Of the 19 Jewish nonprofits that pay their top executives over $400,000, the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Zionist Organization America are the only two that have total expenditures of less than $10 million a year.
The RJC and the ZOA each spent around $3 million in 2010. That’s compared to the tens of millions spent by Jewish federations in Baltimore, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York, each of which pay their executive directors comparable salaries to what the top executives at the ZOA and the RJC earn.
The comparisons, which come from the Forward’s 2011 survey of the salaries of top Jewish communal executives, suggest that the chief executives at the ZOA and the RJC head up smaller operations than peers that earn similar salaries.
Though most of the Jewish communal executives earning $400,000 and head up service groups, the ZOA and RJC aren’t the only advocacy groups in the club. Top executives at the Anti-Defamation League, AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee all earn roughly what the ZOA and RJC top executives earn. Those three groups each spent between $40 million and $65 million in 2010.
As I reported last week, ZOA national president Mort Klein got a raise to $435,000 in 2011. RJC executive director Matt Brooks earned $461,000 in 2010.
Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu once again avoided speaking to each other yesterday, as they have done for the past three years. Despite both claiming that they want to restart conflict-ending talks, there was little evidence of that in either leader’s speech to the United Nations’ General Assembly.
Abbas was on the attack from the outset. Speaking as the representative of an “angry people,” he leveled a familiar list of charges against Israel. Ethnic cleansing, settler violence, unlawful detention and the closure of the borders with Gaza all got a mention. Most were met with applause. So too, the call for Israel to be “condemned, punished and boycotted.” He noted that the Palestinian population is young and frustrated, hinting that violence could once again return. Yet, he claimed, Israeli policy and an aggressive brand of Israeli political discourse means that the Palestinian Authority, the guardian of Palestinian political and security relations with Israel, is under threat of collapse. There is only one way to understand this and only one conclusion to be drawn, he said. The Israeli government rejects a two-state solution.
Not so the Palestinians. Although time is running out, there is a chance — “maybe the last” — to return to talks. And he reassured the General Assembly that there is no need for marathon negotiations or to solve an “intractable riddle.” The solution already exists. All it needs is a return to the UN’s own terms of reference and the Arab Peace Initiative.
But even whilst calling for a “new approach,” Abbas actually drove peace efforts further up last year’s cul-de-sac. His announcement that he would be seeking a General Assembly resolution to grant non-member status to the Palestinians is anathema to Israel. It is also a pale echo of last year’s thwarted application for full UN membership. Abbas wants the support of the UN to draw the 1967 green line on the maps ahead of any negotiations, and for talks to then discuss changes to that line. Israel’s precondition for talks is that there are no preconditions, and thus rejects this approach. So, we can assume, will the next U.S. president.
Want a new iPad 3? Spend fifty hours phone banking for the Republican Jewish Coalition and the $599 model is yours.
Only have forty hours? That’s okay — the RJC can still hook you up with the $499 version.
RJC volunteers in California, Washington, New York and Florida who rack up phone banking hours between now and the election are eligible for the prizes, according to RJC executive director Matt Brooks.
“It’s a token way of saying thank you for people who are giving up a lot of time,” Brooks told the Forward.
Volunteers who make calls for 30 hours will receive an older iPad model, and volunteers who work for 20 hours will get a $100 gift card.
Political groups don’t usually offer volunteers expensive incentives like iPads, according to Michael Tobman, a New York-based political consultant who’s run volunteer phone banks and paid phone banks. “iPads seem a bit excessive, but if the money’s there and a group wants to do that, I guess the new normal is being defined upward,” Tobman said. “Generally it’s pizza, thanks, and credit for having done it.”
Phone banks organized by the National Jewish Democratic Council have not offered similar incentives, according to that group’s president and CEO David Harris.
The expensive gifts are another sign of the economic heft of the Republican group, which released a lengthy video this week featuring Israelis criticizing President Obama’s record on Israel.
Casino billionaire and Romney super PAC donor Sheldon Adelson is a major supporter of the RJC.
A day after anti-Muslim ads appeared in 10 subway stations across New York City, they got the ultimate Bronx cheer.
At least five of the ads, which read “Support Israel. Defeat Jihad,” were marked with stickers denouncing “racism” and “hate speech” on Tuesday.
Critics of the campaign sponsored by Pamela Geller and the American Freedom Defense Initiative, also took to Twitter on Monday, making #MySubwayAd a hit trending topic all day, with thousands of tweets. The tag was used by well-known Muslim activists, like Linda Sarsour, from the Arab American Association of New York, and Khalid Latif, from the Islamic Center at New York University.
“It’s ironic that the charge that Muslims are uncivilized is coming from a woman who is hiding behind freedom of speech to promote hate in an uncivilized manner,” said Sarsour.
The High Holidays don’t work for me. I know that Yom Kippur is supposed to be the holiest day of the year, and I’ve read and listened to many great ideas about how Yom Kippur is supposed to work on supreme spiritual issues and in sanctifying relationships and community. And I’ve been trying it out for a few decades now. But it just doesn’t work, and I think I finally figured out why.
The Jewish people would like to have a special day for forgiveness, but the fact is, we really don’t do forgiveness well at all.
Our entire calendar is dedicated to not forgiving. Every holiday is filled with rituals and practices and texts that urge us to remember the sins that others have committed against us since time immemorial. We remember what the Egyptians did to us over three millennia ago, what the Persians did to us over two millennia ago, what the Romans did to us beforeJesus created a new religion. One of the top six commandments of memory is aimed at the Amalakites a nation that doesn’t even exist anymore and attacked us before we even knew what “Israelite” meant. We remember what the Christians, the Spanish, and of course the Germans did to our ancestors (heck, 70 years isn’t even that long ago). This is what Jews do best: we remember, and we do not forgive. We create elaborate mechanisms with special foods and blessings and hundreds of pages of text in order to remember. We are the masters of remembering what others have done to us.
The Israeli government has approved 5,000 new work permits for Palestinians to work in Israel.
The decision comes just a few days after the government released a report stating that permit allocation has increased by 40% over the last year-and-a-half, meaning that today 32,000 Palestinians earn their living in Israel.
The ability of Palestinians to work in Israel has been deeply impacted by the ups and downs in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Before the first intifada, access to Israel from the territories was pretty free and easy, and the Israeli economy was heavily reliant on Palestinian labor.
But for the duration of the first intifada, Israel drastically reduced the number of Palestinians from entering Israel. Again, during the second intifada permits became scarcer — and remained hard to come by afterwards.
Aside from the latent anti-Semitism that motivates the European political fringe, there are two possible explanations for why Marine Le Pen felt it necessary to explain that if France is to proscribe the hijab or chador in the public square as she favours, “it is obvious that we must ban the kippa.” She added that both kosher and halal meat must be outlawed together, since the greater good of the republic must be placed above the wants and needs of any one community.
The first was unwittingly alluded to by Le Pen herself, in an interview given to French television.
“Jewish skullcaps are obviously not a problem in our country,” she said, but France has to “ban them in the name of equality.” Tellingly, she concluded, “What would people say if I’d only asked to ban Muslim clothing? They’d burn me as a Muslim hater.” French Jewry is innocent of any offence against the republic, but Le Pen has to offer up the kippa ban, lest she be suspected of only hating Muslims.
The other is that Le Pen made another outrageous and inflammatory statement in a sad bid to sustain her already overly-augmented national profile. Le Pen managed to finish third in the first round of the presidential election in April, and missed out on a seat in the National Assembly by only 118 votes in June by exploiting fears of rising crime and socio-cultural change amongst white working class voters. It is not coincidental, then, that this interview was given just before the start of the Front National’s summer conference, and at a time of cultural conflict between secularism and Islam regarding the cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad that were published in a French satire magazine.
What’s a few million among friends? Sheldon Adelson says he doesn’t remember the size of the first check he cut this election cycle.
“I gave 5 million or 10 million – I forget – to Newt Gingrich,” the Jewish mega-donor told Politico in a rare interview published last night.
(A reminder, Mr. Adelson: It was $5 million, though your wife gave another $5 million a few weeks later).
Adelson, a billionaire casino mogul, has made $70 million in political donations so far this cycle, according to the Politico story. That number, which includes undisclosed donations to political groups that aren’t required to reveal the names of their supporters, brings Adelson close to the $100 million he has said he will be willing to spend during the race.
Adelson also told Politco why he had been spending so much money on the race. The casino magnate said that he fears retribution from President Obama in a second term for his support of Republican candidates. Politico also reported that Adelson is driven by a particular dislike for Obama, and by a desire for an administration that aligns with his anti-union and hawkish pro-Israel views.
The interview didn’t really break much ground. But it did reveal the possible real reason for Adelson’s animosity towards the White House: Latke envy.
“[If] I’m fortunate enough to be invited to another [White House] Hanukkah party, I want two potato pancakes,” he said. “Because last time I was there, they ran out of them.”
The Chicago teachers strike ended with what many unionists see as a victory for a strategy of confronting strong-willed Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
It also helped get national teachers union chief Randi Weingarten out of a tricky political jam.
Weingarten, the head of the American Federation of Teachers and one of the nation’s top Jewish union leaders, found herself torn between backing striking teachers and avoiding a politically damaging confrontation with her allies, Emanuel and President Barack Obama.
The national leader gave the Chicago Teachers Union support in the run up to the strike. But Weingarten also made a high-level appearance with Emanuel in June, which to some made her look far too cozy with management. Plus, she spent the week prior to the strike in Charlotte attending the Democratic National Convention, time that could have been spent mobilizing on the ground.
Chicago teachers are surely aware that Weingarten has duties to her allies in the Democratic Party. But from a traditional labor point of view, negotiations and preparing for the strike should have been her top priority.
“When your family members are involved you should (never) stay out of it,” said Xian Barrett, who teaches high school social studies in Chicago. “We’re seeing billionaires buying up our education system. The national leadership should take a more aggressive strategy to organizing against this attack on public education.”
In Take 2 of its push for unilateral statehood the Palestinian Authority has announced it will ask the United Nations to upgrade its status from “observer entity” to “observer state.”
“After the U.N. vote … Palestine will become a country under occupation. Israel will not be able to say that this is a disputed area,” chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat reasoned. “The terms of reference for any negotiations will be about withdrawal, not over what the Israelis say is legal or not legal.”
Israel has long been opposed to unilateral moves by the Palestinians, and soon after details of the latest plan became public condemned it. “The Palestinians committed themselves to resolving all outstanding issues in negotiations, and such a unilateral action would be viewed as a violation,” said Mark Regev, spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But is this the final word on the subject?
AIPAC’s new spokesman Marshall Wittmann has a wandering eye, at least when it comes to politics.
Wittmann was once a lobbyist for Ralph Reed’s Christian Coalition. He’s also a onetime Trotskyite who has served as a spokesman for labor unions – as well as for Republican Sen. John McCain.
In 2006, the New York Times called him “one of the great career vagabonds, ideological contortionists and political pontificators ever to inflict himself on a city full of them,” as Daniel Treiman noted.
Wittmann has apparently held every conceivable political conviction during his lengthy Washington career, swinging from the far left to the far right. He wound up somewhere on the center-right in his latest post as a spokesman for Sen. Joe Lieberman, the independent from Connecticut.
As the flack for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Wittmann will be the voice of the famously press-shy pro-Israel group. His lack of ideological constancy could be a boon at AIPAC, which goes to great lengths to represent itself as nonpartisan.
Wittmann takes a position that’s been more or less vacant since Josh Block left in 2010. Block has recently been named head of The Israel Project.
This year’s Great Schlep won’t just send young Jews to Florida — it’s gonna get them an ID, too.
The group behind the 2008 effort to recruit young Jews to swing their Floridian grandparents to Obama has a new video out today calling on young Jews to make sure their grandparents have the identification they may need at the voting booth, whether or not they live in Florida.
The video, featuring Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman, is typically foul-mouthed, though perhaps less so than in the group’s last video, in which Silverman vowed to do X-rated favors for GOP billionaire Sheldon Adelson if he would drop his opposition to Obama.
The American Jewish Committee’s poll of Jewish voters in Florida which was released on Thursday, had something for everyone.
Democratic Jews hailed the findings as reaffirming Obama’s strong support among Jewish voters. The Republican Jewish Coalition, at the same time, issued a statement saying the AJC poll shows “continuing erosion” in support for Obama in the Jewish community.
So how can Democrats and Republicans both be pleased by the same poll numbers?
The answer is in the baseline.
Florida Jewish voters, viewed as crucial in determining the outcome of the November elections, will vote overwhelmingly for Barack Obama, according to a new survey of the state’s Jewish voters commissioned by the American Jewish Committee.
The poll conducted between September 7-9 and released Thursday, found that support for Obama among Jewish voters is down from an estimated 74%-to-78% in the 2008 elections to an expected 69% this year. Romney, according to the poll, which included 254 registered Jewish voters, will win 25% of the votes, up from an estimated 21% won by Republican candidate John McCain in 2008.
The survey has both good and bad news for Democrats. On the positive side, it suggests that Florida Jews fall in line with the national Jewish population which according to the latest Gallup tracking poll will give Obama 70% of its support with only 25% of Jewish Americans voting for Romney. Democratic strategists have long argued that Jewish support ranging from the mid 60’s to the low 70’s would be a satisfactory outcome in this elections cycle.
The U.S.’s most experienced Mideast negotiator said Mitt Romney’s caught-on-camera admission that he sees little chance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could lead to a dangerous sense of “hopelessness.”
Dennis Ross, a former advisor to President Obama and a top mediator between the Israelis and the Palestinians for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, said blithely dismissing the two-state solution as Romney does on a now-infamous leaked video will only undermine moderates on both sides of the Green Line.
“I don’t think what you want to do is create a sense of hopelessness,” Ross told the Forward. “If you create a sense that there’s no hope and you tell the Palestinians there’s no hope, they have very little stake in stability.”
“And if you tell the Israelis there’s no two state outcome at a time the Prime Minister has said it’s in our interest to have a two-state outcome…what are you saying is the outcome?”
Romney’s comments were made at a Florida gathering of major campaign givers in May. The Republican presidential nominee told donors that he believed that the problems between the Israelis and the Palestinians were intractable.
Palm Beach County Republican chair Sid Dinerstein hopes Mitt Romney sticks by the secretly recorded remarks that have shaken the political world this week.
Dinerstein attended the now-infamous May fundraising event in Boca Raton but was not included in the exclusive $50,000-a-plate dinner at which Romney made controversial comments about the Middle East peace process and the nearly half of all Americans who do not pay federal income tax.
The GOP leader encouraged Romney to turn lemons into lemonade by using the controversy to refocus the general election debate.
“I’ll tell him not to back off these statements, but to turn them into real arguments for the country to have,” Dinerstein said.
Dinerstein recalled that Romney also spoke at the somewhat larger gathering for smaller donors earlier in the evening. That speech was not recorded, and Dinerstein didn’t remember much of what he said. Afterwards, Dinerstein spoke privately with the candidate for roughly two minutes.
“I remember talking to him about how happy I was that he was staying on point — at that time the point being jobs,” Dinerstein recalled.
Jeanette Friedman looked over the crowd of hundreds of Occupy Wall Street supporters in Zuccotti Park on the evening of Sept. 16, and all she could do was gush about her son.
“I can’t believe how many people are here,” she shouted to her boy, Dan Sieradski, who was helping to lead a Rosh Hashanah service the night before the one-year anniversary of the movement’s birth. Once derided as a quixotic endeavor, Occupy is now credited by many with helping to reinvent social justice activism in America for the 21st century.
Sieradski said it was “fortuitous” that the first anniversary would fall on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. In fact, the Occupy Faith contingent of OWS worked with the main planners of the Sept. 17 actions, which was to include civil disobedience in the financial district, to allot time for the New Year’s service the night before, so that it would not overlap with any other protests or actions.
“The organizers understand how important this, that this a holiday that deserves respect,” said Tammy Shapiro, an OWS organizer.
For the social justice-minded Jews of OWS, the opportunity to mark the beginning of year 5773 on the Jewish calendar and Year Two of the movement was perfect.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called Israel’s President Shimon Peres to offer him Rosh Hashanah greetings.
“Happy holiday and a Happy New Year to you and the entire Israeli nation,” Abbas said.. Well, perhaps he meant all of Israel with one exception.
At the same time as the phone call from Ramallah came in at Peres’ residence, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman had his team working on his attempt at character assassination of Abbas.
Last month, Liberman wrote to the Mideast Quartet, which consists of America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, asking it to insist that long-overdue Palestinian general elections are held, which could lead to the end of the presidency of Abbas.
The revelation that the Zionist Organization of America, the group on the stodgy, venerable right-wing flank of American Zionism, has lost its status as a tax exempt organization is astonishing. News that some members of their board haven’t seen the ZOA’s budget in at least four years had my jaw on the floor.
The most unbelievable part: After all this, the ZOA board held a vote of confidence in Mort Klein, the longtime leader who has overseen these amateur-hour antics. Only one board member voted against him.
If you’ve never worked at a non-profit or served on the board of one, you might not know why this all sounds so completely bonkers. As the executive director of a non-profit organization, I, like Klein, work closely with a board of directors. This qualifies me to explain why all of this is, in fact, completely bonkers.
The police and military response was quick, with men on horseback and armored vehicles arriving to disperse protesters — identified as hardline Islamists — who raised a black flag of the radical Salafi movement over the embassy.
There are also reports that American embassy staffers have been evacuated, including the ambassador, though it is unclear if Tunisian staffers are still inside as a large fire continues to burn within the embassy compound. At least three protesters have been killed and 28 wounded by police, according to Reuters. The demonstrations came as anger over an anti-Islam movie, drone strikes and US involvement in the Middle East spread across the Arab world.
The chaos was jarring for me because I reported from Tunisia in April and met with a number of representatives of the small Jewish community, many of whom live in La Goulette, a traditionally Jewish neighborhood just a stone’s throw from the embassy.