Recently my wife and I had the privilege of being honorees at a regional
Hadassah Israel state dinner. Barbara Goldstein, deputy director of Hadassah,
told those assembled that Hadassah wasn’t just “an organization that talked
peace, it was an organization that does peace.”
Having been active in so
many Jewish organizations the over the 50 years since I was a teenager, this
crystallized for me some thoughts I have been having about Jewish organizations
in general in recent years and what must be done to make them more effective in
promoting Middle East peace and the position of Jews in the
Despite the fact that we now have more advocacy organizations per
capita than we’ve had in the history of our people, we are told by the recent
Pew Polls and census data that our numbers of affiliated Jews are dwindling, as
are our numbers in general, with the exceptions of assimilation and low birth
What this tells me is that we are not engaging those we have
available to us because we may be flooding people with many contradictory
When you stop to think about it, how many Israel advocacy
groups are there? Between the major and minor groups, I often wonder if there
are more Jewish professionals employed in advocacy groups than in Israel’s
entire Foreign Ministry.
The alphabet soup of advocacy organizations
have, in many ways, become a combined Jewish organizational collection agency
and firing squad, each trying to grow while shrinking because of diminishing
census, a terrible economy and increasing competition.
organizations are now all resorting to weighing in on all issues by appealing to
fears of genocide and anti- Semitism with the standard line: we are your leading
organization to fight anti- Semitism. And while each organization individually
shrinks, anti-Semitism grows.
Yes, the world is becoming an increasingly
dangerous place for Jews, but whining about it with massive campaigns for
dollars, and preaching to the choir, is a no-win game. What organizational
leaders may realize, but fail to acknowledge, is that organizational
pronouncements are frequently not worth the paper they are written on. At least,
if they are not backed by those minions who would affix their names to a
righteous, positive statement leading to constructive solutions, and not just to
There is power in numbers, and that is how peace is made.
When individuals step up to to be publicly counted through deeds, appealing to
our own and other’s angels and not hiding behind some amorphous not-for-profit
corporate structure, all sides take notice and feel a glimmer of promise, for
that is grass-roots engagement trying to achieve peaceful
HADASSAH IS an organization that does peace because it brings
people together to promote healing, research education, leadership and social
justice. What a lesson other organizations could learn from it about actually
promoting peace. Hadassah is more than happy to get you involved at the
grassroots level, and make you and others feel good about these efforts in a way
that is personally empowering, where you don’t just feel like a check writer.
Hadassah speaks to all communities, including the enemies of Israel, with
understanding and compassion, and is admired and listened to.
incredibly adept disaster and international search, rescue and recovery group
based in Israel, is another shining example of “doing peace” rather than
“talking peace.” With often little or no regard for a community’s acceptance of
Jews or Israel, they are first responders in most of the world’s natural and
terrorist disasters, exemplifying our exceptional commitment to the dignity of
every human being regardless of race, color or creed, and even in death. Little
is said, much is done and much is accomplished in terms of changing hearts and
It is just not enough to preach to the choir for that feel-good
moment where you think someone may put something in the collection box. You must
engage and empower not just those who agree with you, but those on the fence and
even those who disagree with you, to come into your tent and work for peace.
There has to be tangible product with which people from all different
perspectives can come together.
We stand a better chance of achieving
peace and stability when we try to find common ground with those who may
disagree with us, and stand by a statement or a project.
This is so
important. Some of our organizations are reaching out to others who are not
necessarily in agreement with us across the board and engaging them in peaceful
collaborations, but we need more.
Our Israel advocacy groups need to find
those on the other side and work together more publicly to show cooperation and
collaboration so that extremist groups on all sides can no longer block peaceful
resolutions with blanket statements about the other.
bashing, excommunication and litmus tests only create obstacles to peace, they
do not enhance the prospects for it. We must welcome healthy dialogue and not
eschew it for the party line. It may make some feel good, but it does nothing to
SO HERE are my recommendation to major Jewish
organizations to increase their effectiveness in achieving peace and stability
for Jews in the Diaspora and the people of Israel. They revolve around the
concept of growing more efforts to “do peace” and not just “talk
Here are five suggestions that, if acted upon, would give Jewish
organizations more credibility not just with true believers, but with those on
the other side but who might be willing to come forward to move forward peaceful
1) Find ways to engage and empower not only those who agree with
you, but those who might not agree with you, to get involved in projects where
situations and/or people are left better off than before the
2) Find ways to engage and empower not only those who agree
with you, but those who might not agree with you, to have frequent and regular
dialogues to get to know others as individuals and not just as a member of a
3) Be more public, democratic and transparent in your
organizational administration and allow for many voices from all strata within
the organization to be heard with respect and dignity.
successfully incorporate those with different viewpoints have the best chance of
Big tents are the path to peace and recognition, not
myopic closed systems with party lines.
4) Find ways to engage and
empower those who may disagree with you to come to your table to find common
ground on issues where you can publicly stand together with your
5) We must tell others what they should do, but do what must be
done ourselves to show we are heavily invested in peaceful efforts. Telling
others what to do will have no effect if we cannot do it with them.
know incitement, name-calling, condemnation, stonewalling and hiding behind
corporate identities is not advancing the cause of peace. Engagement, education
and empowerment of those who are on the fence or even those who may disagree
with us has been and will always be the path to peace.
The path to peace
is a process of engagement, education and empowerment that leads to enabled
elevated enlightenment. Invectives and incitement only promote instability,
indecision and indictments, with nothing accomplished. Our people must chose
which organizations they will support, those that talk peace or those that do
The writer is a retired counselor and psychologist educator, as
well as co-founder and president emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle