From: Skip Schrayer
Date: Mon, Jul 30, 2012 at 12:51 PM
Subject: Fw: JUF-JF from Skip Schrayer and Steven B. Nasatir
Setting the record straight: JUF and the Federation system are proud Zionists
Skip Schrayer, Chairman and Steven Nasatir, President Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago July 30, 2012
We write to set the record straight about an issue that has spread widely since surfacing last week on a personal Internet blog and an opinion piece carried by the website of a New York-based Jewish publication. While JUF, other federations around the country and The Jewish Federations of North America have a record second to none on Zionism, Israel and supporting the Jewish people, given the Internet's reach and the inquiries we are receiving, we wish to reiterate facts that ordinarily shouldn't need clarification or repeating.
The root of the misinformation campaign is a misreporting of a wordsmithing discussion. Last week a Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) Work Group focusing on Israel's social issues met. The Work Group, like JFNA itself, is comprised of volunteer and professional leaders representing over 400 North American Jewish communities. The Work Group agreed on ways to strengthen the State of Israel and our communal connections to it. A discussion ensued involving a stylistic question: whether the subcommittee's goal was to strengthen "the State of Israel" or "The Zionist Enterprise." One participant, who wanted the phrase "Zionist enterprise" selected, was seemingly convinced that the preference of others for "State of Israel" somehow revealed hostility to the concept of Zionism. He then proceeded to share that subcommittee's discussion - and his interpretation of what it represents - with a blogger long critical of JFNA.
The blog published that participant's version, embracing and expanding upon its narrative; namely, that JFNA was turning away from its historic Zionist ideals. That premise is totally without merit. It lacks merit not only on the particulars of the Work Group's discussion, but more significantly, the enduring Zionist-informed and pro-Zionist impacts of the Jewish Federation
In today's hyper-wired world, that blog posting in turn became the thesis of a vituperative on-line opinion piece in The Jewish Press, a New York-based Jewish publication. In a matter of hours, the essay went viral. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of Chicago Jews and tens of thousands of Jews nationwide had their email in-boxes filled with these scurrilous charges about the Jewish Federation system. Some, hopefully many, simply deleted these messages, recognizing them immediately as wrong and damaging. Many others chose to contact fellow JUF donors or staff, requesting background, clarification and reassurance. Many, perhaps most others, read the messages, took them as truthful, forwarded them on to dozens more and will act and donate (or not) accordingly.
This was a working group's discussion of word choice. It wasn't and couldn't have been about policy, priorities or where our communal dollars would go. While neither of us serves on the working group, we are both on the committee overseeing its work. We and other Chicagoans serve in a variety of leadership roles in JFNA. And Steve serves on the Board of Governors of our largest beneficiary in Israel, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the world's leading Zionist organization headed by the greatest Zionist leader of our generation, Natan Sharansky. No Chicagoan should entertain, for even a moment, that either of us or other JUF leaders would countenance an affiliation with or financial support of any organization that was less than 100% supportive of Israel and Zionism.
Please share this memo with anyone you know who is aware of this issue, and please encourage them to contact either of us or other JUF volunteers or staff on any question they may still have.
Finally, the author of the blog on which this issue was first aired publicly, Richard Wexler, has subsequently posted the following:
"As with so many if not all of you, I am so proud to come from a community, a federation, which embraces Zionism and the centrality of Israel in our lives as among the most cherished core values upon which our community has been built. I known [sic] that the federation lay and professional leadership in Chicago will continue to demand that the values embodied in Zionism will be at the forefront of our work because they understand that we build upon those values and principles not upon their negation or exclusion."
Rwexler POSTED BY RWEX AT 7:12 AM [JULY 29, 2012]
For its part, JFNA issued the following statement:
"On July 27, 2012, Lori Lowenthal Marcus [in The Jewish Press] wrote accusing the Jewish Federations of North America of moving away from its support of Israel and Zionism. Nothing could be further from the truth. The ongoing support of Israel is fundamental to Federations and to JFNA. Our system sends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to Israel to support the vulnerable, to assist in education programs, to help new immigrants, to assist in job and skills development, and to provide concrete expressions of solidarity during Israel's darkest hours. We connect American Jews to Israel and Israelis by supporting birthright and other youth and young adult programs, community and national missions to Israel, and innovative partnerships between our communities and Israeli communities. We are proud to be holding our 2013 General Assembly in Israel, where we will have an opportunity to highlight the important work we do with our partners in Israel."