Upstart Jewish Activists Push Aside Establishment Leaders

Does Hobby Lobby Fight Point to 'End of the Macher'?

Macher No More? Establishment Jewish leaders like Abe Foxman used to be gatekeepers for most activism. Not any more.
adl
Macher No More? Establishment Jewish leaders like Abe Foxman used to be gatekeepers for most activism. Not any more.

By Ron Kampeas

Published November 05, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(JTA) — The conservative political blogger Ken Berwitz was enraged last month, but not by Democratic malfeasance, his favored bugbear. No, he was irked by the policies of an Oklahoma-based chain of craft stores.

Berwitz was bothered not only that Hobby Lobby was keeping Hanukkah tchotchkes off its shelves, but that a clerk at a New Jersey outlet had accounted for the omission by explaining that the store doesn’t “cater to you people.”

“I will never set foot in a Hobby Lobby. Ever,” Berwitz seethed on his blog. “I will be sure to tell everyone I know and, obviously, everyone who reads this blog, the reason why.”

The story quickly went viral. Within a week, Hobby Lobby had apologized and announced that in time for the holiday season, it would be stocking dreidels and menorahs in certain locations. The Anti-Defamation League posted the apology on its website while noting that not stocking Jewish items did not indicate bigotry.

A swift victory in the Internet age?

Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, isn’t so sure. In fact, the whole experience left him uneasy.

“In the good old days, when someone said something critical or nasty, you could ignore it,” Foxman said. “Now everyone has a megaphone. Your supporters come and say, ‘Did you hear?’ You’re forced to deal and engage.”

From matters of state to determinations of what should and should not offend Jews, the major Jewish organizations have been forced to contend in recent years with individuals or small activist groups that increasingly determine which issues dominate the communal agenda.

Recent controversies over religious freedom in the military and American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital have been driven not by the country’s largest Jewish groups but by individuals who bypass traditional channels of Jewish advocacy.

One of the more consequential recent examples was a lawsuit brought by Nathan and Alyza Lewin on behalf of Menachem Zivotofsky, an American citizen born in Jerusalem. The father-daughter legal team sought to force the U.S. State Department to hew to a 2002 law allowing Jerusalem-born Americans to list their country of birth as Israel – a law ignored by both President Obama and his predecessor, George W. Bush, citing presidential prerogative in shaping foreign policy.


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!
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • 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.