This is not a plea for JFNA to speak out about a politician or a President-elect's Senior Strategist, etc. We will leave it to others to do that. This is a plea that JFNA stand for something on issues of the greatest importance to us, our communities, our values.
I'm proud of my own federation whose Board Chair and CEO/President issued a call against hatred just days ago:
"As Jews, we take seriously our responsibility to speak out against hatred, not only because the security of our own community is intertwined with that of other minority communities, but also because our moral values, as Jews and as Americans, demand it,”And, one day later the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago issued A Statement: We Condemn White Nationalist Rhetoric. And JFNA, my friends? It can't even bring itself to condemn hate speech...silence.
Another federation, which shall remain unnamed as it goes through a thoughtful and purpose-driven process, has articulated a basic principle. Its CEO wrote communal leadership and included the following:
All organizations should surely have a process with which to engage on issues impacting on Jewish, on communal values...and having followed that process, "...make statements on things that matter" as an expression of inclusion, as an expression of our values. At JFNA, we debate the words in a letter, otherwise...silence."Here’s the most important thing I want to reiterate: we’re a divided community. If we write off significant numbers of our community and alienate them without discussion and without inclusive dialogue we don’t get to call ourselves pluralistic, diverse and tolerant. Does that mean we never make statements on things that matter? No. It means that we’re respectful, careful, and mindful of the impact of what we say. And before we make those statements we remember their impact, and we talk with those who disagree with us."
Many federations and federation leaders have spoken publicly and in a wholly civil manner against bigotry, bias and hatred passing for "political speech" today. But, JFNA being JFNA...silence.
This is not to suggest that our institutions express a constant outrage but to urge that they do so at those matters that demean Jewish values and the things we value as a Jewish polity.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum did not remain silent. A Museum statement called on all Americans “to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech,” reminding all of us of an undeniable truth — “[T]he Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words.” But, from JFNA...silence.
I don't know about you, but I expect my/our organization to not rely upon others to speak on my/our behalf. When the New York Times reports that at an “alt-right” Washington rally held in a government building on November 18, the crowd screamed “Heil…Victory” amid Nazi salutes and cries of "Sieg Heil," don't we have an expectation that our organization will say "this is intolerable." and speak out against hate, not expect others to do so on their behalf? But, from JFNA, our JFNA...silence.
Friends, opposition to hatred and bigotry isn't a matter of controversy...except, apparently, at JFNA. I expect JFNA TO SPEAK FOR US...US...when hatred and bigotry raise their ugliness in the public space.
There is no explaining this silence at this time...at any time...when our values are threatened, when they are under attack. No explanation at all. How can we take pride in an organization that believes it's best to sit on the sidelines when action is needed.
P.S. This Post is neither intended to encourage JFNA to issue statements condemning individuals where inappropriate nor to refrain from doing so where appropriate. In that light, I never read the JTA piece attributed to JFNA a quote which allegedly "attacked" Bannon; I did read the "retraction" wherein JFNA threw an unnamed "consultant" under the bus for speaking where unauthorized to do so.