Jan 31, 2012

Distinguishing a Board’s Steering and Rowing Work

JANUARY 30, 2012
WILLIAM RYAN

http://www.nonprofitquarterly.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=19496:distinguishing-a-boards-steering-and-rowing-work&catid

As described in the book Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards, to govern comprehensively, boards work in three modes: fiduciary, strategic, and generative. To use a metaphor in which an organization is a boat, boards can make two distinct types of contributions: steering and rowing.

When steering, the board collectively:

  • Sets the direction of the organization;
  • Determines which values and logic will guide it; and
  • Ensures the organization's resources are used prudently to advance its work.

When rowing, board members individually or collectively expand the organization's resources by, among other things:

  • Offering pro bono professional services or expertise to management;
  •  Volunteering as front-line service providers;
  • Advocating for or championing the organization and its mission in the community; and
  • Helping to raise funds to sustain the organization's work.

It can be useful to distinguish steering and rowing by using a substitution test. Rowing work is substitutable. The board does not need to contribute to the organization's resources, financial or otherwise, as long as it is satisfied they are adequate. For example, a foundation whose board does no fundraising because of its large endowment is not necessarily ungoverned. Given the assets of the organization, the board is simply not called on to do such work.

In contrast, steering work is not substitutable. An organization whose board is not steering may be led by its executives, and may be influenced by other stakeholders, but it is not legitimately governed unless its board deliberates and makes intentional choices regarding the organization's values, strategies, and performance. (When it comes to oversight of management, boards are non-substitutable not just on legitimacy grounds but also as a matter of practicality: by definition, management cannot oversee itself.)

It is also useful to consider individual versus collective contributions. A single board member or several board members working in an individual capacity can be effective as rowers. In raising funds, doing outreach or working as front-line volunteers, the choice to work alone or in groups can simply be a matter of efficiency, convenience, or preference. But governing is a collective act. Not only do most legal regimes require the boards of nonprofit organizations to include at least several members, but the logic of strategic and generative governing, as proposed in Governance as Leadership, insists on it. It takes a group to test, challenge, and debate the assumptions and subjective preferences that are at the core of this governing work.

Organizations will vary as to how much of which work—rowing or steering—their boards routinely do. The framework below depicts four organizational profiles. The board's steering contributions run from low to high (left to right) on the horizontal axis. Its rowing contributions run from low to high (bottom to top) on the vertical axis.

To take an example: An organization whose board does a great deal of fundraising and outreach on its behalf, but is relatively uninvolved in setting strategy or monitoring performance, would be in the "Helping" quadrant (high on the vertical board axis and left on the horizontal governing axis).

Note that the "High Performing" quadrant—in which a board is governing while also generating resources—is not the only optimal spot for an organization. Depending on an organization's circumstances, the "Guiding" quadrant might be appropriate. For example, a professionalized organization with reliable revenue sources, an ample endowment, and a high profile may need no board assistance in these areas, and could therefore be justifiably low on the rowing axis. But it would still need governing. In the "Guiding" quadrant, the board does little rowing but is still steering.

From a governing perspective, the "Lagging" and "Helping" quadrants are suboptimal because, in both cases, the board is doing little steering. The "Helping" quadrant can be especially problematic. It is easy for boards in this quadrant to mistake their productivity as rowers—raising funds, doing outreach, or lending expertise to management—for effectiveness as steerers.

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This briefing note is offered to complement and integrate some of the strategies and concepts described inGovernance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of Nonprofit Boards, by Richard P. Chait, William P. Ryan, and Barbara E. Taylor (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2005).

 





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Jan 29, 2012

A new Audio Tisch! "The Case for Commandedness: Religious Language for the non-Conformist"

The Case for Commandedness: "Religious Language for non-Conformists" 
Rabbi Menachem Creditor


For some, the source of religious authority is a God whose words and Will are known. For others, religious authority is irrelevant to their lives, based on many factors. But Jewish tradition offers, through so much of its texture, the possibility of an intensified experience of the world. Imagine a relationship of obligation that frees you and those you love as it guides, and jump into this exciting exploration and discussion! 


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Jan 27, 2012

This is an articulation of a healthy, reclaimed Zionism.

This is an articulation of a healthy, reclaimed Zionism. Sign on to this beautifully-written statement of Religious Ethical Zionism, co-authored by Rabbi Jack Moline, Agudas Achim Congregation (Conservative), Alexandria,  and Rabbi Daniel Daniel G. Zemel, Temple Micah (Reform), Washington, DC. -- https://sites.google.com/site/religiousethicalzionism. (The Language is below, but click here to sign on!) - Rabbi Creditor
__________________________________________________________

zionism.jpg

Tragically, with increasing frequency, we have been witnessing crimes committed by individuals who profess the most extreme expressions of orthodox Judaism. Anti-Zionist Haredim and Ultra-Zionist residents of settlements have:

  • burned mosques

  • segregated women on public buses

  • defaced public property

  • refused to send Ashkenazi children to schools where they will mix with Sephardi children

  • spit on and otherwise assaulted children, Christian clergy and women

  • attacked IDF soldiers to prevent them from carrying out legitimate orders

Shamefully, they justify these crimes in the name of Judaism.

We reject that claim entirely and denounce the profanation of God and our tradition that they represent. They denigrate the very Jewish teachings that they claim to uphold.

We stand in solidarity with the victims of these crimes, believing that those who perpetrate them cross the line that separates righteousness from immorality. We condemn these acts as desecrations of human beings and of our sacred tradition. We call upon Israeli government and legal authorities to bring these criminals to justice.

We call upon the leaders of all branches and forms of Judaism to denounce these crimes for what they are: a denigration of the essential Jewish teaching that honors the divine image in which every human being is created.

"Love your neighbor as yourself…Love the stranger as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I am Adonai your God."

(Leviticus 19:18, 34)



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Jan 26, 2012

Professor Shaul Magid: "An Open Letter to Rabbi Dov Linzer on Modesty and Jewish Law"

  • Physical separation: for whose benefit?
  • Shaul Magid

    Shaul Magid is the Jay and Jeannie Schottenstein Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University. His next book,Jews and Judaism in Post-Ethnic America: Becoming an American Religion, will be published by the Indiana U. Press.

  • Dear Rabbi Linzer,

    I read with great interest your op-ed "Lechery, Modesty, and the Talmud" in theNew York Times last week. I commend you for taking such a strong stand on this important issue, especially in the wake ofcontinued violence against women in Jerusalem's ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods. However, I think there is a structural flaw at the core of your argument that I would like you to address.

    It is, of course, easy to come out against the ultra-Orthodox in Beit Shemesh whose behavior crosses all lines of civility. The problem, however, does not lie solely in their egregious behavior or even with their rigid interpretation of Jewish law. In fact, the problem is embedded in the traditional interpretation of Jewish law based on the Talmud, the same corpus you suggest invalidates their position. You know better than most that the Talmud says many things and thus, in most cases, what anyone claims as the position of the Talmud is false by definition. I understand that your approach is heuristic, that you want to lay claim to a Talmudic position and not the Talmudic position.

    While the Talmud, as you correctly assert, puts the responsibility of male desire toward women squarely on the shoulders of the males, it simultaneously constructs a legal and devotional framework that in many ways undermines that very assertion.

    An example: the rabbis dictate that public prayer requires a physical separation between men and women (amehitza). One might suggest the mehitza is simply to allow both men and women the private space to pray outside the gaze of the other. But that is not the case. Jewish law permits a mehitza that would enable the women to see the men—just not the other way around. The reason: to prevent the men from being distracted by women during prayer. The fact that today some Modern Orthodox synagogues have a mehitza where both men and women can see one another arguably subverts the reason for the barrier in the first place. At that point the barrier might be seen as symbolic, an empty marker distinguishing communal affiliation.

    Traditional Jewish law mandates married women cover their hair, all women not sing in public, and not recite Kaddish in the presence of men—although some modern jurists have been lenient in the latter two. Part of the reason is surely modesty. Regarding hair covering, it is also mandated in order for men not to become attracted to married women and to desire a sexual encounter that would be a grievous transgression, much more so than a sexual encounter with an unmarried woman.

    While the Talmud dictates that both men and women dress modestly, the legal tradition that follows in its wake makes dress requirements for women much more rigid. While examples of common practice may not always affirm, or question, a Talmudic claim, accepted custom does speak to the ways in which the ethos of Talmudic legislation filters down into lived religious communities. Thus, the fact that in many Orthodox summer camps, or kibbutzim, one can readily find young Orthodox men in shorts and T-shirts while young girls wear skirts and longer sleeves is not inconsequential.

    And how often are religious boys told, "Don't wear that, it's not tznius (modest)!"? Not very often. While it is true that modesty is a significant spiritual goal for both men and women in Judaism, both in law and custom, the Talmudic sages and their spiritual progeny are stricter regarding women's modesty as a way to minimize unleashing male desire. The reverse is simply not the case. Thus it is women who must sacrifice comfort for that desire—even though the Talmud argues, as you say, that male control of their desire rests on their shoulders.

    One legitimate argument against the ultra-Orthodox in Beit Shemesh that categorically distinguishes them from the Modern Orthodox is that while Modern Orthodoxy may live according to a legal worldview structurally similar to ultra-Orthodoxy (in principle but often not in practice), Modern Orthodoxy does not mandate others to follow suit. But that is not the argument you made. You suggested that the ultra-Orthodox are fundamentally misunderstanding rabbinic teaching when you write that "controlling men's licentious thoughts about women [is] squarely on the men." I think there are many legal dictates legislated by the Talmudic sages that contradict that statement. I have mentioned only a few of them above.

    Given those caveats, I applaud the courage of your conviction and hope that if you truly believe what you wrote about the Talmud, and I assume you do, you would work to take down the mehitza, abolish mandatory hair covering for married women and make it a normative legal principle that casual non-sexual physical contact between men and women is permitted, saying to the men, "The Talmud says: It's your problem, Sir; not theirs."

    To instantiate your reading of the Talmud would require you to act decisively to abolish all the legal mandates that objectify women's bodies and put the onus on the men to take full control of their libido and desire.

    The ultra-Orthodox in Beit Shemesh surely require severe reprimand. But they are not the only problem. You know, of course, that they support their position by reading closely and deeply the same Talmud and legal codes that you do. Their community embodies an extreme yet also consistent rendering of Judaism founded on the Talmud and the legal tradition it generated. It is true that their egregious behavior steps beyond any acceptable norm. But their more general interpretation of Jewish law does not.

    Shouldn't recent incidents serve to show that your anti-misogynist Orthodoxy, which I applaud as a non-Orthodox Jew, is actually in conflict with key authoritative texts of the tradition? Given your role as a leading voice in Modern Orthodoxy, I hope you take the initiative not only to point out the distorted religiosity and false piety of ultra-Orthodox behavior but to initiate a new form of traditional Jewish life that incorporates your vision by dismantling the very legal structures that serve as the foundation of the problem you seek to resolve.

    With Blessings,

    Shaul Magid

    Jay and Jeannie Schottenstein Professor of Modern Judaism
    Indiana University/Bloomington

    Rabbi, Fire Island Synagogue
    Sea View, New York


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Jan 25, 2012

jpost.com: "First mixed prayer service in Knesset"

By JEREMY SHARON
25/01/2012
http://www.jpost.com/JewishWorld/JewishNews/Article.aspx?id=255117


A historic prayer service was conducted in the Knesset on Wednesday by a leadership mission of the Masorti-Conservative movement from North America who held the first ever mixed men and women service in the Knesset.

The group, including male and female rabbis and communal leaders from the US and Canada, met with several MKs to discuss the issue of religion and state, including Ministers Dan Meridor and Uzi Landau, as well as Yohanan Plesner and Orit Zuaretz.

The meetings focused for the most part on the issue of religious radicalization in Israel and its influence on the country's image abroad, particularly in America.

As has been the norm for the group during the visit, they went to say the afternoon mincha prayers when their schedule of political engagements was over, and, as is the custom in the conservative streams of Judaism, men and women sat together without a partition.

The service was led by Rabbi Jen Gorman in the Knesset synagogue in what the group described as an historical first.

"It was an inspiring service and we were extremely happy to be praying in the beautiful synagogue of the parliament of the Jewish State," said Rabbi Dr. Alan Silverstein, president of the Masorti foundation in the US. "Each Shabbat we pray in communities of Conservative Judaism worldwide, for the well-being of the State of Israel, and here we had the opportunity got to do this great mitzvah in the synagogue of the Israeli Knesset of Israel, one of the most important symbols of Jewish sovereignty."

The group also raised the controversial issue of rights for non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, referring to the lack of recognition the state grants the Conservative movement's rabbis and ceremonies.

"All of us love Israel and support Israel and members of our communities are part of the central leadership of AIPAC, Hadassah and the Jewish Federations," said David Lisi, the director of the Masorti Fund in the US. "But the State of Israel degrades us time and again when it says that we are second-class Jews," he continued mentioning conservative marriages and converts in particular. "The discrimination against non-Orthodox movements in Israel does massive damage to the image of Israel as a state for all Jews," Lisi asserted.

The director of the ITIM religious rights group and orthodox rabbi, Seth Farber, told The Jerusalem Post that the state of Israel finds itself at a cross roads in this regard and that as the relationship with the Diaspora matures "some very difficult decisions lie ahead."

"A lot of work still needs to be done to make Jews of all denominations feel comfortable in Israel," he said.

"There isn't enough strategic thinking going on to think about how Israel can be a homeland for all Jews. The state wasn't founded to be insular and indifferent to Jewish people and so there needs to begin a sincere dialogue with Diaspora communities to tackle these issues."
January 25, 2012 Wednesday 1 Shevat 5772 10:14 IST print gohome
jpost

Jan 24, 2012

this Sunday! "The Case for Commandedness: Religious Language for the non-Conformist"

"The Case for Commandedness: Religious Language for the non-Conformist" 
with Rabbi Menachem Creditor
minyan 9:30am; talk and light breakfast 10:30am
Congregation Netivot Shalom (netivotshalom.org)

For some, the source of religious authority is a God whose words and Will are known. For others, religious authority is irrelevant to their lives, based on many factors. But Jewish tradition offers, through so much of its texture, the possibility of an intensified experience of the world. Imagine a relationship of obligation that frees you and those you love as it guides, and jump into this exciting exploration and discussion!

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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Jan 23, 2012

Rabbi Andrew Sacks on Jpost: "Haagen Dazs - The Great Kashrut Controversy"


http://blogs.jpost.com/content/we-all-scream-ice-cream

Masorti Matters's picture
Rabbi Andrew Sacks  is the Director of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement's Rabbinical Assembly in Israel (the organization of Masorti/Conservative rabbis) and the Masorti Movement's Bureau of Religious Affairs. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Masorti organizations.

Monday Jan 23, 2012

We all scream for ice cream
 
Haagen-Dazs is NOT Kosher. Ouch! The Chief Rabbinate of Israel, who under Israeli law has sole authority for matters relating to Kashrut in Israel (despite the plethora of Badazim) has ordered the product removed from the store shelves. They have gone so far as to say that "those refusing to comply risk losing their Kashrut certification."  This abderian behavior, sad or funny though it may be, is becoming a trend.
 
Did someone discover lard in the ice cream? Is General Mills (the owner of Hagen-Dazs) spiking the product with pigs milk? The answers are no and no. The same ice cream that has been deemed Kosher until now has suddenly become suspect.
 
The problem, according to the spokesperson for the Rabbinate, is that Haagen-Dazs uses real milk rather than milk powder. If the milk is produced by non-Jews (Halav Akum), then they fear that it may become contaminated with a mix of milk from non-Kosher animals. For various reasons that defy logic this suspicion does not apply to powdered milk.
 
So the OU certification (the largest corporate Kashrut certification in the world) is good enough for North America but it falls short of the demands of Israel's zealously pious Orthodox Chief Rabbinate.
 
Well, one might simply say "different strokes for different folks."  I have a friend who is an Orthodox rabbi here in Israel. His family keeps a vegetarian home. Yet, his brother-in-law won't eat in his home because he allows the use of dairy products that are under the supervision of this same Rabbinate that bars Haagen-Dazs. Maybe all dairy products should be pulled from store shelves?
 
Sound like the Chief Rabbinate has gone over the top? Sound silly? Well it is not. This is part of an ugly effort by Israel's Chief Rabbinate to become the equivalent of a papacy by setting religious standards for all communities, both in Israel and abroad.
It was just a few years back that this same righteous Chief Rabbinate decided that they would no longer recognize as Jewish those who convert via the rabbis who are members of the RCA (Rabbinic Council of America). They limited to a very small number the rabbis and rabbinical courts they would accept.  The RCA and the OU are part of the same movement structure. The conversions performed by Orthodox rabbinic graduates of Chovevei Torah have been rejected almost outright.
 
Local rabbinic courts have always been autonomous. They must take into account local circumstances. Indeed, it is the oppressively strict standards used by the Chief Rabbinate of today (this was not so when Ben Zion Uziel or Ovadya Yosef served as Chief Rabbis) that has contributed to a strong public distaste for the religious establishment in Israel.
 
The Pope may set the standard for all priests in the Catholic faith tradition but we do not have a Pope. Even the concept of a Chief Rabbis does not come from within the Jewish tradition. It was established by the British based on the Millet system of the Ottomans.
This power grab by the rabbinate is little more than a veiled attempt at obtaining greater power. They have made this effort with regard to conversion, Aliyah, family status matters, military issues, and now ICE CREAM.

I don't know how other observant Israelis will take this but I, for one, will continue to enjoy my White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Hagen Dazs.
You scream, I scream, let's all scream for our ice cream.
 

Who Is Saul Alinsky And Why Does Newt Gingrich Fear Him?

Who Is Saul Alinsky And Why Does Newt Gingrich Fear Him?

January 22, 2012
By 
http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/01/22/who-is-saul-alinsky-and-why-does-newt-gingrich-fear-him/

During his victory speech on Saturday night in South Carolina and his appearance on Meet The Press on Sunday morning, Newt Gingrich mentioned Saul Alinsky and how evil, dangerous, and un-American his influence is on America and American politics. He also tried to associate President Obama with him. But, who IS Saul Alinsky and why is Newt Gingrich so frightened of him?

Well, it's pretty simple: Saul Alinsky was a writer and community organizer who empowered the poor no matter their race. He strove to give a voice to the voiceless by organizing them into a body capable of massive protests, believing that the poor and disenfranchised would have more power to make their voices heard if they would come together and speak as one. In other words, he added the voices of the poor to our democracy.

Saul Alinsky grew up in a Jewish household and always identified himself as a Jew when asked about his religious views. His political views are harder to pin down, since he refused to join any party or subscribe to any ideology. I suspect Newt thinks that Alinsky is a communist but he would be wrong. Alinsky was appalled by political extremes. He hated the Nazis on the right and the Communists on the left. When asked if he would join the Communist Party, Alinsky replied,

"I could never accept any rigid dogma or ideology, whether it's Christianity or Marxism… The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics, from the persecutions of the Inquisition on down to Communist purges and Nazi genocide."

Alinsky believed people could make their lives better if they became more politically active and joined together for that purpose. In the last years of his life, during the Nixon Presidency, Alinsky saw the coming extreme conservative movement and planned to organize white middle class citizens to fight for their futures. Alinsky feared the middle class would be driven to a right-wing viewpoint, "making them ripe for the plucking by some guy on horseback promising a return to the vanished verities of yesterday." That guy on horseback sounds like Newt Gingrich and every other Republican who wants to take America back to a time when corporations and the wealthy had all the power, when regulations that protect consumers and workers didn't exist, when racial minorities were second class citizens, when women were confined to the home, and when there were no protections for the disabled and the elderly.

It makes sense that Newt Gingrich fears Saul Alinsky. Alinsky helped give the poor and downtrodden a voice in this country. In fact, if Saul Alinsky were still alive, he'd be proud of the Occupy movement and would more than likely be helping to organize it. Newt Gingrich once mentioned Alinsky's book, Rules For Radicals, and how bad for America it is. But the book just details how to organize and push for an idea and pressure the government to listen to the will of the people. In the first paragraph of the book Alinsky wrote, "What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away."

I wrote earlier that Alinsky's political views are hard to pin down. I believe he was just left of center like President Obama is. And that's another reason why Newt Gingrich tries to tie the two together. Barack Obama was a fantastic community organizer in Chicago, where Alinsky began his own organizing efforts. Alinsky was so effective that he drew criticism from those who feared the wrath of the masses, but he also drew praise from progressives like Adlai Stevenson who said Alinsky's efforts "most faithfully reflect our ideals of brotherhood, tolerance, charity and dignity of the individual." Even conservative William F. Buckley said he was "very close to being an organizational genius." That being said, if Newt Gingrich says President Obama is like Saul Alinsky, Obama should wear that comparison like a badge of honor.

Newt Gingrich fears a Jewish, politically independent community organizer who helped the poor, improved democracy, helped both blacks and whites, and hated Nazis and Communists. Can we then assume that Gingrich is an ultra-conservative Christian extremist and white supremacist who wants to bring corporate and religious fascism down upon America? Because that's the only reason why Newt Gingrich would be so frightened of Saul Alinsky.

Alinsky changed American democracy by adding the voices of the previously ignored and unheard, which only makes our democracy stronger and more inclusive. This is what makes our system the envy of the world. This is why people come here to build themselves a better life and to be included, counted, and heard. Apparently, Newt Gingrich hates the fact that the poor have a voice in America. If Gingrich or any other Republican candidate were to become President, the poor would once again be quashed under the boot heel of a conservative corporate coalition whose only goals are to fleece the American people and dismantle the Constitution. The people have the right to organize and protest. That right is protected by the Constitution as written by the Founding Fathers, whom conservatives claim to revere. So why do they hate poor people so much when they protest? Why do they seek to limit democracy to only the white, wealthy few? Conservatives have no clue what real democracy is. They only want power and greed and that means they have to attack the masses and strip them of their voice and their vote. That's why we, as Americans, must rise up and make our voices heard. That's why we, as Americans, must vote. So I believe I speak for a majority of Americans, including the poor, when I say, in the words of Saul Alinsky, we "love this goddamn country, and we're going to take it back."



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Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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Jan 22, 2012

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Steps Down from Congress


giffords.jpgMay the heroism of Gabrielle Giffords be a model for others, to demonstrate gratitude and tenacity - and hope.



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From Masorti AmLat: Intl. Holocaust Remembrance Day


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Jan 21, 2012

Tablet Magazine: Alana Newhouse: "On Andrew Adler’s idiocy, readers’ complicity, and Gawker’s irresponsibility"

The Evil of Banality

On Andrew Adler's idiocy, readers' complicity, and Gawker's irresponsibility

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Within hours of Gawker writer John Cook reporting that an Atlanta Jewish Times op-ed seemed to lay out a scenario by which the Israeli government could assassinate the president of the United States, a host of people took to the Internet to assert their distance from, and furious outrage at, the author, owner/publisher Andrew Adler. Adler's piece was indeed gasp-inducingly idiotic, the sort of thing that makes you wish certain people weren't allowed to own computers. But as the subsequent exchange Adler had with Cook instantly reveals, the idea that this yokel represents any broad group is obviously absurd:

A nervous Adler told me over the phone that he wasn't advocating Obama's assassination by Mossad agents. "Of course not," he said.

But do you think Israel should consider it an option? "No."

But do you believe that Israel is in fact considering the option in its most inner circles? "No. Actually, no. I was hoping to make clear that it's unspeakable—god forbid this would ever happen. I take it you're quoting me?"

Yes. "Oh, boy."

This man can barely speak for himself, let alone anyone else. And now Adler, who to judge from that interview never expected a spotlight outside of his small paper, is being hounded online—and presumably offline too—by angry hordes. I suppose it's appropriate, in a dotting the "i" way, for the Secret Service to be involved, but the folks who really need to have their motives investigated are the readers, including all of those righteous tweeters sharing their livid reactions to the tossed-off comment of a patently simple man. These people, one presumes, want to be spoken for by more responsible, thoughtful journalists, and yet not enough of them have been interested in actually paying for this expertise. Barely a year goes by without news of yet another Jewish newspaper folding—the most recent of which, in Portland, actually died as the community itself grew. How loudly can I scream this from a rooftop? Journalism is hard and expensive, and communities that don't pony up adequate resources for this privilege have only themselves to blame when they find unskilled men and women making un-thought-through comments ostensibly in their name.

But Gawker is a different story. Cook—who knows his way around trenchant, often excellent reporting and criticism—had the chance, on a site dedicated to covering the media, to make an important point about the desiccation of communal journalism. Adler is clearly no great thinker and no skilled journalist. Once Cook realized this, he might have dug for a teensy bit more backing before presenting Adler as any sort of communal voice, and indeed, in the tradition of worthwhile media criticism, might have made many of the points I made in the previous paragraph. Instead, Cook wrote a post that may not have been meant as a dog whistle for anti-Semites, but which certainly had that effect. ("Why the American tax payer has to pay billions each year to maintain peace for Israel comes down to one thing," asserted an average commenter: "Israel's lobby in the USA and the willingness of many American Jews to put another country's interests over the one they were born in.") If some random Muslim writer from a local giveaway in Dearborn called for jihad against the United States, would Cook have highlighted it in this same manner? I'd hope not. That's the kind of tactic for which far-right lunatics like Pamela Geller are regularly, legitimately denounced. So why is it acceptable to treat the Jewish community in this shoddy way? To tacitly present Adler as representative of anyone—particularly the day after Barack Obama effortlessly raked in a half a million dollars at a Jewish fundraiser—is so facile that it's hard not to view it as purposefully malicious.

I have to imagine that isn't the case. This is, at least in part, because Cook is married to Allison Benedikt, who last year caused a firestorm with an essay about her disillusionment with Israel. Whatever your feelings about that piece—and, by the way, most of the published reactions to it were either moronic or reprehensible—there is no debating that Benedikt was honestly grappling with an important personal and communal conflict. In doing so, she subjected herself to the harsh limelight of an increasingly vicious conversation about the relationship between American Jews and Israel, but because she is a real journalist, she did so with actual knowledge, insight, and measured awareness of the consequences of her argument. With her as one of the best examples, I'd argue that any media writer, and particularly one with the privilege of sharing Benedikt's breakfast-table, should be able to discern what a genuine journalist is, and what one isn't—and, given the differences, make the requisite responsible decisions about his or her coverage of this landscape.


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