WHO REPRESENTS THE JEWISH COMMUNITY?
That reminds me of a question the White House had in the early ’50s, when they complained that a lot of people came to them with issues related to Israel and each one represented a different group and a different viewpoint. The Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations was established to clarify one viewpoint for the Jewish people. It’s an umbrella and consensus group that by and large represents the Jewish community and speaks in a unified voice to the White House. Then you have AIPAC, which does that for Congress. This doesn’t mean that Jewish groups won’t speak for themselves sometimes.
In regards to a local issue, it really depends on who has the votes. If a community identifies itself as a cohesive group and goes to an elected official and says, “We represent X number of votes,” that particular group can claim to represent that portion of the community. For example, the Simon Wiesenthal Center can say, “We represent 100,000 Jews who pay dues to us.” Agudah and the OU, or any membership-driven organization, can claim to speak for however many dues-paying members they have. Can anyone say “I represent all the Jews”? No. That would be incorrect.
HIS ROLE ON BEHALF OF THE COMMUNITY:
I view my role more as an ambassadorial one. I bring a particular point of view to elected officials and tell them that these are the issues that concern the Jewish community, and that if they wish to serve them and get their support, they need to address those issues. I don’t say that I represent anyone. I’m more like someone who gives advice to people who aspire to public office. Nine out of 10 times, I tell them not to put on a yarmulke and dance Hava Nagilah for us. That would be a nice photo op, but it wouldn’t garner any support in the community.
DOES COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR ONE CANDIDATE UNDERMINE ADVOCACY?
It’s certainly the American tradition to be able to publicly support one candidate over another. As long as your advocacy is responsible, it’s okay. Responsibility means not spreading conspiracy theories about what one candidate might do if they win. If you have legitimate reasons to support a particular candidate, then supporting him is commendable. In fact, the community should be vocal in its support for its preferred candidates.
CONFRONTATION IN ADVOCACY:
There’s a time and place for everything. You need to be professional, to represent the American approach. You need to be courteous. You need to bring facts to the table. But there also has to be an understanding that the community won’t think twice about organizing and demonstrating and ruffling feathers when we need to— within legal means, of course.
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