Those of us in the New York Jewish community were witness this past week to what might fairly be called a “bonfire of the vanities.” Egos were on parade. And as they were strutting purposefully, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was surely laughing.
The details are pretty familiar by now, because the story was so unhappy and silly that it went national. The organizers of the Monday afternoon rally against Ahmedinejad’s presence at the UN General Assembly, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, invited Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin to address the rally after having invited Senator Hillary Clinton to do the same. Senator Clinton, peeved at the invitation to Governor Palin, decided not to participate, ostensibly because of the “politicization” of the rally, but surely as much out of pique as anything else.
It is not at all clear to me why the Conference of Presidents saw fit to invite Governor Palin to address the rally in the first place, given that she has no history of a serious relationship with the Jewish community or Israel. I can imagine some reasons, of course, but I don’t particularly like them. And then, to make matters truly ridiculous, it rescinded the invitation to Governor Palin and decided to “de-politicize” the rally. (What a wonderful first impression of the organized Jewish community she must have…) No politicians would be allowed to speak. It took all the punch out of the rally.
And then, some of the organizations within the conference protested its decision, other people and organizations planned alternate rallies, still others stayed away from the rally altogether…
While all these organizations and individuals were busy posturing, what could Ahmedinejad have been thinking? What I fear is that he saw what I saw- a failure to respond to his authentic genocidal threat against Israel with any kind of meaningful consensus. I’m used to being disappointed in the non-Jewish world when it comes to this kind of thing. All Jews know that stinging pain. But when the Jewish community can’t get it together to show a united front against a man like Ahmedinejad… that I’ll never be used to. I can’t remember a time in my rabbinate when I actually was embarrassed by the Jewish community, but I was this week.