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January 13, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 13, 2012 Rituals From page 4A expected to sit in the rear, and another sign indicating that anyone can sit where he or she desires. There might not be a commotion if a Haredi objecting to a woman sitting next to him simply moved to another seat. The problem comes when he calls her a shiksa or whore. The lack of moderation may reflect the Israeli practice of granting every Haredi man, intelligent or otherwise, the right to avoid work, live off hiswife's earnings and modest allotments from the state and his academy. He is exposed full time to the preachings of rabbis and fellow students, in a neighborhood likely to be entirely Haredi. He does not encounter the wider social contacts that a job may pro- vide to him. Not too far from the streets where the demonstrations occur is a looming political is- sue. The late journalist turned politician Tomi Lapid created an anti-clerical political party that at its height in 2003 won 15 seats in the Knesset and several places as government ministers. That party folded when one of its holier than thou anti-religious Members of Knesset and ministers was found to have engaged in some especially dirty intra-party monkey business. Now Lapid's son, Yair, has built himself an impressive following as a journalist, and has mulled an entry into poli- tics. Polls show him leading a party that would gain more seats than Kadima (currently the Knesset's largest party, but undergoing hard times). Today's Ha'aretz cartoon de- picts Benyamin Netanyahu andAvigdor Lieberman trying to shovel Yair Lapid into a freezer, reflecting a demand to legislate a "cooling off period" to keep jounalists from jumping directly into politics. There is such a pe- riod of six months before a retiring senior official in one of the security services can be a candidate for election. One can argue if the idea is to keep well known personalities from exploiting a reputation earned outside of politics for political advantage, or simply the effort of established politi- cians to limit competition. If Lapid entered politics and followed the anti-clerical path of his father, he would take votes from Lieberman. Part of Lieberman's appeal to secular Russian-speakers is his posture with respect to individuals whose claims of Jewish roots do not pass muster with the Rabbinate. To date, the occasional bursts of ritualized conflict over issues of religion have not threatened the integrity of Israel. They are the price paid for living in a population that is 75-80 percent Jewish (depending on one's concep- tion of "Jewish"). Just as the notion of "final solution" is anathema to Jews after the Holocaust, there can be no thought of a thorough resolution of our religious tensions. Secular, Orthodox, and Haredi Israelis emerge from the same protoplasm of Jewish cultures. Our task is to cope with tensions, competi- tion for resources, and a lack of understanding rather than to do away with one or another, If the size of the Haredi com- munity has grown too large, with too great demands on the national economy, the reason- able response is to reduce the incentives provided the younger generation to avoid productive schooling and work. There are signs of prog- ress in that direction, but the effort comes up against the theology/ideology of religious communities. Involved, too, is the self-interest of established religious academies, and the rabbiswho lead the academies and the ultra-Orthodox po- litical parties.Alongside this note is the story of Orthodox PAGE 19A extremists who resist the removal of settlements from the West Bank, or promote the entry of Jewish families into neighborhoods of Jeru- salem heavily populated by hostile Arabs. There is also an insistence on segregation expressed by Orthodox Jews in the military and elsewhere who refuse to listen to women singers or speakers, or to work alongside of women. The line-up of supporters and opponents, and the prominent behaviors differ from those in- volving Heredim and women. Such nuances are among the critical differences in the Is- raeli mosaic that affect those of us who must tolerate one another on a daily basis. Happy New Year, no matter what calendar you consider relevant. Funders From page 5A reluctance is understand- able, particularly for Jewish federations whose decisions are made by consensus and at a time of economic restraint. But he and others insist such an approach is shortsighted and ultimately harmful to the community. Family foundations, wide- ly seen as the risk capital for the Jewish community, tend to be more willing to launch and support start-up ventures, but they too are criticized for sometimes losing interest in a project after a few years, leaving it vulnerable, and moving on to other, newer ideas. "This is a moment in time when the Jewish community needs to experiment," says John Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of UJA- Federation of New York, one of the few federations with the resources and willingness to invest in new projects. Learn From Mistakes Some communal observ- ers note that R&D--re- search and development--is a basic component of com- mercial businesses, and assert that Jewish charities should emulate that model. They say at least 10 percent of funds should go into innovative experiments, with the clear recognition that some will not succeed. And they would like to see grant-makers do a better and more transparent job of evaluating past disappoint- ments to learn from them. Richard Marker, a veteran philanthropic adviser and former CEO of the Samuel Bronfman Foundation, notes that "we can only do excellent funding if we are willing to acknowledge and learn from our mistakes, errors, failures and short- falls." Jeffrey Solomon believes the community needs to change the mindset that playing it safe in funding is the responsible and most beneficial approach. "There is nothing wrong with funding a local JCC," he said, "but the reality is that, based on long-term trends, there will be shrink- age" in terms of member- ship. "Imagine if a pool of $50 million a year was available for innovation," he added. "It would be a game-chang- er," with the potential to "revitalize" the community. "But to do that you have to be prepared for greater risk, and you would have to use a democratic rather than consensus system." Ideally, Jewish establish- ment groups and private foundations would comple- ment each other in their work. For now, though, Solomon believes they are plagued by "the inability to find comfort with one another." He says that most young leadership programs are geared toward attracting young people to establishment organiza- tions rather than providing them an authentic voice of their own. But there are notable exceptions. Solomon and others cred- it UJA-Federation of New York for its bold support of innovative projects. That has included some embar- rassing moments, like when the youth-oriented and anti-establishment maga- zine, Heeb, a recipient of significant federation fund- ing, published a 2004 spoof ofMel Gibson's"The Passion of the Christ" featuring semi-nude photos of"Mary," and of "Jesus" wearing only a tallit around his genitals. (UJA-Federation did not renew its funding, and the magazine stopped printing in 2010, though it continues as an online publication.) For the most part, UJA- Federation's grants for startups have been highly praised for their role in launching and sustaining efforts to heighten Jew- ish identity among young people. "You need to learn from success and failure," says UJA-Federation's Ruskay. One highly touted effort is PresenTense, a mostly volunteer community is working in Israel and New York to help create and sus- tain the next generation of social entrepreneurs. Another is Bikkurim: An Incubator for New Ideas, a joint project of the Jew- ish Federations of North America and the Kaminer Family Foundation. Execu- tive director Nina Bruder credits UJA-Federation with being "an amazing partner, not just financially but in actively encouraging and supporting new projects." Since launching in 2000, the New York-based Bik- kurim (Hebrew for "first fruits") has provided advice, office space and modest funding for 29 groups, including a new egalitar- ian yeshiva (Mechon Ha- dar), the Jewish Farm School, a program that fosters mediation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (Encounter) and one that promotes social justice in the Orthodox community (Uri L'Tzedek). Twenty-four of the pro- grams are still around and five have closed, most famously JDub Records, whose surprise termination last year underscored the perils of projects sustaining themselves a few years after getting off the ground. Bruder said there is too little funding for groups in the post-experimental but not yet stable stage, when "the need is greater, the risks are lower but the funding sources are fewer." But she said JDub Re- cords, which launched the career of Matisyahu and called attention to the strong connections between hip, cultural mu- sic and Jewish youth, was hardly a failure. "How you define 'failure' is tricky," Bruder noted. "Closure doesn't equal no impact; failure is when there is closure and no les- sons learned from it." JDub No Failure A prominent observer of the American Jewish scene makes a similar point. Jonathan Sarna, profes- sor of American Jewish his- tory at Brandeis University, notes that efforts like JDub and the liberal Modern Or- thodox group Edah, which closed five years ago, were not failures because "others took up the cause." He says it is natural that ideas and projects outlive their usefulness, citing the waxing and waning of institutions in this country like Jewish hospitals and Hebrew colleges as well as havurot and The Jewish Catalog, the how-to Bible of the '60s and '70s little known today. "That doesn't indicate failure," he said, but rather that times, and needs, change. The current recession has hastened the end of some organizations, Sarna noted, like the American Jewish Congress, and forced oth- ers to join forces with one another. "There is less experimen- tation than we might imag- ine," he said, in an American Jewish community that "has not been willing to study failure." He cited as examples of under-analyzed programs or events: the Institute for Jewish Life, the short-lived establish- ment effort to spark a major Jewish renaissance in the early 1970s; the United Jewish Communities, the North American umbrella organization of the federa- tions that morphed into the current Jewish Federations of North America; and the lack of a timely and effec- tive national leadership re- sponse to the impact of the 2008 economic meltdown on Jewish communal life. One of the few examples of an organization willing to share an evaluation of its own efforts is the Avi Chai Foundation, which supports Jewish education through a number of projects in Israel, the former Soviet Union and North America (including several launched by The Jewish Week). The charity issues an annual report, available on its website, which is widely cited as a model in the field for its refreshing candor and transparency. In the last several years it has reported on its spend-down efforts--it plans to close by 2020--openly describing disappointments as well as successes in a narrative that does not conceal tensions that have emerged at times among board members. But such reports are rare, and as Sarna notes, "bottom line we need to accept more failure." From an Israeli innova- tor's perspective, though, the American Jewish com- munity is far more advanced when it comes to certain kinds of innovation than Israel, particularly in the realm of Judaism. Nir Tsuk is the managing director of the Israeli branch of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, an international organization that promotes social entrepreneurship, a term it coined. He points out that while Judaism in the Jewish state is essentially black or white, religious or secular, America has fostered a variety of options, includ- ing Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist. Israel, Tsuk says, is more entrepreneurial in various fields of interests, like bio- engineering and technol- ogy. "But American Jews are more creative in issues of identity and redefining Jewish beliefs and practices. Super creative, in fact." One more area where American Jews and Israelis envy each other and need to learn from each other. In the meantime, at a time of economic recession, as organizations and founda- tions struggle to maintain essential programs, the pressure is even greater to sacrifice future plans and focus on the here and now. But thought leaders who have learned from mistakes are warning us that davka (especially) now is the time to assure the future by invest- ing in dreams, even if some of them never come true. Gary Rosenblatt is editor and publisher of The New York Jewish Week, from which this article was re- printed by permission. You can email him at Gary@ Sudoku solution from page 7 469317258 583429671 271856493 358164729 796283514 124975386 6425981 37 935741862 817632945