A Not-So-Subtle Message

The first thing I want to say here is that I have nothing against Toronto’s UJA-Federation. Jewish Federations, part of an institutional system set up in the last century to serve the North American Jewish community, do important work.

That being said, a new 2011 fundraising campaign video for Toronto’s United Jewish Appeal (UJA) has given me whiplash. It’s the same sore neck – or more precisely, eye and brain – feeling I get from reading the daily deluge of articles that streams through my Facebook newsfeed from the Jewish and general press by Jewish writers, or about Jews and Jewish issues. With Jewish Facebook friends on both ends of the political spectrum, I am constantly darting between doomsday scenarios and reassurances that everything is coming up roses. And don’t assume that it’s only the conservatives, focusing on things like the Iranian nuclear threat and growing anti-Semitism, who are always the Debbie Downers. There are plenty of left-wingers, especially in Israel, who are depressingly pessimistic these days.

In no way should we bury our heads in the sand, but it would be great to have some more moderate, nuanced views of the state of the Jews and the Jewish State right now. For the sake of our younger generations, it would be more helpful to focus on celebrating and strengthening Jewish communal life for the good things it can bring to us and the world, instead of solely as a countermeasure against those who would seek to destroy us.

As burned out as I am on all those “We Are The World”-inspired feel-good anthems, I can still basically deal with them. I even get a little teary-eyed while watching them (I’m a sucker for children’s choirs). But please, stop pairing them with the “They hate our guts” videos. While the older people who commission these fundraising pitches may think that this stark juxtaposition will make people reach for their checkbooks, I am quite sure that younger Jews will be turned off.

And people are wondering why Jews in their 20s and 30s, and even 40s, are not affiliating with established Jewish institutions…Go figure.

© 2010 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “A Not-So-Subtle Message”

  1. Rose Barlow Says:

    I agree with you! Never again is valid (the Holocaust) but applies to all of humanity, not just Jews. Having said that there is way more to celebrate and appreciate than be down on. The strong orthodox Jewish community, the strong non-orthodox Jewish community. The assimilation of Jews into positions of power all over the west, the assimilation of Jewish culture into mainstream Western culture to a very large extent. etc. etc. Appealing for money to ‘solve’ Jewish pessimism or paranoia hardly seems like a winning strategy.

  2. Leah Says:

    Oy. Did they borrow that background music from Inglourious Basterds? Seriously????

    You hit the nail on the head Renee. As a 20-something Jew, I refuse to affiliate with established Jewish institutions namely because my only interaction with them is through their seriously misguided and annoying fundraising pitches, or the “kids today don’t care about a Jewish future” editorials I see in the Jewish press.

    What does the Federation actually DO? If you make a video explaining how a donation might go to feeding a hungry family, helping victims of genocide happening NOW, etc, I might be interested in donating.

    But the same tired hand-wringing about how unaffiliated Jews like me will be responsible for the end of the Jews … give me a break.

    Also – most Jewish kids grow up understanding “The Federation” to represent evil bad guys in Star Wars. The UJF really wasn’t designed for us.

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