Comment on Articles in Orange County Jewish Life concerning OTI by Rabbi Dov Fischer
"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act" George Orwell
Orange County Jewish Life (OCJL) came out with its latest edition today. In it there are two articles on the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI) controversy. Ilene Schneider writes the longer article, and Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie writes an opinion piece. I have just read both. The keys to remember are:
1. The OCJL Exists to Create Community Goodwill and Avoid Controversy. Ilene is the editor-in-chief of the magazine. I therefore have no quarrel with Ilene. Rather, I sincerely and sensitively empathize with her. The magazine lives off the Federation. It is not a crusading magazine, but a P.R.-puff-piece magazine. We all know that. OCJL does not do journalism on controversial issues. Rather, it is a community feel-good magazine. Every community has something like that. Therefore, when one understands that OCJL’s bottom line is Federation support, money, and advertising, and avoiding controversy, one understands that Ilene, the editor of the magazine, has to address the matter in a manner that papers over the deeper issues. Ilene is OK. One just needs to understand the situation she is in. If you have ever read the 1882 play “Enemy of the People” by the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen you know exactly the phenomenon.
2. We Now See Confirmation That Federation Is Being Impacted by the Pressure. Dee Sterling has – and all of you who are receiving this message have – single-handedly, as a small number of leading and powerful voices who were slandered and libeled and intimidated, successfully brought this issue into the fore. This genie is out of the bottle. That took great personal courage. Some of you have posted on the web. Some have researched and uncovered important information. Some have researched in one way, and some in another way. Some have forwarded to hundreds of others, some have contacted im portent community leaders here and in Israel. But, together, we apparently have caused enough concern in Federation circles that Federation felt compelled to defend against the boycott even by getting the fluff pieces in OCJL. I cannot remember the last time that OCJL even went this deeply into a controversy. It reflects that Federation is feeling the pressure.
3. The pressure only has begun.
4. Rabbi Eliezrie “Sold Out” by Allowing Himself to be Influenced by Concerns Beyond the Abstract Considerations of Right vs. Wrong. Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie’s disgraceful piece, writing in a community-wide magazine an unprecedentedly targeted attack that Dee Sterling owes an apology, also comes from some of this same place. I calmly write, in thoughtful and measured tones, that his article is a sell-out. So Rabbi Eliezrie, whom I have known personally and – until today – admired for more than twenty years, sold out.
5. Dee Sterling Owes No One an Apology. It is Rabbi Eliezrie who owes Dee Sterling and all of us an apology. He owes the Simon Wiesenthal Center an apology. Rabbi Eliezrie would never have written, for the entire Jewish community of Orange County to read, that Dee Sterling owes an apology. Truth owes no apology. Dee Sterling raised our consciousness – I write explicitly here that she raised my consciousness to an issue, the OTI, that I never before had considered, even thought it was right under my nose – and we owe her a great deal of thanks and gratitude. In the weeks since, so many of us have learned so much more about OTI, and each new revelation proves worse than the one before.
6. The Boycott of Federation Is Proper. Dee Sterling owes no apology. Rather, it is Hillel that owes her an apology, if not outright tort damages to her name and reputation. The OTI indeed is a wrong-headed project funded with Jewish funds by a Federation project and founded, established, and pursued with the active partnership of both Hillel and Federation. They both partnered in Olive Tree, and their efforts to deny their direct partnering and participation reflect their recognition that OTI is not defensible. The boycott of Federation is proper.
7. Rabbi Dovid Eliezrie should be ashamed of himself for publishing the article he just did in the OCJL. And maybe he already is. He owes an apology, a personal published apology, to Dee Sterling for singling her out by name in a community-wide magazine and writing to an entire community that she owes an apology for something that was right to do.
This issue will not go away. It is just warming up.
Rabbi Dov Fischer
Rav, Young Israel of Orange County5319 University Drive ( # 122 )Irvine, CA 92612 (949) 300-8899 (Rabbi's Office)