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

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

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority