NewsBits: Stories That Will Not Go Away

from The Forward:

Sharansky Inherits a House Divided

One of the stranger and nastier episodes of modern Israel-Diaspora mud wrestling was laid to rest in late June in Jerusalem when Natan Sharansky, the onetime Soviet political prisoner and human rights icon, was elected chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

The episode was unusual because it broke new ground in the growth field of Israel-Diaspora mutual incomprehension. It was nasty because of the intense vitriol it generated. The mud was flying with a fury rarely seen in the chummy interaction between Israeli leaders and their big donors. You don’t often hear Israeli Cabinet ministers ridiculing the cream of Diaspora Jewish philanthropy. Nor do you expect to see Israel’s top Diaspora fundraisers telling the prime minister where to go.

both from the New York Jewish Week:

The Jewish Agency Has Outlived Its Current Role: A short history, and modest proposal

The key issue today is whether the organizational structure that was so necessary when Jews were in countries of distress is needed today. Should JAFI be promoting aliyah from the “free countries” in the west or can independent non-profits do a better job?  Is a large organization necessary to deal with Jewish Zionist education or can this be accomplished by a non-profit organization that can operate more effectively and efficiently?

In a standoff, the community leadership continues to raise these questions and the institutional Zionists argue for the continued existence of an out-dated organizational structure.

No Closures At HUC

After more than a month of speculation about which two of its campuses would be forced to close, the Reform movement’s Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion will keep all three, after all.

Trustees of the financially strapped institution decided last week to consolidate faculty and staff and conduct more online classes as a way to begin making $3 million to $5 million in cuts over the next five years.

from The Wall Street Journal:

Merkin Art to Be Sold as Hedge in Madoff Case

J. Ezra Merkin, the New York financier felled by the Madoff scandal, is selling a collection of Mark Rothko paintings and Alberto Giacometti sculptures to a mystery buyer for $310 million, potentially offering some payback to his defrauded investors, whose money he placed with Bernard Madoff.