Monday, February 28, 2005

'Machers in Meltdown'

This is the must-read feature in New York Magazine about the goings-on at the WJC which has had other communal leaders up in arms. It is essentially an interview with Stephen Herbits, a former Seagrams employee who is at the heart of it all and who is now the WJC's secretary-general. The interview opens with the reporter telling Herbits that other community leaders have said they were not surprised by the WJC's difficulties because of its 'weak administration':
Herbits, a tall, lean 62-year-old with gray hair and a gray beard, nearly levitates out of his chair, instantly going ballistic.
“As you talk to the leaders of the other Jewish organizations, check their accomplishments against their governance,” he says in a voice that’s rising to fill the room. “They’ve got perfect governance and no fucking accomplishments.
“If an investigation of Jewish organizational life takes place, I promise you that the last person standing will be Israel Singer,” he says, referring to the Brooklyn rabbi who is at the center of the controversy.... “There are no illegalities in Israel Singer’s behavior, and that is not true of some of the leaders of these other organizations,” he says, standing now.
“I know it and they know it and they better be careful, because if they cause enough problems in the press, then this organization won’t be the only one that has a preliminary inquiry from the attorney general’s office. Then you’ll see some real fireworks..."
But given the chance, he doesn’t back down. Instead he ratchets up the rhetoric a notch. “I’m not going to sit by and let this organization take the rap for their behavior,” he says. “If we get into that kind of pissing match, this organization ain’t going down by itself.”
Taking out his anger against the other Jewish organizations -- who are not, after all, behind WJC's PR/legal problems -- with wild and unsubstantiated accusations simply reeks of desperation, not to mention, a complete disregard for the welfare, reputation and credibility of the Jewish organizational world as a whole. The WJC has always been slick and hard-nosed; this aggressive, threatening, arrogant, and again rather desperate-sounding rant sounds like they're really beginning to feel the heat. And the most dangerous animal in the wild, as they say, is a wounded one.
That said, Mr. Herbits, if you have any credible information about 'illegalities' going on at other Jewish organizations -- not just vague accusations -- my email's above right. Looking forward to hearing from you.

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