Israel, War and The Diaspora

How should Jews in the Diaspora (those who themselves are not under threat, as in some cities in Europe) respond to Israel’s needs, and what specific activities should they engage in? by Stephen G. Donshik This time, just like every time there is an armed conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbors or the indigenous Palestinian community, there has been a strong response from Jewish communities around the world. In some cases, as in a number of European cities during the last two weeks, the Jewish community is being forced to defend itself. We have witnessed stronger displays of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel behavior than we have seen in years. There is a thin line between anti-Semitism and the anti-Israel sentiments expressed by Moslem citizens and Arab and Palestinian expatriates … [Read more...]

Roman Vishniac (Re)Discovered in Amsterdam

Roman Vishniac
[Girl in plaid dress, Mukacevo], ca. 1935–38.
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography

Roman Vishniac is most famous for his photographs documenting Jewish life in Eastern Europe in the 1930s, but his career and the impact of his work are much broader. In 2013, the International Center of Photography in New York exhibited a collection of his photographs that spanned a period from the early 1920s until the late 1970s. The same collection is now being shown until August 28 at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. If you did not see this exhibit in New York, then make the trip to Amsterdam: it will be well worth the trip. Vishniac was born in 1897 near St. Petersburg; his family soon moved to Moscow where he spent his childhood and completed his university education, earning an MA in zoology. After the Bolshevik Revolution, like many wealthy business owners, his family emigrated … [Read more...]

Does the [Incoming] President of the State of Israel Really Care About Jewish Unity?

Recently Israel has made a demand of the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and, in essence, as the state of the Jewish people. I must admit I find this demand by a Likud government to be somewhat amusing. You may wonder why. It is because the Knesset just elected a president of the State of Israel, Reuben Rivlin, who does not recognize Jews who do not uphold the Orthodox line of Judaism. He will not recognize Conservative and Reform Jews or other Jews practicing their own, non-Orthodox form of Judaism. In April 1989, following a visit to a Reform synagogue in the United States President Ruby Rivlin shared the following thoughts with a reporter from Yediot Aharonot: “As a Jew who does not observe 613 commandments and perhaps not even 13 ... I discovered what kind of worshiping … [Read more...]

Education for Practice in Jewish Communal Service

We are in the month of June when university students are graduating from their baccalaureate and master degree programs. There was a time when the entrance degree to organizations in Jewish communal service was a social work degree and preferably an M.S.W. However, it has been years since that was the union card required to enter a Jewish communal organization. Over time educational institutions of higher learning granted degrees in Jewish communal service, management of Jewish nonprofit organizations, and programs that focused on public policy and governance. The field of Jewish communal service has become more and more open to focusing on who the person is, rather than what degree he or she holds from which university, and on how the educational experience prepared the graduates to work in their … [Read more...]

The Strange Reality of Israel-Diaspora Relations

Despite their reported high levels of assimilation, some of the most creative spiritual Jewish expressions have been developed in Diaspora communities. by Stephen Donshik On Thursday, May 29th, I read an opinion piece in Ha’aretz, "American Jews Are Running Out of Patience With Israel" by Ori Nir. I was struck by his putting the responsibility on Israel to change its policies in order not to further alienate the American Jewish community from Israel. Two days later the executive and judicial branches took actions that seemed to indicate Israel is bending over backward to draw the American Jewish community closer to its heart and soul: the government approved the spending of billions of shekels to help strengthen American Jewry and bring them closer to Israel (see this post on this website: … [Read more...]

Making Room for the New Exec

office chair

Move Over - Making Room for the New Executive While Not Kicking the Sitting CEO Out of Her Seat: Dealing with Executive Transitions Sometimes people with the best intentions do not know when it is time to move on. Many chief executive officers often have a particularly hard time letting go of the reins of authority. Even though they may say they want to allow another person to assume responsibility for the organization they have directed, guided, and nurtured over a number of years, it is not easy for them to move aside and provide the space for the new person to assume the executive role. For that reason, the incoming executive must be particularly sensitive to the impact of the change in status on the outgoing CEO. Of course the new person will have his or her own ideas about the way things … [Read more...]

The Founder and the Fundraiser

One of the most interesting and challenging relationships in a nonprofit organization is the relationship between the organization’s founder and the financial resource development (FRD) professional. The CEO-founder is the creator of the organization, the one who “gave birth” to the agency that strives to improve the lives of others; the fundraiser’s role is to market and sell both the concept that guides the organization and the services it is providing or hopes to provide to the community. One would think that these two roles would be entirely complementary and that the two professionals would work together without a problem. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. Founders were and continue to be the creative spirit of the organization. These are the people who have both the idea and the … [Read more...]

Guidelines for Ethical Responsibilities in Hard Times

Last week I raised several issues that occur when organizations face difficult economic situations, and I asked a series of questions. This week I would like to discuss some responses to these difficult dilemmas, incorporating thoughts and ideas shared by readers who responded to my posting. 1. What are the responsibilities of an organization to its employees? An organization has a legally binding contract with its employees; underlying this contract is an agreement, whether verbal or written, that the employees are to be compensated by the organization for their successful efforts on behalf of it. If the agency is unable to meet its obligations to the employees, then their contract needs to be renegotiated. For the organization to remain silent and not communicate with the employees is neither … [Read more...]