My friend and colleague Lori Lowenthal Marcus writes today in Arutz 7 about her entanglements with the Jewish Federations of North America, and how, instead of confirming or denying a simple question she posed to them, they chose instead to start a campaign of personal attacks against her. (By the way, for a version of the article with all the links intact, go here.)
It began with “one former high-ranking leader of global Jewish philanthropy has claimed that the largest Jewish charity in the world succumbed to the polling/fundraising dilemma by rejecting the use of the term Zionism because that term is ‘too controversial’ – at a recent high level meeting. When this reporter tried to investigate the truth, she unwittingly became, like the title of a popular book, the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest..”
In writing the story, I did what reporters are supposed to do. First I researched and then interviewed the person making the claim. I then reached out to JFNA people who were at that meeting, and/or who are major players within the JFNA world. I reached out to them for hours, across several states, time zones and levels of leadership, in attempts to include in my story the JFNA response. I was explicit about who I was and what I was making contact about.
I contacted New York City UJA-Federation Chair John Ruskay, his press contact person Jane E. Rubinstein; president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland Steve Hoffman; JFNA’s senior vice president for Global Planning, Joanne Moore; JFNA Vice President for Public Policy and Director of the Washington, D.C. JFNA office, William Daroff; and JFNA spokesman Joe Berkofsky. I was stonewalled at every turn: I got literally nothing of substance back.
Needless to say, she got bupkes. They were either out on vacation or they stonewalled her. So she—and I, her editor—went ahead with the story. “And then it really hit the fan,” Lori reports.
“What should have been a minor story about a credible critic’s claim that JFNA leadership had rejected the term Zionism as ‘too controversial,’ followed by a JFNA response denying that that’s what happened, and making clear Federation’s Zionist credentials, disappeared in a barrage of personal and unfounded attacks on me.”
“The hornets were angry; she writes, “I kept getting stung.”
“I and my article were labeled “scurrilous,” “vituperative,” “false,” “evil,” misleading,” and “lashon hara.” And in their latest statement, JFNA leadership used the most somber day in the Jewish calendar to reprimand me and to accuse me publicly of “sinat chinam”– the baseless hatred of one Jew for another that, according to Jewish tradition, caused nothing less than the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of Jewish sovereignty in Israel for 2000 years. In Federation’s narrative, I was presented as the one who needed to repent.”
My editor joked that he wouldn’t be surprised to see me being used in JFNA fundraisers the way Rachel Maddow is used by Republican fundraisers and Sarah Palin by Democrats. He wrote: “I can see it now, a local Federation brochure: ‘Lori Lowenthal Marcus wants you to hate Jewish Federations, but we won’t let her. Send your checks to the address below.'”
So now you know. As usual in these cases, the cover-up is worse than the crime. It’s possible to imagine a Jewish federation opting to dial it down on the Z word when fundraising within its constituency, seeing as some of said constituents might be busy BDS’ing Israel. But the way they went about destroying the reputation of a writer who is beyond reproach makes you wonder just what kind of hornets live in that nest…