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!
  • 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.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with 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.