Accustomed as he is to public speaking here and around the country, David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, can read an audience as well as anyone. Lately, he says, he is "hearing a growing number of questions and concerns about the U.S.-Israel relationship, and a sense that the Obama administration’s response to the Iran crisis was slower than it should have been."
The contrast between the American spectacle of celebrity death worship and the Jewish tradition of mourning has rarely been as sharply defined as it is this week.
I write these words 12 days after Michael Jackson died, his funeral arrangements and burial site still undecided. The star’s death has become as big a phenomenon as his troubled life. His family members hold press conferences, appear at music awards ceremonies and allow tickets to be distributed through a lottery for a huge, public memorial ceremony.
Natan Sharansky, an authentic modern-day Jewish hero, has been in his post as chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel less than two weeks, and already his fortitude for coping with the bureaucracy and politics that goes with the job is being questioned.
“He put up with KGB torture for years in the gulag without cracking, so I’m hoping he can withstand the pressure,” one prominent American Jewish federation leader told me, only half-kidding.
The newspaper business in America is in deep decline, bordering on a deathwatch in some cities, and, alas, Jewish newspapers are no exception to this troubling trend.
The combination of the national economic meltdown, the trend among younger people away from print journalism and the “original sin” of news organizations making content available for free online, where more and more people go for information, has created a perfect storm for the news industry in general.