Thursday, December 27, 2007

Shame on Them

In early 2005, after years of research including 10's of interviews with participants involved in the merger that led to the creation of United Jewish Communities, Gerald Bubis and his partner, Steven Windmueller, published a critical and critically important work: Predictability to Chaos: How Jewish Leaders Reinvented their National Communal System. Even before its publication, Jewish federation and UJC professionals, this blogger has learned, worked extremely hard to suppress this important academic work in a manner that can only be described as shameful -- and only they could possibly understand why they did so.

Bubis is not unknown to our system -- he has been studying it and reporting on it for three decades, has served on the Boards of the Los Angeles Federation and the Jewish Agency for Israel, and on the faculty of Hebrew Union College -- Jewish Institute of Religion. His collaborative works have had great value to federations and communal organizations including The Director Had a Heart Attack and the President Resigned and Professional Trends in Jewish Communal Practice in America. So why the communal organizational censorship of From Predictability to Chaos? Only the censors know for sure. But, here is what your bloggers have learned.

Pre-publication, Bubis and Windmueller convened a day-long "dialogue" in New York City among professional and lay leaders of the merger, federation and UJC executives, academics, religious and Zionist movement leaders. There was vigorous discussion, including deprecation of the authors' work by Federation professionals, most notably Steve Hoffman, Steve Nasatir and Howard Rieger. Their message was that the book, which they seemed not to have fully read, was unnecessary -- that it was time to look forward, and that history was only relevant, it appeared, as they interpreted it to be. Shortly thereafter in an interview with The Cleveland News Hoffman, who had by then had turned the UJC reins over to Rieger, volunteered out of context that From Predictability to Chaos would best serve as a fish wrapper. These were the first dismissals of a valuable work.

Then, censorship began in earnest. Bubis sought the opportunity to market the book at the UJC General Assembly in Toronto in November 2005. UJC denied that opportunity outright. A review of the book was written by Moe Stein, a respected former federation executive, for the esteemed Journal of Jewish Communal Service. The Journal was pressured by persons unknown not to review the work but looking at the involvement of Federation professionals on the Journal's Advisory Board, little more needs be added. Journal management, your bloggers have learned from confidential sources, told Bubis that a "reviewer of Stein's review could not be found. Pressure was placed on the Association of Jewish Community Organization Professionals ("AJCOP") in a similar manner.

So a work written to help all of us understand UJC, its mission, vision and operation, has been blacklisted by the Jewish professionals who lead the federation sytem. For no reason other than they could. Shame on them. Shame, shame, shame....


Steve Bergson said...

Thos who wish to purchase a copy of the book discussed in this post may do so by going to the website of the Jeruslaem Center for Public Affairs

Steve Bergson said...

I did a Worldcat search and could only find 1 library holding for the book - Jewish Theological Seminary of America (NY)