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Rationalising scarce resources

The article below is an exceptionally relevant piece of commentary, that is well worth taking the time to read.  Michael Freund is a well known Jewish leader who has worked to bring isolated Jewish communities in remote diaspora locations to Israel and reconnect them with Jewish tradition.  He also worked for Netanyahu’s Likud administration as a publicist.


The statistics may differ slightly, but his point is no less relevant to Perth or Australian Jewry as a whole.  How many organisations do we have that are reactive and stand on a platform of protecting our rights to be who we are going to be anyway.  Why not redirect that resourcing into a communal identity that grows our inner strength, instead of directing resources to protect our outer weakness?


Over to Mr Freund……


MICHAEL FREUND (Israel Insider)


What a colossal waste of Jewish resources. Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent monitoring and examining, exploring and investigating the extent of global anti-Semitism.


Reports are compiled, press conferences are held, and trends are carefully studied and assessed, all as part of a monumental effort to track the spread of that age-old virus known as Jew-hatred.


On the governmental level, the US State Department maintains an Office to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism, while Israel runs its own Coordination Forum for Countering Anti-Semitism.


Universities from Yale to Hebrew U have created centers to study the phenomenon, and then, of course, there is the alphabet-soup list of American Jewish groups, such as the ADL and AJC, all of whom make a fine living by sounding the alarm over anti-Jewish bigotry.


And yet, despite it all, confusion still reigns regarding the very nature of the beast. Who hates us so much? And why?


You’d think that after pouring so much time and money into the issue, we’d have a better grasp of the subject.


Now consider the following. The Anti-Defamation League, based in New York, which bills itself as “the nation’s premier civil rights/human relations agency,” spent over $76 million in 2006.


That same year, the American Jewish Committee laid out more than $48 million, while the American Jewish Congress shelled out another $6 million.


All told, these three self-styled US Jewish defense agencies, which are devoted to combating anti-Semitic hatred, spent over $130 million in just one calendar year.


Now, according to the ADL’s own figures, the total number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in the US that year was 1,554.


That comes out, on average, to a whopping $83,655 per incident that these organizations are costing the Jewish people.


Is that really justified?


Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of countering anti-Semitism and standing up to our foes. It is essential to educate the public, spotlight media bias and denounce those who hate us with all our might.


And yes, the three groups in question all do engage in a variety of activities beyond just combating anti-Semitism.


But at a time when budgets are tight and Jewish needs are growing at home and abroad, do we really need several overlapping Jewish organizations doing pretty much the same thing? Frankly, this is profligacy at its worst. And it comes with a hidden, yet painful, cost to the Jewish people and their future.


Indeed, just think about what all that money could achieve if it were put to better use, such as funding scholarships at Jewish day schools, subsidizing trips to Israel for Jewish youth or underwriting the costs of Jewish books.


If even half of the $130 million spent by these groups each year were to go towards strengthening Jewish education, it could have a far more profound impact on Jewish life than the issuance of additional reports on anti-Semitic outbreaks.


Take, for example, the mounting tuition crisis facing many American Jewish parents. Two months ago, the New York Jewish Week reported that tuition at Ramaz, a leading Manhattan yeshiva day school, will top $30,000 for 12th grade this year.


While other Jewish schools may be somewhat less costly, amounts such as these are proving increasingly prohibitive for many parents, and will ultimately deter at least some of them from giving their child a proper Jewish education.


Imagine if the organized Jewish community instead decided to divert that same $130 million each year towards scholarship funds. It could literally change the lives of thousands of young Jews and keep more of them Jewish.


But that, unfortunately, isn’t happening. And as economists like to point out, every decision contains within it an “opportunity cost”, such that money spent on “combating anti-Semitism” is therefore no longer available to educate Jewish children.


Consequently, at a time of declining Jewish demography, rising intermarriage and growing assimilation, the US Jewish community’s spending priorities are strikingly out of touch. They reflect the realities of America back in the 1950s rather than today.


And so the wasteful expenditure of funds on outmoded and increasingly irrelevant Jewish organizations in effect only serves to further undermine the Jewish future by draining away scarce funds. Ironically enough, that is precisely what the anti-Semites themselves want to see happen.


So I suggest it is time for US Jewry to rethink its priorities, and reorient its expenditures.


Instead of worrying so much about the haters, let’s start concerning ourselves more with those whom they hate.


And let’s start spending more of communal funds to ensure that Jewish youth continue putting on yarmulkes, rather than worrying so much about the anti-Semites who occasionally try to knock them off.


Fighting Jew-hatred is important, and needs to remain a priority. But when it comes to investing in the Jewish future, and ensuring our survival as Jews, everything else simply pales in comparison.

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