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November 07, 2003 - Image 37

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-11-07

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Editorials are posted and archived on JN Online:


Dry Bones

A Shaky Foundation

group of congressmen is on the right course
in its suggestion that the Ford Foundation
take a closer look at its record of making
grants in the Middle East, with particular
attention to grants that directly and indirectly under-
write physical and verbal attacks on Israel.
The congressmen, led by Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-
New York, are correct that the Ford Foundation needs
to take the first step, itself, by conducting a thorough
internal examination of how several million of its dol-
lars were actually spent by Palestinian groups that took
over the 2001 U.N. conference on racism held in
Durban, South Africa, and turned it into an anti-Israeli
and anti-Semitic orgy of hatred.
A recent series of articles by author Edwin
Black (available online at
www.jta.org/ford.asp) documents how the
foundation has funneled more than $193
million in the last half century to nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs) in the Middle East. The majori-
ty of these NGOs are Arab, but some money, includ-
ing a recent $20 million commitment to the New
Israel Fund, goes to Israeli groups that advocate on
behalf of Israel's minority Arab citizens.
Black convincingly demonstrates the link between
Ford Foundation money and the Palestinian NGOs
that seized control of the Durban conference.
Foundation officials insist that its grantees do not
engage in anti-Semitic speech or activities while noting
that some recipients have criticized Israel's conduct in
the West Bank and Gaza and its treatment 'of Israeli
Arabs as second-class citizens.
But the Ford Foundation continues to stonewall
when asked to document how its monies have been
used or even to provide routine explanation of why it
funds NGOs that are so virulently opposed to every-
thing that Israel does. Surely it can't have been happy
with what its money did to the Durban conference.
Not all Ford Foundation grants have been malig-
nant, of course. It has aided some nonpolitical Israeli

research institutions and, in 1990, it
paid for a report by the Swedish affil-
iate of Save the Children that helped
change some Israeli army practices
that had led to the needless deaths of
Palestinian children in the previous
intifada (uprising).
But the foundation has spent vir-
tually nothing on internal reform of
Palestinian or other Arab societies to
help bring them to levels of human-
rights protection that are already
routine in Israel. It apparently hasn't
spent a dime on any project that
would end the blatantly
anti-Semitic rhetoric that
, '
rings throughout the
Palestinian schools.
On the larger scale, the Ford
Foundation, with an endowment of
$10 billion that makes it among the
largest philanthropies in the United
/ / t
States, has consistently tilted its
grants toward what it sees as "the vic-
tims" — the Palestinians displaced
by the creation of Israel in 1948.
Little of its $500 million in annual
grants addresses the real problems of
the Palestinians and other Arabs —
the corruption, backwardness and
lack of democracy of their own gov-
The foundation, started in 1936
by Henry and Edsel Ford, no longer
maintains any ties to the Ford Motor Company. But
the pattern of foundation grants in the Middle East
could lead reasonable people to think that it was slip-
ping back toward the elder Ford's early anti-Semitic
Revelations about its financing of the Durban fiasco





11-16 1365-r
511)6 boli\) !


should prompt its president and board of directors to
do some serious soul-searching. If the Ford Foundation
isn't willing to open that door, perhaps the next step
will be more painful — with outside parties like the
government helping the foundation to see that what it
has been doing is just plain wrong.

The Energy Of The Arts

o matter how involved we are in syna-
gogues or communal groups, or how
much we give to worthy causes through
Federation's Annual Campaign, the cultur-
al arts share a yen for getting us together as Jews.
Diverse as the arts are, they speak to our Jewish
identity — coaxing and energizing us.
Sometimes, events like the Jewish Community
Center's Jewish Book Fair and Lenore
Marwil Jewish Film Festival are the back-
drop. At other times, it is through a secular
organization like the Detroit Symphony
Orchestra, the Detroit Institute of Arts or the
Farmington Players that we make connections with
other Jews.
How we connect isn't what matters. What matters
most is that the arts cross social, spiritual and eco-
nomic lines — and bring us closer to experiencing
what it means to be Jewish.

Frankly, it's better to feel your Jewish roots at a
Jewish Ensemble Theatre play, or to mingle with
Jewish friends at a Chamber Music Society recital,
than be devoid of a gateway to your heritage. It's a
joy to see secular Jews embrace their lineage in the
comfort of the JET or exchange Yiddish quips in the
elegance of the Michigan Opera Theatre.
In many ways, the arts are the great equalizer.
They unite Jews via inclusive cultural expe-
riences that rise above — or substitute for
— depth of religious observance.
For more Jews than we care to admit, a
play, a concert, an art show or another artistic
moment is the only time they gather with several
other Jews. Synagogues yearn to make services as
uplifting and popular as cultural programs.
This observation is amplified as the Jewish
Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit hosts
its 52nd annual Jewish Book Fair through Nov. 16.
It's the country's oldest and largest such fair. It draws


from across Jewish Detroit's diverse readership.
Admission is free to most events, so everyone is
equal. There, books engage our Judaism and stir our
neshamah, our soul. The power, pull and pageantry
of words reign.
In the early years of the DSO, Jews were a rarity
among the board members and contributors even
though the conductor was Jewish. Today, 89 years
later, the DSO chairman is Jewish as are many board
members, concert-goers and musicians.
Take in the Jewish Book Fair, or Dirty Story at the
JET, or Hungarian-born photographer Laszlo Regos'
"Palaces of Prayer — Photographs of the Synagogues
of the World" exhibit at the JCC's Janice Charach
Epstein Gallery or "Beethoven and Bartok" at the
DSO. Enjoy a synagogue-based arts program. There
also are movies, DVDs, libraries and talks.
Whatever your cultural choice, wear your Judaism
on your sleeve as you do it. There's a good chance
it'll burst through anyway. ❑

11/ 7



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