Friday, March 3, 2017


All of us...every one of us...have been touched in some terrible way by the bomb threats against over 100 Jewish Community Centers around the Continent, the continuing desecration of Jewish cemeteries, the anti-semitic vandalism -- all of these evident hate crimes and, worse, the deterioration of the historic tolerance that is such a vital part of our democracy. Our daughter, a senior JCC professional has been vacated with her fellow pros, parents, children and babies in the face of one threat; your children have been evacuated in others; your grandchildren in even more; the headstones of family and friends knocked down; your synagogue defaced with swastikas and feces.

And what is being done? At the national level, the Secure Community Network, a woefully underfunded creation of JFNA, has responded with excellent defensive advice as to how to evacuate, who to contact when threats are delivered and is working, as I have been told, "...with the highest levels at the FBI and Homeland Security." And, I guess, that's fine; it is what it is. We were all gratified today when the FBI announced the arrest of one criminal who appeared to be both a copycat and one pursuing a very personal vendetta.* 

At the end of the day if we as a community can't rely on local law enforcement, the FBI and Homeland Security, that would be an American tragedy. And Senator Schumer has demanded that the FCC issue a waiver to enable the escalating threatening calls to the JCCs to be more easily traced, assuring greater scrutiny on the actions or inactions of that agency.

And, while JFNA has remained silent, the JCPA answered the call with not just a "Statement" but with specific action recommendations:
"Washington DC – The ongoing bomb threats aimed at Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) have sown fear in more than 100 Jewish communities and institutions across the country. “We call upon our public officials, in both word and deed, to do everything in their power to put a stop to these threats and incidents,” stated David Bernstein, President and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). 

“We are heartened and appreciative that President Trump gave this issue top billing in his speech before Congress last night,” stated Cheryl Fishbein, Chair of the JCPA. “We urge the President to continue to speak out against these threats against the Jewish community and other minority groups in a timely and decisive manner.”

“Our public officials can create an environment in which such incidents are more or less likely to occur,” stated Bernstein. “The more our officials declare a commitment to an inclusive, bigotry-free society, the more likely radical elements will be kept in check.”

On Monday alone more than 30 JCCs received bomb threats, a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia was desecrated and swastikas were found on playgrouds and sprayed on cars in several cities.  For some of these JCCs, this was the fourth or fifth threat received by these institutions in the past couple of months. Since January, there have been 101 threats to the Jewish community, including bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers, day schools, and communal organizations.

Shockingly, hate crimes against African Americans, Muslims, minorities, and immigrants topped 1,000 during the same period.

In addition to issuing clear public statements, there is much more work to be done.  We urge the President, the Attorney General, and the FBI to spare no resources to investigate these new threats and bring the culprits to justice.

We also call for implementation of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) anti-hate recommendations:
  • Convene a federal inter-agency task force on Fighting Hate that brings together all the relevant agencies
  • Appoint a White House coordinator for Fighting Hate
  • Support federal and state-level legislation to protect students from increasing religious harassment and discrimination on college campuses
  • Train state and local law enforcement agencies led by the Department of Justice on how to handle hate crimes, including detection and response
We urge Jewish community institutions to reinforce a sense of safety and not allow these highly disruptive threats to deter participation in Jewish life." 
Thanks to the efforts of JFNA-Washington, our communities and our institutions have received millions, tens of millions, in security grants, grants that are deployed to protect our families and buildings. Yet, the hate crimes of the past months have been designed to instill fear in a community that has been exempt from hatred and fear for decade after decade. 

And, yet, other than the security grants, what we as a Jewish community have been doing has been reactive not proactive. It is as if we are helpless, we are victims. One of the Friends of the Blog had a suggestion:
"If the Federation system wants to do something that will capture the attention of the community it should offer a $100,000 reward for the capture and successful prosecution of those involved in making the JCC bomb threats (and other hate attacks on our communal institutions).”
This strikes me as both proactive and doable; and, yet, this suggestion has fallen upon deaf ears. Perhaps one of you could explain why this idea has been rejected. There does seem to be debate about the efficacy of rewards but the evidence certainly suggests that, as we say, at worst "it couldn't hurt" and in a significant percentage of instances, such a reward offering has helped tremendously in the pursuit of criminals. See, e.g., 

An Anonymous Commentator went even further with the idea proactivity, suggesting JFNA show some leadership, recognizing that the vandalism and desecration of our cemeteries and synagogues is a disaster and helping fund the curative and restorative efforts on-going. 
Has anyone at JFNA even thought about doing something positive and impactful?

The Federations/JFNA may be disinterested in offering a reward in pursuit of the criminals/terrorists who have assaulted our institutions. These are the same leaders who won't give up the annual GA for fear that "others" would step into the claimed "void" that would thereby be created; the ones who trumpet our communal centrality; but back away from an affirmative act that would assert, in one small but critical way, that centrality. And, of course, other organizations will step into this void and more will ask "why should we trust our own organizations?" That's sad, very sad.

The attacks on our communal and religious system have exposed us to an unreasoned hatred we thought was behind us as Americans and American Jews. If we are as strong as we believe our communal institutions to be, it is not enough to sit back and let others protect us without joining in the effort in some proactive way is it? Isn't that what our constituents want? 


* There was a meeting of Jewish organizations today at which (1) the organizations expressed gratitude and appreciation for the FBI's work in this matter and (2) JFNA Jerry was in the room where it happened and the photo-op. I'll leave it to you to judge if JFNA-Washington could have been there while Silverman did...oh, never mind.


Anonymous said...

How ironic that you would mention other organizations stepping into the void. How about other faiths stepping into the void aka the Muslim community?

paul jeser said...

The suggestions above, although pointed in the right direction, are not enough - by a long shot.

Even with Federal, State and local government action, our International and National Jewish Organizations MUST take the lead. We MUST show that fighting anti-Semitism is our number one priority.

There must be an immediate international meeting of all major organizations, convened by the World Jewish Congress and the Conference of Presidents, representing the International and American Jewish communities, to develop an immediate plan of action. If we do not do this we will be publicly saying that this is not the number one crises that it has become.

It is time to stop talking. It is time to start acting!

Dan Brown said...

Neither the World Jewish Congress nor the Conference of Presidents represent the majority of American Jews.

Anonymous said...

As sometimes seems to happen with Paul, I think he missed the point. The post was about lack of response of JFNA and suggesting that unless they do step up with some action like a reward or even using some of their emergency funds to assist the now three cemeteries that have been damaged, other organizations will fill the void. Anon 7:15 seems to be echoing Richard's comment by suggesting that the Muslim community has begun to fill part of that void by raising funds to help the cemeteries.

paul jeser said...

Dan Brown - The CoP sure does represent American Jews - at least those affiliated American Jews. Which organization do you think represents American Jews?

Anonymous said...

No organization represents American Jews. It is delusional to think otherwise. The CoP (perhaps) represents the organizations that make up its membership. Those organizations ostensibly represent their members. A minority of American Jews are members of these organizations, and I'd venture only a fraction of these members actually see these organizations as entrusted to advocate in their name.
In my community of 40000-45000 Jews, on a good day there are 4,000 donors to federation, and federation has the largest "member" (in this case donor, and I'm being generous by calling donors members for these purposes).

Does anyone else see the comedy behind the idea of taking action meaning convening a meeting to develop a plan?

The ADL has been fighting anti-Semitism since 1913. So after 113 years now there needs to be a meeting? Do any of the organizations that would be involved in this Big Meeting have any expertise whatsoever in fighting anti-Semitism? And how exactly will any of these groups, even the ADL, counter the bomb threats and other criminal anti-Semitic acts? The individuals and groups perpetrating these acts aren't exactly inclined to enroll in A World of Difference. The alleged perpetrator recently apprehended by law would he be stopped by this plan of action developed by Jewish organizations.

Much of the recent anti-Semitic activity we've witnessed has been criminal. In fact, a recent Pew study shows Jews continue to be viewed warmly ( This is not to dismiss the anti-Semitic threats and activities. But these are more of a job for law enforcement.

Anonymous said...

It is more than remarkable that JFNA has nothing to say on our collective behalf about these atrocities delivered upon the Jewish communities> We need our organization to stand tall; instead JFNA leaders cower at the thought of any positive expression on our behalf while its Chair delivers inanities about political matters and the CEO believes that sitting at a meeting with Director Comes is something wed need him to do.

JFNA is out to lunch all of the time.