A tale of shifting Jewish priorities
02/21/2011 - 12:12
James Besser


Here's a little insight into Jewish priorities these days that probably won't surprise you.

Last week I received at least 25 statements and press releases from Jewish groups and assorted Jewish politicians urging a U.S. veto of the UN General Assembly resolution condemning Israel's settlements. (The U.S. DID veto the resolution on Friday, and there's no evidence pressure from Jewish groups was the reason).

In that same period, I received 4 statements and press releases about the extraordinary budget battle taking place in Congress – with the House passing a stopgap budget measure with $61 billion in discretionary spending cuts and the Obama administration fighting for smaller cuts but agreeing that a wide range of programs that serve the nation's most vulnerable citizens will be hit hard in the coming months, and almost certainly much harder in the next fiscal year.

Let's see.

The UN resolution was clearly one sided, but in the real world nothing would have changed if it had passed.

Almost every country except for the U.S. and Israel already thinks settlements are illegal and a major obstacle to peace; almost everybody who has an opinion on about the Middle East has an opinion on settlements that probably wouldn't have changed if the Security Council had passed yet another one-sided resolution about Israel.

On the other hand, the epic budget battle will inevitably affect the lives of millions of Americans, including the growing number of Jews slipping below the poverty line as critical health and human service and education programs get cut to tatters.

It will also affect hundreds of Jewish agencies that depend heavily on government money to provide critical services. You can bet that many will be forced to reduce services, and some will probably go out of business, because of the cuts being debated on Capitol Hill.

I'm not saying the UN vote was insignificant; I am saying that as Congress considers a fundamental shift in the role of government that will affect just about every Jewish human service program in the country and affect the lives of countless Jews, the disproportion in attention by our communal establishment is striking.

view counter

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Comment Guidelines

The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.


American people, Jews and Gentiles voted for present Republican-lead Congress, which is determined to cut the spending. Whether you agree or disagree with it, this is just the way how this Republic works. Many people, Jews and Gentiles alike think the Government must be downsized and American productivity restored. The others think differently, but you represent nobody in this issue, Mr. Besser, but yourself. We did not vote for you. Learn how to live in a democratic society and accept the consequences of elections. The UN vote is quite another story, because the condemnation resolution would be used as the justification of further aggression against Israel and - whether you like it or not - against Jews worldwide. If you accept the fact that anti-Jewish racism exists and rampant, then you should understand the motivation of the people urging Obama to do what common sense dictates. If you deny that anti-Jewish racism exists, then you merely should "celebrate" my comment as a diversity of opinions in the Jewish community. But by no means you should assume that the groups and individuals expressing their concerns are stupid. Or more stupid then you are. In fact, the Jews have been quite reasonable and successful in protecting their basic civil and political rights in this country. If people consider UN vote more important for their interests than the budget mess, they may have very good reasons for that. Meanwhile, I "celebrate" your comment as an awkward but unmistakable evidence of vibrant plurality of opinions in our community. Cheers
**I'm not saying the UN vote was insignificant;** Yes, actually, you are. **.. the disproportion in attention by our communal establishment is striking.** What is striking to me is that a fellow Jew would bemoan the interest by the Jews of this country in Israel and her borders....that's what I find disturbing, Mr. Besser.
The Jewish community should be capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time. Budget cuts will force many elderly to do without home care services; major cuts in anti-hunger efforts will lead to serious malnutrition among children and the elderly. Families in crisis from poor to working poor and middle class needy, who have lost significant portions of their income but are still above the level of benefits are all facing foreclosure, homelessness and medical crises in their lives. Compromise means givebacks by unions, advocates and from those who seek to abolish the safety net. Let's eliminate waste and mismanagement, to be sure, but also let's stop posturing and suggesting that programs that help Americans in distress are bad for the country. Effective and efficient programs and services strengthen America. We can do all that and support Israel.