Wednesday, December 6, 2017


This will be the end cap to my commentary on the 2017 GA, may it forever rest in peace. Those of you who have chastised me for my criticism rendered from afar, not having been there myself -- your points are well-taken. This Post, however, is different from those that went before...

I draw your attention to the speeches -- the Prime Minister's, along with the Q & A which followed, and Silverman's -- speeches that began the First Plenary, Jerry's, and closed the last Plenary, Bibi's. These events said so much about the sorry state of JFNA.

Jerry never disappoints -- from the cliche/jargon-driven approach ("deep dive," "longitudinal" and on and on --to a litany of challenges totally unsupported by even one JFNA initiative that would focus JFNA to, in Silverman's words to "...take on the tough issues of the day." When Jerry spoke of "no room for small dreams" he was really pointing to a JFNA where there is apparently plenty of room for no dreams. Jerry's address was all the more disappointing in its reiteration from prior speeches of "goals" like -- reduce the cost of Jewish affiliation, and free Jewish pre-school for all, etc. -- goals never followed up with any plans for implementation whatsoever. I would say that there should have been great disappointment and challenge, but this is Jerry's JFNA after all.

And, as the GA ended, the Prime Minister appeared on the big screen and offered himself as the PM of all Jews everywhere. It was Bibi at his best and,then again, not so much. At the close of the Prime Minister's brief remarks, Richard Sandler had the opportunity to question him. Sandler led off with a "as you know, we passed a Resolution" on the Kotel, asked Bibi what he would tell those in our communities who sense that they are not welcome in Israel. The Prime Minister responded with an almost total distortion of the history related to egalitarian access to the Kotel. Everyone in that audience knew that the Prime Minister had built his response on a false set of "facts."

Sandler's response to Bibi: "Thanks for the clarification." THANKS FOR THE CLARIFICATION!!!! And that was it -- given the chance to respectfully challenge the Prime Minister, Sandler could not, would not bring himself to do so for us...for us. Here was an opportunity for our leader to raise the serious questions about the impact on the Israel-Diaspora relationship raised by the Prime Minister's unilateral breach of the Kotel agreement and he could not/would not bring himself to do so. 

As I watched and listened I had the sense that the puerile questions that Sandler then posed were given Richard by the Prime Minister's Office: Iran, Israel's strengths and the ultimate: "what makes you most proud?"  Uri Blau and Jonathan Liss, writing in Haaretz,  observed: "Sandler's...questions were equally as fluffy and non-confrontational, and avoided challenging the prime minister on topics of key importance...

The "questions" were followed by thanks and a standing ovation and we'll see you in Tel Aviv for GA 2018. What a lost opportunity. Does anyone, including Sandler, believe that the Prime Minister's respect for our system and its leaders was enhanced by Sandler's refusal to raise serious issues?

Look, I would have loved it if for the moment Richard Sandler were Shoshana Cardin who, we all remember, as our Chair spoke truth to power when she challenged President George H. W. Bush for his suggestion that American Jews were a "fifth column." Instead, we stand by our Resolution -- that's all we need to do -- in silence and shame. 

A fitting ending to GA 2017 and to JFNA.




Anonymous said...

I was at the GA and I can't tell you how embarrassed I was at Sandler's pathetic brand of leadership. He owes all of us an apology rather than pontificating about the "futureof the Jewish People." Some say we get the leadership we deserve, but so we deserve this?

Anonymous said...

Richard, as one of your friends recently tweeted with regard to a different circumstance appropriate here: "(Sandler) is to (JFNA) as Nero was to Rome."

Anonymous said...

This was worse than Nero fiddling while Rome burns. Sandler's "acknowledgement" of President Trump's embrace of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, hiding behind a CJF Resolution over 20 years old shows an organzation without positions of its own. Cowardice is manifest.

Anonymous said...

The JFNA statement was too embarrassingly lame to include in this list. So, I leave it to the readers to find elsewhere in their inbox

But, Rick Jacobs comments stand out for their petulance. His anger with the current coalition government is seeping out and can potentially damage US Jewish support for Israel.

Anonymous said...

What a dumb remark, anon at 8:31. Do you expect everyone in the community to stand behind a President who has no strategy, no forethought and no real love or care for Israel? Sure the recognition of Jerusalem was the right thing in abstract. But only a mindless fool (or a regular reader of the Algemeiner) would demand an across-the-board praising of the President for this. Rick Jacobs just reflects what most of us actually feel. And his anger with the current coalition government had nothing to do with his statement.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that my federation - and many more like it - kept quiet yesterday. The last thing we need right now is a useless discussion on statements in reaction to this Administration. What JFNA sent out was exactly enough. And if you think -- anon 7:26 -- that Sandler's statement showed cowardice and a lack of position, then you clearly care more for the dangerous and reckless lunacy of the Trump Administration than you do for protecting our Federations. The blabberers and loudmouths who have been most vocal in their praise of the Administration this past day are, surprise surprise, precisely those organizations with the least invested in our communities.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. AIPAC ... IAC ... RJC ... strong statements of loud support from “community” organizations that don’t answer to the community. What’s their common denominator? Major Republican donors.

Anonymous said...

Returning to Richard's Post, Sandler and Silverman demonstrate an ability toignore all that is going on around them while plodding down theirroad toperpetual irrelevance. Silverman can cite Houston relef and D.C. grants and there it ends; and Sandler seems to be in a perpetual state of either denial or incognizance unworthy of the organization he claims to lead. Why the hell is this allowed to continue?

Anonymous said...

How are they ignoring? That's ridiculous. What do you expect a weak federated system to do over and above the constituent parts?

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is "ridiculous" that these two ignore all that is going on around them; all that JFNA is not doing. Your "constituent parts" throw $30 million in Dues annually at JFNA and ask for nothing in return. Now, that's "ridiculous."

RWEX said...

OK, folks. I just rejected a response to the last Comment. Enough with the two-person "dialogue" and the repetition.

Anonymous said...

Misguided then in their support of tradition

The "Trefa Banquet" was a dinner held on July 11, 1883 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Held in honor of the first graduating class of Hebrew Union College (including David Philipson, a major source on the event) and the delegates to the eighth annual meeting of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, it offended a number of guests by featuring non-kosher (treyf) foods.[1] It was a crucial event leading up to the split between Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism.[1]

The menu, which eschewed pork[2][3] but included other non-kosher foods such as littleneck clams, soft-shell crabs, shrimp, frog legs, as well as dairy-based desserts to follow the meat-based meal,[1] reflected the dining tendencies of Reform Jews at the time, who maintained the prohibition against pork but commonly ignored others, such as the one on shellfish.[2][3]

It is unlikely that Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise, the president of Hebrew Union College and leader of American Reform Judaism, was aware of the menu plans of the banquet committee.[1] However, he declined to apologize and condemn the banquet, and instead dismissed "kitchen Judaism" and argued that the dietary laws were obsolete and cheapened the religion in the eyes of others.[1][2]

Misguided during the war in their lack of support for European Jews

And completely misguided now in their disdain for Zionism.

With intermarriage rates over 80%, they should be focused internally, and not on demonstrating how they are always out of step with their people.

RWEX said...

I posted the last Comment only because the author clearly spent significant time and invested significant thought in writing it. I have to admit I don't understand it. Maybe that's just me.

Anonymous said...

Can I suggest that you please refrain from posting on Shabbat.

Given that the subject of your blog is the organized Jewish community, I assume you would believe that Federations should hold Kosher events and not conduct business on the Sabbath.

If so, shouldn't you respect that subject you write about with such passion and your readers by having a formal day of rest from this subject, even if you do not personally observe the Sabbath.

It is no different - and I tread trepiditiously with this analogy given prior week's posts - the secular officials of the Israeli government observing Sabbath and Kashruth in their official capacities outside of the country.

Anonymous said...

To anon 4:26

Let's add JFNA, Council of President's, JNF, and most local Federations to that list

RWEX said...

Responding to the Anon. 12/10 at 9:21 p.m., asking me to refrain from publishing on Shabbat:

My methodology is simple: I write these Posts well in advance (sometimes interrupting that sequence with a more urgent Post subject matter) scheduling publication every 3 days. Thus, some are published automatically on Shabbat. I don't as a rule write Posts on Shabbat.