Brian Lurie Takes Aim at Occupation

New Israel Fund Chief Admits Being 'Rebel' at Heart

Rebel With a Cause: Rabbi Brian Lurie says the New Israel Fund is anchored in Jewish values.
haaretz
Rebel With a Cause: Rabbi Brian Lurie says the New Israel Fund is anchored in Jewish values.

By Chemi Shalev (Haaretz)

Published August 04, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Rabbi Brian Lurie, who recently replaced Naomi Chazan as president of the New Israel Fund, has spent most of his professional life at the heart of the American Jewish establishment. Nonetheless, he is a rebel, a nonconformist, a Jewish communal leader “on the cutting edge,” as former Forward editor J.J. Goldberg puts it, especially in matters relating to the relations between Israel and the Diaspora.

As a young rabbinical student in the Reform Movement, he campaigned for the Hebrew Union College to institute a mandatory full year of studies in Jerusalem. As head of the San Francisco Jewish Federation, he was the first to bypass the Jewish Agency and the United Jewish Appeal, to earmark funds directly for projects in Israel, and to open an independent office in Israel. As national CEO of the UJA (a job he secured after the organization decided that if it can’t beat him, it might as well employ him ), Lurie was also the first to propose that Israel and Diaspora Jewry support efforts to bring tens of thousands of young Jews to Israel, to cement their ties to the Jewish state.

Indeed, the man who has now agreed, at age 70, to head the NIF - an organization depicted by Im Tirtzu and other radical Israeli right-wingers as a mortal enemy of Zionism - is the same man who is one of the “godfathers” of Taglit-Birthright Israel, arguably the most successful Zionist enterprise of our times. And as further proof that Zionist history can have a wicked sense of irony, this is the same Birthright - now funded mainly by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson - which many leftists and other NIF types suspect of serving as an incubator for right-wing indoctrination.

Birthright’s website only notes the “inception” of the project in 2000, and one must presume that it was an immaculate inception, because no mention is made of Lurie and none of Yossi Beilin, who was the driving force in making the idea a reality. Both names have been expunged, Soviet style - perhaps for fear of offending the program’s current benefactors.

Lurie had started sending delegations of Jewish teens to Israel as an assistant rabbi at San Francisco’s Temple Emanu-El. Twenty years later, as executive vice president of the UJA, he formally proposed that a $30 million fund be set up jointly by the Jewish Agency, the Israeli government and Jewish federations that would jointly subsidize an Israel trip for 50,000 young Jews. Lurie presented his plan to Beilin, but the then deputy foreign minister insisted such trips must be completely free of charge for participants.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.