ministers and become reluctant to risk losing that by speaking out on controversial issues."It appears that one antidote Rafael Medoff has initiated in response to his own conclusions and observations is the following, now in wide circulation:
Medoff's conclusion and prescription are so spot on one would have thought that he knew the professional leadership of JFNA (and elsewhere)."DECLARATION ON ETHICS IN JEWISH LEADERSHIPUnethical behavior among Jewish leaders has reached crisis levels in the American Jewish community. It seems hardly a week passes without news of yet another scandal involving rabbis, Jewish organizational professionals, or other individuals in leadership positions. These disturbing developments make a mockery of Jewish values, shatter the trust that we have placed in our community's leaders, and alienate young people from Judaism.Whether the offenses involve interpersonal relations, employer-employee relations, or Jewish governance of institutions and organizations, and whether the victims are Jews or non-Jews, the result is the same: individuals in positions of power exploiting their power to disadvantage and, in many cases, traumatize others.As committed and engaged members of the Jewish community, we appeal to Jewish institutions of all denominations and factions to embrace the following core principles of ethical behavior, which are anchored in the time-honored values we cherish as Jews and Americans:1. Concealing evidence of unethical behavior is itself unethical and antithetical to Jewish values. Moreover, it enables the perpetrators to perpetuate their shameful conduct, by allowing them to freely move to other communities and institutions where they may repeat their offenses.2. Excusing the offenders' conduct or blaming the victims for coming forward is intolerable. The fact that a perpetrator is held in high esteem, whether rabbinic, academic, or communal, should not be a deterrent to exposing his or her misdeeds.3. Whistle blowers should be encouraged. Those who have information about inappropriate behavior by Jewish leaders should be urged to come forward, without fear of retaliation or ostracism by the community.4. Jewish institutions and organizations should treat their employees according to the same principles of fairness, respect, and non-discrimination that American law requires of all other employers.5. Jewish institutions and organizations should be governed in accordance with the principle of complete financial and administrative transparency. Failure to file U.S. government-required disclosure documents impedes the Jewish public's access to information to which it is entitled.6. Jewish institutions and organizations should adopt a system of checks and balances to ensure their leadership is responsible and accountable.7. Jewish organizations should hold regular democratic elections for their senior leadership positions. Elections in which there is only one candidate, or in which voting is restricted to only a portion of the membership, raise questions as to whether the culture of that organization is sufficiently democratic and participatory. With regard to positions that are not subject to elections, the size of an individual's donations to the institution should not be the decisive factor in determining his or her selection.8. Jewish organizations should adopt term limits, to combat the phenomenon of entrenched and self-perpetuating leaders.9. The leaders of Jewish institutions and organizations should not receive excessive financial renumeration. Salary levels should correspond to a minimal portion of the budgets of those institutions.10. Jewish institutions must have zero tolerance for racial, ethnic, or gender discrimination. Those who practice such discrimination should be considered unsuitable for leadership positions."
Think about yesterday and compare leadership then to now. Shoshana Cardin, at a time of incredible controversy, when American Jews were being accused of "dual loyalty," confronted the then President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. This incredible leader, mentor to so many of us, who wrote multiple chapters in modern Jewish history, didn't merely mealy-mouth the niceties of Jewish unity and seek to seen side-by-side with the then President; she didn't retreat with caution for fear that she might be denied an invitation to a White House get together. Not Shoshana; never Shoshana. Instead she confronted President Bush and spoke truth to power.
But what we have come to see is exactly that about which Medoff wrote, the cooption of American Jewish leadership by the promise of "kavod" or the flip side, the fear of kavod being denied, the dreaded loss of some petty corruption. Has leadership's, lay and professional, appetite for "proximity" -- a chance to sit with the President or Secretary of State -- overridden judgment? Has fear of the loss of that "proximity" overridden responsibility? Or does it only appear that way? Perhaps the answer is found in the statistics that disclose that JFNA professionals were among the most frequent White House visitors for "briefings" or what-have-you. Just glad to be there.
I am sure there are those who would tell you that these visits, this "proximity," are critical to the elevation of the "brand," critical to the elevation of the Federation (as JFNA now identifies itself), that the closeness of our professionals and some lay leaders to a given administration, especially this one, is vital to the grant achievements of JFNA-Washington. Yet, in a quiet moment, I think William Darfoff, one of JFNA's best and one of the most frequent White House visitors, would acknowledge that the most vital work is being done in the trenches, in successfully seeking and gaining bi-partisan support in Congress for the critical needs of the federations.
So what's the price of this beloved "proximity," if any? I don't know, but at times it sure looks like the price is our integrity, as in all things.
Not that there is much of that left.
*Dr. Rafael Medoff is the founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and author of 16 books about Jewish history and the Holocaust. His latest is “The Anguish of a Jewish Leader: Stephen S. Wise and the Holocaust” (available on Kindle from Amazon.com or as a free downloadable PDF from www.WymanInstitute.org).