You know the ones I am talking about – the ones with the constant fund-raising letters, sometimes enclosing trinkets (usually direct from China). The letters where they tell you how dire the situation is for Jews everywhere, and how crucial it is that you send them money so they can save the day. And save the day they can, they say, because they are in close contact with UN officials and foreign leaders, and because they have decades of experience.
What they don’t reconcile, however, is a critical contradiction: if they are so good and effective and have been on the job for years, how things can be so bad? Of course, they can’t reconcile these incompatible facts.
Some of these organizations have a record of failure going back seventy years, when they suppressed information about the extent of the Holocaust and fought against saving Jews, or even establishing the State of Israel.
How could that possibly be? A good question. The most likely answer seems to be their leaders were more interested in maintaining good relationships within their power circles, notably with President Franklin Roosevelt, and were tinged with an excessively large dose of timidity and a fear of “making things worse.” (Readers interested in learning more about this incredible story can consult Heroes, Antiheroes and the Holocaust by David Morrison.)
Fast forward to today, and these Jewish organizations seem to be among the last to the table to recognize, much less address, the threat to us all from Islamic extremism. Perhaps is it a perceived need for atonement, that rather than face today’s enemies, they seem to prefer to wallow in memories and “lessons” of the Holocaust and the last-war threat from neo-Nazis? A relevant side note is that these organizations’ invocations of the Holocaust are likely to omit any mention of the Arab complicity in it. While not a Jewish organization per se, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s permanent exhibition is a case in point.
Here are two factors to evaluate how useful an organization is likely to be in promoting Jewish interests today:
- Is it focused on fighting the prime and imminent threat to the western world as a whole, and to Jews in particular, of Islamofascism, or is it warning you about the relative non-threats of conservative Christians, sightings of neo-Nazis in Europe or a Jewish cemetery being desecrated with swastikas? Does the fact that Israelis in Sderot and elsewhere were recently bombarded every day for years from Gaza, and being killed and injured regularly, rate as much concern as the threat from the neo-Nazi bogeyman? Does the Jewish organization even let on that anti-semitism today is centered in the Muslim world, with a virulence every bit as horrific as the Nazis’?
- Does the organization actually do anything useful, or does it plan more dialogue and meetings with intractable UN and foreign bureaucrats, who due to their own interests are not going be any more swayed by the organization’s pleadings this year than they were in any previous year? Finding something truly useful to do is not that difficult – for example, the group could aid terror victims, Israeli soldiers, or others in need, or get word out defending Israel. And the organization could encourage the community to invest in Israel, to shop Israel, and to travel to Israel.
Unfortunately, you cannot rely on a good rating from major charity rating sites. They base their ratings on the groups’ compliance with their criteria, which notably do not include the intrinsic value of the groups’ underlying mission or activities. Indeed, some organizations linked to the promotion of terrorism have received the evaluators’ highest 4-star ratings, as they evidently pursue their missions effectively.
The sad truth of the matter seems to be that most of the old-line Jewish organizations (with the notable exception of the ZOA, the Zionist Organization of America) are so inculcated with their decades of affinity for traditional leftist Jewish causes that they are at least partly blind to today’s realities.
One recent example concerns the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. In March 2008, then Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said, “The creation of a Palestinian state is not the required answer to Israel’s security needs” and that a future Palestinian state must comprise officials “who want not only to live in peace with Israel, but are also able to fight terror.” I.e., establishing a Palestinian state then was not a good idea from the standpoint of Israel’s interests.
But the JCPA, a coalition of 14 major American Jewish groups and 125 local Jewish community relations councils, thought it knew better. With the exception of the abstention of its member Orthodox Union, the JCPA then voted unanimously for endorsing the establishment a Palestinian state [and without any conditions, such as demilitarization].
Fortunately, one can support Jewish interests without supporting these ineffective, or at worst, counterproductive, old-line Jewish organizations, as a new generation of groups has arisen, much more in tune with today’s real problems and needs. They are also much more effective in doing a lot with a lot less. One cannot help but be impressed by the work done by the relatively small and nimble new generation groups such as Stand With Us, CAMERA, One Family Fund, MEMRI, and Palestinian Media Watch.
Many long-established corporate titans are now gone, for good reason. There is no reason why the non-profit sector should be any different.