A Historian Condemns Jewish Philanthropy as an Undemocratic Engine of Capitalism

July 27 2021

According to the publisher’s summary, The American Jewish Philanthropic Complex, by the historian Lila Corwin Berman, sheds light on the “complicated reality of changing and uneasy relationships among philanthropy, democracy, and capitalism,” and concludes that Jewish philanthropies have come to reflect “the state’s growing investment in capitalism against democratic interests.” Felicia Herman argues that the book both leaves out important parts of the history it aims to illuminate—inter alia the role of women in developing Jewish volunteer and charitable organizations—but also misunderstands the ways these institutions operate:

In Berman’s telling, Jewish philanthropy is just as scary: a system designed primarily to accumulate philanthropic capital; to invest it in financial markets; to avoid taxation on it; and then to use these growing sums to coerce Jews and Americans to follow mainly right-leaning political agendas, [that is]: philanthropy is just another institution of alleged privilege that must be dismantled in the name of justice. . . In Berman’s framework, “capitalism” and “democracy” sit at opposite poles, pulling on philanthropy from either side.

[In truth], the challenges and opportunities of [American] Jewish life led Jews to create a unique, complicated, simultaneously harmonious and conflicted philanthropic ecosystem, one that empowered millions of givers, of all socioeconomic backgrounds, to support tens of thousands of organizations, domestically and abroad. Whether voluntarily, out of a sense of commandedness, or because of peer pressure or pride, American Jews built a philanthropic and communal infrastructure with no parallel in Jewish history.

The history of American Jewish philanthropy is not only a story about the wealthy. It is about all of us: Hadassah ladies, synagogue and JCC trustees, Federation donors, b’nai mitzvah kids with tzedakah projects, Jewish National Fund tree-planters, and so much more.

In a book that makes the important argument that the Jewish engagement with the American state has not received enough attention, Berman nevertheless relates the history of this engagement in a way that takes Jewish behaviors so out of context as to make them seem unique—even dangerously so. . . . This approach leaves the impression that American Jews, whether acting under Jewish auspices or not, operate in ways that pose a unique threat to America.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: American Jewish History, American Jewry, Capitalism, Philanthropy

Iran’s Dangerous Dream of a Triple Alliance with Russia and China

Aug. 16 2022

Unlike Hamas, which merely receives support from the Islamic Republic, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—with which Israel engaged in a short round of fighting last week—is more or less under its direct control. In fact, the recent hostilities began with a series of terrorist attacks launched by PIJ from Samaria, which might in turn have been a response to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s call “to open a new front in the West Bank against the Zionist enemy.” Amir Taheri writes:

In Gaza, the Islamic Republic has invested heavily in promoting Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. . . . Islamic Jihad is in a minority in Gaza, hence the attempt by Tehran to help it create a base in the West Bank.

Reliable sources in Baghdad say that [Iran’s expeditionary and terrorist paramilitary] the Quds Force has been “transiting” significant quantities of arms and cash via Iraq to Jordan, to be smuggled to the West Bank. The Jordanian authorities say they are aware of these “hostile activities.” King Abdullah himself has publicly called on Iran to cease “destabilizing activities.”

But such schemes, Taheri explains, are part of a larger strategic vision of creating a grand anti-Western alliance even while engaging in nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and Europe:

Last month, Khamenei praised Vladimr Putin for his invasion of Ukraine. And this month, China’s ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, praised the Islamic Republic for supporting China in “asserting its sovereignty” over Taiwan.

It is clear that some dangerous pipe-dreamers in Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran have fallen for the phantasmagoric vision of “three great powers” banding together and with help from “the rest,” that is to say, the so-called Third World . . . to destroy an international system created by the “corrupt and decadent.”

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: China, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Russia, West Bank