Wednesday, April 6, 2016


On April 4, CEO Silverman, in an otherwise excellent riposte to those in the Government of Israel, Knesset members and some Ministers, who have attacked the Conservative and Reform Movements, chose to espouse a new position for JFNA (one having nothing to do with the balance of the Silverman column of the day) under a mailing titled "Dissent Shouldn't Mean Incivility":
"Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, suggests in a recent blog that, rather than being fearful of taking a stand on an important political situation, Jewish leaders and organizations should instead take a position and — just as in the Mishnah — also present an opposing view. “Very simply,” Kurtzer writes, “Publish the dissent. Make the decision, make the case for it, and then publish the dissenting viewpoint or viewpoints.”

Publishing the dissent, he explains, “gives voice to the losing arguments and to those articulating them, and signals confidence, humility, and a wholesale embrace of the dissenters, even in light of the failure of their dissent to become policy.”
Perhaps this was the first outburst of the "Jerry being Jerry" epoch. But, let's remember that just a few months ago, then Smilin' Jerry was applauding JFNA (really applauding himself) for JFNA's restraint during the "Iran deal" debate in taking no position. If I read Silverman's position today -- that was then; this is now. Yes, "rather than being fearful of taking a stand on an important political situation, Jewish leaders and organizations should instead take a position and -- just as in the Mishnah -- also present an opposing view." I admit it's damn hard to discern without Rashi  whether JFNA Jerry now believes JFNA should have taken a position on the Iran Deal or not -- maybe he doesn't know himself. Maybe he has merely conflated an argument against those attacking the non-Orthodox Movements with dissent -- or, most likely, Jerry is irretrievably confused.

And maybe, even probably, the Smilin' One thinks that this is exactly what JFNA has been doing. Yet, the reality has been something quite different -- JFNA has been a place where dissent is not only unwelcome, when offered it has been treated like treason; with the offeror treated with the utmost contempt the organization and its lay and professional leaders could muster. And, of course, the dismissal from JFNA of critics seems to me to have been the ultimate in incivility isn't it?

Nonetheless, you recall a few months ago Silverman went on a rant about the unfortunate and outrageous attack by one of Israel's Chief Rabbi's on an Israeli Minister for attending a class at a Schechter School; and, then, Jerry did as Jerry does, he congratulated himself -- frequently. JFNA Jerry then and now took an easy target, attacked it and, this time, emphasized that this version of "dissent" should not only be tolerated, it should be applauded. And, in his April message quoted above, JFNA Jerry fails to make clear -- does he view the venal statements by Israeli parliamentarians and Ministers as "dissent" or does he wish to characterize his own statements as such? Does he even know?

A suggestion: just as some of the candidates for President require a "minder" assigned to explain what they "really meant;" JFNA Jerry also requires one. I would suggest that Renee Rothstein add to her portfolio the role of interpreter -- each time Jerry adds to his "manifesto" with another confused/confusing public statement, Renee would help us all by saying: "Jerry meant to say..."

And what happens when a more complicated issue arises -- e.g., an Iran Deal --where will JFNA be? I have a sneaking suspicion it won't be "taking a position." Just don't remind them.


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