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.

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Read more at JNS

More about: American Jewry, Jewish museum, Philanthropy

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin