‘Forward’ says B’nai Jeshurun retrenched on Palestine statement under pressure from wealthy donors

Israel/Palestine
on 40 Comments

On December 4 the NYT broke the B’nai Jeshurun rabbis’ brave statement in support of the Palestine upgrade at the UN, and it became the most emailed story of the day. After that the progressive rabbis backed off somewhat from their statement, and issued a clarification saying they were passionate lovers of Israel and that they apologized for not consulting with others before issuing the original statement. The Forward says that Rabbi Rolando Matalon read a further apology to the congregation from the pulpit a week ago.

Reporters Seth Berkman and Larry Cohler-Esses looked into the pressure on the progressive rabbis, and they chalk it up to wealthy donors:

The rabbis’ [subsequent] apology from the pulpit took place as a group of B’nai Jeshurun members was organizing to press the synagogue to establish clear policies on the rabbis’ future freedom to speak out unilaterally on public issues.

Sally Gottesman, a vice president of the synagogue board who supports the rabbis’ stand, indicated she thought the group, which reportedly includes some important donors, was having an impact. “I think they are putting on real pressure,” she said. “Minority voices often know how to make their voices heard. As they say, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Gottesman stressed that she was addressing the issue only in her personal capacity as a congregation member, not in her official role with the synagogue board.

Marvin Davis, who is a Manhattan real estate mogul and one of the reported key members of the ad hoc group, declined to comment on the matter when reached by the Forward.

Another individual involved with the group, who would speak only on condition of anonymity, described it as an informal “group of wealthy people.”

This is the tragedy of Zionism in American Jewish life. The most powerful segment of the community is the older, conservative wealthy portion, the folks who haven’t studied the issue since 1973. The young Jews who organize against Birthright don’t have money, don’t have clout. This is why Obama ran away from the settlements question with his hair on fire and tried to get to the right of Romney during the general election, money. This kind of story only makes the Follow the money story more important. Hat’s off to the Forward.

40 Responses

  1. Mooser
    December 21, 2012, 12:46 pm

    A disorganised religion.

  2. Les
    December 21, 2012, 2:05 pm

    But, is it reasonable to believe that all wealthy Jews think the same? Our media implies that that’s exactly the case.

    • Annie Robbins
      December 21, 2012, 3:24 pm

      Our media implies that that’s exactly the case.

      not really. what our msm media implies (well, the nyt, not the forward) is they either lack sufficient cajones to be truthful and/or agree with the wealthy jewish donors and are therefore in cahoots with them.

  3. seafoid
    December 21, 2012, 2:32 pm

    It is such a mess. It looks like rich Jews using their money to ensure certain people are shafted and nobody does anything about it. Reminds me of a book .

    • sardelapasti
      December 21, 2012, 3:42 pm

      seafoid – “Reminds me of a book .”

      “… Sinful pride, of course, like Jeshurun who waxed fat and kicked, but there you are.”

      PG Wodehouse, Spring Fever

      • Mooser
        December 23, 2012, 1:54 pm

        “PG Wodehouse, Spring Fever”

        My brother! We shall bond to each other, as with hoops of steel, like what’s-his-name and thing-a-ma-jig! Sardeplasti, about this I am adamant! And when I say “adamant” I mean, well, I mean to say… you know, adamant!
        It’s obvious you won a prize for Scripture Knowledge at school. How, we will not say, but you won it.

      • sardelapasti
        December 23, 2012, 10:20 pm

        Hushhh, bro. I get censored enough as it is…

      • Mooser
        December 24, 2012, 1:21 pm

        “Hushhh, bro. I get censored enough as it is…”

        Sardelpasti, I wish I had your problem. Did you know that three or four times as many comments appear under my name than I actually write? It’s driving me crazy!

    • Mooser
      December 23, 2012, 1:58 pm

      “It looks like rich Jews using their money to ensure certain people are shafted”

      So maybe we should hold the Services in some drafty storefront or basement? You think we don’t deserve beautiful, well kept up facilities? You want us to end up like all those Holy Rollers with their music and Hammond Organs?

      • Mooser
        December 23, 2012, 4:19 pm

        Sorry Seafoid, I don’t know what gets into me (sure) but maybe this article indicates a sort of fault in the way the Jewish religion is paid for, financed, whatever you want to call it. It certainly indicates to me that any institution run in this way, where wealthy donors can have a stranglehold on the spiritual consensus of a congregation, is at risk for corruption, religious corruption at the very least.
        As it relates to the rest of the discussion I’ve been forcing: who can you say that an “institution” run in this way, and then with all the persecutory exigencies Jews suffered, and the lack of communication, made an informed choice in embracing Zionism. I find that idea hard to swallow. They were capable of murdering Arabs, but not of deceiving Jews? Sorry, can’t see it.
        I guess it comes down to whether you’d rather be the schlemiel or the schlimazel, which is not a fun choice, when the stakes are this big.
        I better go. I start shaking when I try and talk directly, wondering what massive mistake I am making.

  4. atime forpeace
    December 21, 2012, 4:11 pm

    The Israel project is a powerful force.
    Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

  5. DICKERSON3870
    December 21, 2012, 6:07 pm

    RE: “This is the tragedy of Zionism in American Jewish life. The most powerful segment of the community is the older, conservative wealthy portion, the folks who haven’t studied the issue since 1973. The young Jews who organize against Birthright don’t have money, don’t have clout.” ~ Weiss

    “TAKE IT AWAY”, JOEY: “Fire Foxman”, by Joey Kurtzman, Jewcy, 07/08/07

    [EXCERPT] . . . What’s surprising is how unabashedly forthright Abraham Foxman has become about what motivates him and his institution [the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)]. In October of 2005, Foxman addressed a classroom of Jewish students at New York University. Young heads nodded and brows furrowed as Foxman riled them with his customary rhetoric: Isn’t it antisemitic for pro-Palestinian groups to seek divestment only from Israel, ignoring the far greater crimes of regimes like Sudan or North Korea? How do we describe this sort of selective flagellation of the world’s only Jewish state, if not as antisemitism?
    “What if the campus Free Tibet club campaigned for divestment from China? Would that be anti-Chinese bigotry?” asked Asaf Shtull-Trauring, a 20-year-old student and conscientious objector from the Israeli army.
    Of course not, answered Foxman
    , but it was preposterous to compare the two conflicts, what with the Jews’ experience of two millennia of murderous persecution. Shtull-Trauring responded with two questions: Did Foxman mean that selective treatment is okay so long as it’s not directed at Jews? And where did the Anti-Defamation League get off telling Jewish university students which opinions about Israel were acceptable and which verboten?
    The dialogue spiraled into a confrontation. Shtull-Trauring says Foxman, frustrated and under attack, placed his cards on the table, angrily retorting: “I don’t represent you nor the Jewish community! I represent the donors.”
    Foxman’s outburst was surprising not because of its content, but because of its candor. Foxman needn’t bother himself with the trifling concerns of American Jews who happen not to be multimillionaire philanthropists. If he makes the Jewish community less appealing to young Jews, if his theatrics turn us off and turn us away, that’s all beside the point. Foxman’s job is to keep the millionaire benefactors happy: the rest of us can go jump in the Kinneret.
    Without a meaningful mission to pursue, the ADL has resorted to scaremongering to fill its coffers and justify its existence. These efforts have grown increasingly bizarre and damaging. . .

    ENTIRE POST – link to jewcy.com

    P.S. “take it away” meaninglink to answers.yahoo.com

    • Mooser
      December 23, 2012, 2:10 pm

      “The young Jews who organize against Birthright don’t have money, don’t have clout.”

      Well, if their parents have done well, they will probably inherit some, sooner or later, with which they can do what they want. They’re of age, and it’s their’s.

  6. Citizen
    December 22, 2012, 8:31 am

    The very rich are different than the rest of us because they can and do indulge their deepest passions, no matter how crazy/unbalanced, all things considered, and they are seldom held accountable, no matter what it costs others impacted. This they know, and they mean to keep it that way. The average person can indulge said passions too, and act as similar “free spirits,” but they pay the heavy price, usually sooner than later, but always that too. Everybody knows this fairly soon in their life, and it is equally applicable here.

    • Mooser
      December 23, 2012, 2:00 pm

      “The very rich are different than the rest of us”

      I don’t know that you have to be all that rich to be a major donor to a Temple or independent Church. Just an allrightnik.

      Maybe the problem is due more to the relationship which the major donors have to the Temple or Church they infest.
      After all, a person could, if he or she wanted to, say : “I give money to support and pay for the buildings and facilities, because I can afford it. But the religion, the spiritual truth, is owned by all of us in common, and my money makes does not give me a bigger share. What the Rabbis and the congregation feel and say as Jews must be respected!”

      A person could do that. Why, a religious institution could even say they won’t take money under other circumstances.

      • Mooser
        December 23, 2012, 2:11 pm

        Somebody must agree with me, that comment passed moderation in an instant!

      • Citizen
        December 23, 2012, 2:19 pm

        @ Mooser

        My comment was on Foxman’s comment about who he owed his allegiance to, his donors. So the question then is, what is the spiritual agenda of his donors? We can figure that out by watching what the ADL supports and not, and in context of the ADL’s official Why. Same for Sheldon Adelson, for example, re his donations, first to Newt, and then to Mitt, and Adelson has told us his agenda. Not much in either case to do with buildings and facilities, except in so far as they keep/kept those agencies and agents going.

        Otherwise, as you’ve often said, “what the Rabbis and the congregation feel and say” is as diverse as the number of each group, so what “spiritual truth” is it that must be respected in your model example?

      • Mooser
        December 23, 2012, 4:25 pm

        “so what “spiritual truth” is it that must be respected”

        “the B’nai Jeshurun rabbis’ brave statement in support of the Palestine upgrade at the UN” is the one I am referring to. The one worked up by the Rabbis, and if my memory is right, the congregation, and wasn’t it read from the pulpit, too?
        Well, the Age of Miracles seems to be over, and in these degenerate days, maybe that’s what has to serve us as spiritual truth. I can’t help that. I’ll take it over the opinions of “wealthy donor’s” any day.
        Or, Oh my God, have I been too influenced by Christianity? Oh well, that Christian Lobby is everywhere! Here, I’ll make you a list….

      • RoHa
        December 23, 2012, 7:10 pm

        “After all, a person could, if he or she wanted to, say : “I give money to support … Why, a religious institution could even say they won’t take money under other circumstances.”

        But wouldn’t that be … sort of …principled?

      • Mooser
        December 24, 2012, 12:54 pm

        “But wouldn’t that be … sort of …principled?”

        RoHa, I never claimed to have a deep knowledge of Jewish theology. So I will probably suggest something outlandish every now and then. Sorry, don’t know what I was thinking, and all those damn X-mas lights are looking at me, peeping, winking, smirking… and I swear, that garishly illuminated tree is chasing me… only escape is this ten-story window…must escape X-mas…don’t fear the Reaper…do reindeer really know how to fly?

      • Mooser
        December 24, 2012, 1:17 pm

        “But wouldn’t that be … sort of …principled?”

        And strange, isn’t it, RoHa, because I always thought that a history of being persecuted, dispersed, discriminated against and mass murdered was the best thing for your principles, and all around institutional health and community happiness. And an even healthier response, of course, is Zionism.
        We better figure out who the hell we are. I thought we knew, which was a comforting illusion, maybe it just looked that way to me, but then I had to go and read Mondoweiss.

      • RoHa
        December 25, 2012, 6:51 pm

        Heh heh heh! Our cunning Gentile Xmas light plan is working.

    • Mooser
      December 23, 2012, 8:24 pm

      “The very rich are different than the rest of us because they can and do indulge their deepest passions, no matter how crazy/unbalanced, all things considered, and they are seldom held accountable, no matter what it costs others impacted.”

      Oh you know it Citizen! Did I ever tell you about this Jay Gatsby guy? Anyway, he had this huge house out on Long Island…

  7. seafoid
    December 23, 2012, 5:50 pm

    I dunno Mooser. Maybe all that financial success within the community has a downside.

    Maybe more mediocrity would have suited the Jewish temperament better. Perhaps there would have been less of the insufferable arsehole tendency in charge.

    I can’t see the current path bringing any long term benefits.
    It’s all very well having a strong belief in the uniqueness of the group and fostering apartness and a sense of disdain for outsiders but in terms of global diplomacy it is destined to crash and then there will just be the questions left…

    • Mooser
      December 24, 2012, 1:01 pm

      “I dunno Mooser. Maybe all that financial success within the community has a downside.”

      All the “financial success” in a “community” which can’t keep their religious assets (buildings, organisations, staff) paid for? And are at the mercy of “wealthy donors”. You call that “financial success within the community”
      All our vaunted pecuniary and fiduciary “intrinsics”, and we can’t make our damn Temples self sustaining? Or at least require some principles from the “wealthy donors”?
      Speaking of “mediocrity”, that’s about what I would call that. It’s exactly the same as every independent fly-by-night wing-nut church around here, and produces the same problems.

      No, Seafoid, this is not what I would call “financial success within the community”.

      • Citizen
        December 25, 2012, 7:19 am

        Is the Forbes 400 list combined with ethnic group’s % of the US population a reasonable index of an ethnic community’s comparative wealth? link to isteve.blogspot.com

      • Citizen
        December 25, 2012, 7:28 am

        @ Mooser
        USA Wealth comparison chart by religious affiliation: link to awesome.good.is

        Makes Mooser look totally deluded.

      • sardelapasti
        December 25, 2012, 10:31 am

        Makes you look having read too fast to understand.

      • seanmcbride
        December 25, 2012, 11:40 am

        Citizen,

        This is what I tease out of that USA wealth comparison chart by religious affiliation:

        American religious groups ranked by percentage of members with an income of $100,000+

        1. Jewish 46%
        2. Hindu 43%
        3. Orthodox 28%
        4. Buddhist 22%
        5. Christian (mainline) 21%
        6. Catholic 19%
        7. unaffiliated 19%
        8. national average 18%
        9. Mormon 16%
        10. Muslim 16%
        11. Christian (evangelical) 13%
        12. Jehovah’s Witnesses 9%
        13. Christian (historically black churches) 8%

        And this contributes to the evidence supporting Phil Weiss’s observation that Jews have displaced WASPs as the dominant elite group in American culture.

        (There are many other ways to parse this data and many other inferences to draw from it.)

        My main observation about Jewish wealth: Jews are greatly overrepresented on the annual Forbes billionaires list. Many of those billionaires (like Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban) are using their wealth to manipulate the American political system on behalf of Israel and Zionism (Jewish nationalism) in ways that are harmful for the United States and Americans. I am not sure how much longer this peculiar situation can sustain itself before triggering a major backlash from most Americans. The billionaires themselves of course think can run this game forever with no bad consequences for themselves or their cause.

      • seanmcbride
        December 25, 2012, 11:58 am

        Christian evangelicals (which are a superset of Christian Zionists) rank near the bottom of the wealth list — supporting the argument that the Jewish lobby is far more influential in the Israel lobby than the Christian Zionist lobby. Jewish Zionists dominate Christian Zionists, not vice versa.

      • Mooser
        December 25, 2012, 1:13 pm

        Citizen, that individual Jews are indeed wealthy I am aware, I have a fine collection of refusals to my begging letters, signed by some of the most prominent.
        I am talking about the wealth (or poverty) of Judaism, the religion.

        And none of those rich Jews cared that my Mom, who became late in 2000, needs an operation immediately. Some people got no tribal unity.

      • Mooser
        December 26, 2012, 11:51 am

        Really something to watch you two charge right in, weave your own rope and tie it, build your own scaffold, and jump off. And you weren’t even on trial. It’s a great trick, too bad you can’t only do it once.

      • Citizen
        December 27, 2012, 1:06 pm

        @seanmcbride
        Yep. The stats speak for themselves, & ditto re Forbes list.

      • Citizen
        December 27, 2012, 1:18 pm

        @ Mooser

        Some people have no human compassion or empathy.
        Tribal unity in terms of charity measures more narrowly.
        Some guy was on TV discussing charity the other day, in the general context of the fiscal cliff, if memory serves, and general US economy these days. He said that most American Christians give in small donations, but they add up to a lot of money–and that most of them do not take a charitable deduction on their tax returns. I imagine that’s because the standard deduction is better for them than itemizing their deductions. In short, most are of modest means and income.

    • Mooser
      December 25, 2012, 1:17 pm

      “I dunno Mooser. Maybe all that financial success within the community has a downside.
      Maybe more mediocrity would have suited the Jewish temperament better.”

      Seafoid, this may not matter to you at all, and there’s really no reason why it should, but nothing makes me boil over like Jewish self-congratulatory self-pity. I despise it. It’s great material for a joke, tho.

  8. RoHa
    December 24, 2012, 1:52 am

    “Perhaps there would have been less of the insufferable arsehole tendency in charge. ”

    That one is a keeper.

  9. MHughes976
    December 25, 2012, 2:51 pm

    Amid all the furor it does seem as if the Rabbis have not retracted their mildly, extremely mildly, pro-Palestinian opinion.

    • Mooser
      December 26, 2012, 11:41 am

      “Amid all the furor…”

      Hard for me wonder why the congregants and Rabbis of B’nai Jeshurun didn’t know exactly what the probable fate of their statement would be when they made it. Aren’t they some very smart, aware, people? Wouldn’t they know the power distribution system in their temple right down to who gets the last regalach?

  10. Mooser
    December 26, 2012, 11:56 am

    Maybe it will take some very basic changes in the way the Jewish religion (religion, religion, religion, okay?) is funded, administered and organised before it will be capable of changing its relationship to Zionism.

    • seafoid
      December 30, 2012, 3:17 am

      I think change will be forced rather than happen gradually. The collapse of the Israel project will reverberate across erez amrika. Total leadership failure always throws up awkward questions. If we were in the old days the story would end up as a chapter in the torah. “And the people were stupid and placed all their faith in a false phoenician god called Con Gress. And the Lord lookedat it and was angry. And he got out his smiting equipment. “

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