The Jewish Federations of North America earlier this week had a somewhat awkward task: To explain to its many members that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wasn’t going to attend the 2011 conference next month in Denver after all.
“As in any conference, program changes arise,” read the October 24 memo, which went on to explain that the Prime Minister regretfully had other obligations on his busy calendar.
That’s understandable. What’s a little harder to understand is another absence: women headliners.
Here’s how the official JFNA release describes the big names attending the three-day conference:
“Among the headliners scheduled to appear are global political leaders such as Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren and the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro; top journalists Peter Beinart (author of a much-debated article on American Jewry), James Carroll (author of “Jerusalem, Jerusalem”) and Aluf Benn, editor of the leading Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz; leading-edge business thinkers such as the retired president of Starbucks, Howard Behar; the founder of the magazine Fast Company, Bill Taylor; and many other fascinating figures.”
You’ll notice not a single woman on this list.
Continuing the theme, the agency is touting a massive social action event that will culminate in a party starring three hip Jewish musicians. Yep, all men.
Surely, there are prominent and talented women active in the federation system, including the current chair of the JFNA board. Can it really be that the largest meeting of the organized Jewish community in North America can’t find a single female to put in its official announcements? At a time when women remain sorely missing from the American Jewish establishment leadership, this oversight is telling.
Jane Eisner, a pioneer in journalism, is writer-at-large at the Forward and the 2019 Koeppel Fellow in Journalism at Wesleyan University. For more than a decade, she was editor-in-chief of the Forward, the first woman to hold the position at the influential Jewish national news organization. Under her leadership, the Forward’s digital readership grew significantly, and won numerous regional and national awards for its original journalism, in print and online.