Friday, November 25, 2016


Not to mix metaphors or anything, can an organization with its head in the sand also be afraid of its own shadow? For JFNA the answer is a clear..."sure." 

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:
"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."
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.

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.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 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.


paul jeser said...

I agree with everything Richard writes, HOWEVER (isn't there always a 'however'?)....

Why just point out uber-right wing groups - why not the same deliberation, dialogue, disgust, action, about the many racist, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel uber-left wing groups?

i.e., SJP, BLM, some of whose members' actions deserve the same scrutiny and response. And there are other groups on the left that fit into the same category.

For sure, unscientific, but I'd guess the percentage of those on the left whose actions are unacceptable and deserve strong criticism is not much different than the percentage of those on the right.

Anonymous said...

To anon 8:41 AM

I wouldn't guess as to the percentage, I would state definitely that anti-semitism and hate speech from the left is equal to or greater than the right.

Where was Robert complaining about the anti-semitism in Black Lives Matter or the increasing anti-Israel stature of the Democratic Party to name but a meager few?

Are we not more worried about the likely incoming chair of the Democratic Party whose hostility towards Israel makes the last 8 years look like a party?

Anonymous said...

Whatever your feelings may be about BLM pertaining to Israel, that is far from the main focus of that organization. The overall ideas of that group have great resonance with significant portions of the Jewish community. It speaks truth to power--it would be a terrible mistake to dismiss the many valid points made by it just because there are disagreements on its attitudes towards Israel.

There is little (I'm being charitable) to nothing, on the other hand, to recommend the alt-right folks to anyone in the Jewish community.

Anonymous said...

After everything you have shared about Jerry & Co, do I really want them representing me ethically or morally?

Do they stand for anything that I want them representing me to the broader community?

Can't we rely on the ADL (oops they just went completely partisan by hiring an Obama lackey who only targets the right wing), or the Conference of Presidents (well Jerry sits on that, doesn't he?) or...

RWEX said...

Friends, today's Post purposely pointed only to "hate speech," not to the source of hate speech, and explicitly stated that public statements should not be about organizations or individuals, but must be a rejection of hate speech regardless of the source. I will publish no further Comments about organizations or publications which may or ay not be a source of hate, anti-semitism or anti-Israel rhetoric.

Please stay focused.

Anonymous said...

To anon 9am

I wouldn't want them speaking for me on which diner to go to for breakfast today

RWEX said...

Let me repeat, friends: I am going to reject (and have already rejected) any and every Comment that cites an individual or organization that proffers hate speech or anti-semitism. I have already deleted more Comments than I have ever rejected to a single Post. Obviously, some will point to this reality to the difficulty JFNA or the federations face in framing Statements against anti-semitic or hate speech as many will attempt to ascribe such speech to left or right, to "him," "her" or "it." But Chicago has done so, others will as well.

And, some organizations will do nothing...nothing at all.

Anonymous said...

And why isn't anon 9:22 also hate speech?
It is certainly snide and nasty.

Or your tirades agains the JFNA professional and lay leadership considered hate speech?

Even if they are incompetent and squandering assets, is there not a more respectful manner of discussing their inadequacies for leadership roles in the community?

But more importantly, what is your prescription for change?

What means of practically bringing about change do you propose?

Anonymous said...


Please refer your readers to Alan Dershowitz's excellent comments on this subject

Anonymous said...

To the Anonymous at 9:32 am. Your snark is misplaced. Richard has time and again prescribed possible remedies to the abject failure that JFNA has been allowed to become by people just like you. Take a look at the full body of work instead of taking shots at the author, It's to Wexler's credit that he publishes Comments like yours and mine.

Anonymous said...

You may have read a column in the Jerusalem Post that urged JFNA essentially to "stay out of it" out of fear that government grants would be lost were JFNA to speak out. I would guess that the author is using that column in his job application to JFNA. Remember the name: Shai Franklin, who is somehow affiliated with an organization, The Institute on Religion and Public Policy, that has not filed a 990 since 2011 and may have nominated itself twice for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

That's not what the column says.

Anonymous said...

Where there are no values, no direction and no content, silence is probably the best way to go.
If there is nothing there it is best that nothing be said because whatever is said has no credibility anyway.

Anonymous said...

When our institutions, federations and its umbrella organization, are silent in the face of hate speech and anti-semitism, we ought to think about the message we are sending our children and grandchildren. Our generations have always said that we, unlike our parents and-or grandparents would not mirror the silence that characterized their generations in the 1930s and 1940s. Yet, here we are, too many of our institutions and, certainly, JFNA cower in silence like it's the 1930s and 1940s all over again.

If we can't take pride in our institutions, we will soon have no use for them.

Thanks, Richard. for your voice on this.

RWEX said...

New Rule: if you wish to attack a Commentator who has used his/her name, you must use your name. Period.

Anonymous said...

Does Richard Sandler get it from his perch in LA? Readers of this Blog know that he's not asking you, Richard, for advice. Does he get advice from anyone beyond the usual sycophants who are all members of the hear, see and speak nothing at all? Does he even ask Sanderson, his former LA Exec for any insights? He's wasting his time and ours right now. while JFNA is wasting millions of dollars during his terms.

Anonymous said...

If you hear anti-semitism you condemn it; if you hear hate speech, you condemn. What the helll is so hard about that?

Anonymous said...

Sandler has made it very clear, both as LA board chair, and now at JFNA, that he has delegated ALL to the professionals. Expecting him to do anything during his term of office has the same probability as Trump nominating Obama to the Supreme Court.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't we be far more concerned with

Or is this strictly a demonstration of Chicago Democratic fealty? (A side note, the most corrupt jurisdiction in America)

Anonymous said...

Given the experiences over many years why would there be any expectation of JFNA doing the right thing in any circumstance calling for institutional action? There is clearly a belief among JFNA's so-called leaders that staying silent, always on the sidelines, is the safe thing and safety is the path always chosen. Sandler can give speeches about the Jewish values we cherish but when it comes time to assert those values he's happy to just stick his head in the sand. Because that's the safe place to be.

Anonymous said...

JFNA isn't cowering in silence, Anon 2:40. That's ridiculous. You know that our community is deeply divided. So what do you expect? That JFNA and our federations rush around like headless chickens mouthing off shocked statements over presidential appointments just to appease our armchair activists?

RWEX said...

This last Comment forces me to question the writer's reading comprehension. The Comment to which he/she refers cited "hate speech" not statements about individual "presidential appointments." Perhaps the organization this Anonymous Commentator loves for its silence can't tell the difference either.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:27pm here. My comprehension's just fine thank you. I also know that for the last three weeks, one man's (or woman's) hate speech is another wo/man's presidential appointment. At least that's what we hear in our community. I bet in yours too. If you listen.

RWEX said...

Try reading my community's statement on hate speech. If you could read and understand, you would have found it in my Post.

RWEX said...

Every once in a while I find it necessary to remind some of our readers that this is my Blog. You may criticize what I've written but it's not a real good idea to just insult me and expect to be published. That's just the way it is.