Instead of slamming the press, he stood by his comments from the start and faced the heat.
By AMIR MIZROCHThe Jerusalem Post news editor is on a trip to the United States to cover the United Jewish Communities General Assembly in Los Angeles.Bielski's OK
It's been a long two days for me at the GA. On Sunday, the Jewish Agency was upset with me for my "Skydiving for Israel" blog entry in which I questioned the usefulness of skydiving with an Israeli flag as a means of attracting US Jewish students to Hillel on campuses. I got quite a bit of flak from the JA for that, and quite a lot of support and agreement from just about everybody else here.
Today, Monday, the first person to greet me as I walked into the LA Convention Center was the Jewish Agency spokesperson who asked me if I had any surprises brewing for them in tomorrow's paper and blog. The GA, as well as many Jews here and in Israel woke up to my story, written together with Hilary in Jerusalem, of JA Chairman Ze'ev Bielski saying there was no future for US Jewry due to assimilation. Everywhere I went people were talking about it, and the editors back in Jerusalem wanted a follow-up story. And I had not even had time to get a cup of coffee [the food at the GA cafeterias has been awful and the queues to Starbucks for coffee unbearably long].
Bielski himself was a good sport today. During the JA press conference he winked at me, smiled and shook his head as if to say "what have you gotten me into?" Then, as the press filed out, and as I tried to slip away unnoticed with them, the great Yaron Dekel, Channel 1 TV and Israel Radio's long-time Washington correspondent walked up to Bielski, tape recorder in hand to ask him about the comments he made to me, and if he still stood by them. Bielski caught me trying to escape and called me over to him, together with Dekel.
As I got to him he put his arm around me, smiled, and asked me if I had a job for him, joking that I had caused him some trouble. Dekel was pressing him about the timing of his remarks, and about the fallout with Jewish Federation leaders. "I get along well with them and they get along well with me, and we'll be fine," Bielski said. I admire his easy-going manner. He, unlike many officials and politicians I know who try and get out of a sticky situation by slamming the press, stood by his comments from the start and faced the heat.
During the press conference, some other journalists asked him about his comments published that day in the Post, mostly about the timing, and that this story broke in the midst of a large US Jewish convention. Bielski responded by saying that the Jewish Agency had no intention of minimizing the importance of the Jewish Federations. "We have to deepen the involvement of the Jewish Diaspora with the state of Israel, and continue our relationship with the Federations and the UJC," he said.
To Dekel he said: "American Jews have a future, a present and a past, but this doesn't change the basic function of the Jewish Agency to promote aliya." Dekel pressed him and asked: So you're saying that American Jewry does have a future, to which the once-bitten Bielski replied, "yes, for now."
* * *
Do Jews have a future in America?Skydiving for IsraelThe Jews of DCMy first face-to-face with organized American JewrySunday evening in Chicago
var cont = `Sign up for The Jerusalem Post Premium Plus for just $5
Upgrade your reading experience with an ad-free environment and exclusive content