New Group “Jewish Leadership Project” Formed to Challenge “Failing Jewish Leadership” On Threats To Community
Many Jews already understand that we are being assaulted from several ideological camps simultaneously, and that our leadership, because of its ideology, its willful blindness, and a general lack of courage, has failed to effectively respond to this startling reality.
I’m a young woman, a musician, and a New Yorker who grew up in the Bay Area. The granddaughter of Jewish Holocaust survivors, I’m also an unapologetic Zionist. And I’m proud to be part of the launch of The Jewish Leadership Project, the first Jewish organization in America that is mobilizing to challenge our failing Jewish establishment. Founded by veteran Jewish activists, Dr. Charles Jacobs and Avi Goldwasser, JLP seeks to create substantive change in Jewish community policies in order to effectively counter the threats we face.
This new movement shouldn’t be necessary, but the Jewish community is under siege. We are being shot and held hostage in our own houses of worship, assaulted on city streets, pushed out of social justice spaces, and defamed in the media, in the halls of Congress, and on college campuses. Proportional to our population, we are the victims of more hate crimes than any other group in America – twice a likely to be targeted as Black Americans or Muslims, and 50% more likely than someone targeted for sexual orientation or gender identity. There are armed guards outside of our schools and synagogues, as our institutions gradually approach the security levels required in Jewish venues throughout Europe.
All of this is happening on the watch of legacy organizations like the ADL and Jewish Federations –institutions created to prevent this exact catastrophe.
The crisis is particularly acute for Jewish youth. Anti-racism seminars and diversity training sessions push a doctrine of intersectionality that falsely paints Jews as rich, white, privileged, and therefore undeserving of society’s sympathy. Anti-Israel education in high schools is spreading across the country, and despite the fact that 90 percent of Jews identify as Zionists, anti-Zionism has become a fashionable, and even virtuous, form of Jew-hatred.
And the “adults in the room” are doing little about it. Establishment Jewish leaders have abandoned the community they were meant to serve. Instead, they have shifted their focus toward feel-good efforts like social justice and fighting for racial equity, voting rights, and support for the LGBT community and immigrants. Regardless of where one stands on those issues, they have nothing to do with protecting the Jewish community –the raison d’etre of legacy Jewish organizations.
Our organizations seem to provide cover for groups that attack Jews in the streets and encourage immigration from countries where antisemitism is rampant in school textbooks, teaching children to believe that Jews are descendants of apes and pigs. Campus Hillels host anti-Zionist speakers in an effort to be “inclusive” and “diverse.” Rabbis promote utopian notions of “allyship” and “reciprocity” that aren’t working due to the complexity of human nature and the persistence of tribalism.
More interested in “repairing the world” than in defending our people, Jewish “leaders” are wasting limited resources on their pet political projects. They seem unable to speak out against the violence done to us without including Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry in the same sentence to signal their virtue and increase their own social standing. While many groups are surely deserving of support and resources, we are a small, beleaguered minority and cannot attend to everyone, especially when doing so comes at the expense of our own safety and security.
When confronted, Jewish leaders self-righteously point to the task forces and committees they’ve set up to deal with antisemitism, but these initiatives focus almost exclusively on the lethal threat of white supremacy and Neo-Nazis, while ignoring or downplaying the Jew-hatred of woke progressives, black nationalists, and radical Muslims. In doing this, they are dangerously politicizing antisemitism.
JLP is organizing a national network of Jewish community activists who will challenge their local Jewish leadership —their rabbis, local Federations, the ADL, and the JCRCs— to break out of their failed ideological strait jackets and explore new ways of thinking.
Many Jews already understand that we are being assaulted from several ideological camps simultaneously, and that our leadership, because of its ideology, its willful blindness, and a general lack of courage on the part of our elites, has failed to effectively respond to this startling reality. If you agree, join us. You can sign up on the Jewish Leadership Project website, which features resources and concrete action plans.
As more people sign up to be involved, JLP will be organizing them into local teams; we have already established over a dozen activist teams throughout the United States. JLP will provide organization, training, assistance, and advice. Activists will learn to identify problematic organizations and leaders (local and national, rabbis and Federations, JCCs and JCRCs), and how to activate the community to pressure them and demand a change in priorities or a change in the very leaders themselves. JLP will also train activists to influence major donors. The donors make it possible for these “leaders” to ignore their mission and abandon the Jewish community.
Our current leaders must declare a state of emergency. The fire alarms are ringing, but for them, it’s business as usual. We are now at a tipping point. Jews – young and old – all over the country sense this. The community must mobilize to bring needed change, so that the next generation of Jews will be secure.
Karys Rhea is a Fellow at The Jewish Leadership Project.
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