When Jewish Leadership Honors a Mass Murderer

Why exactly did a Jewish federation fund a pilgrimage to Arafat's grave?

arafat_graveBarry Shrage is President of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston's Jewish Federation. He defended a pilgrimage of Harvard students who recently visited the grave of arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat -- at the expense of his organization. Supposedly civilized Americans proudly posed for pictures at the grave of a mass murderer.

Sickening.

Shrage is paid $482,000 annually, which makes him one of the most well-paid American Jewish “leaders.” When exposed by bloggers at TruthRevolt.org, he defended his action, claiming:

“CJP and a group of deeply committed student leaders were the subject of vicious attacks by ideologically motivated bloggers from across the country.”

He added:

“The blog that you may have seen attacking the 'trek' is a good example of the terrible polarization within the American Jewish community where a few bloggers at the extreme edge of the Jewish community can demonize those who try to deal honestly with the complexities of life in Israel.”

Shrage continued:

“We believe that understanding those challenges and opportunities from a first-hand perspective is the best way to create knowledgeable and informed supporters of Israel and to strengthen the bonds between the American and Israeli people.”

Shrage subsequently back-tracked from his earlier comments, but actions (and initial reactions) are quite clear. Donors to Hillel and the Jewish Federation should know that their monies are going to pay for students to visit Arafat’s grave. Surely just what Aunt Bertha intended her annual check to the UJA to go to – treks to the grave of the biggest mass murderer of Jews since the end of World War Two.

Mr. Barry Shrage: In Boston, why not host a forum to question if the Boston Marathon bombers were right by addressing a program on “those who try to deal honestly with the complexities of life as a Muslim in America.” Same rationale, right? Maybe a visit to the Middle East should involve discussions with Al-Qaeda who can help with your desire to “understan[d] challenges and opportunities from a first-hand perspective”? After all, using your ideology, how can we condemn that which we have not heard first hand?

Overlooked during this recent brouhaha is the fact that Shrage’s Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) is the largest donor in the Jewish establishment to Media Matters, the organization which has been condemned across the board by the Jewish community. Alan Dershowitz and others have said Media Matters has "crossed the line into anti-Semitism," yet despite this, annually checks are written from CJP to this organization.

Similar to this most recent non-apology, Shrage’s organization made some odd excuses to justify previous behavior that crossed the line.  In response to an ad placed by the Emergency Committee for Israel, The Washington Post reported:

“The Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston has put up a confusing statement, taking umbrage at the ad and insisting 'The grants in question come from Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ Donor Advised Funds (DAF). These are charitable gift accounts established by donors. While owned and ultimately controlled by CJP, DAFs do not involve communal funds, but rather reflect the interests of those individual donors.'”

CJP then conceded: “Donations cannot be made to any organization that opposes Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state or advocates for boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS). We reserve and exercise the right to reject an individual’s grant recommendations in these circumstances. Beyond that, it is not CJP’s role to judge every activity of the recipient organizations.” Much like this time around, then, The Washington Post said the statement was “was hard to follow and didn’t seem designed to respond to the ad’s substance.”

Bottom line, in their own words and actions, donations to Hillel and the Jewish Federation go to fund Arafat grave visits, and support Anti-Semitic media outlets.  This, in part, is how Shrage earns his $482,000 non-profit salary. What else is going on that is swept under the carpet?

Behavior like this harms America and harms Israel.  Regardless of what good work Shrage may have done to date, this behavior clouds it.  Posing for pictures at the grave of a mass murderer?

Lenin called people who work against their people’s own best interests in support of their enemies "helpful idiots."  Clearly, these actions fit in that category.

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