HomeMay 2024We Deserve Better Leaders

We Deserve Better Leaders

The post 10/7 world cannot be business as usual.

Since 10/7, Jews around the world have been under attack. Jewish unity, and pride in our peoplehood, are more important than ever. Even the slightest weakness on our part is a gift to our many enemies. I had hoped that in the post-10/7 world, that would be obvious to all of us.

Alas, many in the “mainstream” Jewish institutions have slid right back to business as usual. While most of us are just as upset today as we were on 10/7, many “Jewish” institutions in America seem to want to hide behind routine, or worse, are afraid to be openly, proudly, and fiercely Jewish. They are cowardly, feckless, and totally ill equipped to really make a difference in today’s world.

I have been involved with, or on the inside of, many of those institutions for large parts of my life. I was the Marketing Director of the Jewish Federation of San Diego County between 2009-2011. While I am singling that Federation out in this article, I want to make it clear that I have had similar experiences with several Jewish institutions over the years.

I enjoyed my tenure with the Federation. The people I worked with were very nice. The Jews there were proud of their Jewishness and felt connected to Israel. However, the overall Federation culture is one of conformity, obeyance to whatever the ideology of the democratic party happens to be at the moment (I was warned to never share any conservative views during my first week), and a total unwillingness to take even the slightest risks, even though risk-taking is a necessary aspect of true leadership.

Their ideas were stale, old fashioned, and boring. I was once chastised for “using too much Hebrew” in a copywriting assignment. The words I used were along the lines of “Shabbat shalom,” “chai,” and “Eretz Yisrael.” They would, my bosses claimed, alienate anyone who doesn’t speak Hebrew. I don’t speak fluent Hebrew. My stance was that as the “leaders of the Jewish community” (an obviously absurd, but regular claim made by all Federation leadership), we had a responsibility to teach. Words like “Shabbat” and “chai” should not be some sort of obscure esoteric language at any Jewish institution. That is just one example of many. Anything authentically Jewish scared them. It was a bagels and “oy vey” culture. Not a mindset ready to handle 21st century challenges.

I hadn’t thought much about the San Diego Federation though until I received a marketing email from them recently. They had removed me from their mailing list years ago. So, it was a surprise when I received a message about something called “Jewish heritage night.”

Sounds positive right? In a post 10/7 world, we should ALL be publicly celebrating our Jewish heritage. Except this wasn’t that. This was the typical tepid, emotionless, and yes – cowardly type of thing that was the norm when I was there but MUST be called out in a post-10/7 world. We as Jews can no longer tolerate weak, scared leadership who seem to care more about always flying under the radar, hiding behind blandness, and worst of all, showing zero courage in what is, obviously, a major crisis.

You can read the original email here.  A couple of days later, they sent out another email about “safety training” which can be read here. My response to both can be read, in full here.

I waited almost a month for a reply that never came.

The email made the point that, as is usual at these types of events, everyone is seated together at the game. In this case in an area of Petco Park called the “Estrella Jalisco Landing.” The Federation refers to it, as they refer to almost everything else in their marketing lingo, as “vibrant.”

It must be a VERY special place though because while they mention the “Estrella Jalisco Landing” a total of four times, here are a few words which are never mentioned: “IDF,” “Israel,” “Jewish pride,” “Hamas,” “Gaza,” antisemitism,” “show of strength,” “bring them home, “Judaism,” and “hostages.”

How can ANY Jewish event just six months after the most heinous, murderous, and barbaric attacks on Jews since the Shoah not mention any of those things?

A fun night out to show community support is a great thing, but how does a supposedly Jewish organization, one that continually presents itself as a major community leader, announce a community event that neither mentions the above nor overtly benefits the victims of that attack, or their families?

The event was also presented as “exclusive.” I find that type of projected elitism repugnant and old fashioned. It’s a baseball game. There is no need to present it as an event for elites. ESPECIALLY at a time when Jewish unity is crucial.

A clue to what makes it “exclusive,” is that even with the “generosity” which they claim the “board” provided, the event is still $55 per person. The board apparently subsidized half the cost of each ticket. That’s great for the wealthy, but for a family of four – that’s $220 just to attend a baseball game. That is a lot of money for people who don’t live on the coast near La Jolla. If they were truly “generous,” they would have paid for the entire thing and required a donation, in ANY amount, while promising that every cent raised went to charities like ZAKA or Friends of the IDF who are directly helping our people who need it most.

They also announced that a Federation employee would be singing the National Anthem. Fine. Who was singing Hatikvah you might wonder? No one. No singing of Hatikvah or anything else overtly Jewish at the game. On “Jewish heritage night.”

As has been the custom at many of these kinds of events, the hats that they are giving away at least say “Padres” in Hebrew, right? Uh, no. Of course not. They say “Jewish” though!

In tiny letters in the “Jewish Federation” logo on the side of the hat. Otherwise, it just (ironically) says “Padres.” So, nothing proudly Jewish there either.

You would think that given the record, year after year, increases in attacks on Jews, “leaders” in our community would be emblazoning EVERYTHING with any message that displays pride, courage, and defiance in the face of what is going on.

It is absolutely shameful that there is nothing about this night that is intrinsically Jewish. The price of the tickets comes with food (as long as you don’t want any food after the seventh inning). Is the food on “Jewish heritage night” kosher? If it is, their marketing email said nothing about that. They love to claim “inclusivity.” Not providing kosher food is the opposite. It is also a unity killer.

Point in fact, there is nothing about the night, as described, that is even remotely connected to our heritage. It should just be called “vaguely Jewish Federation fun night.”

They missed an opportunity to say something like:

“Show your Jewish pride and solidarity by being part of a public show of unity at Petco Park. While our brothers and sisters fight for their lives in Israel to rid us of the greatest evil since the Nazis, you can contribute by showing the world that we don’t hide in the face of rising antisemitism. While October 7 is still at the forefront of our thoughts, and Jewish hostages languish in Hamas tunnels in Gaza, we will be accepting donations that benefit their families directly. Wear blue and white, and don’t forget your Israeli flags. While we all want the Padres to win, our MAIN priority is a decisive victory for Israel and the Jewish people.”

As I said, I got a second email right after the “vaguely Jewish Federation fun night” email about “safety training.” The word “antisemitism” and the phrase “self-defense” were both missing.

That second email came from someone with the title of, and I promise that I am not making this up, the “Director of Caring.”

I can’t think of ANYTHING that telegraphs more weakness, Orwellian nonsense, or condescension. I am sure that they mean well, but it is bizarrely cloying, saccharine and infantile.

Lastly, Jews should care about other Jews because we are one people, with a uniquely special shared history, and because the Torah commands “ahavat Yisrael,” love of a fellow Jew. If you need to have a “director” to demonstrate care for your fellow Jews, you aren’t doing it right.

Stop giving your money to these outdated, cowardly, and utterly irrelevant organizations. Support organizations/groups that are proudly Jewish and truly courageous. We need REAL leadership now more than ever. We all deserve so much better.

Joshua Namm is a longtime Jewish community pro, passionate Israel advocate, and co-founder/co-CEO of Moptu, a unique social platform designed specifically for article sharing and dedicated to the principle of free speech.

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1 COMMENT

  1. I taught part-time at UC Irvine from 1998-2016. Around 2007, I began to get active on campus due to the increasing anti-Semitism brought upon by the pro-Palestinian activists. As a gentile, I joined with several Jews from the community who were concerned about the issue on campus. The Jewish Federation of Orange Country was in denial of the problem and actively tried to obstruct our efforts and the efforts of Jewish students who were speaking out. (In addition, the ADL was missing in action.)

    Just yesterday, I joined Jewish students and community members at UCI to hold a silent commemoration march for the victims of the Shoah. Needless to say, the Federation was absent.

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