Last week in these pages, we noted the significance of the upcoming World Zionist Congress elections. As we said, the Congress determines the policies and budgetary allocations of the Jewish Agency in Israel which is the central agency administering the distribution of the bulk of the hundreds of millions of dollars raised by the UJA-Federation system worldwide. However, the erosion of Orthodox representation in the Congress over the years has resulted in a substantial diminution of support for Orthodox institutions and a definite non-Orthodox tilt in positions on issues that are fundamental to the character of the Jewish people.
It came to our attention that the World Zionist Congress placed election-related advertisements in several Anglo-Jewish newspapers, none with anywhere as large an Orthodox readership as The Jewish Press. When we inquired as to why the Orthodox were not deemed a suitable target community, we were told that, although The Jewish Press was not included in the initial ad run, an ad would, indeed, subsequently be placed in The Jewish Press. However, we were then told that the advertising program was over and that an ad would not be commissioned. We were told that if The Jewish Press felt so strongly about Orthodox participation in the election, it should run an ad at its own expense, a remark attributed to Ms. Karen Rubenstein, the Congress' Executive Director.
Startled, we had a member of our editorial staff call Ms. Rubenstein to verify what we were told. Our reporter asked whether she had said that we should run the ad gratis if we felt so strongly about Orthodox participation in the voting. She said, “I wouldn't want to be quoted to that effect.”
But did she make the comment, our reporter asked? It was “taken out of context,” was the reply.
Ms. Rubenstein went on to say that no new ads would be placed because they do not have a budget for more ads. When asked why The Jewish Press wasn't considered in the initial advertising budget, Ms. Rubenstein responded, “I'm not getting into a conversation with you about it. This is not a story and I'm not commenting on it as a story.”
Well, we disagree. It is a story and a very important one. A level playing field for all potential voters is certainly something that should be of prime concern to the folks at the World Zionist Congress.
In any event, as our readers will note, we are including as an insert, at our own expense, an official ballot for the election.
We hope that our readers will be spurred by this sad episode to vote in this all-important election, even if they did not intend to do so before.