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

(page 2 of 2)

The American Jewish Committee initially opposed the lawsuit, considering it dangerous to bring the issue of Jerusalem before the courts. But pressure from donors and right-wing activists ultimately persuaded the AJC and other major Jewish groups to sign on.

The lawsuit backfired. In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the president’s exclusive power “to determine whether to recognize a foreign sovereign,” enshrining in legal precedent the president’s preeminence in foreign policy matters over Congress, which has historically proved a pro-Israel bulwark at moments of tension between Israel and the White House.

“How far Congress has the power to rein in the executive is not trivial,” one regretful senior official at a group that backed the lawsuit said at the time of the ruling. Freelancers “do a lot things that make short-term sense for the cause and long-term very little for the Jewish people as a whole.”

Alyza Lewin disputed the suggestion that the Zivotofsky case had done long-term damage to Jewish interests, telling JTA she is petitioning for a Supreme Court review and is confident her position will prevail.

Steven Cohen, a sociologist who directs the Berman Jewish Policy Archive, said the pressure on Jewish organizations has increased in part because of the convergence social media and a resurgent activist temperament that has been dormant since the 1970s.

“There’s the decline of mainstream Jewish organizations as the non-Orthodox committed Jewish population shrinks,” Cohen said. “There is organizing in the postmodern age, the ability of social media to link people and to push issues that have resonance to the forefront very quickly. It’s not much different from the Arab Spring in Tunisia.”

Two top establishment figures speaking on background noted the case of Mikey Weinstein as another example of the ways major groups have lost unfettered control over the communal agenda. A former military lawyer, Weinstein founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation after hearing reports from his sons that they had been exposed to Christian proselytizing as cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Several establishment groups took up the gauntlet and negotiated reforms with the Pentagon, but the reforms did not go far enough for Weinstein, who now derides establishment groups as milquetoasts. Weinstein remains influential, scoring his own Pentagon meetings.

Whether the phenomenon results from failures by establishment groups or is a symptom of larger shifts in the culture is in dispute. What is clear is that the landscape has dramatically changed.

“We are confronted more to take positions we’ve never taken before, things we’d ignore or phase out, but now it’s harder to do so,” Foxman said.


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!
  • Yeshiva University's lawyer wanted to know why the dozens of former schoolboys now suing over a sexual abuse cover-up didn't sue decades ago. Read the judge's striking response here.
  • It’s over. The tyranny of the straight-haired, button nosed, tan-skinned girl has ended. Jewesses rejoice!
  • It's really, really, really hard to get kicked out of Hebrew school these days.
  • "If Netanyahu re-opens the settlement floodgates, he will recklessly bolster the argument of Hamas that the only language Israel understands is violence."
  • Would an ultra-Orthodox leader do a better job of running the Met Council?
  • So, who won the war — Israel or Hamas?
  • 300 Holocaust survivors spoke out against Israel. Did they play right into Hitler's hands?
  • Ari Folman's new movie 'The Congress' is a brilliant spectacle, an exhilarating visual extravaganza and a slapdash thought experiment. It's also unlike anything Forward critic Ezra Glinter has ever seen. http://jd.fo/d4unE
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • 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.