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July 28, 2006

Include Federations As Philanthropic Partners

When well-regarded professionals like Jeffrey Solomon and Mark Charendoff suggest the power of philanthropic partnerships, we ought to listen carefully not only to what they say, but to what they don’t (“Harness the Potential of Philanthropic Partnerships,” July 14). They provide us with suggested ersatz legal structures for philanthropic partnerships, and suggest Birthright Israel as a partnership paradigm, but unfortunately fail to even utter the words “federation” or “Jewish community foundations.”

Thus, the federation system — within which we have built $10.5 billion in assets under management, most of which are in the form of supporting foundations and donor-advised funds — are cast aside. It is unfortunate that some of the best minds in the philanthropic world have chosen to ignore the federations as potential, real partners in entrepreneurial philanthropic efforts — and it is appropriate to ask why they have done so.

As best I can tell, the answer is simply one of control. Entrepreneurial philanthropists often demand control, inserting conditions for their engagement and their philanthropy that they believe will help to achieve their philanthropic goals but are actually designed to achieve limited partnerships, as we who are lawyers understand them to be — namely, general partners who have total control and limited partners who provide critical funds but are otherwise expected to be silent and truly limited in all aspects.

The Birthright program, one of the greatest philanthropic achievements of any age, offers a telling example. While the federations and the Jewish Agency for Israel would wish for a true partnership in which their ideas are as welcome as those of the founders, little more than lip service is paid to even the so-called limited partnership that Solomon and Charendoff suggest. Without a role in management and governance, funding partners other than the founders are relegated to pleaders.

The potential of philanthropic partnership will only be realized when entrepreneurial philanthropists and the federations work together and achieve together. There is no reason why the goals of entrepreneurial philanthropists and the central tenet of our federation system of collective action cannot be joined on the great issues of our time.

But that will only take place when the best minds in the philanthropic business and the most entrepreneurial of philanthropists can bring themselves to utter the word “federation.”

Richard Wexler

Chair, Federation Foundation Governance Task Force

United Jewish Communities

Chicago, Ill.

Tale of Rabbi and Nun One of Deceit and Pain

As the wife of Rabbi Ephraim Rubinger, I found a June 30 article about my husband and his lover, Ruchama Villaverde, anything but heartwarming (“Rabbi and Former Nun Settle Down in Miami”). This story is about betrayal, deceit and pain.

My husband was a loved and respected leader of the Jewish community of Columbia, S.C., who violated his moral and ethical responsibilities as a rabbi, a husband and father as soon as Villaverde began corresponding with him via email. Villaverde violated her commitments to her Orthodox Christian faith and her vows of poverty, obedience and chastity by corresponding with a married man. She betrayed the very people she lived with in the monastic community in Wagner, S.C., and the people she served.

My husband was committed to teaching history, moral and ethical values, traditions and Torah, as well as counseling, and leading various groups in the Jewish community. He violated his commitment to his community, his role as a religious leader, and his marriage commitment to his wife and the seven children we shared between us.

This is not a story of differing levels of religious observances, nor of shrimp, naps and purses. Rather, it is a story of two people who took vows to different faiths, one of whom took a marriage vow under the chupah, the other to Jesus, who acted without regard to the many people they hurt.

The next time the Forward decides to publish an article such as this, and to photograph a couple of lovers, please think about the many intelligent and caring people left behind in the name of “love.”

Diana Rubinger

Columbia, S.C.

Theological Pollution

Opinion columnist David Klinghoffer takes theological license by characterizing concerned environmentalists as latter-day pagans bent on dethroning God, as opposed to those who breach the heavens with pollutants for personal profit spurred on by public subsidies (“Of Al Gore, Global Warming and God,” July 21).

That scientists in one camp or another may be wrong in their understanding of the evidence, or even in their assumptions with which they approach the evidence, is worthy of our consideration — although I suspect that the Republican-controlled House Energy and Commerce Committee is not the paradigm of objectivity. However, by raising the arguments to the level of theological dispute, Klinghoffer immediately puts his own claims beyond rational scrutiny or contradiction.

Moreover, the very name that Klinghoffer has adopted for his column, “The Disputation,” reminds the reader of nasty antecedents in which the outcome was predetermined because the powerbrokers of the day were not going to be inconvenienced by truth — wherever it lay.

Rabbi Scott Saulson

Atlanta, Ga.

Applaud Shoah Musical

The musical drama “The Last Letter” in Neumarkt, Germany, has been so successful that extra performances are scheduled (“Shoah Musical Remembers What Town Forgets,” July 21). It is the talk of the town. It was also featured on national radio, and will be on television throughout Bavaria.

It heartens me that after 60 years of invisibility, the memory of my sister Ilse Haas, my parents, and the Jews of Neumarkt will not be forgotten. As Helmut Enzenberger, the driving force behind this project said, “If they are not remembered, it is as if they died a second time.”

Thank you to Enzenberger and to his enthusiastic students at the Ostendorfer Gymnasium. Thanks, as well, to the Forward, for remembering.

Ernest Haas

Park Ridge, N.J.

Revisit Umm el Fahm

A July 21 article attributes to me very disturbing quotes that demand clarification (“Letter from Umm el Fahm: In Israel’s Largest Muslim City, Strife Stirs Complex Emotions”).

My conversation with the Forward took place in the framework of my assisting and voluntarily helping the reporter and her assistant in preparing the article. The meeting was originally scheduled for the beginning of this month, before the current crisis broke out. Most of the interview dealt with issues related to Umm El Fahm, and only the last few minutes with the current crisis in the north.

The topic of the conversation was defined as the city of Umm El Fahm and the social, economic, educational and municipal changes that are taking place there. I was interviewed as a regular citizen, and not as a representative of any party organization — and most emphatically not as an employee of Shatil or the New Israel Fund.

Some quotes that were attributed to me were inaccurate and misrepresented my views. I’d like especially to mention the quote that deals with the September 11 attacks — which I overwhelmingly, categorically and totally deny. The things that I supposedly said do not represent my personal views and beliefs in any shape or form.

All my life I have been working to promote understanding and peaceful and respectful relations between human beings, and within and between various groups and cultures in Israeli society. I joined Shatil because I identify with its ideology, and with the organization’s vision and goals to promote freedom, equality and justice for human beings in general, and for the citizens of the State of Israel in particular.

I’m led by the supreme value of the sanctity of life. War and violence of any kind, and in any place, are totally antithetical to the values, beliefs and my way of living, and naturally even more so when innocent people are the victims.

Hassan Agbaraia

Umm El Fahm, Israel

Bloggers Logging On

A July 21 article reports that bloggers are silent on Israel’s war with Hezbollah (“Bloggers Offer Unusual Take On Raging Conflict: Silence”).

While left-wing American bloggers may be silent on the conflict, the center and right of the blogosphere, in both the United States and Europe, have been commenting on the Israel-Hezbollah war since it started — many with as much “complexity” as Leon Wieseltier could wish for. The Memeorandum blog ( has all the blogger opinion and stories you could want.

But perhaps the most interesting story the Forward is missing is the huge number of bloggers in Israel and Lebanon who have been liveblogging the war — again, with a great deal of complexity.

Judith Weiss

New York, N.Y.


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