Sunday, September 4, 2016

THE GA 2016

Here we go again...

The flood of promotions for the November GA has already begun, the kind of hyperbole that has typified the way the folks at 25 Broadway have attempted to "sell" this thing for the past seven years.

So, instead of substance, these leaders continue to market the General Assembly as if it were a pair of Dockers -- they try to sell the non-existent "sizzle" when they should be focused on the substance. But...they...just...can't. And the preliminary Program for the 2016 Assembly looks excellent, by the way, if, in the main, excellent for the professional community above all. Perhaps the folks running the GA should take a lesson from JNF. All  they need start with is the Program for its National Conference 2016.
Then they might attend the JNF Conference -- it's next week.* 

With JFNA and our GA however, first, came the "Save the Dates" from the Co-Chairs. They are appropriate and welcoming. Then come the hyperbolic mentions in the joke that is FEDWorld. Of these, the most needlessly hysterical is the announcement that Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (more about Rabbi Sacks, later) will be one of "130+ other noted speakers from around the world." These "130+" are apparently known only to those at 25 Broadway in charge of the hype, because they appear nowhere on the GA Website -- oh, sure, joining Rabbi Sacks, are Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and NBC's brilliant anchor of Meet the Press, Chuck Todd, and author Bruce Feiler (who is also presenting to JNF, BTW) and a number of others including a film director**,  but only at JFNA does  20 equal 130, just as 700 lay registrants equals 3,000. (I'm sure that just as last year the final program will identify close to 130 "speakers," many of whom will not speak.) There are some wonderful speakers in this first list; I'll leave it to all of you to decide if the roster is attractive enough to attract you to Washington (again).

And, then, there is Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. In response to an earlier Post, several of you noted that, given Rabbi Sacks well-documented outbursts as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, he should never have been invited to keynote the GA of and for the federations; his incredible intellect, powerful voice and receipt of the Templeton Prize notwithstanding. My friends have a point.

In announcing the Templeton Prize, Rabbi Sacks was characterized as:
"Central to his message is appreciation and respect of all faiths, with an emphasis that recognizing the values of each is the only path to effectively combat the global rise of violence and terrorism."
And few have offered as many quotes on values and tolerance and civil discourse than he. But, then, there is the reality that while he served as Chief Rabbi, he sometimes demonstrated the same lack of tolerance of non-Orthodox Movements as have multiple Chief Rabbis in Israel. Examples in the London press?
1. "...he denounced the much admired Reform rabbi and Auschwitz survivor Hugo Gryn as "among those who destroy the faith" – which produced a furore both in the Jewish world and in the national press. The outcry lasted months..." 
          2. "The JFS (the Jewish Free School) debacle, when a Jewish school under the chief rabbi's authority tried to bar a non-Orthodox Jewish child was yet another example of self-generated communal discord." 

In the wake of the attack on Rabbi Gryn there were calls for Rabbi Lord Sacks resignation. One critic observed: ""Clearly, the Chief Rabbi no longer represents all Jews and speaks only for the Orthodox sector,"

Of course the question arises whether CEO Jerry, he who only a few weeks ago preached his own sermonette on the need for tolerance and civility had any idea that Rabbi Sacks hasn't exactly been a paragon of either. Then, again, maybe Jerry just didn't understand or didn't care -- after all it can't hurt, some might think, to bask in the reflected glory of a Templeton Prize winner.
Once again the GA is not off to the best start. This time there is the hope that the excellent lay Co-Chairs will assert themselves in an attempt to assure that the GA will not just be one designed by and for professionals, but will have a broad appeal to lay and professional "registrants" alike.  You know -- like it once was.


* Perhaps, JFNA should invite its Negev Task Force to the JNF event so that they might understand what substantive programs for the Negev are all about.
** Only the GA promotors at JFNA could think that announcing that an "Haredi film director" will prompt a spate of Registrants


Anonymous said...

The Lobdon Times reported that Rabbi Sacks would later draw some criticism when he and his Beth Din prevented the retired Rabbi Louis Jacobs, who had helped establish the British branch of the Masorti [Conservative] movement, from being called up for the Reading of the Torah on the Saturday before his granddaughter's wedding.

This is reason enough for me to pass on the GA. To invite a cobtreversial speaker is one thing. To give top billing to a speaker who did not support pluralism in his own community is entirely something else again.

What do these people on Broadway think? Is he such a magnet that he will increase attendance? Does he have huge technical knowledge to inform the work of Federations? Do they think the words "Chief Rabbi" will impress us?

I hereby nominate Jerry as Chief Rabbi of London. Please go soon.

Anonymous said...

Inviting Rabbi Sacks would be a travesty and a slap in the face to the Reform movement. Why is JFNA doing this?

Anonymous said...

Take a look at the hot mess of an agenda that comes from JNF next week. They are running after every donor and every issue, without any understanding of what they used to stand for and what their core mission used to be. To call this a "substantive" program is to confuse qualitative substance with indiscriminate pandering.
(I'm not defending the GA here. I just don't see the JNF conference as serious or anything other than a fundraising sham).

Anonymous said...

To Anon at 3:17 - it wasn't just the Jacobs issue. More tragic and perverse was the Gryn issue, and the lies to cover it up.

Anonymous said...

The leaders of JFNA must believe that we are as stupid as they inasmuch as there can be no other reason to have invited Sacks to the GA as a featured speaker, one whom they promote as an "attraction" when the mere knowledge of his insults to non-Orthodox Jews will just keep more of us away and further demean the already diminished JFNA in the eyes of those who used to think they were the constituency.

Anonymous said...

Re Sacks: also his shunning of intermarried families in the community; his complete disregard for anything/anyone with a pluralistic agenda.

Not to defend JFNA, but on this one, the decision to include His Lordship sits squarely on the shoulders of the co-chair. Her decision alone.

Anonymous said...

That is unbelievable -- another lay "leader" who makes a measurably irrational demand while totally transparently aspiring to JFNA's highest office. You can't trust Jerry and you can't trust the lay leadership, what's left?

Anonymous said...

This is a moment for the Board Chair to demonstrate his, so far, hidden leadership. Find a polite and respectful way to withdraw the invitation to His Lordship. No doubt too much to expect.

Anonymous said...

Rabbi Sacks called Masorti Jews "intellectual thieves" and condemned them as "severing links with the faith of their ancestors". Why on earth would he be invited to speak at the GA?

Anonymous said...

Any JFNA board chair exercise leadership? That's either an oxymoron or a good Purim spiel.

Anonymous said...

Inviting Rabbi Sacks to speak at the GA in anything other than a mixed forum of broad opinion is reason enough to dismiss Jerry.

I hereby launch the movement:

Dockers, shmockers: Dump Jerry Silverman

Anonymous said...

Inviting Sacks is reason enough to not go to the GA. If I want to be told that my Jewish identity and practice are unacceptable I can stay at home and have my local intolerant orthodox rabbis attack me for free.

RWEX said...

Friends, I, like you, am waiting for someone at JFNA to defend the choice of Sacks as a GA Speaker. As with all things JFNA, they believe themselves to be beyond criticism.

Anonymous said...

Please look closely at the GA program. You will see that Rabbi Google has been invited to speak but no other real live American rabbis are invited to speak or to participate in any significant way in the plenary sessions or the breakout sessions. Once again, while all American Jewish organizations reach out to the American rabbinate and court rabbinic participation in their programs and national gatherings JFNA does not. Where once there was a JFNA Rabbinic Cabinet and a rabbinic track at the GA now JFNA ignores American rabbis. This is a mistake that will carry over far into the future.

Anonymous said...

And where is Mr. Everybody Just Needs to Get Along Silverman? Has gone into the hole he normally finds when confronted with a grievous error? We know he believes that on all matters this guy believes that the safest path is the one that makes no waves, never pushes back and, when faced wit5h a difficult choice, makes none.

Where is Jerry? In hiding of course; hiding in this case from even expressing his normal platitudes.