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January 13, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 13, 2012 PAGE 5A L By Gary Rosenblatt The New York Jewish Week Before there was Birthright Israel. the most successful Jewish communal effort to increase Jewish identity among young people, there was The Israel Experience. a like-minded effort--and acknowledged failure. Jeffrey Solomon. president of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Family Philan- thropies, recalls that Charles Bronfman announced the launch of The Israel Experi- ence in 1992. amid great fanfare, at the major annual convention of North Ameri- can Jewish federations. An experiment to bring large numbers of high school students to Israel. it was a partnership of major Jewish organizations working with Bronfman's foundation, with the wildly unrealistic target of attracting 50,000 Jewish teens a year to eight-week summer programs. "It was an utter failure." but also a "noble" one. says Solo- mon la member of the board of directors of The Jewish Week), asserting that the success of Birthright, which began seven years later, was "built directly" on what went wrong with The Israel Experience. He explained that when he became the professional head of the Bronfman foundation in 1997. he undertook an evalu- ation of the philanthropy's various programs and dis- covered that during the years The Israel Experience was in operation. "not one more high school kid went to Israel as a result of that $19 million expenditure," primarily spent on marketing the program. Solomon says that ev- erything learned from that failure--the ideal age of par- ticipants, cost of the program. length of time spent in Israel, structure of the partnership, evaluation and more di- rectly led to the success of Birthright. It should not come as a surprise that failure is a key component of future success. For centuries it has been the basic premise of scientific experimentation, and applies to a wide range of fields, from education to business. Recent examples abound. The New York Times educa- tion supplement in September published a cover story titled. "What If the SeGret to Success is Failure?" The report focused on various efforts to instill character into students, not- ing that privileged youngsters at top academic schools often lack the growth opportunity that comes with overcom- ing a hardship, academic or otherwise. Newsweek magazine now devotes its back page each week to a column called, "My Favorite Mistake." with celebrities telling how some misfortune or fault on their part led to a life lessonin perseverance. "Start-Up Nation," the best- seller that describes how tiny Israel has become a world leader in innovation, empha-. sizes how the national culture values early failures in life, giving young entrepreneurs. the fortitude and chutzpah to succeed. Is the organized Jewish community in this country overly risk-averse when it comes to spending on new ventures? Sblomon says such Funders on page 19A k By Suzanne Garment Jewish Ideas Daily In a recent issue of Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies and Gender Issues, Debra Mesch, director of the Women's Philanthropy Institute at Indiana Univer- sity's Center on Philanthropy, together with colleagues, has published an article called. "Does Jewish Philanthropy Differ by Sex and Type of Giving?" This kind of title tends to turn potential read- ers into pillars of salt but if you are serious about the future of American Jews and their values, you'll want to look at Mesch's findings about intermarriage and generosity. Will Rogers observed that "it isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so." This is the principle behind modern survey research, which probes human opinions and behav- iors that most. people think are just common sense. When survey researchers want to explain why this sort of thing is useful, they point to Samuel Stouffer. During World War II, Stouffer surveyed American servicemen about everything from class and racial attitudes to their levels of fear under enemy fire. His findings be- came a massive work called "The American Soldier." People like historianArthur Schlesinger dismissed it as a bunch of "ponderous demon- strations" of the obvious. For example, the more educated the soldier, the more difficult his adjustment to military life. Southern soldiers coped better than Northerners with Pacific island heat. Southern black enlistees preferred Southern white officers to Northern whites. These were obvious social facts but they weren't true. As sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld noted in a famous review of Stouffer's study, the surveys actually found the opposite. Poorly educated soldiers had more, not fewer, adjustment problems. Southerners hated the heat as much as Northern- ers. Black soldiers, in rating officers, had no use for white Southern charm. Garbage in, garbage out: Before you try to explain something, make sure you know the facts about what the "something" is. We do know certain things about the "something" that constitutes Jewish philan- thropy: American Jews give proportionately more than other Americans. Almost three-quarters of Jewish con- tributions go to non-religious causes. Jews disproportion- ately give to meet basic human needs like food and shelter. But we don!t know much about the role of gender in Jewish philanthropy. Indeed, the most comprehensive study of American Jewish philanthropy found that gender did not~ make much of a difference. Dr. Mesch and her col- leagues went considerably further. In a sophisticated sur- vey, they divideda sample into various types of household groups Jewish couples, non- Jewish couples, Jewish man and non-Jewish woman, Jew- ish woman and non-Jewish man, and singles--Jewish and non=Jewish, male and female. The researchers managed to create groups large enough to make some statistically significant distinctions. When the researchers asked each household about its giving over the years, they found some things that were consistent with previ- ous studies. For example. couples with at least one Jew- ish member were about as likely as non-Jewish couples to give to religious causes; but the Jewish-member couples were fully 20 percent more likely to give to secular causes. Then the researchers looked at giving through a finer lens. controlling for just about every plausible demographic variable income, wealth, education, age, children. employment, geographic, re- gion, even health. The results on religious giving were not very interesting: Intermarried couples give less than either Jewish or non-Jewish house- holds to religious causes. (Any other result would have suggested something screwy about the data.) More interesting was secu- lar giving. In this area. there would be no reason to expect intermarried couples to give less. But the researchers found that intermarried couples consisting of a Jew- ish wife and a non-Jewish husband were less likely to give than any other kind of household except for non- Jewish single males. As for the amounts of the gifts that the house- holds made, couples made up of Jewish husbands and non-Jewish wives gave 118 percent more than the Jew- ish wives and non-Jewish husbands. Jewish couples gave 76 percent more. Non- Jewish couples gave 52 percent more. Singles gave more. by 30 to 167 percent. The researchers analyzed the types of giving along different lines, but the find- ing remained: Jewish women married to non-Jewish men gave less than any other type of household. This is a new fact that raises new questions. Does it happen because these couples be come separated from Jewish fundraising networks, which traditionally rely on male-to- male connections? Are Jewish women who marry non- Jewish men particularly prone to adopt non-Jewish norms. which may be less charitable than Jewish norms? One thing the researchers know is that more research is needed. One thing the rest of us should face is that the Jewish charitable impulse, of which we are so proud and which we take so much for granted, may be more tenu- ous than we have recognized. Bonds can be broken. The connections that underlie " charity may be among them. This article was first pub- lished by Jewish Ideas Daily,; and is reprinted with per- mission. By David Suissa It never occurred to me that I'd have to visit the Los Angeles County Men's Central Jail to get a deeper understanding of the haredi crisis in Israel. I call it a crisis because, in my mind, anything that makes the Jewish religion look really bad is a crisis. If you look like a religious Jew, and you spit on an Orthodox girl because her dress code doesn't meet your standard of modesty, and the ificident is caught off Israeli television and goes viral on YouTube. then you are slandering Judaism and it's a crisis. So, here's my message to religious Jews who publicly and brazenly humiliate wom- en and spit in the face of the Jewish state that feeds them: Don't slander my religion. What I witnessed at the county jail on the last night of Chanukah, however, was the opposite of slander. I was there with my 12-year- old son and a small group of local Jews and rabbis some with long beards and black hats to light the Chanukah candles with law- enforcement officials, and to bring some holiday comfort to Jewish inmates. I had been invited by Chap- lain Howard Winkler, direc- tor of the Orthodox Jewish Chaplaincy Board, who, used the occasion to hand out awards. Around long tables serving up kosher doughnuts, drinks and dreidels, people with police badges milled around, listening to a Jew in a yarmulke talk about the inspirational light of Chanu- kah and the Jewish value of gratitude. What could have been going through their minds? Here's a group of religious Jews coming to their jail- house to honor these public servants for the difficultwork they do--and to thank them for the respect and sensitiv- ity they show to the Jewish community and to Jewish inmates. How could they not respond positively to this "religious" ceremony? As Winkler handed an award to Sheriff Lee Baca. I reflected on those images we've been seeing in the me- dia- of enraged haredim in Israel. and I thought: What a contrast! In Belt Shemesh, a group of religious Jews says, "screw you" to the world, while, in a Los Angeles jail, a group of religious Jews says "thank you." Can you guess which one better honors the Jewish religion? Imagine if a group of haredim had held a public ceremony on the last night of Chanukah, and thanked the Jewish state for the fi- nancial support and religious freedom that allows them to gorge themselves on their brand of isolationist, all-you- can-eat Judaism. Could that happen? But instead of showing gratitude, they have been insulting and abusing other Jews who don't think like them and desecrating the image of their own God in the process. I know, I know, these ex- tremists are only a minority, and they don't represent the vast majority of the haredi population. But here's the problem with that argument: It doesn't work in the real world, where image is every- thing. If this vast majority of haredimkeep quiet and don't take action against their own "bad apples" whileworking to create a more positive im- age for their community-- they, too, are responsible for the damage done in their name. Any Jew who walks around with a yarmulke is a walk- ing billboard for God. And if you're a haredi who wears not just a yarmulke but over- the-top regalia of Eastern European ghettos, you might as well be a Jumbotron elec- tronic billboard on Sunset Boulevard. As far as the world goes, you're a Jew on steroids. You're not .just represent- ing God, you're wearing God. The ultra-Orthodox orga- nization Agudath Israel of America responded to recent events by releasing a power- ful declaration, saying, "We condemn these acts uncondi- tionally." But no declaration can undo a horrible media image. If the haredi leader- ship in Israel is serious about repairing the damage done in its name to Judaism, instead of playing power politics and victimhood, it ought to do some soul searching about how it might change its ways. As Rabbi Yitzchok Adler- stein wrote in the blog Cross-Currents, the proper Jewish way is "one that brings honor to Hashem and honor to the one who follows it." A lifestyle that brings nothing but contempt upon Torah, he adds, "cannot legitimately be Torah." This is the inevitable re- sult of extreme isolation: You lose sight of how your actions play out in the real world. Fear of being spiritu- ally "contaminated" by the outside world can all too easily lead to contamination of your worldview. Like an antibody that turns on itself, you become oblivious to the presence, let alone the value, of God's other children. And when you reach the point of becoming a source of contempt for What you love most--God and Torah--you know you've reached bottom. But how will the haredim ever know the impact of their actions in the real world if they shun it so obsessively? Will they invite advertising executives to their yeshivas to give them a course on the dynamics of public image? Maybe they ought to just look at the most integrat- ed black hats in history Chabad--and study how these global emissaries have managed to turntheir Haredi uniforms into symbols of love. rather than division and isolation. It's not a co- incidence that they live and breathe in the real world. In this real world, you visit jail wardens to say thank you. And if there are Jews who bother you, you don't spit on them, you invite them over for Shabbat. David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp.~Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewish journaL com.