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AJCOP Rodkin Israel
Experience Fellows Diary 2007
AJCOP sent four of its
members to Israel during the summer of 2007 as Rodkin Fellows to attend the
World Council of Jewish Communal Service 11th Quadrennial and to
make in depth site visits with JAFI, JDC and a myriad of Israeli social
service agencies. The group met at the airport in New York on June 18th
and returned home much enriched July 4th. To chronicle their learning
journey, they decided to each take responsibility for certain days of the
itinerary. And so, we bring you the 2007 AJCOP Rodkin Israel
2007 Rodkin Fellows
St. Paul, MN
West Palm Beach, FL
1 - Tuesday,
June 20, 2007
by Maureen Wise, Director,
The Ewa & Dan Abraham Project
Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County
BRIEFING, Lev Yerushalayim,
jet-lagged, we rose bright and early for a breakfast briefing with Jewish
Agency for Israel (JAFI) administrators Jeff Kaye, Director General of the
Resource Development and Public Affairs Department, and Stuart Schrader,
Director of Donor Relations, Unit for Resource Development and Public Affairs.
Kaye presented a three-pronged overview of the Jewish Agency, offering an
historical perspective; a look at JAFI’s current structure and parameters;
and an analysis of emergency campaign activities in the context of the war.
described the changing role of the Jewish Agency, which has been restructured
many times to meet the needs of Israel and the worldwide Jewish community.
What has not changed in Israel’s 60-year history is the importance of aliyah
(immigration), klitah (absorption) and strengthening Jewish identity.
delineated the transition of Israel from a socialist community to a capitalist
society. Unfortunately, this
economic growth has led to a dearth of quality leadership in Israel. With the
most talented people moving into high tech industry, fewer people are entering
public service. On the positive side, we are seeing the emergence of a class
of wealthy Israelis, who are now beginning to contribute funding as well as
ISRAEL GOLDSTEIN YOUTH VILLAGE,
9:15 – 10:15 am
Director of Development at The Israel Goldstein Youth Village of Hanoar
Hatsioni, guided us on our visit to the boarding school.
As we toured the facility’s beautiful grounds, she related the school’s
remarkable 58-year history.
winning a major battle in the war for independence, General Zeev Schikler
promised himself that he would establish a center for children who had
survived the Holocaust. In the winter of 1949, he founded a boarding school on what
had been Monastery Hill in the San Simon area of Jerusalem. Its first students
were 40 orphans who were brought by boat from Europe.
Today, the Goldstein Youth Village is
home to 450 residential students, with 200 more bused in each day for classes
and activities. The students, who are aged 12 – 18, are in grades 7 – 12.
They can remain in the program until they graduate, when they must enter the
The school’s demographic history
echoes the state’s immigration history. The 50’s and 60’s brought an
influx of émigrés from Arab countries. Soon, the school became a melting pot
for Jewish kids from all over the world.
As immigration slowed in 1970, the
administration realized that they had to take in Israeli-born children from
development towns and other culturally deprived environments.
Although the school began as an
agricultural village, in the 1970s it became a vocational training school. To
help eradicate the cycle of poverty, it became imperative to teach the
students trades so they could find employment. Students studied applied arts,
home economics, cabinet making, hotel management, fashion design and many
other fields of interest.
In 1990, the Village took in the first
group of Russian children from an area near Chernobyl. Two years later, 50
students – some as young as eight-years-old -
were airlifted from Sarajevo. The first wave of Ethiopian students
entered the program in 1994.
1993, the first Na’Aleh group of 80 students from the FSU were brought to
live at the Village. This program continues, with 80 new students coming in each
year. The teens come to Israel without their parents, and most choose to
remain in Israel. About thirty percent of their parents eventually make aliyah
The addition of Russian students, who are academically oriented, necessitated
a major change in curriculum. The school no longer offers vocational training.
Today, high level academic courses are the norm and the school’s music
program is universally acclaimed.
We were especially
delighted to have the opportunity to meet and speak with several bright young
Na’Aleh students, who came to Israel from Moscow, Ukraine and Kazakstan.
They described their families, their interests and their reasons for
coming to Israel.
ZION ABSORPTION CENTER
10:45 am - noon
Zion, which houses 1200 immigrants, is the largest of Israel’s 34 absorption
centers. This and ten others have been adapted to meet the special needs of
Ethiopian émigrés, according to Devora Gini-Malki, JAFI Absorption Division
Director, who escorted us.
While most immigrants attend Ulpan language classes for 5-6 months, the
program for Ethiopians runs 10 months. Among the Ethiopian population, 96% of
the adults are illiterate in Amharic, their own language.
Many come from remote provinces and have never used running water,
electricity or gas. Because they experience culture shock, special counselors
and social workers explain everything and offer assistance, support and
majority of Ethiopian Jews were airlifted to Israel through Operation Moses
(1985) and Operation Solomon (1991). Israel is now home to 110,000 Ethiopian
Jews, with 350 arriving each month. About 30,000 were born in Israel, and
3,500 are college educated.
is estimated that 99.9 % of Ethiopia’s halachic Jews have already come to
Israel under the Law of Return. The last remnant of Ethiopia’s Jewish
population – close to 20,000 people – will be brought to Israel in the
next three years.
the absorption centers, each family receives a furnished apartment with a
stocked refrigerator and pantry. Joint bank accounts are set up for the men
and women. Classes are taught on
computers, so adults and children can learn necessary skills. Children attend
school and participate in after-school enrichment activities and summer camps.
Most families live in the centers for 1 – 1 ½ years. After that, they
obtain mortgages and buy apartments in development areas.
were introduced to Kasi and Erez, two Ethiopian olim who were brought to
Israel with their families as young children.
Both became educated, served in the IDF and are now pursuing advanced
degrees at Hebrew University.
SHEMESH 12:30 – 4 pm
Ganot, who is Project Manager for JAFI’s Economic Development Committee
Partnership 2000 region in Beit Shemesh and Yehuda Plains, escorted us through
one of the fastest growing suburbs of Jerusalem.
explained that the committee brings together local activists, professionals
and volunteers to create and implement new business initiatives. It encourages
networking and collaborative efforts among local artists and entrepreneurs.
development committee selected several new initiatives to be funded for three
years. Many focus on the area’s emerging identity as the “Cycling Capital
of Israel” and its newfound prominence on the “Israeli Wine Route”
area boasts some 30 vineyards).
cooperative projects include a “Tour de Beit Shemesh” bike race; a
three-day Jewish Rock and Roll Festival; a Wine Festival; a Bible Festival and
Quiz; an Artists’ Forum; and a Food Festival, featuring ethnic cooking
demonstrations, wine tastings and art workshops.
good deal of effort has been expended on the area’s Women’s Empowerment
initiative. The government has provided classes and training in marketing,
merchandising, budgeting, bookkeeping and other business skills for 12 local
One of the participants is Tziona Levy, who cooks and caters delectable
Kurdish delicacies in her modernized kitchen and serves lunches and dinners to
visitors. Not only did we enjoy a sumptuous five-course meal at her dining
room table, but we also explored the amazing “found-art” iron sculpture
garden and museum created by her husband, Nissim Levy.
We capped off our visit to Beit Shemesh at the Ella Valley Vineyards, where we
purchased wine for our Shabbat dinner at the Solomons’ apartment.
to Tel Aviv & Jaffa - Tuesday, June 28, 2007
4 – 5:30 pm
to the need for a place where teenage girls and young women living in
culturally deprived areas of Jaffa and Tel Aviv can find a safe environment,
former criminologist Leora Kessel and social worker Mirit
Sidi created the “Women’s Court” four years ago. The term
“court” refers to the outer courtyard, which has become an extension of
the renovated building that houses the center’s myriad
About 400 young women between the ages of 13 – 25 come through their doors
annually. Everyone is welcome –
Sabras, Russian and Ethiopian immigrants, Jews and non-Jews alike. Most come from families where men predominate and women are
hidden away. They are largely uneducated, and many are victims of domestic
Leora and Mirit convinced a leading Israeli hair stylist to partner with them.
Together, they opened a small hair salon on the premises to attract the
at-risk population. Young women
can have their hair done and receive beauty supplies free of charge. The salon has accomplished its goals – building
self-esteem, creating awareness and attracting girls to the Women’s Court.
They have created a non-threatening, welcoming environment where these women
and teens can become comfortable enough to ask for help. They all come from
different backgrounds and have different needs.
They are encouraged to come in to chat, to have lunch, to use the
computer room or to just “hang out.”
Once they are comfortable, the girls are given lists of classes, discussions
groups and other available services and activities. They are presented with
options to change the course of their lives.
Women’s Court staff and volunteers can take the younger girls to
social workers, schools and community organizations as needed.
They can assist with medication, carfare to doctors and other services.
They also offer crisis intervention and can place victims in sheltered
Classes in group dynamics, writing CVs, basic computer and language skills
help the young women prepare for employment.
Activity groups enable them to participate in cooking, art, dance,
theatre and other areas of interest. Next
year, the girls will open a cleaning cooperative business.
Lily Engel, a former advertising manager, handles fund raising for the
Women’s Court. The program operates with funding from JDC, several
foundations, a government grant, and in-kind donations.
Together, Leora, Mirit and Lily are trying to affect social policy by working
with government and community representatives. They hope to arrange for more
funds to be directed to the plight of girls-at-risk who suffer from violence,
poverty and hunger. Mirit’s
doctoral thesis will provide data for the government to evaluate the needs of
this community and, hopefully, to encourage attitudinal changes.
personal statement on Rodkin Israel Trip:
AJCOP’s Rodkin Fellowship program afforded me the opportunity to interact
with colleagues from all over the world and to learn about the many amazing
programs that are being implemented to meet the needs of Jewish people
I returned to
Florida brimming with ideas for new programs and imbued with a greater
appreciation of all that we have collectively accomplished.
As Director of the
Ewa & Dan Abraham Project, I am continually searching for dynamic speakers
and performers to bring to the Palm Beach area. This journey to Israel brought
me face to face with many distinguished scholars. Several of them, including
Rabbi Daniel Gordis, will be speaking for the Abraham Project this year.
Our visit to
Federation’s Partnership communities also opened the door to greater
collaboration between Palm Beach and the Tzahar Region. This new network of
personal connections will facilitate future Abraham Project programming –
and provide ongoing access to many creative ideas.
A Guide for Jewish Practice:
Dr. David Teutsch & Marcia
Bronstein, VP of AJCOP, chaired a local Jewish Communal Professional
Association (JCPA) program in
. The featured speaker was Dr.
David Teutsch, chair of the department of Contemporary Jewish Civilization at
and the director of the Levin-Lieber Program in
Jewish Ethics and the Center for Jewish Ethics.
His latest book, A Guide for Jewish Practice: Tzedaka
speaks passionately about the shifting attitudes and practices in the Jewish
philanthropic sphere. JCPA’s
breakfast study session focused on how to motivate and educate volunteers and
professional staff on this important topic.
(A study guide was developed at the request of JCPA and can be obtained
by contacting David directly.)
Our jobs as communal professionals often necessitate helping others to think
through values and obligations on a variety of issues affecting the community.
How then can we utilize an approach to thinking through tzedaka
so that it has a profound impact on one’s personal life?
A Guide to Jewish Practice: Tzedaka, helps to:
Teach a Jewish vocabulary that explain Judaism as
a lifestyle involving tzedaka
Understand what mandatory versus voluntary
Explain the steps to solicitation through becoming
committed, connected and competent
Raise issues such as determining how much to give,
recognizing donors, protecting the dignity of recipients
Help board members and professional staff do their
plays a fundamental role in all our lives for the obvious reasons. (food,
clothing & shelter) It also
shapes how we see our selves in the world; allows us to meet the mitzvah of tzedaka
and permits us to help people become G-dlike
through their giving and their solicitations.
Tzedaka allows us to reshape our sole, to
open up our inner core and to share our desire to improve society by
participating in Tikkum Olom.
Its not only about the money, its about the
Interestingly enough, tzedaka is not a biblical
as a word did not exist in the bible; the concept however was very ingrained
as a daily action. Tzedaka
was institutionalized after the decline of the agricultural era and the move
to urban environs. No longer was
the gleaming of fields and leaving the corners in tact enough. Nor was the
harvesting of fruit trees just once to leave sustenance for the hungry.
In urban environs, tzedak was just as
necessary, but the way in which it was given was different.
The Rabbis invented the word tzedaka to
help the community move from an agricultural society to an industrialized
society while still meeting the needs of those requiring help.
A priority giving list was developed: Food, clothing and temporary
housing. Poverty is not new. It
was endemic, it still is and as Rambam noted,
“The poor are always with us”.
What is different today, is
the need for affiliation. In ancient times, affiliation was a necessary part
of survival. Not giving tzedaka could sanction an
individual. Therefore everyone could imagine himself or herself needing
community help and support. Today,
affiliation is voluntary and there is a real gap between the donor and the
recipient of services. The
empathetic connection is swept away as the social welfare system becomes more
professionalized. It also creates
a problem in getting people to understand needs and be responsive to them.
So today, professionals are faced with creating a funding case of needs that
forms a sense of attachment and creates empathy. Volunteerism
is a critical part of creating understanding and anchors charitable giving.
Without the compassion, the whole system breaks down.
Done correctly, a solicitation with a donor can be a transformative
experience. It is an intimate
experience which builds relationships and creates a web of mutuality.
This book can be used as an aid in launching board discussions, doing
leadership development, training solicitors and calling attention to Jewish
principles and values that underlie Jewish communal decision making.
For information about the book, or to set up a
speaking engagement contact teutsch@RRC.edu.
ETHIOPIAN – ISRAELI INTEGRATION
A CHALLENGING SITUATION
A snapshot in time that looks at the
programs, challenges and opportunities that exist
within Israel regarding Ethiopian Israelis
and attempts to provide some recommendations on
how to improve the situation for the future.
By Amy Wasser-Simpson,
Vice President for Planning and External Affairs, Jewish
Federation of Greater Seattle
used the 2004 AJCOP Bernard Rodkin Israel Experience Award to study the
resettlement of Ethiopian Jews in Israel.
Here is her report:
Bari Elias was presented with the 2004 Edell Fellowship Award
by Elaine Steinger,
Edell Committee Chair. (L-R): Danny Allen, Bari Elias, David Edell,
Elaine Steinger and Lou Solomon.
About Bari Elias: Edell
Fellow for 2004
Bari Elias is originally from
Lawrence, Kansas, and moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul at age 12.
After attending Camp Ramah in Wisconsin and Alexander Muss High
School in Israel, Bari earned her BA in Near Eastern and Judaic
Studies at Brandeis University. She subsequently made Aliyah to
Israel and worked for JAFI while pursuing her MA in Contemporary
Jewry at Hebrew University. She returned to Minneapolis-St.
Paul in 2002 to become the Young Leadership Director and
Director of Israel Programs at the United Jewish Fund and
Council of St. Paul. She is married
to Eytan and has a son Yoav.
2004 Edell Fellow:
Bari Elias My First GA
Attending the UJC
General Assembly as an Edell Fellow was
undoubtedly one of the highlights of my
career in Jewish communal work, not only because what
I experienced in the sessions and meetings, but
also because it solidified my career choice and
gave me my first real in-depth opportunity to concentrate
fully on my professional development. Although
I had attended other UJC sponsored conferences as
staff through my position as a Young Leadership
Director, this was the first time that I had
really been able to concentrate on bettering myself
as a professional and absorb the wisdom and thoughts
Among the sessions
I found to be most enlightening was the
discussion on Gender Equity and Organizational
Effectiveness. While unfortunately I did
not find it surprising to hear that men tend to dominate
the “top” of the Jewish communal pyramid, it
was inspiring to hear that this was not the case
in Israel, and that in fact, many Israeli nonprofits are
headed by women—yet another of the many
lessons that Americans can learn from Israelis. Now
that we as professionals are becoming more aware
of this issue, I look forward to being a part of making
improvements in our own “system.”
on “branding”, which I attended with the intention of hoping to make
improvements in my federation’s
marketing, was especially important to me, as one of my goals as a
professional is to raise awareness among
my peers of the important work of federation. This session was one
of the most practical of the sessions I attended, and provided me with many
ideas of how to enhance our outreach,
education, and ultimately, our fundraising techniques. Upon my return from
the GA, I immediately put the knowledge I gained
from this session into practice through presenting what
I had learned to our marketing committee, who enthusiastically accepted many
of the suggestions, such as staying with a
campaign theme for several years in order to be consistent, rather than
changing it every year.
session on the subject of the generational gaps that are so profound in the
areas of fundraising and recruiting
volunteers, I attended because I had recently read the speaker’s book and
found it fascinating and extremely relevant to
both my professional and private life. Having this background,
I went into the session anxious to learn more. Although I did take away
several new ideas, I also presented some
concepts that have been successful in our community. It was this experience
in particular that confirmed the innovation and
strength of the St. Paul community, and how we can
be a model for others, as our current programming is consistent with best
practices throughout the country.
In addition to the
interesting sessions and the extraordinary people,
what became one of the highlights the conference took place
after a session on the last day of the GA. I was speaking to a colleague
following one of the final sessions when the waiter who had
served dinner approached us and asked: “Could you tell me what
Hillel is?” He proceeded to reveal that although he was Jewish, he
had grown up almost completely disconnected from the Jewish
community. Immediately we encouraged him to take part in
Birthright Israel, an
idea to which he was quite receptive. This encounter
really affected me, as it put a face on the work we do as Jewish
communal professionals—reaching and influencing unaffiliated Jews
to make sure we don’t lose them. I hope that our conversation
with him encouraged him to look into the possibility of
going to Israel, or at least try to become affiliated with the Jewish community.
Finally, I want to express my deep gratitude to
AJCOP and especially to the Edell family
for their foresight and generosity in establishing
the Edell Fellowship and enabling me to have this incredible
experience. I am proud to have the privilege of honoring the
memory of Norman Edell, who from my conversations with
his colleagues and family, I came to understand was a wonderful man
who was truly dedicated to his profession. It was especially meaningful
to be the recipient of such accolades in such a public
forum, since I have found that recognition for professional accomplishments
is the Jewish world not commonplace.
to be a part of a ceremony honoring
two giants in the Jewish world,
Shoshana Cardin and Ralph Goldman, was
both humbling and awe inspiring. They
are the embodiment of the famous words
of Pirkei Avot, “It is not your
responsibility to finish the work [of
perfecting the world], but you
are not free to desist from it either”,
and they certainly have done more than
their share of the work. After returning
from the GA with these incredible experiences,
I aspire to rise to the many challenges
before us and am confident that I will be able
to do my part to contribute to the betterment
of the present and future of the world Jewish
About Albert D.
nearly five decades Al Chernin has been at the center of the Jewish
community's response to critical issues of concern to the American Jewish
community as an activist and conceptualist. J. J. Goldberg cited
him in his book on "Jewish Power" as a major player in the
American Jewish community. He served as the Executive Vice Chairman of the
National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council from 1975-1990..
In the 1960s he launched the American Jewish community's campaign for Soviet
Jewry. He was the American representative on the secretariat that
organized the historic World Conference for Soviet Jewry in Brussels in
1971. In the years that followed he served on the International Presidium on
Soviet Jewry. In 1967 he traveled to the Soviet Union bringing a personal
message for Soviet Jews from then President Shazar. and in the years that
followed he made four more trips to meet with Soviet Jews. As an advocate of
Soviet Jews, he met with those on the highest level of the U.S. government
including Vice Presidents, Humphrey, Mondale, and Bush and also with
Secretaries of State Rusk and Schulz. He co-edited with Murray Friedman a
book on Soviet Jewry, The Second Exodus, published by the New
England University Press
He devoted most his time and efforts to getting 13 national NCRAC
agencies and 122 CRCs to work together cooperatively to achieve the
strategic goals of the Jewish community relations field. Ultimately
their collective efforts had a far reaching impact on America in
church-state, civil rights, immigration, and on American policy on
Israel and Soviet Jewry..
his role in the securing repeal of the infamous national origins quota
system President Johnson gave him one of the pens he used in
signing the immigration act of 1965 at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
For his role in achieving the enactment of the law that outlawed any
American participation in the Arab boycott of Israel President Carter
gave him one of the pen he used in signing it into law in the Rose Garden in
his retirement NJCRAC established the Albert D. Chernin Award. given
annually at its Plenary Session to that American Jew whose life work best
exemplifies commitment to the social justice imperatives of Judaism, Jewish
history and the Bill of Rights. He was the first to receive it. Among
the .other 14 who have received it since then were Justice Ginsberg,
Senators Carl Levin, and Howard Metzenbaum, Allan Dershowitz and Leonard
now serves as an officer for life of the JCPA in his capacity as Executive
Vice Chair Emeritus. He recently completed The Search for Jewish
Unity, a book, telling the untold story of how national and local
community relations agencies worked together and failed to work together on
the community relations agenda of the American Jewish community. It
highlights the significant role played by the CJF and federations. It spans
the years from 1938 to the year 2000. At the request of the American Jewish
Historical Society he is now completing an abridged version, which focuses
on the years 1938 to 1944, the year NCRAC was created by the General
Assembly of the CJFWF.
Remarks Albert D.
Chernin to AJCOP Federation Retirees
Jewish unity has
been a transcending Jewish
value throughout the history of the Jewish diaspora. Accordingly, the
commitment to Klal Yisrael has been a powerful force in pulling the community together, especially in the 20th
in the 1930s to achieve Jewish unity among Jewish communal agencies led in
the 1930s to the CJF
successfully merging social service and fund-raising agencies on the local
and national level, the, United Jewish Appeal, for example.
Rabbi Stephen Wise was unrelenting in his pursuit of
Jewish unity. He believed that in those perilous times of the 1930s only a
unified central agency could save the persecuted Jews of Europe and serve as
a bulwark against anti-Semitism in the United States. To this end, Stephen
Wise and the American Jewish Congress tried to undertake in June 1938 a
national referendum of American Jews to bring about the consolidation of the
four national defense agencies into a single agency. This referendum, while
aborted, resulted in the
creation of the General Jewish Council. On the outbreak of World War II Wise reiterated the demand that the agencies consolidate their
resources including staff within
a reorganized General Jewish Council. Despite their bitter resistance, Wise
would not back off from that demand in the years that followed.
In some ways Joseph Proskauer his adversary in those
struggles was no less ideological than Stephen Wise. They were poles apart
on the concept of “Jewish peoplehood” which were anathema. to Proskauer
and other leaders of the American Jewish Committee in those years..Thus they
vehemently opposed the proposals of Wise and others to achieve Jewish unity.
Would a single agency have made a difference in those years in combating
anti-Semitism in the U.S, and in stimulating the United States and other
governments abroad to come to the aid of European Jewry?
Had the resources of the defense agencies been combined thirty years
ago, would they have had a greater impact on the policies of the United
States and, possibly, on some European governments? Three decades later
the concerted campaign for Soviet Jews did have a profound impact on
U.S. and Soviet policy. I don’t believe a single agency was as crucial as
a system that enabled the agencies to jointly reach agreement
on priority strategic goals to which each agency worked to achieve in
its own way.
The brutal truth is that
neither a single agency
nor a concerted campaign could have deterred Hitler from his inexorable
drive to make Germany Judenrein. A concerted national campaign might
have made difference in
affecting immigration policies and practices of the United States,
particularly in the years preceding the start of World War II , September
1939. Such a campaign that followed immediately after the news of the
Holocaust came out might have stirred
a public outcry by American
Jews as well the public at large.
Even in the face of events
in Germany, the General Jewish Council Congress from its very creation had
been bogged down in interminable arguments over arcane proposals to
consolidate the agencies’.Exasperated by those endless battles over
structure, Isaiah Minkoff exploded that the agencies had spent all the time
quarreling over structure rather
than how they and the General Jewish Council should be responding to the
persecution of Jews.
The General Jewish Council and the agencies did react in response to brutal
attacks of Nazi Germany against Jews, Kristallnacht as a prime
example. The leadership, meeting in emergency
session, did not go
beyond wrangling over what should be an immediate response. They did not
move on to jointly developing a comprehensive strategic action plan for all
the agencies to collectively come to the aid of the Jews under Hitler.
Henry Feingold has recalled
in his book on the Holocaust that there was a desperate need for unity
during those terrible years. The American Jewish community was never able to
speak to President Roosevelt with one voice.1
Nor did its leadership in meetings with the President give him
definitive proposals for American action. A “single voice” could have
sent a more forceful message to Roosevelt urging the United States to
provide a safe haven for refugees. A single voice also might been better
able to generate the passion called for by the emerging news of the
Hitler’s demonic fantasy
was to make Germany Judenrein. In the years before the start of World
War II, September 1939, Hitler appeared ready to achieve that result by
deporting Jews/or letting them leave under certain onerous conditions.
Opening the gates of the United States to the refugees of Hitler should have
been the highest priority of the General Jewish Council and its member
agencies. They viewed such efforts as unrealistic in light of a Congress
comprised of the xenophobes, reactionaries, racists and anti-Semites. So the
question wasn’t even debated.
Even in retrospect it is
questionable whether a more dramatic concerted response by the American
Jewish community would have had any impact. The civil rights demonstrations
throughout the South in the early 1960s are instructive. Those almost daily
sit-in confrontations aroused the passions of the Black community as well as
the fury of White Southerners, but they also stirred the conscience of a
previously indifferent if not hostile nation. They fostered an unprecedented
national consensus on civil rights
and eventually the enactment of civil rights legislation in the
mid-1960s, a milestone in American history.
In the late 1930s could the national and local agencies have mobilized
American Jews to similarly carry out non-stop demonstration throughout
the United States to arouse the passions of Jews and other Americans as the
sit-ins did? They did hold protests in Madison Square Garden and at other
sites, but those protests did not convey to the country-at-large the
desperate need for the United States providing
safe-havens for Jews persecuted by Hitler.
Thirty years later the agencies did undertake on a concerted basis
wide spread demonstrations for Soviet Jewry, month by month, year by year.
Those demonstrations had an incredible impact on the immigration policies
and practices of the United States and the Kremlin, When those those
demonstrations were launched, they encountered
skepticism and reluctance among some in the key leaders and rank and
file. The crucial variable were pressures for such demonstration from the
state of Israel. *
The impact of the “sit-ins
and the Soviet Jewry demonstrations suggest that a concerted national
campaign in the 1930s focused on the President. and on Congressman by
Congressman might have widened the opening of the gates to the United
States. That kind of campaign would have necessitated the mobilization of the entire national network of
national and local agencies. It
would have required an insecure American Jewish community to
confront a revered
President, a hostile Congress, and an anti-Semitic State Department
bureaucracy. At that time county
still recovering from the Great Depression and anti-Semitism was pervasive/.
Such a campaign required a central body which could get the defense agencies
to make those difficult decisions and which could coordinate their national
campaign. The General Jewish Council was incapable of playing such roles.
Such a campaign was never contemplated.
Had the Council addressed
such a proposal many of its leaders would have felt in their gut
that it would trigger a severe anti-Semitic reaction. State
Department officials had warned some of the Council leaders that
ill-advised actions of the Jewish community to liberalize immigration
law would exacerbate anti-Semitism. Judge Sam Rosenman, a close adviser of
the President, came in person to a Council meeting to inform the leadership
that the President feared an aggressive Jewish posture would increase anti-
General Jewish Council
leaders felt that it was useless to seek the repeal of the restrictive and
racist national origins quota system. Nor they did not campaign for more
modest proposals that could have opened the gates to a large number of
Jewish refugees. The Wagner-Roger bill would have permitted entry of 20,000
Jewish refugee children outside of quota. Secretary of Interior Harold Ickes
proposed to Congress opening Alaska, then a U.S. territory, to refugees.
Doing so, he told Congress, was in the best interests of the United States
since it would lead to the development of
an undeveloped Alaska. Ickes. contended immigration quotas applied
only to the 48 contiguous states and not to territories of the United
Jewish agencies assumed that their open support of these proposals would be
the kiss of death and bring out
the vitriolic opposition – it surfaced anyway. So the Jewish community was
almost invisible in showing support
for these proposals as were like-minded allies. Thirty years later, Martin
Luther King observed, “The Jewish community must take the lead if it wants
others to follow,” He addressed those remarks to
a number of community demonstrations for Soviet Jewry over a
telephone hookup. .
The Jewish community did not provide that kind of leadership in pre-War
America.. A strong, impassioned, united voice might have moved major
national bodies including key national trade unions, national Protestant and
Catholic bodies, and highly
respected influentials like Governor Alfred Landon, the Republican candidate
for president in 1936, to come together in a national coalition to fight for
these changes in immigration policy. In contrast to the 1930s, the American
Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, ADL and NCRAC jointly
played lead roles in establishing the American Immigration and Citizenship
Conference in the 1950s (also a difficult period). That broad coalition
(still in existence) spearheaded the campaign that ultimately led to the
repeal of the national origins quota system in 1965.
Such strategies were not the
mode of operation of the
agencies and the General Jewish Council in rhe 1930s.
Apart from that, they did not even ask President Roosevelt to support
these modest changes in American immigration policy. The President ducked
taking a stand on them. He acquiesced in advocacy on their behalf
by some members of his Cabinet. He didn’t encourage them in any way
nor did he try to stop them.
In the 1930s thousands of idealistic young American Jews in colleges and
high schools throughout the country might have responded to a call to join
in demonstrations to break open the gates to immigration just as hundreds of
young Jews responded to the clarion call of the civil rights movement in the
1960s. While Rabbi Stephen Wise, an eloquent voice of conscience in those
years, urged public protests, he never called for non-stop
demonstrations throughout the country to open the gates. The Madison
Square Garden or Carnegie Hall protests did not reach the entire American
Jewish community. They did not stir the passions of the Jewish community nor
of the nation as a whole.
The sit-ins and the brutal response of the South emboldened a once reluctant
President to urge passage of civil rights legislation Similarly sustained
national demonstrations throughout the country to open the gates
and the likely increase in anti-Semitism might
have emboldened a
reluctant but powerful President to
support these proposals to open the gates of the United States to the
refugees of Hitler.
demonstrations in Florida, Washington, and other major cities might have
moved Roosevelt to permit those stranded on the St. Louis to disembark in
Florida. His concern and distress about Hitler’s persecution of Jews were
apparent after Krystallnacht when he recalled the American ambassador
from Berlin and convened the
multi-national conference on refugees at
Evian les Bains.
Occasionally, when push-came-to
shove, a reluctant Roosevelt would back down and do the “right thing”.
When A. Philip Randolph, the head of the Sleeping Car Porters Union,
threatened in a meeting with the President to
bring tens of thousands of Negroes to march on Washington in 1941
unless he agreed to establish an FEPC. At first
Roosevelt resisted Randolph’s demand, but soon afterward he set up
FEPC by Executive Order. The president feared an enraged and possibly
violent reaction of a segregated Washington
D.C. to a Negro march. When he met the demand, apparently he overcame his
concerns about an adverse reaction of a Congress controlled by Southerners.
Even in the unlikely event
it was willing to do so, not any one of the organizations could by itself
have effectively conducted a national campaign. It would have
required the national mobilization of the grassroots of the American Jewish
community. The American Jewish
Congress did not have a massive national grass roots constituency throughout
the United States nor did the American Jewish Committee. Apart from that,
the leadership of the American Jewish Committee, reflecting their usual
cautious posture, would have rejected such an approach out of hand. The
B’nai B’rith did have a mass grass roots membership and also had a
capable community relations arm in the ADL. Like AJCommittee, the B’nai
B’rith culture also would have rejected such a campaign. Clearly the
General Jewish Council never could have reached agreement on such an
approach even if someone
proposed it, but no one did.
A fundamental problem was
that the leadership of the Genera; Jewish Council and its member agencies
did think in strategic terms in
their deliberations. They did not try to develop a comprehensive long term
strategic action plan for the agencies to jointly undertake to respond to
the plight of the Jews under Hitler Their focus was usually on an immediate
The leadership relied upon
their access to the President and the many close aides of the President, who
were concerned Jews. Judge Proskauer, Stephen Wise, and other prominent New
New Yorkers had close ties
to Roosevelt dating back to Albany. Those channels were exploited to convey
the concerns of the Jewish community. They did not use them to press the
President to support the proposals
of Senator Wagner and Ickes. In any case the
approaches of shtadtlonim
would have had greater
impact had they been backed up by widespread demonstrations of the grass
roots sending the same message
as was evident yeas later in
the campaign for Soviet Jews.
Had the General Jewish
Council authorized a national campaign it would have found a readiness to
act in the emerging Jewish community councils and CRCs in such major cities
as Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia,, Boston, Baltimore, Newark, and Los
Angeles. They had dedicated and
bold lay and
professional leadership and their central structures were
representative of their communities. They were eager for a national call to action which they never received. They
would have participated effectively in a national campaign as as they
did again and again in years to come on behalf of Soviet Jewry and Israel.
It is no more preposterous to
think that such a campaign might have made a difference then to have suggested
in the mid-1950s that widespread
sit-ins in the South would turn around national attitudes on civil
It is easy for American Jews
living in the comfort and security of 21st century America to
attack the previous generation for their failure to take bold action. No one
should doubt that the leadership in those years was tormented by Hitler’s
persecution of the Jews. Even with their anguish, they could not bring themselves to risk initiating activities that
might exacerbate anti-Semitism in the United States. Bear in mind, they as
well as the government of the United States could not imagine in the late 1930s that
the Jews under Hitler were destined for annihilation. The Holocaust was
The stubborn refusal of the agencies to cooperate was the fundamental reason
the General Jewish Council failed to achieve joint action of its member
agencies. Thus the CJF struggled for years
to create a functional central agency for defense.
The CJF might have earlier success had they pursued an agency built on
both pluralism and Jewish unity.
These twin concepts, obverse
sides of the same coin, reciprocally reinforce each other. Jewish unity
fosters Jewish cohesiveness; pluralism fosters vitality. Professor Horace Kallen described his conception of pluralism as
analogous to a symphony orchestra. Each member plays different parts of a
single composition under the direction of a single leader.
of pluralism became a motif of
the field of the Jewish community relations and shaped its goals and vision in
the decades following World War II. When NCRAC was created in 1944, it
embodied pluralism and unity and it also brought together for the first time
national and local agencies within the same body. The marriage of national
agencies and CRCs as equal partners -- while without tensions conflict -- has
enormously enhanced the efficacy of the field of Jewish community relations
since the end of World War II. Within NCRAC they have brilliantly debated
difficult and contentious issues from their own particular agency
perspectives. With few exceptions they have been over course of a half century
reach agreement on a broad range of policies, strategic goals,
and priorities before adopting each year the NCRAC Joint Program Plan.
Each agency carried out the Joint Program Plan, the “score”, so to speak,
in its own way in concert with the other agencies.
Clearly, NCRAC was not a
single agency in the sense that Stephen Wise envisioned. The cooperative
process that has been the NCRAC
experience has demonstrated that national and local agencies without
surrendering autonomy have worked together with results of historic dimensions
in such areas as church/state, immigration, civil rights, and U.S.
policy on Israel and Soviet Jewry.
Joey Selesny, Community
Development Associate with the Jewish Federation of Metro Detroit
AJCOP SteveFRD Award Winner for 2003
Educated. Be Motivated. Be Productive. Be Proactive. Lead!
In November, I had
the opportunity to attend the United Jewish Communities General Assembly in
Jerusalem as the recipient of the Steve Rose Financial Resource Development
Award. I was very privileged to have been selected to receive this award and
the opportunity to attend the GA, and I am very proud to be a member of AJCOP,
where Jewish Communal Professionals can get support, mentorship and a general
atmosphere of camaraderie.
The GA was an incredible experience that all Jewish Communal Professionals
should avail themselves of, not only for educational reasons, but for
networking opportunities as well. From the day that I arrived at the GA I was
truly inspired. Everywhere I looked, there were Jewish men and women, both lay
and professional, all there for one common purpose: to meet and discuss the
issues facing the Jewish people.
Upon check-in, I received a book, not a simple brochure, but a 250 page book
of lecture options and other GA related material from “safety” to “sites
to see”. As the recipient of the Steve Rose FRD Award, I focused on the FRD
related lectures and planned accordingly. There were options from 7 o’clock
in the morning through late at night, with of course, some quality schmooze
time built in. One of the things that really fascinated me about the GA was
the diversity. Virtually every stream of Judaism was present. There were
booths from corporate Israel like ELITE Chocolate, Bank Ha’Poalim and EL AL
to every charity and organization known to the Jewish world. In the same area,
there were “Peace Now” and YESHA groups; groups focusing on youth at risk
and next to them were groups focusing on eldercare services. The diversity was
truly amazing, and heartwarming to see such a wide spectrum of Jews in one
I loved the “GA Experience”, and I would like to relate some of the
information and experiences that I got from the FRD lectures that I attended.
The first lecture I attended, “Make Fundraising Meaningful” started
my GA lecture experience on the right track. The lecture basically brought us
back to the basics of fundraising. Why do we do it? How do we do it? Each
member of the panel answered these questions in a different way, and from a
different perspective. While one mentioned that Israel was the anchor to
Jewish fundraising, another mentioned that it is all about three main
emotions: passion, meaning, and inspiration. The third panelist approached the
question as a business plan: he called it “Businesslike Philanthropy”. His
point was that the donor of today is not the same as the donor of yesterday.
Today’s donor is not giving the
“Jew Tax”, he is giving Tzedakah and wants accountability for it. The idea
of “No taxation without representation” is a strong theme in the world of
philanthropy. There are more educated donors now than ever before, and we as
the facilitators of Tzedakah have to be prepared when we speak to our donors
with information about the donor’s interests and the options for his
Tzedakah dollars. It is critical to the future of Jewish philanthropy to make
the donor aware of their options as well as for the professional fundraiser to
I attended many lectures, but one piece of information stood out from the
National Jewish Population Study lecture that bothered me the most: the fact
that so many Jews are unaffiliated, and many that consider
themselves affiliated are only affiliated in a small way. Couple that piece of
information with the fact that 1/4 of all philanthropy in the United States
comes from Jewish donors, and of those philanthropic dollars, only ten percent
goes to Jewish causes. That is extremely disturbing. We are facing two battles
ahead of us. First, we are losing Jews, and second is that the Jews we have
are not giving to Jewish causes when not long ago, they primarily gave to
Jewish causes. What can we do? Who do we rely on? The Jewish Communal
Professional? The Lay Leader?
The answer is both. We must both become leaders. We must both be involved in
creating the solution. We must identify what needs to be done, and do it. We
must influence others to be involved in the community. We must motivate and
inspire the next generation. We must be models that our colleagues, our
friends and our children will want to emulate. We must lead. If we do not,
Jewish involvement in non-Jewish arenas will increase. Jewish donors will send
their philanthropic dollars elsewhere. Jewish communities will no longer be
able to support themselves. This cannot happen, and it will not happen as long
as we ‘gird our loins’ and prepare to fight this biblical battle. The
Jewish communities of America cannot wait. We must lead. Every Federation and
other Jewish charity is in the same predicament, we face this challenge
together. I charge you, the reader, to go to the GA next year in Cleveland. To
those of you who have the ability to avail yourselves of Continuing
Professional Development courses, take them. Be educated. Be motivated. Be
Productive. Be proactive. Lead!
and HaMatzav: Perceptions and Realities
forJewish Community Relations Professionals
By Samuel Sokolove
Sam Sokolove, Executive Director American Jewish Committee San Diego Chapter
AJCOP Bernard Rodkin Israel Experience Award Winner for 2003
Perhaps you’ve met Harry Abelson: a retired
septuagenarian industrialist living in Los Angeles, Harry lives and breathes
Israel, declaring “Israel IS REAL!” and displays his love for the Jewish
state by bedecking himself in Magen David buttons and by showing off the
somewhat mangled results of his weekly Ulpan. Although Harry has no interest
in making Aliyah, he feels that his annual multi-million dollar contribution
is as sure a demonstration of his Zionist commitment as an Israeli passport.
In actuality, Harry is an invention of Rabbi Benjamin Levine of Gesher, whose
one-man performance, "The "Four Faces of Israel", toys with the
cartoonish image of the American Jewish community as Israel’s rich American
uncle: devoted and loving, but only from a distance.
Such an unflattering depiction of vicarious Zionism, portrayed most scathingly
in former Ha'aretz editor Matti Golan’s With Friends Like You:
What Israelis Really Think about American Jews, belies – or underscores
-- the fact that throughout the now nearly four-year old al-Aqsa Intifada, the
organized American Jewish community has seen its primary function to be that
of performing “hasbara ” or public relations on behalf of the beleaguered
nation. Between rallies, media campaigns, and a flurry of “We Stand with
Israel” coalitions, there are few community relations committees or
synagogues that haven’t actively lent their support to the cause.
In the field of Jewish communal service I have been a “hasbara
provider” for a number of years, almost immediately upon
returning from my first visit to Israel in 1993 when the Federation-operated
Jewish newspaper in my hometown profiled me as an example of the
transformative effect of a Israel experience on a young adult. As a former
Federation campaign staffer and current Jewish community relations
professional, I have spent the better part of the last decade “making the
case for Israel” to lay leaders and the media, soliciting financial and
political support for the Jewish state.
Increasingly, however, I have felt that the language involved in so much of
American hasbara work has
grown superficial, and is often received as simplistic and one-sided by the
intended audiences. Moreover, I
felt that my own effectiveness has been undermined by a matter of proximity,
or namely the fact that I hadn’t been to Israel since before the outbreak of
the current violence in September of 2000, and therefore could not accurately
gage how my own efforts reflected what life is really like in Israel
today; whether or not American Jewish hasbara
accurately conveys the situation; and how Israelis view American
Seeking answers to these questions, in August of 2003 I
participated, with support provided by the Association of Jewish Community
Organization Professional’s Bernard Rodkin Israel Experience Award, in the
program titled, HaMatzav: Understanding the Current Situation in Israel.
Presented by Livnot U'Lehibanot and Muss Israel Seminars with Alliance and a
coalition of Israel experience programs, the HaMatzav program offered young
professionals a ten-day overview of the “matzav,”
(“situation” or “condition,” the term that Israelis use to
describe the events in Israel since 2000) the program was created as an
opportunity for participants to see beyond the “edited sound bites and media
coverage (that has) only blurred the issues ”and meet with government
officials, journalists, performers (including Rabbi Levine) municipal
employees, and visits to the “Seamline” separating Jerusalem from the
Palestinian town of Tulkarm.
While the program succeeded in providing insight into Israeli’s current
dilemmas, the experience proved, in an expectantly Jewish fashion, to raise as
many questions as it answered.
“The abnormal is normal in
Sadly, for most Americans, Israel has become synonymous with terrorism. It is
rare that a week passes without reading of a bus bombing or violent assault,
and the fear of harm has all but crippled Israel’s once-vibrant tourism
industry. Therefore, it was all a sad inevitability that I would hear the
dreaded sirens, which I did en route to the Dan Jerusalem hotel around 9 p.m.
on August 19th. A few minutes later a fleet of ambulances went by
and the radio confirmed our fears: a bus had been bombed, with many riders
dead or wounded. A woman in our cherut burst into tears and panic set
in. Badly shaken at the front
desk, an American asked the hotel clerk how she could bear such horrors week
after week. She shrugged and continued typing away at the keyboard. “If you
can’t take it, don’t live in Israel.”
I expected the city to shut down, but no such thing happened. Within an hour
after the bombing, as bodies and body parts were being cleared from the
wreckage of Egged bus No.2, the cafes were crowded, the pizza restaurant
across the street from the hotel packed with diners. For those who can take
it, life in Israel goes on. And meanwhile, the local news footage featured an
appalling loop of a dazed, blood-soaked teenaged girl being carried away on a
stretcher. In our hotel room I
watched images of the unfolding carnage and listened to the wailing sirens
through an open window.
Citing the previous evening’s bombing, at breakfast Eve Harrow, a member of
the Efrat council, blasted the remaining members of the Israeli peace camp.
“The future of our people depends on recognizing what we’re up against,”
she said. “We did not come to
the Middle East to make peace – we came here because this was home!”
Turning her anger towards “American Jews (who) think that we (Settlers) are
the Hitlers,” Harrow declared that Hasbara
needs to, “start with the Jews.”
“We’re always out for everybody’s rights, but we’re blind to
our side,” she said. Although religious, Harrow stressed how few friends
Israel has left in the world, and urged her American audience not to ignore
the support Christian Evangelicals have shown Israel, a particularly
troublesome issue for many Jewish communal professionals and lay leaders.
“We both believe in the messiah of peace,” Harrow explains. “So we’ll
ask him, ‘is this your first time or a return trip’?”
Less interested in theological and political matters than in making sure that
the adults and children she counsels who have witnessed terrorism are able to
cope with the trauma of their experiences, Dr. Donna Katzir is one of the one
hundred and fifty psychologists in Jerusalem who are regularly called to serve
a stressed-out and often despairing city. Katzir’s techniques include, for
her adult clients, putting events in context, as in reminding them more
Israelis are killed every year in automobile accidents than in terrorist
attacks. For children it’s the reassurance that, “we went through this
before and we’ll get through now.”
She was once called to a kindergarten near the site of a suicide bombing. With
the windows shattered, and the classroom in ruin, Dr. Katzir had the children
express themselves by painting a mural on the schoolhouse wall, or, as she
tells it, “painting away their fears.”
With the Israeli response to terror generally an immediate clean up of the
site of the horror, such as when the Sbarro’s Pizzeria in Jerusalem was
rebuilt in several weeks, Dr. Katzir was asked whether this kind of coping is
actually a form of denial. She answered, “We couldn’t survive without some
kind of denial. The abnormal is normal in Israel.”
strength, however, “In our ‘truth,’ in our right to be here, the fact
that there’s something worth protecting. The desire for revenge takes a back
seat to, ‘how am I going to get on with my life?’”
Conversely, I met a woman in Tzfat, a mother of a teenaged daughter,
told me that Israeli society has become more fatalistic, recounting how she
and her daughter had “laughed all the way” during a bus trip to Tel Aviv,
expecting at any moment to be blown up in a suicide bombing. “What choice do
we have but to laugh?” she asked. Another Israeli I met in Tzfat dismissed
the suggestion that there could ever be a clear-cut solution to the turmoil.
“America is all about fixing its problems,” he told me. “Israel is about
having the strength to deal with its problems.”
Addressing the HaMatzav group at the Jerusalem campus of Livnot U’lehibanot,
Rabbi Seth Mandel, Director of Camp Koby, a therapeutic gathering place for
Israeli victims of terrorism named in memory of his murdered son, Koby,
personalized the general sense of both resignation and resolve in Israeli
society. Recounting his and his wife’s initial agony and shock of having
unwillingly joined the “exclusive club” of parents having lost a child to
terror, Rabbi Mandel told how he answered his wife’s question, “how are we
going to get through this?” by responding, “We’ll get through this
because we have three other children, and we won’t let Koby’s murder ruin
From my perspective, the comments of Eve Harrow, Donna Katzir and Rabbi Mandel
personalized Israel’s societal turmoil, putting a human face to the
seemingly constant images of gutted busses and bloodied victims that have
become almost visual clichés to American Jews. As organizational fundraising
and advocacy for Israel tends to focus on garnering an emotional or visceral
response, there is often little room for the resolved-but-fatalistic
sentiments of Dr. Katzir and others that realistically capture the peculiar
tone of what it means to live in Israel today without urgent sloganeering.
The “We Versus You” Argument
In August of 2003 revenge was on everyone’s mind as IAF helicopters fired
four missiles into a station wagon traveling through Gaza City, killing Hamas
kingpin Abu Shanab. Amid this tense background, back at the Pardes Institute
Rabbi David Levin-Cross led a discussion on the responsibilities of power,
stimulated by a Jerusalem Post article on the IDF loosening it’s
legendarily complicated open-fire regulations.
Citing Chulin 89a as a counterpoint to the policy,
Rabbi Levin Cross cited the words of
Rabbi Ilai, who said, “The world endures only because some restraint
themselves during conflict.”
Another passage was offered for discussion: “When one is willing to let
their rights pass without insisting on them, all their sins are forgiven.”
An Israeli reservist responded to this passage with
disgust. “This is the most pathetic statement I’ve ever read,” he spat.
“It’s like we’re begging to be an eternal victim.”
a heated exchange followed within the group, with some Americans making
recommendations for how “we” should deal with Israel’s enemies. The
pronoun choice didn’t go unnoticed, and provoked a discussion on the
appropriateness of American Jews using “we” when referring to the actions
of the Israeli government or military.
It was a discussion that I particularly welcomed, having observed for years
how American Jews (particularly those with vivid memories of Israel’s birth
and the Six-Day war) unhesitantly make suggestions about what actions “we”
– i.e., Israelis – should take in response to hostilities (cf., a recent
letter to the editor, written by an author in a tony San Diego neighborhood,
published in the San Diego Union Tribune: “Israel would be the first
to welcome peace and be the first to help the Palestinians build their
state…because we are a compassionate people who believe in social
justice.”) One Israeli informed the group that, “When you Americans say
‘we’, Israelis feel that we’re not alone, but people who don’t serve
in our army have no right to say that Israel should or shouldn’t do
anything.” A HaMatzav
participant agreed that, “I don’t think that we have the privilege to use
the word ‘we” (in regard to Israel) because we don’t put our lives on
the line.” However, this opinion wounded another participant, who
defensively responded, “I say ‘we’
because if Israel falls, we all fall.”
I found it
fascinating how this particular discussion, perhaps as much as a discussion of
the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, generated tension amongst the participants.
For a generation of Jews educated with the Hebrew language, Israeli
music, culture and a general fandom of Israel that could be analogous to
rooting for one’s home team, the suggestion of a nationalistic disparity
between American Jew and Israeli Jew was clearly jarring to some. “I’m a
Zionist because my parents were Zionists and their parents were Zionists,”
one participant emotionally explained in defense of his own sense of
solidarity with the Israeli people, but an earlier comment from Seth Mandel,
explaining his reason for making Aliyah, argued against parity: “(I was
living) a second-rung life as a Jew in America.”
by the Intelligentsia
On a clear day you can see the Dome of the Rock from the patio of Yair and
Bambi Sheleg’s Harmon Ha’nasi apartment. Everyday, however, you have an
unobstructed view into the Arab village only a few hundred yards away, and
despite the growling of the stray cats and dogs lurking through their streets
below, and the chatter of their three young children inside, it’s a quiet
Sunday evening in Jerusalem.
The Shelegs are important voices in the world of Israeli journalism: Yair is a
member of the Editorial Board of the daily newspaper Ha'aretz, the
author of two books, and a scholar with the Israel Democracy Center, a
think-tank where he currently researches the policy implications of settlement
dismantlement. His wife Bambi is the founding editor of the groundbreaking
Israeli magazine Eretz Acheret (“A Different Country”), which deals
with issues of Jewish and Israeli identity.
Theirs is a religious home, with thick, opened volumes of Talmud in
view, and I fear that my visit has disrupted their study. But the discussion
this Sunday evening is of HaMatzav, and the heaping bowl of grapes and
plums that Bambi has laid out is a sweet counterpoint to the bitter subject.
Yair senses that Israeli society has been taken over by
“a quiet despair.” “People are not talking about it,” he says,
“but they’re asking themselves, ‘what will be the future of Israel’s
place in the Middle East?” To Yair, Israel has two options: continue with
the current situation, and deepen control of the territories, or unilaterally
separate from them, which is what he believes most Israelis would support, as
well as the closing of some settlements. But he fears that unilateral
withdrawal would give Palestinian terrorists the courage to continue with
their campaign of bloodshed.
The options are all bleak, and politicians, he says,
prefer to maintain the status quo than to deal head-on with problems. “The
desire of most Israelis is to separate, but it’s easier to just continue
along the same line.” Bambi agrees, opining, “Israeli society is much
better than its leaders and know better then them.” Bambi disagrees,
however, with her husband’s “quiet despair” assessment. She concedes
that Israelis are troubled, but thinks despair is more likely to be found
among intellectuals, or the “desperate part (of Israeli society), which lost
“We appear ourselves to be weak,” she said. “Rabin
said he signed Oslo because Israel didn’t have enough strength to go another
year (living with terror).” But Bambi thinks Israeli society has proven
itself to be far stronger than even the Israelis themselves expected. Still,
“Israelis love life, especially the good life, and for a Western society to
get into such a situation is no piece of cake.”
Yair is careful to explain that “quiet despair”
doesn’t mean that Israelis are not ready to fight or are going to leave the
country in droves. What he means is that people are, “looking into their
hearts and asking questions about the future that they cannot answer.” Bambi
agrees with her husband, but thinks that Americans, post September 11th,
are also asking the same questions, “Because the world is no longer a safe
Despite the situation, Chilean-born Bambi, the daughter
of German survivors, is resolute in her commitment to the Jewish state, and
insists, “Most of the Jews who live in Israel couldn’t imagine living in
the Diaspora. This is our place, we did not come here to leave, and the Arabs
have to deal with it.”
When the discussion turns to the Israel advocacy efforts
of North American Jews, Yair expresses his opinion that Diaspora Jews unfairly
blame unflattering media portrayals of Israeli actions on the failure of
Israeli hasbara. He felt this acutely when a mission from the Los
Angeles Federation came by at the beginning of the Intifada and blamed Israel
for not doing more “damage control,” and demanded better public relations,
which he thinks spoke to the mission participant’s
“own feelings of shame.” Still,
Yair emphasizes, “It has been very important to Israelis to have American
Jewish support, especially at the beginning of the uprising, because at that
time we didn’t have the support of the Clinton administration, which
condemned Israel following images of Palestinian children being
‘oppressed.’” Although he doesn’t know if this appreciation is the
feeling among average Israelis, he is confident that the importance of the
Diaspora, specifically the United States, is clearly understood.
Yair is also sensitive to the fact that many Americans
view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a battle between a Palestinian David
and Israeli Goliath, to which he responds, “The fact that the
Palestinians are the weaker side doesn’t make them the right side –
(although) in a Christian society, the weaker side is always right”
As an observer of the sometimes strained dynamic between Israeli identity and
the Jewish character of Israel, Bambi is convinced that the deepest issue of
the Matzav is indeed that of identity: “We have to fight for our lives,”
she says, “but what the Matzav does is force us to deal with the most
important issues of our times.” For example, for one issue of Eretz
Acheret she invited Israeli Arabs to write about their identities within
Israeli society, which exposed the dichotomy between a Jewish State with
Western values existing among Arab countries. “Israel’s major problem is
that it doesn’t share common values with the Arab world,” she says.
“This is why Oslo didn’t work: it was a Western solution. Peace must come
from them. We cannot force it.”
But for Bambi, the impact of recent history weighs heavily on the Israel
conscience as much as the current terror. “I believe that Jews have not
overcome the Shoah, “ she says. “We’ve not dealt with it because we
couldn’t do it. We’re just survivors. We haven’t had the time to reflect
on it and deal with it philosophically…I think that it’s important because
we can’t go on with the internal quarrel that started 2,000 years ago. I
think that the Shoah has a certain energy that eats us up to this day.”
Israelis have to create a new philosophy for the nation, Bambi insists. “We
are at the end of the stage of building the land. Now we have to decide what
will it be. And when we know where we want to go, we’ll have energy
Rejecting the influence of academics and pundits who claim Israelis live in a
“Post-Zionist” era, Yair asserts, “If you ask most (Israelis) if they
would like to do without the Zionist Character (of Israel), most would say
no.” As for the charge that Israelis have discarded the patriotic zeal of
the Zionist founders, Yair responds, “Most people are talking about the
‘fact level’, that Israelis are less committed to the ‘Biblical’
meaning of Israel, and more concerned about their security, political
issues…but there is a strong sense of solidarity around the situation, “
he affirms, and that, “after the Holocaust, many Zionists looked at Israel
and said, we don’t have any other place.” Therefore, Israel remains a
refuge for all Jews, despite the ongoing troubles.
As I prepared to leave, I remarked to Bambi how much Israel has changed since
my last visit. You can feel the weight, I told her, the enormous heaviness of
“Of course,” she sighed. “We’ve been through a terrible time.”
Paramount to hasbara efforts has been the monitoring of local and
international media for evidence of bias in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict. In cities including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, protests and
boycotts have been organized following some incident of alleged bias, and
watchdog organizations such as CAMERA and Honest Reporting have been active in
responding to community dissatisfaction.
The efforts have gone beyond America’s Jewish community: while in Israel I
came across a blurb in the Jerusalem Post announcing that the Glasgow
Jewish Representative Council has created a website with the mission of,
“countering unfair and factually inaccurate statements which are detrimental
As the author of a bi-weekly “Media Watch” column in a San Diego
Jewish newspaper, I was particularly interested to see how the news from
Israel compares with the actual situation. While watching BBC News in a
Jerusalem hotel, I learned that one experiences a strange disconnect between
their Middle East coverage and what’s actually happening on the street
below: doom and gloom reporting from the BBC predicting the apocalypse to come
as a result of some Israeli “aggression” in Gaza, while outside you’ll
find a bustling, sun-drenched market packed with chattering shoppers and
people on their way to and from work.
Dan Diker thinks he knows why the news coming from Israel is almost always so
bad, and why perception so frequently doesn’t match reality.
Speaking at the Hadassah Youth Center on Mt. Scopus, Diker, a Knesset
and economic affairs reporter for Israel Broadcasting Authority's English News
and media affairs consultant at the Jerusalem Center for Public
Affairs/Institute for Contemporary Affairs, has been keeping a close eye on
how the international media never misses an opportunity to portray Israel in
the worst possible light.
“Ha Matzav is top news both locally and internationally,” Diker, a
resident of Efrat, says. “ ‘The Israel Story’ for the international
press is basically the conflict, whereas something like the recovery of the
Israeli real estate market would be ignored.” The coverage that greeted
Christopher Reeve’s recent visit, he notes, was an anomaly, as it was a
positive human-interest story set in Israel.
And “The Israel Story” in the international media invariably
evolves around the Palestinian narrative, which is essentially, “Occupation.
And if Israel would move from the territories we would have peace.”
“Context and perspective doesn’t exist in the international media,”
Diker explains, using the media’s coverage of the brief Hudna as an
example; according to Diker, Hudna is an culturally-specific Arabic
term which means a temporary cessation of battle before the next round can
begin, like a seventh inning stretch, rather than a ceasefire,
as it was widely portrayed.
Interestingly, Diker thinks that some of the bias comes from a purely
aesthetic place. “99% of foreign reporters hang out at the American Colony
Hotel, which is Austrian owned and Arab staffed, and which gives a romantic
sense of what Jerusalem was a hundred years ago,” he says. “At five
o’clock you’ll see reporters coming ‘off safari’ reporting on ‘the
revolution’.” The accessible, idealized and Israel-free image the
American Colony provides journalists is disturbed by the complexities of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which makes it easier for them to simply resort
to the Occupier vs. the Occupied paradigm.
Also, Diker believes that reporting the complexities – the lack of human
rights in the Palestinian authority, the indoctrination of Palestinian youth
– is ignored in large part due to the Palestinian Authority’s close
control over who gets to speak to the press. And in the non-democratic
Palestinian society, foreign reporters are afraid that if they offend the
Palestinian Authority with unflattering reporting, their access to official
sources will be cut-off, thus leaving them unable to get “the Palestinian
reaction” for a story.
As a worse-case example of Palestinian media control, Diker recounted the
story of the Italian journalist who attempted to document the October 12, 2000
lynching of two Israeli reservists in Ramallah before receiving threats from
the Palestinian Authority. Amazingly, his network later apologized to the
Palestinian Authority for filming the murderers.
Countering the Palestinian restrictions imposed on the press, Diker describes
the access afforded by Israeli authorities to journalists as evidence that
Israel truly is a “Hyper-democracy.” Abu Dabi television, for example, has
full access to the Knesset even though it has been labeled as hostile to
Israel. In the interest of accuracy, Diker tries to speak to Israeli elected
officials themselves, rather than their spokespersons, which in Israel’s
informal political scene, is possible, and journalists frequently approach
MK’s directly, sometimes by just calling them on their cell phone rather
than wading through a sea of aides.
Despite this access to a wide variety of Israeli viewpoints, Diker laments how
the foreign press will often seek out someone whose views most closely meet
those of the reporter – which are generally very left of center -- to speak
on behalf of the Israeli people. “(Former Justice Minister) Yossi Bellin
represents six percent of the Israeli opinion,” Diker says, but he is
frequently quoted as speaking on behalf of all Israelis. Diker fears that a
“peripheral” voice like Bellin’s doesn’t accurately reflect to
the world the key concerns of the majority of Israelis, which come down to, “show
me security and give me a job.”
Diker views much of Israel’s media drubbing as a public relations war, and
acknowledges that the Palestinian Authority were wise to hire Ed Abington, a
former US State Department Council General in Jerusalem, as their media
advisor, whereas the Israeli government secured the services of Howard
Rubenstein, a public relations maven with no real experience in government,
which puts, Diker feels, Israeli hasbara at a crucial disadvantage.
As for the charges that Israel perpetuates the “cycle of violence”
by targeting Hamas members, Diker points out that suicide bombings take weeks
of preparation and are never spontaneous responses to Israeli actions, which
is how the Israeli public correctly understands such horrors as the Aug. 19th
suicide bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed 21, including several children.
But as this more complicated picture doesn’t fit into the simplified and
largely inaccurate narrative that the international media has relied on
throughout the last three years, Diker expects that the rare fair journalists
– such as Peter Herman of the Baltimore Sun, whom he singles out for
praise – will continue to be outweighed by those far less informed.
Diker’s analysis confirms that even though community is an intangible thing,
there is something mooring in the way that, for the last four years, Jews have
been exchanging, via e-mail or jagged newspaper clippings, a John Leo article
that captures the justness of the Israeli cause, or a particularly moving
profile of a young victim of the nightclub massacre in Tel Aviv.
Our collective sensitivity has been sharpened to the point where we
detect a contemptuous tone in a Peter Jennings’s voice that seems to escape
other audiences; for example, when I mentioned to a Jewish friend a story I
had heard that morning on NPR, she sneered, “you mean National Palestinian
Radio?” and I doubt that you would hear such a response from a friend who
was not beholden to what historian Jonathan Boyarin labeled, “the Politics
of Jewish Memory.”
Aubrey Issacs, Education Director of the WUJUS Institute in Arad, recalled
that the message he received from the Israeli Consul General in his native
Ireland during the Yom Kippur War was, “don’t come; send us your money.”
Today, Issacs feels that the image Israel projects to Diaspora Jewry is,
“we’re strong and we don’t need your help, so don’t come.”
Yet, in a recent article for Ma'ariv, Natan Sharansky wrote, “Israel
has few strategic assets as critical as American Jewry. The fact that the
world's leading superpower is a steadfast ally of Israel is due in large
measure to this proud and activist community.”
Michael Jankelowitz, the Jewish Agency for Israel’s
media liaison, believes that Israelis are very much aware of American Jewish
activism on behalf of Israel. Over
coffee in the Jewish Agency cafeteria, Jankelowitz acknowledged that the
diminishing number of American Jews visiting Israel over the years has been
noticeable, with the exception of the fully subsidized Operation Birthright
programs for college-aged first timers, which were the majority, even though
the number of participants had decreased significantly. But Israelis don’t
blame Americans for not coming, Jankelowitz insists. “They don’t expect
them to come in the thousands…it’s hard to make a demand of (American
Jews) to come to Israel when it’s not safe.” Although solidarity missions
were succeeding in bringing already-committed lay leaders to Israel, “Joe
Jew,” to use Jankelowitz’s terminology, chose to stay home.
Jankelowitz expressed concern that even among Jewish organizations, staffers,
however well meaning, were largely ill informed of the Matzav and therefore
unqualified to make policy reccomendations.
“Israelis don’t like when Americans get involved in internal
Israeli politics when their necks aren’t on the line.” As for the
much-reviled security fence, Jankelowitz invites Americans to, “come and
learn, but don’t condemn (from afar).”
Tzippi Barnea, the Assistant Director of the American Jewish Committee’s
Jerusalem office, disagrees with Jankelowitz’s assessment, “In general
Israelis don’t know anything about (American Hasbara
efforts) and don’t care about it,” she says. “The average Israeli
knows nothing about what American Jews are doing to help.”
The AJC’s Jerusalem office sees one of its responsibilities to teach
Israelis about the American Jewish community, and annually sends Israelis from
the political left and right to learn about American Pluralism, which,
according to Barnea successfully imparts, “how influential the American
Jewish community is (which most) Israelis do not know.”
A close observer of how the pro-Israel message is stated in America,
particularly on college campuses, Jankelowitz feels that focusing on the “moral
message” that Israel is a democracy is insufficient. “We have to
explain the Jewish historical connection to Zion,” he insists. Evangelical
Christians are a major block of support because they know the history.
“In today’s world, you have to think about the PR effect,”
Jankelowitz acknowledges. “However, there’s a limit to the extent that you
can do PR and ignore history.”
Noting that Palestinian public relations tries to break the emotional ties
between American Jews and Israel, Jankelowitz fears that American Jews don’t
understand the nuance of what’s being communicated by Israeli officials. In
his opinion, American Jews are missing the true culture of contemporary
Israel, which no longer is influenced by an Ashkenazi majority, and has
transformed into an “Oriental” country. “(Foreign Minister) Silvan
Shalom doesn’t speak perfect English, but he’s the model of the new
Israeli”, Jankelowitz stresses. “American Jews don’t know enough about
these Israelis, and (should) have more patience with them.”
The charge that too many Israeli governmental representatives in the United
States are unable to effectively articulate and defend Israel’s positions
was heard by HaMatzav participants in a discussion with Arthur Lance from the
Foreign Ministry Department, who dismissed the criticism, citing Dore Gold as
an example of an articulate spokesman. “Israeli Hasbara
is more effective than Americans think,” said Lance. “We made two
points at the start (of the second Intifada) that were initially not accepted:
Arafat was not a partner for peace and there will be no negotiating without
peace. This is (now) exactly what the Roadmap says.”
However, Steven Mazie, a political scientist and HaMatzav participant,
expressed dissatisfaction with both the Israeli government officials and the
internal American Jewish community discussion that Hasbara engenders. “I
crave an Israeli spokesman who can explain Israel’s position with as much
clarity as Hanan Ashrawi explains the Palestinian position. At the same time,
I crave more internal Jewish debate. You have the Right and Left camps, but we
need more nuance…I want more of that Jewish spirit of debate and diversity
that I think is sorely lacking in contemporary discussions about Israel.”
Neil Lazarus a Tel Aviv-based Israel Advocacy trainer feels that hasbara
is simply the wrong paradigm to use, and should be replaced with “Havna”
or understanding and “Shiruk” or marketing, i.e., selling Israel
as a product. Citing diminished attention spans among young people who
absorb knowledge through entertainment mediums, Lazarus recommends laying off
the lectures.“(Younger Jews) feel before they remember facts,” he says.
Lazurus’s stance is shared by Frank Luntz, who contends in his controversial
report, Israel in the Age of Eminem: A Creative Brief For Israel Messaging
that Jewish organizations are “not connecting effectively with young Jews.
Indeed, the messages, messengers, and mechanisms we are using for our advocacy
and fundraising campaigns may even be turning them off.”
Still, among the HaMatzav participants a fear was expressed that all the
efforts, however well intended, were failing to resonate. One participant
said, “In New York during the (start of the) Intifada, there were a number
of opportunities to speak up for Israel, but the majority of Jews don’t care
about the situation because they don’t know enough to care. And we’ve been
bombarded with so much information that it’s easier not to care at all.”
Another participant expressed his belief that too much of the pro-Israel
advocacy material he had read simply comes off as “Zionist propaganda.”
This charge rankled an observant member of the group, a social worker from
Borough Park, Brooklyn, who felt that among “Generation X ” Jews, having a
leftist or progressive position was congratulated, whereas coming across as
stridently pro-Israel was frowned upon.
The “Israel booster” that Rabbi Benjamin Levine
parodies is an American with memory the epochal events of 20th century Jewish
life: the Holocaust, the Birth of Israel and the Six-Day War. As these
individuals pass away and their numbers decline, they will be replaced by a
post-Holocaust, post-Zionist generation in which more than half are choosing
not to engage in Jewish life. The rate of unaffiliation among young Jews in
our urban population centers of New York and Los Angeles is now nearly 75%.
Declining affiliations resulted in weakened attachment to Israel among Jews
under age 45.
In his book Irreconcilable Differences: The Waning of the American Jewish
Love Affair with Israel, Steven Rosenthal writes, “the great heroic days
have passed, fractious normalcy has replaced the emotional high points of the
founding of the state, the Six Day war and the Entebbe raid.” The result,
according to Rosenthal, is an American Jewish community that finds the,
“purity of her cause less strong,” and to continue using the message that
“the Apocalypse is just around the corner” to mobilize political and
financial support is neither warranted, despite the current situation, nor
effective. Hasbara work,
therefore, must be sensitive to the audience’s resistance to, as the one
HaMatzav participant called it, propaganda. What was once considered axiomatic
– that an American Jew should feel deep loyalty for the Jewish state – is
no longer a given, the relationship becoming more nuanced and complex as
Israel’s role as a primary source of identity and pride for American Jews
As a result of my experience as a HaMatzav program participant, I have come to
accept that avoiding these complexities is ultimately to the disservice of hasbara
work. Indeed, Israel is a messy, divisive country rife with conflicting
narratives, a truth that rubs against the United Jewish Appeal’s slogan,
“We are One,” and a highly educated, affluent and acculturated American
Jewish community has limited patience for rhetoric. Instead, there is a hunger
for a far less monolithic and effusively celebratory portrayal of Israel than
what has long been presented, and although, as Michael Jankelowitz
acknowledges, American Jews are not visiting Israel in even less numbers than
before, Jewish communal professionals wishing to enrich their efforts should
not allow themselves to be counted among the ranks of those staying at home.
During the course of the last decade, the Federation system, conscious of the
changing dynamics between Israel and the American Jewish community, has
represented the relationship as a “partnership” built on the recognition
that Israel is a self-sufficient nation that can longer be treated with
patriarchal head-patting by Diaspora Jewry. Based on the remarks of the
officials and HaMatzav participants, however, this partnership appears to have
broken down around the matter of hasbara , with the American Jewish
community doing the lion’s share of the work with seemingly limited interest
from Israeli representatives in more incisively defending or explaining
Israeli positions to the media or opinion makers.
Having the morally correct position – as Israeli governmental
representatives are oft to claim – does not diminish the veracity of Neil
Lazarus’s position, that Israel must be more keenly marketed to an audience
with only a vague sense of history and a short attention span. Israelis must
be more fully engaged in hasbara efforts, and less inclined to allow
American Jews to laboriously present their history when the emotional, first
person testimony of a Seth Mandel or Donna Katzir is more likely to influence
hearts and minds.
Even a short trip to Israel offers a host of “marketable” moral truths far
more resonant than a litany of platitudes and slogans that reflect outdated
American Jewish ideals for the Jewish State rather than the actual Matzav,
in all its poignancy. The substance of meaningful hasbara lies in the
words of Eve Harrow, Michael Jankelowitz, Bambi and Yair Sheleg, Israelis with
different views of the situation that collectively tell the story of a damaged
nation still worthy of Harry Abelson’s – and more importantly, his
grandchildren’s – support and affection.
New Study Shows Hiring of Fundraising Professionals
Continues at Strong Pace, Even in Down Economy.
By David Edell and David Hinsley Cheng
NEW YORK, NY
July 9, 2003 The hiring of fundraising professionals during the past 24
months continued at a strong pace, even during the economic slowdown, according
to a recently released study by DRG Inc., a 15-year old national executive
search firm working only in the
released the results of their 2003 Trends in Hiring Development Professionals
Survey. In their findings, 67%
of respondents reported hiring a fundraising professional even though 57% of
respondents indicate that their organization faced hiring and wage freezes or
merging of positions. By
comparison, in a 1997 DRG study conducted at the height of the economic boom,
86% of respondents reported hiring new fundraising professionals.
numbers confirm that even in a down economy, nonprofit organizations cannot and
do not stop recruiting fundraising talent and investing in fund producing
programs says DRG President David E. Edell.
To further illustrate that point, the study found that 41% of respondents
actually hired to fill new created fundraising positions. Again, that number contrasts to 56% of respondents hiring for
new positions in DRGs 1997 study.
suggest that quality of life concerns have emerged as a significant issue
among fundraising professionals when
making career decisions. Factors such as the decision to only work part-time,
devote time to family, relocation, or continuing education/graduate school,
accounted for 46% of voluntary staff departures.
The study also shows that only 28% of employees leaving positions did so
for higher paying jobs.
Edell, I am constantly asked whats going on out there? This study
tells me that even with the current challenges presented by the economy and
government budget constraints, nonprofits continue to be both strategic and
aggressive in providing the resources to support their work.
67% of those responding hired new development professionals in
the past 24 months. (In our
1997 survey, 86% reported recent hires in 1996 and 1997).
Hiring of development professionals occurred even though 57% of
the respondents reported that their organizations experienced hiring or wage
freezes, staff reductions and/or merging of positions.
41% of those hired by the respondents filled new development
positions. Other hires were to fill openings for existing positions created
by resignations (39%) and termination (14%). By comparison, in our 1997 survey,
56% percent filled new development positions.
The fundraising experience that was sought most in these new
hires was major gifts (35%) followed by events/annual fund (20%) and
Most of the new hires were junior level professionals, 41%
(3-5 years experience) and entry level, 30% (under 3 years experience).
When considering education backgrounds of candidates for senior
and junior development positions, executives expressed strong preference for
candidates with a Bachelor and Master degree in liberal arts or humanities. For
senior positions, there was some interest (12%) in candidates with MBAs, CFRE/ACFRE
credentials (12%), or a Master in Nonprofit Management (10%).
Development professionals are staying in their organizations longer.
It was reported that development staff typically stays with their
organization 5-6 years (19%). 3-4
years (49%), 1-2 years (16%). That
is considerably longer that the 18-20 months reported in earlier surveys.
Nearly half (46%) of
the professionals who left development positions did so for quality of life
reasons such as seeking
part-time work options, family relocation, leaving the work force, or continuing
An increase in pay or responsibility has not been the primary
motivators in professionals decisions to leave their position.
Only 28% reported that professionals left their development departments
for new positions with increased pay. 17%
left for positions with increased responsibilities.
Only 16% of the respondents report that they interviewed a
corporate professional but ultimately did not hire that person. (In our 1997
survey 60% reported interviewing but not hiring corporate professionals seeking
to change careers into the nonprofit sector.)
Corporate backgrounds in marketing (31%) and sales (24%) were most
successful in transitioning into development positions.
Public relations skills were also noted in 18% of these hires.
ABOUT THE SURVEY:
This survey was
mailed to 3000 senior nonprofit executives in the Boston to Washington, DC
corridor in the Spring of 2003. There
were 164 respondents.
those responding, 48% served as their organizations chief development officer
or director of development. 23% of
the respondents were the Executive Director.
the responding organizations, 20% were organizations dedicated to social
services, 12% to the arts, 10% hospital/healthcare and 9% higher education.
36% of these organizations had budgets between $1-5 Million. 18% had
budgets in excess of $50 Million and 14% had budgets from $6-10 Million.
1987, DRG is an executive search and recruitment firm who has partnered with
more than 350 nonprofit organizations and institutions throughout the United
States and Canada. Since then, DRG has successfully conducted over 650 searches
for CEOs, Chief Development Officers, CFOs and other senior nonprofit
David E. Edell, President
David Hinsley Cheng, Managing Director DRG, Inc.
104 East 40th Street
New York, NY 10016
Phone: (212) 983-1600
Taylor is the second of the two recipients of
AJCOPs Bernard Rodkin Israel Experience Award to complete her project in
Israel. A natural outgrowth of my current work with
NYLAG and as a member of the UJA-Federation Eshel Professional Exchange, which
provided an opportunity for agency professionals working with seniors to
travel to Israel and meet with colleagues to discuss programs and identify
potential models of collaboration or replication, Karen chose to use the
Rodkin Award to identify models of programs that help the elderly remain
independently in their homes and communities.
of Programs Serving
the Elderly Remaining in Their Communities
By Karen Taylor
January 17, 2003
In 2002, I received a $5,000 Bernard Rodkin Israel
Experience Award from the Association of Jewish Communal Organizational
Professionals. The purpose of this award was to provide me with an opportunity
to increase my knowledge, experience and understanding of Israeli society and
her social welfare system through participation in a 2-3 week Professional
Development Experience in Israel that was pertinent to enhancing my Jewish
community organization skills.
I chose to use this award to identify models of programs
that help the elderly remain independent in their homes and communities. This
is a natural outgrowth of my current work as a member of the UJA-Federation Eshel
Professional Exchange, which provided an opportunity for agency
professionals working with seniors to travel to Israel and meet with our
colleagues to discuss programs and identify potential models of collaboration
or replication. (I became initially involved with the Eshel Exchange
when I was on staff at UJA-Federation in the Caring Commission, and my
portfolio included aging services. I continue to participate in several
professional task forces at UJA-Federation on aging-related issues.) This
interest is based on the following assumptions:
- Converging Priorities. Despite the differences in service delivery,
the priorities in Israel and North America in caring for older adults are
the same: keeping seniors living in their own homes, and active in their
communities, to the best of their capacity for as long as possible.
- Similar Special Populations. Israels senior population is
composed of 40% Holocaust survivors, a significant percentage compared to
the estimated 3% of New Yorks elderly population (and less than 15% of
New Yorks elderly Jewish population). Nevertheless, the issues facing
this vulnerable population have more in common than differences. Likewise,
cultural differences, language barriers, loss of family and neighborhood
ties, and other issues affect the Russian immigrant population in both
Israel and North America, even though the percentage of Russian olim
is significantly higher in Israel than in either the United States or
Canada. An exchange of professional information, as well as potential model
programs would be enormously beneficial for both of these populations.
Specifically, I was interested in doing the following:
- expand information base by meeting with policy and programming
professionals to test hypotheses in assumptions of commonalities and
differences in populations, service delivery,
- identify best practices and models for replication, and
- encourage possible collaborations between aging service programs in
Israel and in North America
Given the limited amount of time I had available to visit
Israel, I focused my energy on two types of programs that keep seniors
independent: supportive communities and warm homes.
While several agencies in Israel provide services for
elderly, both public and private (nursing homes, senior housing, etc. etc.), a
significant number of programs designed to keep people independent in their
homes and communities are developed through JDC-Israel's Eshel program.
Eshel provides an array of pilot projects after research and planning,
and then upon evaluation, identifies methods of replication of services.
Given the limited amount of time I had available to visit
Israel, and my focus on supportive communities and warm homes, I utilized my
time with Eshel to learn more about the planning and development of
these programs, and the relationship between the JDC and the government in
institutionalizing these program models.
JDC professionals I met with included:
- Dr. Yitzhak Brick, Director of JDC-Eshel
- Tammy Barnea/Randi Gover, Director of Supportive Communities for the
- Yosefa ben Moshe, Director of Health Promotion
- Jenny Bronski, Director of Research for Brookdale
- David Cahn, Director of Day Care Centers
- Yakov Kabilo, Director of Homes for the Aged
- Tuvia Mendelson, Director of Publications
- Dror Rottem, Director of Research/Program Development
- Moshe Yoness, Director of Video and Visual Media
- Tali Zuk, Director of Education and Training Programs
Many of these interviews provided me with a much stronger
knowledge of the Israeli social welfare system and how the elderly participate
with the various Ministries (Health, Insurance, and Social Welfare), as well
as knowledge of the activities and partnerships developed on the local level
by the various municipalities. This background was especially useful during my
site visits, as I sorted out the various "partners" in each of the
supportive communities and warm home projects.
These interviews also confirmed a first impression I had
during my brief visit to Israel in 2001: there is a much closer relationship
between research and program development In Israel than in the United States.
While most North American Jewish senior service programs do not have the staff
capacity or expertise to do applied research, Israeli professionals
incorporate this more comprehensive approach, and show a willingness to test
models based on research and need, rather than funding and marketing interest.
JDC-Eshel programs are excellent examples of research, development,
implementation, and evaluation best-practices models.
The integration of training into service development for
senior service programs is also different in Israel than in the United States.
The JDC-Eshel Training Institute provides a gerontologically-specific
series of education programs for professionals at all levels who are
working in Eshel -developed model programs. Some training programs are
linked with local universities; others are basic education models to teach
entry-level staff members about basic issues affecting seniors. The result of
this comprehensive approach to education and training was very clear in my
on-site visits: case workers, day center directors, nursing home aids,
community fathers and warm home hosts all seemed to have a strong grounding in
the basic approaches to aging.
Best Practices and Models for Replication
The "Supportive Community" is a
program designed to help improve the quality of life of elderly living in
their communities, by helping them maintain their independence and providing
specific services to needs that otherwise may not be adequately addressed.
Created in the late 1990s, these programs offer four basic services: a
Personal Emergency Response system; emergency ambulance and physician house
calls; social activities, and a neighborhood facilitator (community father).
These programs require some fiscal participation by the clients (averaging
$20-25 monthly), which is matched by a partnership usually comprising the
Ministry of Welfare, the Ministry of Health, and the local Regional Council.
Other partners may provide additional services (e.g., the Ministry of
Insurance supports health prevention programs such as hearing and sight
testing in some supportive communities; some municipalities will offer
computer equipment and space), and JDC-Israels Eshel Project
provides seed funding until the communities have 200 households subscribed.
There are now nearly 70 supportive community programs in Israel. Approximately
50% of the programs in medium in small size cities, followed by 35% in urban
metropolitan areas and the rest in rural communities, including a Supportive
"Village" comprised of 22 moshavim in Beer Tuvia. Some of
these programs are now Emergency Supportive Communities, and providing
additional reassurance to the elderly who live in neighborhoods under attack.
During my trips over the last year to Israel, I have visited supportive
communities in all three settings including Emergency Supportive Communities.
The Community Father
An essential component of the program is the neighborhood
facilitator, or "community father." The profile of this
person is generally a man from a "blue-collar" background in his
50's or 60's who is physically active. (This does not mean that women, or
people from other backgrounds are not also chosen, but the most typical
facilitator in the program meets this profile.) The reason for the age is to
address the concern of the elderly that as they lose capacity to do for
themselves, they are not turned into children, or forcing their children to
become their parents. Thus, a man who is physically active but older is the
most comfortable match for the programs.
Benyamin is such a man. A large strong man with a shy
smile, he is clearly loved by his community. Benyamin also immediately
provides a presence that is strong and comforting for someone who is fearful.
His lifeline is a cell phone and a car. The catchment area of his community is
most of central Hadera, a city of approximately 80,000 with a 14% elderly
population. There are two existing supportive community projects (a third is
Benyamin received orientation and information training
through the JDC-Eshel Center for Continuing Education and Training on
the special needs of the elderly (all community fathers are required to
undergo this training), as well as practical application of this information.
He enjoys working with the residents, and can also articulate many of the
basic concerns and needs of elderly in general, as well as his own role in the
provision of services. He can give the histories of almost all of the
residents, with sympathy and practical application. He remains informed on
various activities, and in touch with the social workers. We visited one home
where a homebound man and his wife lived. While we were there, Benyamin told
the wife of an upcoming community activity and gently invited her to attend;
later, he told me later that the supportive community social worker has been
encouraging the wife to attend some of the communitys social programs while
her husband is attended by the home care attendant. At another home, he
laughed and joked heartily with a woman who had moved to Hadera only a month
before her husband died; she was clearly delighted to see him. In both
instances, the residents were very familiar with the array of services their
supportive community offered and gave me examples of physician house calls,
social programs, and active demonstrations of the PERS system.
In Beer Tuvia, the community father is in a different
situation. The community includes 15-20 moshavim, and covers 50 square
miles. The Community Father drives 200 km/month to help 91 subscribers (the
project is still growing). In some moshavim, only 1 or 2 households
currently participate. As a result, the supportive community here places
larger emphasis on telephone re-assurance (often staffed by
subscriber/volunteers) and utilizes senior centers throughout the district in
order to provide regionalized services that can be accessed by the seniors.
The Moshav Supportive Community/Village is heavily
Tunisian, Moroccan, and Yeminite, and has a very different feel than a
city-based supportive community. The difference is exemplified by Ora. Ora
moved to Israel in 1948, and helped to form a kibbutz in a border area. She
later moved to a moshav, also on the border, where she has lived for 50
years. Ora joined the supportive community not because of any perceived
frailty, but because the concept reflects her own ideals. Since joining, she
has received telephone reassurance calls, and is planning on volunteering time
The one concern Ora shared about the supportive community
is how best to serve the elderly on a moshav. Unlike their city
neighbors, the residents on a moshav are not likely to have a pension.
In addition, with the current economic situation, their social security is
very low, putting many of them over the poverty line. There is not much of a
safety net on a moshav, where a multitude of other issues are also
facing the Regional Council as fewer and fewer individuals are farming, and
the land is being purchased for bedroom community living near major urban
centers. With security an added issue (Oras kitchen window looks out onto
the fence that divides the moshav from Palestinian territory), the
basic needs for the elderly many of whom joined the moshav even
before the establishment of the State of Israel can be lost in the
This program has several established parameters, all of
which were outlined above. JDC The model, however, is still flexible, and is
being explored for additional communities needs. Eshel is developing
a supportive community for the disabled in Gilo. This supportive community
(chosen because it has a high percentage of disabled due to a local
institution serving this population) is in an "emergency" area,
and in addition to the increased level of fear and uncertainty, certain
tangible needs of the disabled must also be addressed. For example, home care
workers were unable to get to their assignments because of roadblocks, leaving
disabled residents without necessary aid for activities as simple as getting
out of bed. A second model is being planned in Hadera, as well. Different
needs and ways to address these needs are still under development.
The flexibility of the Supportive Community model, as seen
by this exploration of serving a disabled community, may prove to be helpful
in developing similar programs in the United States. Seed funding has been
provided to start a supportive community in Brooklyn, where there is a high
percentage of elderly immigrants. The partners needed to achieve a successful
model are still being explored, but can prove to be a helpful model for other
urban communities with a density of seniors, but for whom a NORC Supportive
Service model may not be optimum. Likewise, a horizontal supportive community
in a suburban or small town community may be a helpful model to identify for
local area agencies on aging, as a way to bring together a basket of services
in a cost-effective way to serve local residents.
Warm Homes are small, house-based programs that
grew organically out of the Joints Chesed projects in the Former
Soviet Union. The Warm Home offered elderly Russian Jews an opportunity to
socialize and participate in Jewish ritual activities in the privacy and
comfort of a neighbors home. The groups are, by their nature, closed in
order to allow for a sense of safety and emotional intimacy to develop.
The first Warm Home project in Israel was attempted in
Rechava, with a group of elderly Israelis. It was unsuccessful. On its second
attempt, the Warm Home project was attempted with elderly Russian olim
with the hope that some of them might recognize the model from the Chesed
projects. These programs were far more successful. After visiting several Warm
Homes for both Russian and Argentinian olim, it becomes clear why these
are more likely to be successful programs:
- common immigrant experience
- difficulty with assimilation
- cultural background of small-group entertainment
One of the common reactions with attempting a Warm Home
project with settled residents was the fear that that others might notice that
the host was "coming down in the world," i.e., being house poor.
With a group of recent immigrants, all of whom are sharing similar changed
living circumstances, this worry is reduced the comparisons of living
space are less likely to produce anxiety or fear.
Many elderly have difficulty learning a new language and
feeling comfortable (and safe) in a new environment. The Warm Homes permit
both an opportunity to speak in the language of origin, and to practice
conversational Hebrew with peers, which also reduces stress. The gatherings
also provide participants to share neighborhood information and experiences
(i.e., friendly shopkeepers, nearby conveniences), which can ease fear of the
There is a possibility that cultural components play a
significant role in the success of a Warm Home for a variety of reasons. For
example, attempts to create a Warm Home for immigrants from Ethiopia were less
successful than their counterparts from the FSU because Ethiopian culture has
a different set of expectations regarding home entertainment there is
greater comfort in gathering in a neutral communal space, for instance.
JDC-Israels Eshel program is considering a "Warm Tea
House" modification for immigrants from Central Asian states that
will center on communal spaces (in or near synagogues) to feel like the
familiar tea houses that were often gathering spaces in neighborhoods.
Starting a Warm
JDC-Israels Eshel Program identifies
communities in which there are large populations of low-income elderly, and
locates potential Warm Home hosts. These hosts are usually peers (or slightly
younger) who are naturally gregarious, and friendly neighbors. They receive
training through the Eshel Center for Continuing Education and Training
on basic needs of the elderly. The hosts are then responsible for identifying
(sometimes in conjunction with the local municipalitys social worker)
isolated seniors in their neighborhood who are invited to participate. The
groups take place 1-3 nights a week, and are generally 12-20 people total. A
budget for food and materials (e.g., Shabbat kits, video rental) are provided
to the host through the municipality or other partners.
All Warm Home projects have a significant self-directed
component, to further allow for socialization and organic
relationship-building. For example, a group in Belarus is working on a
memoir-writing project together. In visiting Warm Homes for Russian olim in
Israel, the groups tended to have strong educational components, utilizing the
professional expertise of the participants themselves, who often created
lecture programs for their fellow Warm Home participants. The Argentines, on
the other hand, used their time together to practice conversational Hebrew and
to study the history of the State of Israel.
There is a Warm Home program for Holocaust survivors in the
FSU, but not one in Israel. This is probably because one-third of the elderly
population in Israel are Holocaust survivors, which makes them less of a
"special population" than they are in other countries. In the United
States, however, this may be a special "non-immigrant" population
that could benefit enormously from a Warm Home model.
While visiting programs, and upon my return to New York, I
was active in identifying potential models of collaboration and beginning the
partnership process. As mentioned above, a supportive community model is
already under development in Brooklyns Bensonhurst community, and my
intention is to further study the models development in the United States
in order to compare, contrast, and identify methods of replication.
I am also actively working with UJA-Federation to identify
potential agencies that may find the "Warm Home" a manageable model
to attempt with minimum seed funding.
Finally, I have also developed two other collaborative
opportunities for Israel-diaspora partnerships which further connect New York
City organizations with similar agencies in Israel. Those projects are:
- a proposed collaboration for my current agency (The New York Legal
Assistance Group) and Yad Riva, a legal services agency providing
assistance to the elderly in Israel, which has been favorably received by
UJA-Federation for consideration in an upcoming Eshel Professional
Exchange and for future support;
- a proposed Israel-Diaspora partnership between two organizations serving
tenuously connected Jews in order to strengthen their Jewish identity and
build a sense of commitment to Israel and its people. This collaboration,
between Congregation Beth Simchat Torah (New York Citys lesbian and gay
synagogue) and Jerusalem Open House (the only gay community center in
Jerusalem), is designed to strengthen Jewish identity in the population
served by these two organizations, which are the only Jewish organizations
with which the population they serve may have any affiliation. A proposed
Partnership 2000 grant is under consideration after several meetings with
the New Grants Committee, and CBST is already planning a congregational
trip to Jerusalem in 2003.
The Supportive Community and Warm Home
programs each provide an innovative model to consider in community planning
for the elderly in New York, and the United States. They are programs that are
community-based, and of two different sizes, providing great flexibility for
community planners and agency professionals. In addition, they offer two
important, but different levels of engagement for seniors who are living in
isolation. The Supportive Community model, like the already existing NORC
Supportive Community models, require a substantial professional and financial
investment with partners that can provide the initial and on-going work
required to build the community participation. The Warm Home model, on the
other hand, requires a much smaller financial investment, and may be
attractive to agencies seeking cost-effective methods to support their aging
clients. It may be possible to create these programs with fewer partners than
the Supportive Community model. This model is clearly worth investigation in
the United States. In continuing my work with the Eshel Professional
Exchange, I hope to help create Warm Home models in New York, and evaluate
their success for replication in other communities, as well.
Berg-Warman, Ayelet. "Supportive Community"
Program: an Evaluation Study, 2000-2001. JDC-Brookdale/Association for the
Planning & Development of Services for the Aged (Eshel )
Brodsky, Jenny, Kapln, Eileen & Tamara Barnea. "Experience Counts:
Innovative Programs for the Elderly in Israel that can Benefit
Americans." JDC-Brookdale/Association for the Planning & Development
of Services for the Aged (Eshel ), published by American-Israeli Cooperative
Thein, Shalom. "Supportive Communities Aging in Place in
Israel." ESHEL , June 2001.
"Emergency Supportive Community Gilo" and "Supportive
Community" two videos produced by ESHEL "Golden Aging:
Exhibition and Catalogue" produced by ESHEL , 2000.
"Israel Report to United Nations Second World Assembly on Ageing (Madrid,
Spain)," prepared by the Government of Israel with the assistance of JDC-Brookdale
and JDC-Eshel . Also "Israels Elderly: Facts and Figures," a
special edition prepared for the Second World Assembly
"JDC-Eshel s Seventh Five-Year Plan: 2001-2005." JDC-Eshel .
"People with Disabilities in Israel: Facts and Figures." JDC-Israel
Unit for Disabilities and Rehabilitation.
Various brochures on projects, health promotion, training, and other JDC-Eshel
article by Gary Wexler, appeared in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles
on 10/18/02. A marketing consultant to non-profit organizations, Wexler
is working with AJCOP to better serve you, our members. Bob Hyfler,
Chief Operating Officer of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, has
been dialoging with Wexler on this topic. I am sure you will find their
articles food for thought. If you would like to respond, please send
your responses to Marlene@ajcop.org.
Professional-Lay Relations Need Examining
by Gary Wexler
When people query me as to who our clients are, if the person is Jewish, I often answer, "Half our clients are Jewish organizations. And the other half are people who treat us really nicely."
Almost always people laugh at the response. Once, however, at a Jewish event in San Francisco, someone told me I was anti-Semitic. My answer to her? "Being realistic about our organizational issues doesnt make me an anti-Semite."
Jewish organizations have many issues. But after having worked with more than 100 of them, in the United States, Israel and around the world, I have come to the conclusion that among the top priority issues is how we interact with one another. In the process of pursuing tikun olam (repairing the world), I have seen more Jewish organizations destroy the Jewish spirit of the individuals involved. While they are busy saving the people "out there" they are chopping up the ones close to them.
This is no secret. Any of us who has been involved in organized Jewish life has witnessed this reality, if not personally been subjected to it. Yet, it is like the elephant in the living room that sits heavily in the midst of everything, and everyone wants to tiptoe around it, ignoring its presence. No one wants to publicly speak of the obvious.
And it is time the rest of us do, too. We must put the issue of inter-personal relations within organized Jewish life on the public agenda. I realized this on Yom Kippur. At one point in the service, our astute young rabbi opened up a public discussion from the bimah about business ethics in view of Enron, Tyco and Global Crossing. After a few minutes of discussion, I raised my hand and said, "We have an issue of business ethics in the Jewish organizational business the ethics of how we treat one another." For the rest of the day, people, many of them prominent in the community, continued to approach me, commenting on how correct I was, or asking me to explain further what I believed the issues were. I realized there is a great collective need in our community to explore this matter.
With all the exposure I have had to this issue and all the trans-continental and international airline seats I have occupied after meeting with my clients, I have given this a great deal of thought and weary reflection.
Where does it begin? At the core of Jewish organizational structure is a very particular professional-lay relationship. Notice I have turned its common parlance around and have not called it the "lay-professional relationship." Describing it as the lay-professional relationship basically states the problem.
In Jewish institutions, as opposed to my non-Jewish clients, the lay people have a lot more hands-on day-to-day involvement with the organization. In many cases this is extraordinary and bespeaks a very heartfelt level of commitment. We would not be the community we are today without this level of lay involvement. Yet, it is not without its problems. And we cannot be afraid or intimidated to approach those problems.
Lay-professional means the lay people are primary. Primary over those who devote their studies, professions and career goals to Jewish life. It says that who gives the money or sits on a committee is more important than who builds a lifetime of service, giving 18 professional hours a day, weekends and holidays (yes, even Jewish ones) servicing what that money actually does.
People will say I am splitting hairs, that it is an equal relationship. But in most cases, we know this is simply not true. The question this begs is: Who really holds control?
When we work with a Jewish organization, there are four words that we most often hear from the professionals throughout the working relationship, as we approach the decision-making process. "But the lay people...." It is a constant mantra. The professionals shake with fear and uncertainty when they say these words. I have come to realize that these four words stifle their creativity, their leadership, their thinking, their self-confidence and their professionalism. I cannot count how many meetings I have sat in where the professionals, who possess the most knowledge, sit silently while their lay counterparts "run" the meeting. This fear and absence of control by the professionals inhibits the Jewish enterprise from being all it can be. There must be important decisions which professionals are allowed to guide, and in some cases are left alone to make.
This issue rarely arises in non-Jewish organizations.
These thoughts are in no way to discount the importance of lay people in Jewish organizational life. It is a partnership. Lay people fund the existence of this enterprise. Good lay people understand the issues, are committed, knowledgeable and integral to the vision, flourishing and survival of the enterprise. However, like in any partnership, roles must be clearly defined. If one partner is shorn of his or her decision-making responsibilities, particularly when he or she understands the issue or situation at hand better than anyone in the room, the partnership is not healthy.
In a changing world, where the Jewish enterprise is threatened on many levels, it is time that the partnership be examined, restructured and publicly addressed. There needs to be respect for the professionals professionalism, insight, knowledge and vision. The schools training the professionals must meet the challenge of professionals trained to actually lead, not just follow and serve.
From this partnership flows the nature and culture of Jewish organizations. If we begin tikun olam at this level, then we can begin to repair what else needs to be fixed.
Torah values of how we treat one another must be integrated into this restructuring process. There needs to be a code of conduct. Professionals need to be trained in this code as to how to treat fellow professionals, employees and lay counterparts. Lay people need to be trained in this code as to how to treat the professionals as well as each other, including those lay people who are not major funders. In some cases, we actually need to civilize and Judaize our organizational behavior.
We need to call for a conference to address the issue.
Papers must be published in both professional and general Jewish publications which begin to create a new organizational culture. We must open the discussion for robust and healthy debate. Respectfully.
We must create manuals and codes. We have to establish training sessions. How we treat one another is as important as how we save one another.
I am certain someone will ask why, if I find this relationship so distasteful, do I continue to pursue Jewish organizations as clients? I am them. And they are me. I am bound at the hip to the Jewish enterprise. From our perch as marketers, delving deeply into their souls and operations I see Jewish organizations as nothing short of extraordinary, paving the path for daily miracles. I am proud of these organizations and to be playing such an integral role.
I just want to see us be all we can be.
Gary Wexler is an advertising executive and consultant to Jewish agencies.
Article on Lay/Professional Relations-- Response to Gary Wexler
This is an opening comment
in the interest of dialogue on your thoughtful and candid e-mail article.
You may be right that
there is a problem in lay-professional, or professional-lay, relations by
whatever name we call it. However, as accurate as you are about the
symptoms- frustration, disempowerment, cynicism, confusion of roles etc - your
are wrong in your approach to both the root of the problem and the solution.
It is, Gary, a matter of
professionalism, and professionalism is a two way street. The partnership
we all seek is at risk not because paid employees are marginalized and
disempowered. It is because both less than professional volunteers and
less than professional employees too often abuse their roles and disempower
their counterparts in the partnership. We do not always hold ourselves
appropriately accountable for behavior less than should be expected of any
professional, paid or volunteer. As a communal employee, I can point to many a
lay transgression. However, my professional standards tell me to look in
the mirror as well.
The strength of our
communal system is precisely in the passion for excellence of all engaged, the
full empowerment of laity in setting communal policy and the specialized
empowerment of the paid professional in policy formulation and implementation.
At its best, (which I have seen consistently over the past 21 years in
this work) the system comes closest to the Jeffersonian notion of citizen
leadership. This concept also bears close resemblance to the biblical
vision of leadership prior to the anointment (against Samuel's and God's best
advice) of King Saul. (Read Samuel I, VIII for the nightmare of
overpowering the professional -- better yet look at United Way!)
While a clarification of
role is clearly needed, what is also needed is greater discernment in avoiding
mediocrity and promoting excellence and accountability. No one, lay or
professional, deserves a free ride in our system. All of us need to be
better trained, more greatly aligned, more professional and more appreciative of
respective skills and roles. I know you would not disagree with this last
Paid professionals who
work hard at protecting the dignity and logic of the partnership will never
"quake with fear and uncertainty" in working with their volunteer
counterparts, are never "followers" ,and can "lead and
serve" most effectively and professionally without having to go back
to school to learn to create a culture dominated by the financially
A last word on civility.
Jewish meetings and decision making processes are fueled by the passion and
urgency inherent in our work. We are also a people of great intimacy and
familiarity. While sometimes we cross a boundary or two and sometimes we
fall short of our own standards of respect and derech eretz, this is not in my
mind an issue that requires conferences and protocols... In fact, I kinda like
it. Maybe that's the difference between Brooklyn and LA!
all the best,
Chief Operating Officer
The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington
Sara Schlossberg is the first of the two recipients of
AJCOPs Bernard Rodkin Israel Experience Award to complete her project in
Israel. Sara was most recently the Assistant Director of the Jewish Community
Relations for the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County, and now is a Project
Manager with the UJA/Federation of New York.
Sara first became fluent in American Sign Language (ASL),
and thus acquainted with the American Deaf, when she was twelve years old. Since
that time, she has presented Torah portions in ASL, learned the Israeli Sign
Language Alphabet, and written a thesis on Jewish Deaf poetry. The Rodkin Award
gave Sara the unique opportunity to study the delivery of social services to the
Israeli Deaf and the Israeli social service system for the disabled, in general.
Thanks to an honor accorded to me by AJCOP, the Bernard Rodkin Israel
Experience Committee, its chair Herman Markowitz, and AJCOPs executive
director Lou Solomon, I spent four weeks in Israel during the summer of 2002. My
time was spent gaining a greater understanding of the social service system for
the disabled. I chose to begin my study with an overview of the system and then,
as a case study, to investigate the services available for the Israeli Deaf.
I began by visiting a variety of organizations that assist the disabled in
Israel and receive support from either the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) or
the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) for this work. Additionally, my initial
investigation included several meetings with professionals at the JDC and JAFI
who are responsible for coordinating the work of those organizations with the
JDC and JAFI
Tamara Barnea, director of Disability and Rehabilitation Services at the JDC,
was eminently helpful in describing the changes that unit has seen since it was
restructured in 1989. Ms. Barnea introduced me to several disabled Israelis with
whom they currently fund projects for the disabled community. One revolutionary
example of the JDC's partnership is its project with the Women's Forum on
Disability and its disabled founder and leader, Nili Broyer. This group not only
works on the crucial issues of accessibility to medical services in the area of
women's health, but it also engages in creating a generation of female leaders
who are disabled to assume positions of power throughout the business and
political sectors. Avital Sandler Loeff, Senior Project Manager of the JDC unit
for Disabilities and Rehabilitation, has been a driving force behind the JDC's
unique policy of encouraging participation of disabled adults at every level of
a project. A notable example of this is JDCs work at clinics for the newly
blind. This project places social workers that are also experts in the area of
disabilities in eye care clinics to advise those who are losing their sight or
who are newly blind. These social workers offer information about assistive
technologies, government policies and services, and community resources.
Indicative of the JDC's unique policy, the social workers employed in these
positions are blind. This creates both vocational opportunities in the disabled
community as well as an opportunity for the newly blind to understand the
potential and power of blind individuals.
General Disability/A Model for
America to Adopt
In the best cases, many of the organizations and institutions in Israel
closely mirror their America counterparts. Often, the professionals who serve
the disabled community in Israel identify the level of service and the
philosophy as fifteen to twenty years behind the United States. One outstanding
exception to this is Shalva. Shalva, established by Kalman Samuels in
1990 is a seven-story center for children who are physically or mentally
challenged. The center is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by therapists,
activities directors, resource experts and volunteers trained to work with the
disabled. Shalva offers more than 50 services and activities for the disabled.
Some of the services Shalva provides are similar to services provided in
America, such as art therapy, music therapy and home economics training.
However, some of the services Shalva offers are absolutely revolutionary.
The hydrotherapy pool with its underwater speakers, wheelchairs lift, and
reflective mirrors for viewing underwater physical therapy are unparalleled in
the United States. Furthermore, the multi-sensory room at Shalva utilizes the
most recent technological advances in interactive therapy from around the world.
The room boasts a biofeedback mirror of pulsating lights (for stimulating
brainwaves), "soft lights" (strands of rope lights durable but
flexible enough for children to wrap around themselves), and many other unique
Finally, Shalva offers something that most parents in America only dream
about: once a week, 36-hour, ongoing respite care. Every day of
the week, including Shabbat, children with physical or mental handicaps are
enjoying Shalva's video room, touch-sensitive computer room, theater space, and
10 hand-painted Disney-themed bedrooms with matching bedspreads and decor. Each
day of the week a specific a group of children is transported to Shalva. The
group on Thursday, which is picked up after-school courtesy of Shalva and
transported for an afternoon and evening of fun, comes to know each other as
peers, friends and role models. Friday morning the "Thursday group" is
delivered to school with freshly laundered clothes and a bag lunch, again
courtesy of Shalva. In the United States most facilities offer one of three
options: no respite care whatsoever; full-time residential care; or respite care
on a limited and temporary basis (i.e. one day, one week, etc.). The concept of
creating a chevre of disabled children who come together once a week
while relieving their parents for 36 hours every week, 52 weeks a year, is
Disabled in Israel
The JDC's Brookdale Institute estimates that there are 600,000 people in
Israel who suffer some form of physical, sensory, emotional or cognitive
disorder. 350,000 of these people are disabled adults between the ages of 21-65
and potential workforce members. In Israel there are 160,000 children suffering
from disabilities or chronic conditions. Of this number, 65,000 suffer from more
than one disability (such as physical disability and mental retardation).
Furthermore, 57% of families with disabled children in Israel live below the
According to the JDC's Brookdale Institute, "the gaps between needs and
provided services are particularly large in the Arab sector." The rate of
children with disabilities in the Arab community is higher than the rate in the
Jewish community (8.3% as compared to 7.7%). The majority of those identified by
Brookdale as "under-served" are Israeli Arabs residing in areas
outside of the West Bank, Gaza Strip or territories.
Background Information Concerning the
The Deaf are an unusual subset of what is often referred to as the
"disabled community." This is because unlike the blind or someone with
cerebral palsy, the Deaf maintain a culture separate and different from the
hearing world. This culture is not merely comprised of an inability to hear the
spoken word. The Deaf community has a rich tradition of storytelling, poetry,
theater, and history that is unique to its members. In America, Deaf culture is
centered around American Sign Language (ASL). This method of
communication has been recognized as a language, with all of the idioms,
complexities and regional variations that one would expect.
Many people are surprised to discover that sign language is not universal. In
fact, sign languages vary widely from country to country. The understanding that
ASL is a language akin to English allows one to begin the basis of
comprehension for this wide variety. For exactly the same reasons that we have
not yet been able to achieve a universal spoken language (Esperanto, for
example), it is almost impossible to convince 70 million Deaf worldwide to adopt
a single means of expression. In Israel, Deaf individuals use Israeli Sign
Language, which is quite different from American Sign Language.
Additionally, in Israel there are some regional differences in signs between
Jewish and Arab Deaf.
In America a distinct division is made by the disabled themselves between the
"culturally Deaf" (those who prefer to communicate in ASL), the Hard of Hearing, and
those deaf who communicate through speech (often referred to as
This differentiation is not always maintained by the social service system that
tends to view the three groups as comprised of individuals who share the same
Within this article the term Deaf (capital "D") is
used here to denote those individuals who are hearing impaired and who have
chosen to utilize sign language as a primary means of communicating. The term oralist
is used to indicate those who are hearing impaired and have chosen to utilize lip-reading
as a primary means of communication. An infant or child who has not identified a
primary means of communication for her/himself is referred to as hearing
Hard of Hearing in Israel
It is estimated that 5,000 people in Israel are hard of hearing. 30% of those
above the age of 65 are hard of hearing. Bekol, founded in 1997 by three
hard of hearing individuals, is the central organization for the hard of hearing
in Israel. This group encompasses those who are hard of hearing from birth,
people who gradually lose their hearing, late deafened people as well as a small
number of Deaf. The group focuses on issues of advocacy and accessibility. What
is uncommon about the group is that about half of the members are able to
communicate orally and in Israeli sign language. In general hard of
hearing individuals who are able to communicate orally frequently distance
themselves from the Deaf by insisting on spoken communication and not learning
sign language. This often accords them, in the view of the hearing world, with a
greater deal of "normalcy" and distance from the label "disabled."
Bekol constitutes an unique bridge between the hard of hearing and Deaf worlds.
The unusual nature of Bekol (in its use and acceptance of sign language)
may be due to the preponderance of members under the age of 45 who have been
hard of hearing for a significant portion of their lives. These members have
been struggling with their identity as "disabled" for a greater
portion of their lives than late deafened individuals who lose their hearing due
to advanced age. This lengthy struggle may have left them more open to exploring
avenues of communication that are not considered part of the "norm".
Thus, younger members of Bekol who have been hard of hearing for most of their
lives have adopted sign language without the fear of stigma that prevents late
deafened adults from doing so.
Deaf in Israel
It is estimated that Israeli Sign Language is used by close to 10,000
individuals (Institute for Advancement of Deaf Persons in Israel). In Israel, as
in America, 90% of Deaf children are born to hearing parents. This often means
that the journey from silence to communication is an arduous and halting
process. At birth, most Israeli parents of hearing impaired infants hope that
their child will be able to approximate as closely as possible the appearance
and communication methods of the hearing. In this way they are not dissimilar
from their counterparts in America.
In America the approach to the education of hearing impaired children has
been dichotomized. The majority of students in the 1980's and early 1990's
attended public schools under the auspices of a variety of "mainstreaming"
initiatives. The greater the oral ability of a hearing impaired pupil, the
greater the chance that that pupil would succeed under these mainstreaming
initiatives. In contrast, a small but highly visible percentage of hearing
impaired students attended Deaf residential schools. These schools offered
classes and activities in sign language and frequently employed Deaf teachers
and administrators. Culminating in the early 1980's, the Deaf adult population
in America strongly advocated for hearing impaired children to attend "Deaf
schools." Advocates fought for the opportunity for children to be taught
sign language as a primary means of communication in an environment "among
their peers" (other Deaf children and adults). This led to a sharp divide
in education among the Deaf in America. Galludet University, the only Deaf
university in the world, and most of the Deaf adult population advocated for
Deaf residential education, while oralists, hearing educators and many parents
demanded mainstreaming in public school classrooms. The effect was cacophonous.
By the late 1990's the militants had softened on both sides of the debate.
Many Deaf children today receive instruction in a combination of Deaf and
mainstreamed settings. Interaction with Deaf peers has been acknowledged as a
key objective by those on both sides of the debate. Thus while the communication
methods in the academic classrooms remain somewhat under contention, hearing
impaired children who do not attend Deaf schools are being exposed to a wider
array of interaction and education by Deaf adults than ever previously achieved.
This is due to the now prevalent view that cultural exposure, pride and
empowerment of hearing impaired children to Deaf culture is of paramount
In Israel, the debate has played out in a diametrically opposed manner.
Instead of mainstreaming being viewed as a loss of cultural identity, Deaf
advocates in Israel are actively engaged in seeking increased
opportunities for hearing impaired students to join mainstream classrooms. Many
Israeli advocates argue that "deaf schools" are dumping grounds for
those children who "can not make it" in mainstream classrooms. There
is a stigma placed on children who attend these schools and expectations for
some of their graduates are low.
It seems clear that this startling divide in philosophy and approach is the
result of a lack of higher education in a Deaf setting for Israeli hearing
impaired. Israel has no comparable university to America's Galludet University.
In order to pursue higher education, the Israeli hearing impaired pupil must be
able to successful integrate into a mainstream/oral classroom because the only
opportunity for continued study is in a classroom that does not utilize sign
The difference in approach to education between America and Israel may seem
esoteric or minute to some. However, it actually informs every aspect of an
Israeli Deaf persons life. From birth, hearing parents, social workers,
educators, and medical professionals work hard to increase the oral ability of
an Israeli hearing impaired child. Speaking and lip-reading are emphasized to
the virtual exclusion of sign language. Children attend special gan
(pre-school) classes to help them prepare for oral instruction at public schools
in mainstream classrooms. Children with exceptional oral skills (highly prized)
will attend first grade in a classroom where all information is delivered
orally. Children with average oral skills will be placed in special
"contained classrooms" that offer instruction both orally and in other
manners. These contained classrooms are located within public schools and
hearing impaired students are integrated into mainstream classes as their
ability permits. Finally, children with poor oral skills are sent to special
Deaf schools, located physically and philosophically outside of the public
The instruction at these three levels varies widely. While it is, of course,
unfair to state that no advanced instruction takes place at the special
Deaf schools or that no mainstreamed student is ever discouraged from
achievement, there are some valid generalizations. Because there is no higher
education in Israel that delivers instruction in sign language, those students
with poor oral skills are not generally encouraged or expected to seek further
study in a university. Those students with fair oral skills have only recently
begun to seek admittance to institutes of higher education. They are fighting
with great difficulty to receive adequate interpreters, text translators and
other accessibility tools from the universities. Those few with excellent oral
skills are by no means assured a place in higher education. However, of the
three groups, it is this group that is most likely to continue their education
In the hearing world ones educational degree affects ones occupational
opportunities. This is true even more so in the Deaf world. The vast majority of
Deaf adults in Israel have a high school diploma or lower level of education for
reasons clearly stated above. These adults are often offered the most menial
employment, if any. Due to frequent economic hardships in Israel, most Israeli
Deaf in this group never find steady work. Instead they continue to live
at home and are cared for by their parents for the rest of their lives. This
causes a tremendous crisis as these parent/caretakers begin to age and their own
A small minority of Israeli Deaf attend university classes. Of this number an
even smaller percentage matriculate. However, even those individuals who do not
complete a degree receive benefit from exposure to technological assistive
devices and the creative occupational opportunities that are available at the
universities. Through voice-to-text programs for the computer, mentoring by
disabled professionals, and a wide array of international resources, Deaf
Israeli university students are able to view and access a world that the
majority of their non-university peers can, literally, not even dream of. Many
Deaf adults who do not attend university classes are unaware of a larger context
of Deaf culture, opportunity, and success. They live, isolated and removed from
any sense of shared experience, for the entire span of their lives.
This summer I volunteered in a summer camp for Israeli Deaf children. The
summer camp is an outgrowth of a Deaf school known as "Kol Israel
Chaverim." The counselors at the camp are teachers from the school. In
essence, they educate the children year-round; though during the summer the
formality and pace of the instruction is relaxed.
70% of the school is Israeli Arab. These children come from the wealthier
Arab families inside of the green line and are, mostly, bused from local
neighborhoods. The children, Jews and Arabs, are kept separate at all times.
Classrooms for the Arab students are located on the top floor of the school,
while Jewish students attend class on the first floor of the school. Arab
classrooms are staffed by hearing Arab teachers and hearing Arab aides who teach
Israeli (Hebrew) sign language and Arabic speech. The Jewish classrooms are
staffed by hearing Jewish teachers and hearing young religious women doing their
national service for the army through teaching the Deaf. Even on days when the
entire school went on a field trip, the two groups took separate buses to the
same location and, invariably, chose meeting places as far as possible away from
Many of the teachers and several of the aides had received training at either
Hebrew Universitys or Bar Ilans newly formed special education training
programs. However, few had degrees in education or special needs. All of the
teachers were hearing. None had Deaf children or Deaf parents. Many knew no Deaf
people outside of the children and parents at the school. The focus, both in the
Arab and the Jewish classrooms, was oralism. This does not mean that the
majority of communication took place verbally. In fact, most teachers used what
is known as total communication (T.C.). This method emphasizes the spoken word
and follows the grammar of the verbal language, but augments the receivers
understanding by glossing key words in sign language as they are spoken. It is
widely believed by its practioners to be a method of focusing ones attention
on oral communication while permitting a greater level of understanding than is
possible by lip-reading alone.
The school, to its credit, has a one Deaf man and one Hard of Hearing woman
on staff. He serves as the schools instructor for sign language and she is an
aide in a classroom of hearing impaired children with multiple disabilities.
Additionally to be commended, one or two outstanding teachers served as lead
staff at the camp during the summer. These teachers had a higher level of
training and were able to traverse the boundaries between the Arab and Jewish
classes. Also, the care and commitment of the teachers of the entire camp is to
However, the segregation of the children from each other, the lack of formal
training among some of the teachers, and the consistent use of the oral methods,
even when it was clear students not only preferred sign language, but were
incapable of comprehension without it, were barriers to achieving the best
recreational and educational environment the camp could have provided.
With an Eye Towards the Future
In the past 13 years a startling number and variety of organizations for the
hearing impaired have been formed in Israel. Organizations such as BeKol (for
the hard of hearing), The Institute for the Advancement of the Deaf and Hearing
Impaired, The Association of the Deaf in Israel, Yeshiva University Alumnis
Jewish Heritage Program for the Hearing-Impaired and others are changing the
landscape and reality of Israeli Deaf life. In little over a decade these groups
have successfully advocated for the following changes: computer assisted
note-taking in university classrooms; a special telephone relay system for Deaf
and hard of hearing; assistive technology in seven movie theaters and two
museums; Israeli sign language interpreters in university classrooms; a growing
number of TV programs, including all news broadcasts, captioned for the hearing
impaired; and the loan of laptop computers to Deaf and hard of hearing
In recent years Deaf groups have joined newly formed coalitions of disabled
individuals such as Bizchut and the Israeli Organization of the Disabled. These
groups, along with others of a similar nature, have successfully advocated for
the following changes: the Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Law (1998);
legislation mandating accessibility of polling stations (1999); implementation
of the accessibility of public transportation legislation part of the Equal
Rights Law (2000).
Furthermore, the Israeli Organization of the Disabled gained national
and international media coverage during its recent 77 day sit-in at the Israeli
Knesset. The group, led by a small coalition of leaders with a variety of
disabilities, was moved to action by the desperate poverty of the disabled
individuals who rely on the 1741 NIS (approx. $430 US) monthly government
disability allowance. The primary demand of the Israeli Organization of the
Disabled was that the allowance be immediately raised to Israel's minimum wage
of 3260 NIS a month. In the end a compromise was reached, permitting increases
of 200-1050 NIS per month depending on individual circumstances.
The Israeli Organization of the Disabled,
Bizchut and other coalitions
of disabled individuals are currently advocating for a whole host of reforms
including: ensuring equal access to all buildings (particularly residential);
employment equality; protection of disabled crime victims; accessible
reproductive and mental health services; and day care centers for the severely
disabled. Their partners include the JDC and JAFI as well as a special
commission in the Israeli government established to study the area of
disabilities. As the visibility and activities of the disabled individual and
disabled rights groups increase in Israel, we can expect that these and other
initiatives will be at the forefront of a debate in Israeli society about
inclusion and rights of its disabled citizens.
Last updated, November 4, 2005