Thursday, September 3, 2009

Peter Stein as a "hero" of the Jewish community

As we all know, Peter Stein is the director of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. It was he who decided to screen "Rachel" and "Defamation". And he was the one who invited Cindy Corrie, mother of Rachel and supporter of ISM, to appear with the film "Rachel".

Now there appears to be a desperate rogue operation to honor Peter Stein. The United Jewish Communities, the umbrella group for the various Federations as well as successor to the UJA, is running a competition for heroes within the community. This year, Peter Stein, director of the SFJFF has been nominated.

(In response to demands from the community, by the time you read this the nomination may have been removed)

On the UJC website, it appears that the nomination came from the East Bay Federation. However, the CEO of the EB Federation states they had nothing to do with the nomination, and indeed his other statements about the film festival confirm that. At this point, no one knows where the nomination came from.

I was one of those who mistakenly sent out emails about this, that held the East Bay Federation responsible. This was based on the entry on the UJC website, as well as the funding for the film festival by both the East Bay and the SF Federations. Mea culpa, I apologize, The question now is how did this happen?

Here is what the nomination says:
"Peter L. Stein directs the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, the oldest and largest Jewish film festival in the US. He has brought the festival through countless storms. Most recently, he stood his ground in introducing a controversial film, "Rachel," to the festival's audiences. Stein deserves to be celebrated because he sees the role of a Jewish community organization and its leader as grappling with the complexity of modern Jewish life, not circling the wagons in defense against it. Peter Stein has been a peacemaker. When the Jewish community was divided politically, as it often is, he has refused to take sides but has been willing to bring people -- and ideas -- together."

Can you believe this?

Stein and some of the powers within the SF Federation have been busy getting people to write letters in support of Stein, the film festival, and the Federation. (See recent issues of "J") So the question is, did some of these same supporters enter this nomination as a desperate measure, basically attempting to "make a purse out of a pig's ear", (pardon the metaphor), i.e. to turn a deteriorating situation into something brave and "heroic"?

Both Federations have known of this since last week, but as of this morning have not removed the nomination or tried to learn who was responsible. Some persons in the community suspect that one or both CEOs are trying to have it both ways.

Federation is bleeding donors as a result. This is tragic, since with the exception of the film festival, the Federations do outstanding and important work. But the CEOs have mishandled this. Even though it appears to be a rogue operation, they have been slow to respond, raising further suspicions. Nothing will stop this except full candor and full disclosure.

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