Understanding The Impact
Of Recent Agency Layoffs
Layoffs can be brutal. Not only for the person los-
ing his position, but also for those who have to
find excruciating ways of crunching jobs as well
Those job cuts become even more difficult when
they happen within the organized Jewish com-
munity, a place once regarded as a safe haven
This week we learned of several Jewish com-
munity workers at the Agency for Jewish Edu-
cation who were at least temporarily
"pink-slipped" and of more permanent changes
at the Jewish Community Council.
Even if the AJE layoffs are temporary, a com-
mon practice for educational groups during the
summer months, a work furlough of any sort can
be difficult. We know that for some, working in
the Jewish community was not just a job, but a
calling they believed in. It is our hope that these
people will quickly find new positions. It is also
our wish that they understand that they were
appreciated not only as individuals but for their
commitment to the Jewish community.
Still, there is the issue of cutbacks. Though
they are brutal, and though they hurt, maybe it's
time we realize that more may be necessary. With
federations all over the country finding dollars
more difficult to come by, programs and positions
for support staff are not automatic anymore.
While Detroit's federation is blessed with a com-
munity that provided it a successful fund-rais-
ing campaign, it also realizes a need to be
judicious in its spending. All around us, corpo-
rate America is streamlining, and federations
are understanding the need to run if not as a
business, then in a business-like fashion.
We don't want to see anyone lose his or her job.
We do, however, encourage the process of feder-
ation agencies taking close looks at themselves
and making appropriate changes, be it through
attrition or reprioritization of funds and pro-
To serve this community now and into the next
century, we won't be able to survive only on good
intentions. The Agency for Jewish Education and
the Jewish Community Council won't find them-
selves alone when it comes to fiscal accountabil-
That doesn't make life easier if you've been
temporarily laid off.
Still, to think we can avoid cutbacks at this
point is to wear a blindfold around reality.
We encourage Jewish Vocational Service to of-
fer job counseling and retraining to any Federa-
tion employee facing a layoff. We also want the
Jewish Family Service to be there for some who
find that a layoff translates into a loss of self-im-
age and worth, not to mention help in finding
ways to pay for food and house bills.
All of this hurts.
But the pain we all could feel as a communi-
ty, if we don't keep a closer eye on the fiscal bot-
tom line, could be much more severe.
Michael's Bad Rap
Poor Michael Jackson. At times, nothing goes
right for him. First, the cynics questioned his sex-
uality. Then, the lawyers questioned his sexual
conduct. After that, fellow African Americans
questioned his allegiance to them. And now, some
Jews and others question if the King of Pop is a
racist and an anti-Semite.
This latest investigation came with the release
last week of HIStory Past, Present and Future,
Part I. Half a retrospective of Jackson classics,
half new releases, the album stopped some lis-
teners stone-cold when they got to "They Don't
Care About Us." It features these lines:
"Jew Me, Sue Mel Everybody do me l Kick Me,
Kike Mel Don't You Black or White me."
The anti-Semitism seems as plain here as the
priceless free publicity that the controversy has
stirred. Michael's response?
"I'm not anti-Semitic because I'm not a racist.
I could never be racist. I love all races from Arabs
to Jewish people," he told ABC's Diane Sawyer.
Mr. Jackson went on to say that his accountants
and lawyers are Jewish, as are "my three best
friends — David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg and
Michael, are you really that unsophisticated
or is this, too, part of the show? Were it not so
sad, we could laugh. Michael Jackson is no ma-
licious anti-Semite. He is a product of a coun-
try where anti-Semitism is seen as a legitimate
expression of the racism he seeks to stem.
In the fallout from the Sawyer interview, the
Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesen-
thal Center, premier exposers of anti-Semitism
— potential and potentially potential — protest-
ed Mr. Jackson's lyrics. The singer apologized;
The quick pace of activity here is uncharac-
teristic. Instead of jumping instantly on Mr. Jack-
son, the Jewish groups should have first privately
met with him to determine why he had chosen
these words. If his intention was, indeed, to write
"an antiracist song," then perhaps there was
some merit in the intention, albeit not in the fi-
What Mr. Jackson, the past target of innu-
endo, if not outright slander, may have learned
is that Jews are quick to cry foul when it seems
legitimate. But did he learn why they have these
reflexes? And did either side conclude how this
can be avoided in the future? Probably not. But
that's what makes Hollywood the world's enter-
tainment capital. Issues, like stars, are here to-
day, gone tomorrow. Because, you see, the show
must go on.
Children Of The Dream
AKIVA ELDAR SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH NEWS
ien plans were being but it also is relishing the person-
made for the recent cele- al freedom inherent in a private car.
bration of Israel's Inde- It is true that the growth of popu-
pendence Day, one lation and consumer affluence have
Jewish community in the United created new tensions between eco- r'
States began to build its festive Is- logical and development needs, but
rael program around a living and this is a challenge that all normal
breathing camel. It seemed to me western nations face. In Israel, as
a hopelessly anachronistic symbol elsewhere, an environmental lob-
of the Jewish state. If they were by has risen to offer alternatives.
Many of these achievements
looking for a realistic symbol, they
should have chosen Ofek-3, the re- were substantially facilitated by
the progress that has taken place
cently launched Israeli satellite.
It is regrettable that the Amer- in Arab-Israel relations and in Is-
ican Jewish community still insists raeli-Palestinian relations in par-
that Israel remain as it was in the ticular. Only after the signing of the
1950s. Why would they assign us
the role of larger-than-life heroes
like those portrayed in Leon Uris'
"Exodus," and have us act out the
part to assuage their own societal
These very heroes, as well as the
American Jewish community itself,
fought to build a modern Jewish
nation. The role of soldier-fanner
was an essential way station on the
road to this goal. Today's Israelis
are armed with cellular phones and
computers. This is the triumph of
yesterday's pioneers and of gener-
ations of American Jewish leaders
who delivered American support.
Together with building a mod-
em society, Israel has retained its
Jewish essence. It is unarguably
the only Jewish society in the world
where families overwhelmingly
share Shabbat dinner with their
parents due to the close geograph-
Israel has prospered mightily in
the last few years. In 1994 the Gross
Domestic Product totaled $70 bil-
lion. In 1995, it will reach an esti-
mated $85 billion. GDP per capita
reached $15,000 in 1994, a figure
equal to Great Britain's present rate.
Free time is spent in pursuits
that should be familiar to all Amer-
icans, shopping in the mall, work-
outs at the health club, going to the
beach. It is this same quality of life
that all of mankind strives for.
I remember when owning a pri-
vate car in Israel was an extrava-
gance. Today 1.2 million private
cars, mostly new and fully loaded,
are on Israel's roads, themselves
vastly improved. Israel still has a
heavily used mass transit system,
Declaration of Principles, for ex-
ample, was the Gulf Cooperation
Council able to announce a re-
scinding of the boycott. Thus peace
has both broadened and expedited
Israel's economic evolution. Given
Israel's technological capability and
skilled work force, it is no wonder
that a glance at recent business
ventures reveals a Fortune 500 list
The road to political accommo-
dation with the Arab countries is a
difficult one. However, such ac-
commodation is the only way to en-
sure Israel's security and continued
When my parents came to
mandatory Palestine in 1933, the
cousins who remained in Europe
warned them that they were going
to a land of hopeless and unimag-
inable hardship (like the doom-
sayers who foretell Gaza's
imminent demise). Today, a strong,
organized Diaspora is one of the
prerequisites for ensuring that Is-
raeli and Jewish interests will be
protected in the future. We worked
together to absorb an unprece-
dented wave of 600,000 immi-
grants. We can meet the challenges
of peace as well.
However, the American Jewish
community should realize that,
more than anything else, Israel's
success is the surest guarantor of
Jewish continuity. When my chil-
dren go to public school in
Jerusalem they by definition go to
a Jewish school of high quality.
This is the dream that the pio-
neers labored for, this is what
18,000 Israelis have sacrificed
their lives for. El