Friday, July 31, 2009

Federation President to donors: don't pester us about mistakes, just keep paying for anti-Israel propaganda

Here's an astonishing email from SF Federation President Jim Koshland to a donor who expressed concern about the recent propaganda-fest at the SFJFF.

Note that Mr. Koshland can't even bring himself to condemn the showing of the Corrie film at the SFJFF!  He blandly refers to "mistakes" made by an unnamed "wonderful program[s]" and goes on to describe the SFJFF in glowing terms: "a cultural event that shines brightly upon our whole community."

Note too that Koshland praises the SFJFF as an institution which has "served to connect thousands of otherwise disconnected Jews to our community for the past 29 years."  Apparently, to his way of thinking, alienated anti-Israel Jews are an important constituency for the SFJFF!

Given Koshland's attitude and his commitment to continue Federation funding for anti-Israel events, it's hardly surprising that increasing numbers of clear-thinking donors like Mr. Alon are deciding they have better places to send their donations
From: Koshland, Jim []
Sent: Friday, July 31, 2009 6:52 AM
To: Zvi Alon
Subject: Re: JFF and more

Zvi, we appreciate your strong concerns and your taking the time to communicate these concerns. However, for the reasons explained below, we cannot take the actions you are recommending.

Jim Koshland

Thank you for adding your voice to the many we are hearing.

The emotion swirling around the Jewish Film Festival this year has generated a great number of emails from those angry with the Festival, and, in some cases, by implication, with the Federation. And we have also received an equal number of messages, just as passionate, in support of the Festival. This is clearly a reflection of the diversity of opinion in the Bay Area Jewish community, as well as the strength of our commitments and convictions.

Every few months we at the Federation are confronted with a campaign like this, in which a vocal segment of our community sees the Federation as being on “the wrong side” of an issue in the community. Sometimes, those who are angry with us threaten to suspend their support of the Federation.

We understand. Federation is indeed a steward of community dollars and therefore an expression of the Bay Area Jewish community. And there are so many good things in our community that would simply not exist if it weren’t for the Federation’s investment. Last year, Federation sent almost $270,000,000 in philanthropic funding into both the Jewish and general communities, dollars that strengthened our Jewish community, helped individuals and families in need, built and supported vital institutions, funded education, environmental research, health care, community centers, senior transportation, synagogues, and museums, supported a strong and vibrant Israel, and promoted Jewish life and culture here in the Bay Area and throughout the world.

The Federation supports hundreds of programs, organizations and agencies. And we support their freedom of expression as a reflection of the diversity of our Bay Area Jewish community. Our continued investment in the programs that make up the fabric of our unique and dynamic community also ensures that Federation’s voice is heard. While we can – and indeed do -- offer our beneficiary agencies advice, counsel and guidance, we do not attempt to control them or censor them. Rather, we work with them, listen to them, and insist that they listen to us when we voice community concerns.

We have found, over the last 100 years, that this approach works very well. Indeed it built the community about which we all care so much today. We also believe that this is the best approach to achieve our mission: to connect Bay Area Jews to Jewish life, to our community and to Israel.

In a diverse community like ours, of course we don’t always all agree. And I welcome civil discourse and constructive criticism, and always want to hear what community members are thinking, even when they strongly disagree with us, or with any other community group. But I have to say that I am dismayed at the tone of many of the emails I have received from a small (but vocal) minority. I am disheartened to read the personal attacks on dedicated men and women who have tirelessly devoted themselves in service to the Jewish community. I understand that people’s passions sometimes get the better of them, but there is nothing to be gained by Jews attacking other Jews – especially in the guise of being pro-Jewish. It makes me very sad; it damages us as community, and diverts our attention from addressing the critical issues we do face.

We believe that the Jewish Film Festival is a cultural event that shines brightly upon our whole community, and indeed our entire Bay Area. It has also served to connect thousands of otherwise disconnected Jews to our community for the past 29 years. For every challenging movie in the program (and every year the Festival’s program challenges some part of our community), there are so many more to see that stimulate, inspire, and educate, and just as many that leave us touched and moved and filled with pride.

And, yes, sometimes even wonderful programs make, in our judgment, mistakes. When this happens, we make our concerns known. But this does not negate their value and importance.

We appreciate your passionate commitment and your support of the things that matter to you. Working together in a respectful and civil manner, we can build a stronger and more vibrant Jewish community, a more dynamic Bay Area community.

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