The Ugly Side of Jewish Federations: A Response from Uzi ben Gibor

response-620x350By Uzi ben Gibor

I strongly believe in the collective wisdom of the Jewish people and the conversations taking place on eJP and JEDLAB about my article confirm this belief. I thank everyone who has taken the time to express her/his feelings, whether you have agreed or disagreed with what I wrote. Here are some answers to your questions:

My Motivation for Writing the Article

Exactly what I stated in the article: to make transparent the ugly side of Federations in the belief that such transparency is the first step in getting rid of the ugliness. I know that it would be a lot easier for some of you to believe that I’m a “disgruntled worker” or that I’m reacting to some perceived injustice. But that’s simply not the case. What I wrote in the article reflects my experiences with Federations, and that of many colleagues, over many years and in many different communities. I actually did not write anything in the article that hasn’t been talked about by Jewish professionals among each other for a long, long time.

I was not motivated to “bring down” the Federation system. I think the majority of Federations will simply ignore the article and pretend that I’m not talking about them. And some of them will be right because they have already gone through the hard work of changing. A greater number of Federations will be in denial. I am talking about them. What do I want to happen now? That’s really not the question. What I want has already happened – to have our collective community talking about a topic that has been taboo and has silenced so many people for so long. The question is what you want and whether or not people want to transition this discussion to their own communities where the real change is going to have to take place.

Why Do I Write Anonymously and Continue to Remain So?

Really? I don’t think any of the people who hit the “Like” button have a question about why I did it anonymously. I was told that one Federation already checked with its legal advisors to see if I’ve broken any libel or slander laws.

In retrospect, I see that it was a good decision to write the article anonymously for another reason. It makes it very difficult for anyone to shift the discussion, deflect it away from the message, by attacking the integrity of the messenger. That’s a time honored tactic. If I wear a kippah and I am a Torah observant Jew, some people would attribute my remarks to feelings of moral superiority. On the other hand, if I didn’t go to a yeshiva or get a degree in Jewish religion, then “who am I” to say that Federation leaders are ignorant about Judaism? If I’m a woman, maybe I have an axe to grind about gender equality; if a man, I must have been passed over for promotion. Maybe I’m a crossdresser or a convert or a new Russian immigrant. Those who want to believe that my criticisms derive from character flaws, my upbringing or peculiar circumstances will latch onto whatever is most convenient and pc to diminish the significance of the remarks. Anonymity takes away that option. Right now, there are hundreds of people saying, “That’s the article I always wanted to write.” And, the reality is that everyone who would like publically to say, “Yes, I’m one of those people,” would only feel safe doing so anonymously.

It must be clear from the nearly 900 Likes that this discussion goes far beyond me or questions about who I am or why I wrote the article.

And those people who think that it’s easy to be critical from a place of anonymity, I have a message for you. It’s only easy if that’s already the kind of person (or Federation) you are. This is what you understand. But, if you are someone (or a Federation) used to confronting issues head-on through collective reasoning, dedication and commitment, then you already know that the position I’m in sucks – and that I would only take this approach if there simply was no other way.