Clarifying the role of our Federation

March 23, 2017

As the current Chair of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation, and a past Chair of the Los Angeles Jewish Federation and current Chair of Jewish Federations of North America, we both have seen more than our fair share of communal outrage. During the presidential election our inboxes filled with emails from people who expressed outrage against one or the other of the candidates. And since the election, they are again filled with emails from people expressing outrage about what they think the Jewish Federation should or should not do or what we should or should not say.

This past presidential election has activated people in this country—the Jewish community included. Newspaper subscriptions, which were on the decline, are higher than they have been since the 1980s. An activated community is a healthy one. A highly divided partisan and outraged community is more challenging. These challenges at this particular time, a time like no other we have ever experienced, have consequences that we worry about every day. We do take these challenges very seriously, for at the end of the day, we have a responsibility to our community to make sure that the most serious issues that affect our community as a whole are being addressed properly, that Jews in need are being taken care of, and that we are ensuring a Jewish future based upon Jewish values for our children and grandchildren. It is important that our community understand that we are acting in the best way we know how to fulfill our responsibilities and our mission.

The mission statement of the Los Angeles Federation states “based on Jewish values, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles convenes and leads the community and leverages its resources to ensure the continuity of the Jewish people, support a secure State of Israel, care for Jews in need here and abroad, and mobilize on issues of concern to the local community, all with our local, national and international partners.”

And that is what we do. We are focused on Jewish values, not a particular value that may or may not support a political or philosophical position. We are focused on the community as a whole and what is in the long term best interest of the community as a whole. We realize that there are issues that are complex and upon which reasonable, intelligent people can differ. Balancing the needs of an activated community, while ensuring the potency of our voice is our collective challenge. And to do it well we must work together and push ourselves to focus on the community as a whole.

At a time when outrage is everywhere, it is incumbent on us to be judicious and thoughtful about how we use our voice. The decision to safeguard our community and continue to service the most vulnerable and the next generation is exactly where our voice should be most prominent by the actions we take. Our Community Security Initiative is working with local Jewish institutions and law enforcement to make sure we are prepared and acting in a responsible manner during this time of increased threats. . Our national organization at Jewish Federation of North America is also working closing with federal law enforcement with respect to recent incidents of anti-Semitism. The Federation system is active on Capitol Hill encouraging Congress and the Trump Administration to take action on issues that are critically important to our community including urging immediate action to bolster security at Jewish and other nonprofits; opposing Medicaid cuts that are included in the proposed Health Care Act and other cuts to social service programs that affect our local agencies and our community. At the same time we are working with our local agencies as they prepare for the possibility of such cuts.

We remain committed to the values of our tradition and to our community. We encourage our entire community to start engaging in internal civil discussions on the issues that concern so many. Our Federation, as convener, will work in the months ahead to bring people together as we confront the serious issues of our time. And we will continue to devote ourselves to our community and continue to respect those caring and thoughtful members of our community who may not always agree with us.

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