What a Failed Jewish Museum Says about the Misguided Priorities of the American Jewish Establishment

March 10 2020

Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH), which opened its doors in 2010, announced recently that it is filing for bankruptcy. An expansion of an earlier and more modest museum, founded in 1976, the institution later relocated to a grand building overlooking the Liberty Bell—which came with a price tag of $150 million. To Jonathan Tobin, not only were the troubles of NMAJH foreseeable, but they offer a telling lesson in the misallocated priorities of the American Jewish community:

No rational plan for the future of Jewish life in [Philadelphia]—or anywhere else, for that matter—would have prioritized putting up a massive building and assembling a huge collection of Jewish artifacts while, among other things, quality Jewish education was too expensive for many middle-class families to afford and local Jewish institutions still struggled to survive.

But the leaders of the NMAJH were besotted by the idea that a larger museum would become a centerpiece of Jewish life. In doing so, they were able to play on the fact that charitable donors are naturally attracted to putting up new buildings on which their names will be prominently placed, rather than to the far less glamorous and ego-satisfying task of maintaining existing and far more essential institutions.

The result is an attractive and interesting museum, albeit one whose basic flaw is a self-satisfied vision of American Jewish achievements that focuses mainly on [American Jews’] ability to fit in, as opposed to what makes their religious and ethnic identity worth preserving. . . . The complacent pride in the past and insufficient concern for the future that is the guiding spirit of the museum makes it the perfect metaphor for everything that is wrong with 21st-century American Jewry.

Museums are nice things to have, but they are not as important as schools, summer camps, college programs, Hebrew classes, and synagogues—let alone providing the social services Jewish communities must also finance. While not all money is fungible, the idea that a museum, even a good one, was the right way to spend $150 million on a Jewish communal cause isn’t so much unwise as it was sheer madness.

Read more at JNS

More about: American Jewry, Jewish museum, Philanthropy

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy