Sunday, September 3, 2017


1. It's really hard to keep up with Yechiel Eckstein, founder and President, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. Not satisfied with raising and allocating $140 million a year for good works and significant (make that amazing) compensation and controversy, our friend Yechiel now has a foreign policy!! Yes, The Forward bannered a headline: Yechiel Eckstein Sides with Saudis Against Qatar.  In my last face-to-face meeting with Yechiel he told me he had no further interest in publicity for himself. 

2. Two months ago the World Champion Chicago Cubs sent one of their heroes of the 2016 World Series to the minor leagues. At the time Kyle Schwarber was hitting .174. Schwarber agreed he needed to be "sent down." Contrast and compare with JFNA hanging on to its CEO and President who has remained a minor leaguer struggling in the big leagues since his engagement eight years ago. Trust me, believe what you have seen, Jerry Silverman isn't even batting .174.

3. In the aftermath of the public outcry over the Prime Minister's decision to breach the agreement that would have created an egalitarian prayer space adjacent to the Western Wall and to support an egregious power grab by the ultra-Orthodox parties that would impact on conversions performed by any other than Haredi-appointed Rabbis, strange pronouncements flowed from the the creative pens of JFNA and Federation media. For example: in the ever more ridiculous FedWorld a headline trumpeted: "Agreement may have been reached on conversions in Israel:" and in a federation on-line update: "After Diaspora outcry, Israeli conversion bill on hold" -- the former, hopeful hyperbole, the latter a prime example of self-congratulatory hyperbole. This kind of bloviation suggests that the federations and their supposed Continental organization are ready to "declare victory and withdraw from the field." If so, shame on us...again. If we as a North American Jewish polity don't keep our eye on the ball, then the fingers will point at us and our relevance will be nonexistent, the place JFNA appears to have been aiming for anyway. (More on this subject in a sad commentary on JFNA's fearless silence on our behalf.)

4. Maybe it's just me but were I running JFNA (!!??) here are two of many things I would have done: 

  • Organized a small Solidarity visit to the Jewish community of Charlottesville, Virginia after the atrocities of the weekend of August 12;
  • Seen to it that there was a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and a Mission there to observe the occasion -- 
Yep, two things instead of -- NOTHING!! 

5. While JFNA fiddled federations, national anf international agencies eloquently rejected the President's allegation that there was some bizarre moral equivalency between the Nazis, KKK and White Supremacists and their victims. One of the best responses , I'm proud to report, came from the NCESJ in the following Statement:

WASHINGTON, D.C. August 18, 2017

TO: NCSEJ Leadership and Interested Parties

FROM: Daniel Rubin, Chairman;
Alexander Smukler, President;
Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice-Chairman & CEO
Dear Friend,

The tragic events in Charlottesville last weekend have shown us that the ideologies of Nazism and radical hate groups are very much alive in the United States today. As an organization that confronts Holocaust denial, historic revisionism, and the rise of neo-Nazi and ultra-right political groups in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, NCSEJ is deeply disturbed by last week’s display of neo-Nazi symbols, speech, and violence in our own country.

There is no form of moral equivalency that can downplay the severity of the history of Nazism and the spread of neo-Nazi ideology. This is a problem NCSEJ confronts when working with foreign governments to take an honest assessment of their own history with Nazi Germany. We insist these governments recognize that there is no acceptable form of moral equivalency when trying to rationalize or justify past governments' or citizens' collaboration with the Nazis. The same is true when facing neo-Nazism in the United States today.

There was no moral equivalency then, there is no moral equivalency today; it was immoral after the Holocaust and it is immoral today.

Our country has been a global standard-bearer for human rights. America must neither deploy a misguided understanding of history nor abdicate its responsibility to stand up to all forms of hatred and bigotry."
If JFNA had any sense of shame, its leaders would be ashamed.

6. I was amused disappointed to read the Itinerary for the poorly attended FRD Leadership Mission and learn that the multiple JFNA presentations to the Community Campaign Chairs and FRD lead professionals were conducted by a part-time JFNA consultant described as a "philanthropic scholar" -- and I mused "couldn't these have been led by someone who has actually solicited major gifts from lay leaders?" And, then, I thought: "No."

7. And one can always rely on FedCentral for an amusing ask or two. Recently one question raised a critical issue that I had never thought about:  what pre-Mission reading would one suggest to "keep donors engaged on mission flights?" Think about how you would answer this question...


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