American Jewry is under siege, ideologically and physically. In the media, on campuses, in the streets of major cities, now in high schools and in Congress, Jews and the Jewish state are smeared, hated, and attacked. This is a new time for Jews in America.
Jews cannot control the forces arrayed against us, but one thing we should be able to do is influence our own leadership. It is clear that the establishment Jewish organizations—ADL, AJC, Federations, the JCRCs, and most rabbis—have failed to respond effectively to these mounting assaults.
This special issue of White Rose Magazine explores the nature and extent of this failure of American Jewish leaders, including specific examples and an analysis as to why Jewish leaders are failing in their mission to protect the community.
Criticizing Jewish Leaders
This collection of essays is intended to publicly critique a failing Jewish establishment with the full understanding that many Jews view such action as divisive and that showing strength and unity may be more appropriate at this time. As a vulnerable minority, Jews have usually made public criticism of their leaders a near taboo. In recent decades, criticizing Jewish leaders has been acceptable, even common, when the target is “right wing” Jews. In addition, for many the democratically elected leaders of the Jewish state can be pilloried time and again, while criticizing undemocratically, donor-selected leaders in America, is derided as “breaking Jewish unity.”
We believe we have a duty to tell the community what we know from experience about the very dangerous consequences of the policies, thinking, and actions of the current establishment Jewish leadership. We know that there are many American Jews who think as we do, and many of them are working hard to make up for the failures of our leaders.
We have spent the last decades fighting our “external enemies,” but we no longer believe that the community can prevail against the surge of anti-Semitism without the full resources of the Jewish community.
This issue of White Rose Magazine will hopefully inspire many others to join us in challenging Jewish leadership, to change course, or encourage new leaders to do what must be done.
ANALYSIS: The first section seeks to describe the current Jewish predicament. We describe today’s state of affairs and shows how we got here. “The liberalism of the past that made long-standing Jewish policies sensible has been replaced by a radical and insidious ideology,” which has trapped most mainstream Jewish leaders, who are too blind, too conflict-averse, or too cowardly to think their way out of this trap.
Rebecca Sugar, noting how Jewish leaders flee from leftist anti-Semitism, asks if Jews are getting the leaders they deserve. “What most American Jews are really shocked by, but couldn’t see until it became inescapably obvious, is the fast-growing, unabashed anti-Semitism of the American political left, where they themselves reside.”
Jonathan Tobin explains how the ADL, the “Jewish Defense Department,” politicized by its CEO, has utterly failed to protect the community. “Are donors to the Anti-Defamation League,” he asks, “aware of what they are funding? Do they know that the organization created to fight prejudice and attacks against Jews is on the record supporting an ideology that grants a permission slip to anti-Semitism?”
Thane Rosenbaum writes that cowardice and comfort explain much of the failure. He points out “Leadership without exercising moral courage, without undertaking risks and performing selfless acts, is not leadership. The grogger that is so grating on Purim is reserved, one night, for Haman, but never for Hamas.”
Richard Landes analyzes the historical and psychosocial dynamics of failed leadership highlighting how “universalist utopianism” and a “malignant moral narcissism” have blinded Jewish leadership. For Jewish leaders, the problem of how to deal with radical Muslims was mostly ignored despite the fact that its Global Jihadi wing promoted a genocidal anti-Semitism, in some ways more virulent the Nazis (German priests and ministers didn’t preach genocide from the pulpit).
Richard Kronenfeld shows how our leaders, blinded by feel good altruism and addicted to virtue signaling are siding with minorities whose hostility toward Jews and Israel they ignore or excuse. All done by “invoking a 16th century Kabbalistic concept, tikkun olam, literally “healing/repairing the world,” thereby affording them a convenient way to escape the burden of being a Jew.”
PROOF POINTS: Rabbi Cary Cozberg tells of how he was forced to leave Reform Judaism, as it abandoned its own principles. He notes that today’s Reform leaders have increasingly embraced the values and worldview of contemporary progressivism, the “big tent” that once accommodated diverse beliefs and approaches has metamorphosized into a confining cement bunker of theological and political progressive orthodoxy. That orthodoxy has one objective: the promotion of “social justice,” which no one seems able to define.
William Jacobson and Johanna Markham show how defense-only strategies have lost the campuses. “After taking over as ADL leader in July 2015, Greenblatt doubled down on ADL outreach to the left, while his condemnations of anti-Semitism on- and off-campus have been mostly tepid. Under his stewardship, the organization largely ignored BLM’s anti-Semitism …
By contrast, he has turned the ADL’s ire on Jews and Jewish organizations that work to expose anti-Semitism on campus. During the summer of 2020, Greenblatt’s ADL redefined racism to include only white racism against people of color. Given today’s inclusion of Jews among ‘whites,’ the new definition appeared to deny the existence of anti-Jewish racism.”
Josh Ravitch and Amy Rosenthal showed initiative and courage in the face of JCRC cowardice—and won a fight in North Carolina. The lesson from Durham and Raleigh is clear: Where leadership is lacking, step up and lead. Our “leaders” might actually follow.
Karen Hurvitz reveals how the lame Boston JCRC strategy to shield the community from the K-12 anti-Semitic Critical Race Theory movement is bound to fail. She warns, “In California, the group responsible for the first version of the ethnic studies curriculum has established relationships with many California school districts, and based on this foothold, has managed to persuade schools to use its curriculum instead of the approved one.”
Reform Muslim leader Zuhdi Jasser explains how the ADL and other leading Jewish institutions minimize Islamist anti-Semitism and abandon legitimate Muslim reformers. “Groups like the ADL have sat on the sidelines as American Islamist groups born out of the Muslim Brotherhood have radicalized American Muslims and poisoned the discourse against reformist groups like the Muslim Reform Movement.”
Joanne Bregman shows that the national umbrella of the JCRCs undermines the Jewish community by promoting woke theology. In reality, the JCPA has become just another “woke” progressive organization whose political activism is abetted by the self-selected members of the local JCRCs.
Christian Zionist Dexter Van Zile shows us how Jewish leaders have enabled a hostile environment where “People are frankly less afraid of Jews and Israel than they are of the people who attack them. The hate was so manifestly ugly and virulent that only the most obtuse would say that the hate would be mollified by the dissolution of the Jewish state. This had to do with Jewish existence.”