Next Steps

Letter to the Editor

Published November 21, 2012, issue of November 30, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

You omitted key information about the role of NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation as an igniter of systemic change in the field of Jewish young adult engagement (“Birthright Reshuffles Follow-up Effort,” November 9). Furthermore, what you present as a reduction in funding from Birthright Israel Foundation was a result of many donors giving directly to NEXT — instead of via the foundation — after NEXT was incorporated, in 2009. Birthright Israel Foundation provides no support to NEXT from its general campaign.

Three years ago, NEXT recognized that local Jewish community organizations and networks already offer an array of local Jewish experiences for Jewish young adults. Instead of competing with and duplicating their efforts, NEXT made the strategic decision to utilize various channels to connect thousands of Birthright Israel alumni to these opportunities. NEXT also offers these organizations consultation and training based on its prior programmatic experience, and city-specific data analysis on Birthright Israel alumni.

Simultaneously, NEXT continues to offer innovative, successful national programs for trip alumni, including the flagship NEXT Shabbat program. This year already, 1,291 trip alumni have hosted 1,480 Sabbath meals for more than 21,065 Jewish young adults.

NEXT’s organizational transition was an outcome of an evaluation that revealed positive participant feedback for NEXT’s local programming, along with challenges ahead if NEXT tried to scale this model. We, and the Jewish communal sector, should view this type of analysis and subsequent transition as a positive step. NEXT’s revised approach allows for efficient engagement of Jewish young adults, helping local Jewish organizations engage Birthright Israel trip alumni and their peers more broadly and deeply than before.

CEO, NEXT: A Division of Birthright
Israel Foundation
New York, N.Y.

Defending Principle

Leonard Fein is usually so clear and forceful — and correct — in his arguments. So, we were especially disappointed with his defense of the decision by the Union for Reform Judaism’s Oversight Committee to allow our movement’s social justice conferences to take place in boycotted, nonunionized Hyatt hotels (“When Principles and Interests Collide,” November 9).

Hyatt has refused to agree to a fair process for workers to organize. Instead, Hyatt increasingly outsources hiring, raises quotas on the amount of hard work that workers are expected to do, and provides no effective remedy if workers who raise a protest get fired.

Contrary to Fein’s assertion, other organizations, including religious denominations, have taken principled positions to observe the boycott. Sometimes they have been able to negotiate a release from a contract; sometimes they have accepted that cost for the sake of justice.

Today, hotel workers cannot strike effectively, because they can be replaced. Currently, a boycott is the main tool that hotel workers have to assert pressure for a just and fair workplace.

Reform Judaism has a history of standing in solidarity with those who struggle for justice, and the Religious Action Center has been the flagship of this struggle. It is a profound contradiction of its own history and mission for the RAC to hold conferences in hotels where there is no union to protect the rights of workers.

We believe that a social justice conference held at a boycotted and nonunion hotel is akin to the Talmud’s graphic example of “tovel v’sheretz beyado” — immersing oneself in the ritual, purifying bath while holding an impure object.

We look forward to the day when public events of the Reform movement will be held only in venues with unionized labor and a fair contract. In the meantime, we call on our Reform colleagues to join us in honoring the Hyatt boycott.

In the collision of principles and interests, let’s choose principles.


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!
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • 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.