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The HIAS-ization of American Jews

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations surrenders to the anti-Israel left.

U.S. political activist Linda Sarsour. Credit: Festival of Faiths via Wikimedia Commons.
U.S. political activist Linda Sarsour. Credit: Festival of Faiths via Wikimedia Commons.
Daniel Greenfield

Three years ago, the leaders of radical left-wing groups signed a letter in support of Linda Sarsour. The defenders of the anti-Semitic figure who had cheered Farrakhan and terrorists killing Jews and viewed Jews as subhuman included leaders of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish groups such as J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), T’ruah, If Not Now, Bend the Arc, and Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, as well as Tony Kushner, who once wished that Israel had never existed.

Also signing the petition alongside terrorist and BDS supporters were two leaders of HIAS.

HIAS, formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, had dropped the “Hebrew” part of its name along with its Jewish identity in 2014 and left New York City, where it once aided Jewish immigrants coming to America, to refocus on lobbying Congress. Instead of listening to calls by members of the Jewish community to shut down the organization and do something productive instead, it followed the money.

“Hebrew” was an exclusionary and outdated term, HIAS CEO Mark Hatfield opined. And so he dispensed with the Jewish part of the organization’s name and with aiding Jewish immigrants in New York.

Hetfield was one of the signatories of the Sarsour letter.

HIAS moved to D.C. to be closer to the government grants that made up its budget. Back then, 65.3 percent of that budget came from government grants, but the writing had already been on the wall in the 1990s. Former HIAS president Leonard Glickman had admitted in the late ’90s that the decline in Jewish refugees affected “the amount of money we receive from the government,” which “is based strictly on the number of people we resettle.”

Glickman knew exactly how that worked because he had been the top career official at the Office of Refugee Resettlement. His transition to HIAS was another example of a key government official going over to run an organization that depended on government grants. At HIAS, Glickman’s priority wasn’t Jews, but shifting the organization over to the resettlement priorities of the Clinton administration.

And that meant Muslims from the former Yugoslavia and African immigrants.

By the Hetfield era, HIAS was no longer a Jewish organization. It had followed the money into the big  business of refugee resettlement, imitating, as Hetfield once put it, Christian resettlement agencies.

The same year that HIAS shed its Jewish identity, it also adopted an anti-Israel one.

In 2014, Jennie Rosenn came on board as HIAS Vice President for Community Engagement. There was only one community that Rosenn specialized in engaging. The anti-Israel radical is part of J Street’s “rabbinic” cabinet and Jennie and her husband, David, the former executive vice president of the New Israel Fund, a radical group that funds anti-Israel activists, had even signed a letter urging “constructive engagement” with a terrorist government that included Hamas. The new HIAS was pro-terrorist and anti-Israel.

Two years later, Dianne Lob became chair of the HIAS board. A year later, Hetfield and Rosenn signed the pro-Sarsour letter. And the next year, the anti-Semitic figure was fundraising for HIAS.

As Zionist Organization of America head Morton Klein noted, HIAS admitted to working closely with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and “also signed joint letters with CAIR and other virulently anti-Semitic, anti-Israel groups, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council.” CAIR’s origins go back to Hamas and its supporters. Its co-founder and head, Nihad Awad, has stated, “I am a supporter of the Hamas movement.”

At an MPAC rally, its master of ceremonies had chanted, Khaybar, Khaybar, ya Yahud, jaish Muhammad saya’ud! or, “Oh Jews, remember Khaybar; the army of Mohammed is returning!” The reference is to the Islamic massacre of the Jews of Khaybar which was a pivotal event in the Islamic ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Jews of Arabia.

Lob, like much of the board, had the role of providing a Jewish facade for a non-Jewish organization.

HIAS’s senior vice president and COO is Farhan Irshad, a vet of Save the Children who had worked in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia. Its vice president for strategy, Muluemebet Hunegnaw, is another Save the Children leftover. In 2017, Leon Rodriguez, Obama’s head of USCIS, joined the HIAS board.

The new chair-elect of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations was part of the transformation of HIAS into not only a Islamic refugee resettlement agency, but an anti-Israel one. But she hadn’t arrived after the transition. Records show that she was acting as secretary treasurer in 2013.

That the former chair of an anti-Israel organization would head the Conference of Presidents was inevitable.

The old infrastructure of American Jewish organizations has been colonized by the anti-Israel left. There was outrage three years ago when David N. Myers was put in place as the head of the Center for Jewish History. The Myers appointment happened because the academic councils of the Center for Jewish History and the American Jewish Historical Society were full of anti-Israel activists. The AJHS tried to host an event featuring a JVP activist who had defended Hamas and advocated the destruction of Israel.

David Rosenn, the husband of the aforementioned Jennie, runs the Hebrew Free Loan Society. Rosenn had appeared at a Sarsour rally against Trump’s efforts to stop Muslim terror migration and refused to condemn Sarsour.

Of the 39 members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations who voted, 31 voted for the head of the anti-Semitic collaborator group, and only eight had the courage to vote against.

The Conference includes anti-Israel organizations like Peace Now and Ameinu, old-time radical organizations like the Jewish Labor Committee (as dated in its own way as HIAS and the HFLS) and the Workmen’s Circle, along with allies of anti-Israel groups like HIAS and the National Council of Jewish Women, whose leftist leader, Nancy Kaufman, had also signed the letter in defense of Sarsour.

Jewish Women International, the former women’s division of the B’nai B’rith, has collaborated with anti-Israel hate groups like T’ruah and participated in Sarsour events. While it didn’t boycott the Women’s March, it made a point of boycotting a Conference of Presidents Chanukah event held at a Trump hotel.

The Conference is full of organizations whose names mean very little. The American Sephardi Federation, despite the name, is a subset of the Center for Jewish History, whose director, Jason Guberman-Pfeffer, is not remotely Sephardi. There are plenty of organizations with “Zionist” in their name and nowhere else, like the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), whose president Joshua Weinberg pitched the World Zionist Congress elections as a means of cutting off funding to Jews living in areas claimed by terrorists, and insisted that “democracy is more Jewish than a nation-state.”

ARZA is just a tool of the Union for Reform Judaism and its boss Rick Jacobs, a member of J Street’s “rabbinic” cabinet. URJ had opposed moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and Israel’s barring Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) from entering the Jewish state.

There are a handful of pro-Israel groups that have any relevance to a sustainable Jewish community in the Conference. And it’s not hard to guess who the dissenters against the Lob appointment were. The Conference is an outdated grab bag of organizations, some important, and others, like the Jewish Labor Committee, barely functional. It’s always been ripe for a radical takeover, and one is now underway.

In 2014, J Street tried and failed to join. Rick Jacobs, among others, threw a fit over the rejection and demanded greater diversity. The anti-Israel group’s entry had been backed by, among others, the Anti-Defamation League and URJ. The next time J Street tries to get in, it will, and it won’t be alone. That’s the endgame.

Lob is just a chess piece being moved into place.

“At the rate the radical left is taking over major Jewish organizations, we can assume that within five years there will be a steep rise in the number of American Jewish groups that advocate on behalf of BDS,” wrote Caroline Glick.

The left has created a laundry list of anti-Israel and assorted leftist organizations (Rosenn has just announced Dayenu, an environmentalist pressure group) who are all going to want to get in. And when that happens, the anti-Israel left will function as the voice of American Jewish organizations.

The corruption of HIAS is a template for how many American Jewish organizations made the sad journey from alienation to irrelevance and then to treason. HIAS had its roots in Jewish religious and immigrant groups with names like Hachnosas Orchim and the Voliner Zhitomirer Aid Society that helped new arrivals get started, not with government grants, but with their own money. Those roots are gone.

The old American Jewish leadership is passing away. Their place is being taken by radicals with no Jewish roots or connections, and an active hostility to the very idea of Jewish organizations that no amount of mispronounced Hebrew and Yiddish words, or their constant use of “oy,” can possibly disguise.

The old American Jewish community left behind a great deal of organizational infrastructure that has no purpose and no one to run it. Millennials are the least religious and the least committed to any larger community of all previous generations. They have little interest in a communal infrastructure. Those who do are the radicals who want to take it over and turn it into a leftist social-justice shop.

The Generation X future of the Jewish organizational world is a bunch of aging leftist hipsters pitching anti-Israel activism and climate protests as a great way to reach young millennial and zoomer Jews.

The American Jewish community could stand up to them, but that would be awkward and uncomfortable. Just like voting against Lob on a Zoom call would have been uncomfortable. Not just because it means breaking up the chummy world of cocktail parties and organizational partnerships—the real pain would come from putting something Jewish ahead of their party’s increasingly radical politics.

The same organizations and communities that didn’t stand up to Obama over Iran and whose hatred of Trump led them to oppose moving the embassy to Jerusalem chose to stand with HIAS over ZOA.

Millions of American Jews, like their liberal Christian counterparts, replaced the Bible with social justice. And as the definition of intersectional social justice converges on the Islamic hostility to the Jewish state of Sarsour and her ilk, they fume, blame Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Trump, and eventually go along. After sacrificing God to social justice, what’s the small matter of sacrificing the Jewish state to sharia social justice?

Ending this means more than standing up to HIAS. It means standing up to the HIAS-ization of American Jewry.

American Jews who care ought to insist that the Jewish synagogues and organizations they support go back to being rooted in Jewish ideas, tradition and history, instead of wrapping the leftist politics of the last 150 years in Jewish terminology and using it to displace thousands of years of Jewish life.

The HIAS-ization of American Jews won’t be defeated with a conference vote, but by reviving a community based on mutual support. When the only thing Jewish about your average Jewish organization can be found in its museums, while the rest is environmentalism, abortion and international aid for some misbegotten part of the third world, the outcome is inevitable.

It’s not just about Israel. European Jews have been terrorized and murdered by the sort of Muslim mass migration that HIAS has rebuilt its fortunes on. Anti-Semitism is increasingly being normalized on the left and the right, while Jewish organizations remain divided in their ideological corners, and unable to speak out against it. As black and white supremacists launch murderous attacks against Jews, there is no mutual support.

And that is the real tragedy.

A Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations that can’t resist HIAS also can’t resist the HIAS-ization of American Jews that robs them of their identities, their communities and their souls.

Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.

This article was first published by FrontPage Magazine.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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