Talking Tachles 2: In Defence of the Right to Responsive Representation and Transparency

In the first post in this series, we asked a number of questions regarding representation, legitimacy and transparency. Some of the responses  touched on themes such as apathy and whether there is indeed any “right” to representation at all.

Firstly, a  straw man has been created in the suggestion that we are somehow disciples of Joseph Toscano’s anarchist ideals of direct democracy. This is patently ridiculous. We even wrote warning of the problems of such direct democratic processes as exist in California, in which populist ballots on various issues have served to plunge the state into a fiscal black hole.

When we advocate for democratisation, we are not yet advocating for any one system. This leads to complaints from some readers that we are not putting forward concrete initiatives. We have stated time and again, however, that we see SJ’s role not as a nascent political organisation, but as a forum in which, for the very first time, every Australian Jew with internet access is able to contribute his or her ideas on any number of issues – including models for electing leadership.

Those who persist in arguing that the JCCV is indeed the “voice of the community,” cannot provide any evidence of a clear mandate. That it comprises a number of organisations in no way makes it representative of all Jews. It simply makes it representative of those organisations. And those organisations themselves are far from representative of Australian Jewry.

Orthodoxy enjoys disproportionate power, for example, within the JCCV, as evidenced by their blocking of the Gay group, Aleph, from joining. Those who argue that – many years later – Aleph was asked to apply once more for membership must remember that the organisational composition of the JCCV had not changed, and that it was inevitable that Aleph would once more have been rejected.

And what of those Jews who prefer not to be part of any existing organisation, yet still identify strongly with the community and their ethnicity? They not only have no representation, they have no recourse to argue for any either.

This brings us to the issue of apathy. Apathy is a very useful word in defence of the status quo. It implies that the community is populated by so many self-interested, uninterested people that only those very few who rise above this sluggish indifference have any right to lead and represent us. This argument is either misguided, disingenuous, or downright insulting, depending on how it’s couched.

Numerous Jews give of their money and/or time to various schools, organisations, and charities. Many, many Jews have had youth movement and AUJS experience. If we were indeed as apathetic as some suggest, our communal institutions would have collapsed by now. Why are all these people who do – or have done – sterling work never likely to join the leadership bodies?

We challenge those who defend the current system by saying that only a small few are dedicated enough to put in the required hard yards to look closely at organisations such as NCJW or Jewish Care. These people (so often women) who donate time and money to getting tangible work done for the good of the community are rarely recognised. Most of them will never enjoy perks such as a l’chaim with the PM or Premier. They do this work because they have selflessly responded to a need. This comparison should hopefully put the actual work done by our leaders into its appropriate context.

If we do have all these people volunteering to do phone fundraisers,  school reviews, and various other time consuming activities for the good of the community, why are they only apathetic when it comes to leadership? Is it indeed apathy at all?

Or is it an unwillingness to try to break into a closely constructed power structure, utterly labyrinthine in its design, in which things have been known to get very nasty, very quickly? Is it because there are absolutely no avenues for genuine dissent? Malki and others have demonstrated the cavalier attitude all our leaders have to inquiries put forward to them, unless a powerful name is attached.

Or is it because these very labyrinthine structures make it near impossible for most people to know where to begin. So often, we hear defenders of the status quo cry, “put your hand up then, why don’t you?” But put your hand up where? Put your hand up when? To whom? Any questions will not be answered by anyone attached to any leadership position – or their secretaries, for that matter. It’s easy to say “Put your hand up.” It seems it’s a lot harder to explain exactly when, where, or how.

Another disingenuous defence of the opaque nature of our current system – and another explanation for the supposed apathy – is that leaders come in for criticism from the public. One reader suggested that fora such as the Jewish News and this blog are vehicles for such criticism and may have discouraged potential leaders.

This forum has only existed since May 12, so that doesn’t really explain much, and The Jewish News is hardly a muck raker. We cannot remember the last article on a leader’s private life scandals, or photos of leaders’ wives in gyms. News media coverage of leadership in our community is incomparable (in terms of viciousness) with Federal, State, or even Local coverage.

We would now like to address directly two of our commenters who concisely present the case for the status quo:

The first is Heartened. He/She tells us that he/she is a leader of one of our communal organisations, but is not writing on this forum in any official capacity.

Heartened says:

As has already been stated here several times, community leadership is not equivalent to a government who gains its powers through an Act of Parliament. Rather, community leadership is a de facto power granted to those who give their time for the good of the community. Many people in leadership positions are unpaid and give of their time in addition to their full-time jobs, families etc. I personally do not see it as the job of community leaders to be “out and about” getting a feel for the constituency because, for the reasons just discussed, their is in fact no real constituency. I do agree, however, that emails and faxes should be answered but I am certain that this is probably an oversight. So, to answer your question, I am not sure that it is in my particular brief to “come to the table” as I don’t actually represent anyone in any official capacity – and nor should I! Probably not the answer you were after.

That communal leadership is not equivalent to – say – federal government – is a given. No one has argued otherwise. On the other hand, it is a logical fallacy to assert that just because x is not y, it cannot share some of y’s properties.

Indeed, our communal representation is most certainly a form of governance. It speaks for us, disperses funds, negotiates with government on our behalf, and oversees any number of elements that constitute our community. That such governance should not be elected because it is not federal government makes little sense. Good  governance, regardless of its purview, requires certain elements:  genuine representation, legitimacy, and transparency. Our leadership fails on all three counts.

We have already discussed the fallacy that the hard work done by our leaders absolves them of the checks and balances of good governance. A further fallacy that Heartened propounds is that leadership is similarly absolved from responding to their “constituency” because there is no constituency.

We find this argument baffling. No constituency? Perhaps the argument is circular: where there are no elections, there is no constituency. Where there is no representation, there is no one to represent. Where there’s no transparency, there’s nothing to look at.

As for not answering non-constituents emails, it takes a lot of “oversight” to avoid as many phone calls and emails as we’ve been told have gone unanswered by our various readers.

We finish with a response to reader, Rahab’s, comment:

I’ve always had a soft spot for The West Wing. Especially the pearls of wisdom that have emanated from the mouth of a fictional President.

Something that stuck with me was this, “Democracy belongs to those who show up”. It’s not our ‘right’ to be represented within the community, it’s something that is offered to us that requires our participation.”

The West Wing has been praised as a wonderful example of intelligent television. It’s writer and creator, Aaron Sorkin, however, is not yet quite in the same league as Gandhi, Aung San Suu Kyi,  or Martin Luther King.

The three latter luminaries might have pointed out that “Democracy belongs to those who show up,” makes a snappy line on TV, but is a highly problematic principle when applied to any real-life polity.

Indeed, it sounds more like a justification for the kind of crypto-democracy that favours a certain personality type, a certain family background, a certain socio-economic ranking, over anything truly representative.

The two greatest problems with this throw-away line are:

1) Those who show up in our current environment are not always the right people for the job. Well functioning civil society creates environments in which the less aggressive, but still valuable members of the community can be encouraged to participate.

2) Do those who cannot show up forgo all right to representation? The old, the sick, those in financial extremis without much time or many resources – are they unworthy?

That is a profoundly horrible thought, and considering Sorkin’s own politics, we highly doubt he ever meant that.

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  4. Michael Fagenblat’s Presentation at the Seven Jewish Children Reading
  5. Winning Friends and Influencing People 3: Anti-Semitism, The Hiatus, and Secret GLBT Business.

49 Responses to “Talking Tachles 2: In Defence of the Right to Responsive Representation and Transparency”

  1. Heartened says:

    SJ, thanks for using my words against me, especially as they were written here in good faith. This concludes my participation on this website.

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  2. Disinterested Observer says:

    SJ: very naive question here: if people are paying money but are not represented, this is clearly wrong. Why not set up an org where payment of membership dues automatically entitles you to a vote at AGMs, stand for committee positions etc? Many nonprofits are run this way.

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  3. Shabbat Shalom says:

    The problem with the internet and anonymity is that there is no way of really knowing who anyone is…Heartened may not be a community leader as he/she claimed and thus his/her points aren’t really reflective of the views of our leaders. Still, this site likes to take potshots at anyone and everyone but doesn’t seem to like receiving any criticism.

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  4. Rambam/heartened says:

    Heartened, you should know that the moderators can see your IP address, so when you post large tracts about the African elephant – which we delete without too much fuss – we know that it’s coming from the same computer that you have always posted from, your new screen name, “Rambam,” notwithstanding.

    Trolling is not a mature or intelligent way to express displeasure with the opinions of others.

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  5. Rahab says:

    You mischaracterise my remarks, SJ.

    The amount of participation required to be ‘involved’ surely extends no further than joining the organisation in question and attending the Annual General Meeting where these offices are filled.

    You’re upset with the level of leadership, but have you considered that this one act – which hardly constitutes a supreme imposition on anyone’s lifestyle – provides a not inconsiderable check on the actions of those leaders who you so deride. If you are too disinterested to even show up to one of these meetings, you DESERVE the leadership that you are burdened with – it is not your right to complain when you were given the opportunity to have a say.

    Your argument that “the old, the sick, those in financial extremis without much time or many resources” require representation is fairly fallacious. It is a matter of will that these people involve themselves. I’ve already noted that the requirement for determining the leadership of the community isn’t overly burdensome. It isn’t a ‘feed my family or run for the board of the JCCV’ decision, it’s a matter of exercising a vote.

    As for your oddly flippant reference to Gandhi et. al., I’m genuinely surprised that you would be so unempirical as to suggest that these ‘luminaries’ would agree with your proposition. In fact, I’m pretty sure that someone like Martin Luther King Jr would have howled at, badgered and berated his congregations to exercise their democratic rights after the passage of the Voting Rights Act in order to influence the leadership of the communities in which they lived.

    You seem to want to chastise the current leadership for their shortcomings, yet when I present to you an alternative – an alternative that can be readily exercised – it is disregarded.

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  6. Dvash says:

    I find it incredible how a few posters comments regarding unanswered emails has quickly turned into “our leaders’ extreme aversion to responding to inquiries from Jews without protektzia.”. You need a stern talking-to from my Bubba – “instead of kvetching, get off your tucheses and do something!”. Alas, it’s easier to throw mud.

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  7. Dvash says:

    Yes, I have read the post but you must excuse me for not equating anecdotal evidence from anonymous sources as fact. You are the ones making the claim and thus you are required to provide “substantive evidence that our leaders are [not] indeed responsive, representative, and transparent”. That is how it works in enlightened, modern societies. You seem to prefer the situation where one is a “witch” unless proven otherwise.

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  8. Aarpn Goldberg says:

    Democracy doesn’t really exist in the Australian jewish Community, as it is dependent on laws handed down by a omnipresent G-d not contructed by the ‘people’. Populism is the dominant paradigm governed by media powers that influenced perception over reality. Whilst ‘volunteerism’ manages the functional arms and is an admirable act of faith, the bottom line is that corporate wealth and religious dogma are the ultimate governing organs – look how popular the ‘rich kids’ still are amongst the ‘community’. Whilst your arguments on this page are interesting, at best they operate as impotent warblings for a content status quo happy to project the ‘idea’ of ‘democracy’ to safely enrich their own power base.

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  9. Dvash says:

    SJ, once again you use fallacious reasoning in order to bolster your position.

    1. Just because no better evidence exists, this does not make anonymous anecdotal evidence a good or true source. In addition, you add the comment that other attempts at fact gathering have been “stymied” adding to the big brother conspiracy presented on this site.

    2. In investigative journalism, even anonymous sources are subject to fact-checking and editorial oversight. Your “sources” undergo neither of these. Also, you seem selective in “believing” the true identities of your posters. When it suits you, they are a good source. When it doesn’t suit you, they are frauds.

    3. Please show me where I have argued “so vociferously” against transparency.

    4. If you consider your assertion that you have been involved “countless communal projects” (without any substantiation) evidence, then we obviously have irreconcilable standards of proof.

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  10. Dvash. says:

    Once again, you write “your objections to our latest post are vociferous” without presenting any substantiation.

    I am a defender of the status quo simply because it works for me as I feel adequately represented, believe that the leadership is transparent and accessible. As you are the ones challenging this, the burden of proof shifts to you to disprove it – something you have failed to do.

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  11. Malki says:

    Dvash, you are correct.
    And i have already offered, in many of my posts adequate evidence of the manners in which many many individuals and issues within the community are unrepresented or untackled. I have also qualified this remark with the comment that much excellent work has been done on many levels by the existing bodies, and that this is nothing to sneeze at.

    Please refer to my comments under the post “john searle’s speech”, or look through the archives of this site.

    I have also suggested and requested, many many times that others step up and suggest ways in which we could bring the leadership to the table to, at the very least, debate and discuss ways in which to better the system. (Similar suggestions have been made by Yoram, Manny and others)

    As yet, not a single critic of this site has suggested a way to do this. So far everyone is either refuting a need to do so, debating whether it is their place to come to the table, refuting the existance of any “table”, or promptly ignoring the question.

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  12. The Goy Husband says:

    Dear TSJ,

    Ladies, I am intrigued as to what “ten point plan” you desire to implement? Please give the readership a detailed action list of say ten reformist elements – whilst not all achievable maybe, they would at least set the groundwork for the “bloggist led revolution” you apparently want. Talk has been expansive since the May opening – maybe it is time to put proposals on the table, any table.

    I will ask you three questions (and the readers): who can or should be in the community (I married in – but some would discount or reject that); are passionate zionists still welcome in this boycott, delegitimisation and sanction environment; and what model from other ethn-religious communities do you propose (my first similarity would be the UK Sikh community)?


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  13. Daniel Levy says:

    The Goy Husband:

    I’d just like to preface this by saying that these questions are a little bit personally invasive, so please only answer if you feel comfortable.

    Why do you call yourself as such? Yes, it is true (that you are a ‘goy husband’), but you seemingly cast yourself as an outsider by making this your identity. Is this because you feel like one due to the way you’ve been treated by the Jewish community? This is just a curiosity, by the way. I know painfully well how unaccepting the community can be of people “marrying in”, as it were. Just curious as to whether that’s your own self-description or one you feel has been given to you by the community. If it is, some advice: Don’t let the exclusivist elements in the Jewish community weigh down on you. I have friends who have been severely impacted by the weight of a non-Jewish parent and the reaction of the rest of the Jewish community to it. It pains me that this does happen to community members (and, by choosing to be one, you are a community member), and it is one of the issues I would love to see addressed by the leadership. Not only addressed but spoken out against. This kind of behaviour cannot be allowed to continue.

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  14. Dvash says:

    Malki – sorry, but I don’t consider your tales to be sufficient to demonstrate a problem. This is my opinion only. Therefore, there is absolutely no reason for me or others to suggest strategies for bringing leaders to the table. My feeling is that this issue is really a non-issue and that is the reason that it receives little attention other than the handful of posters here.

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  15. The Goy Husband says:

    Dear Daniel and any others interested:

    Thanks for the supportive response. However, I have never (in more than 25 years of reasonably close interaction with Australians of Jewish faith) felt any exclusion. We married as a civil second relationship (this stingy presbyterian was a good foil to the uber-classy secular lady) but have been most generously included by those in our circle.

    The real point of my personal aside was to focus attention on questions of identity, legitimacy and transparency. Ticking the box on the Census or following the religious law is a debate outside this blog. However, the demands expected of communal organisations and in particular leaders is quite central to demands by TSJ and others here for change, action, reform or just difference. If we accept that a form of self-identification (I seek to belong, therefore I am, sort of, within the tent) is generally OK, then we move on to what are or are not legitimate expressions of communal interests (we have sport, culture and welfare in one corner contrasted with political, special interest and advocacy groups on the other hand). If we accept that civil societies that are free allow freedoms of assembly and association (try that in Iran some nights) then we accept that multiple entities are born, live and potentially perish. All that keeps them going is relevance and responsiveness to their times. TSJ seem to want alterations or reforms to current structures due to ideological or strategic differences. Transparency is the relatively open debate and observation of how things get done – not the cast iron right of participation or involvement. I and many have a share in the health of the communal organisations – but we don’t own them beyond any purported stakeholder status. What do others think?

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  16. Disinterested Observer says:

    Daniel, #21. Interesting point. I heard John Safran relate (on air) a discussion with a Melbourne friend. The friend told John that if he acquired a non-Jewish girlfriend/wife and brought her to a social function, the friend would refuse to acknowledge her. Meaning, would not say hello or respond in any way: i.e. just pretend she wasn’t there. And he went on to explain all his crazy reasons for this behaviour. I found this profoundly shocking & assumed this must be a very small minority viewpoint, notwithstanding that I got the impression the friend was well known in the community.

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  17. Malki says:

    Thanks Dvash, although there’s no need for you to refer to my observations and experiences as “tales”. It is unnecesarily patronising.

    If you feel that what I and many others on this blog feel is evidence of “a need for betterment”, is in fact not “sufficient evidence to demonstrate a problem”, and a “non-issue”, providing “no reason.. for leaders to be brought to the table”…. then that is fine by me, and we are both entitled to our opinion.

    I am then not sure why you have come to this site. Most are here to be constructive and encourage debate and ways in which betterment and growth can take take place. What is your purpose here?

    I would also like to suggest that perhaps others, such as Heartened, who do agree that there is room for change, growth and debate, to step forward, anonymously if they prefer, and assist in taking this process forward, even if only in an unofficial capacity.

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  18. Daniel Levy says:

    Ah okay, TGH, was just wondering. :)

    DO, it tends to be the majority of the older folk and the minority of the younger folk. It’s quite understandable in the Holocaust survivors. It’s more a survival mechanism for them. They were so badly mentally scarred by what happened to them, that they see survival as re-populate or perish. I would not wish to challenge any holocaust survivor on such a view. I might not agree with it, but challenging would not do anything productive. I’m more concerned about the friend of John Safran’s you heard on the radio and how that view trickles down into younger generations. That psychologically wounded view is shielded from criticism only for those who went through the trauma of the holocaust.

    For the younger generations, I feel it is something we should shed. If you have the personal preference of marrying Jewish, that is your prerogative. You have to choose a partner that you’ll get along with, and being Jewish does provide a good common ground on the issue. But for you to impose that preference on someone else to the extent of not recognising the girlfriend is just despicable.

    It is an issue that must be addressed by the Jewish community leadership, because it is, at its core, a racist view among non-holocaust survivors. To supremacise the Jewish faith in that way is simply an awful thing to do. I’d like to see a leadership with the balls to get that message across to the community. Note, I’m not saying that they should explicitly endorse “marrying out”, but they certainly should be getting the message out there that excommunication on that basis is not on.

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  19. Rogalach says:

    Daniel, I would be extremely surprised if community leadership endorses excommunication of any form. Thus, there is no message to “get out”. Besides, it is a personal issue.

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  20. Disinterested Observer says:


    I suspect Safran’s friend is somewhat older than he, though certainly not in the survivor generation. But I doubt any young Jew who is actually willing to tune in to Safran would have been encouraged to follow the friend’s example. Safran likes to parade all sorts of crazy views.

    I know a non-Jewish girl who was dating the son of an Orthodox family. She told me that some of his family had problems with their relationship. I said that if the son didn’t have issues (he obviously didn’t) then it was strictly their problem (the relatives) and she shouldn’t let it become her problem. Trouble with my advice was I may not have been qualified to give it, but that’s what I said.

    Many minorities in Oz put pressure on their kids to marry “within”. But if their children decide otherwise, they may resent but will eventually accept. Safran’s friend was clear that his shunning behaviour would be permanent & this was what I found shocking. Are you saying that the survivor generation *never* came around to acceptance if their kids married out?

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  21. sensiblejew says:

    A lot of comments require response.

    Firstly, Malki, as always, thank you for your contribution. We are aware of the time and effort you have devoted to the community, as well as the knowledge you have of communal mechanisms. Your perspective is very important. You are one of the people who’ve been at the communal coalface, as well as being a member of a generation our leaders say they are desperate to attract.

    Dvash, we always substantiate our arguments. That you may not care for such substantiation is another matter. While we are pleased that you feel the system works for you, we urge you to go to to view a poll that may indicate you are not in the majority.

    Issues of burden of proof are rendered moot by such stark figures. Even if we disregard the poll, however, your assertion taht we have failed to meet this burden is itself shockingly unsubstantiated, and perhaps an indication that you have read very little of what has been posted here.

    At this point, Dvash, we must echo Malki: why exactly are you here if you feel we are so far off the mark, and that we are utterly irrelevant to boot? Why waste your time disbelieving what you term, “tales?”

    As for the readership/relevance of this site, we are able to tell you that we have had, since our beginning on May 12, nearly 20,000 hits. Over the past seven days, a very conservative average of unique daily visitors is 850. If you have knowledge of the blogging world, you will understant that these are significant numbers.

    Of course, we can’t “prove” these numbers to you without giving you our blog’s usernames and passwords. Instead we suggest that you type the following into Google: “ratio comments views blogs.” Then look at the numbers of comments we have received and feel free to draw your own conclusions. You seem quite keen on the issue of “substantiation.” Such Googling will assist you in your endeavours, but you may not like the results you find.

    Goy Husband, we find it somewhat frustrating when people comment without reading the relevant comment first. This leads to repetition and pointless comments. We have clearly explained our perception of our political function in the post.

    Daniel and Disinterested Observer, as in all communities, there are conservative or exclusive elements, and liberal, or inclusive elements. It is inaccurate to portray any community in its entirey as either hostile or welcoming to outsiders.

    And last but not least, hi Rogalach and welcome! Fantastic screen-name.

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  22. Daniel Levy says:

    I believe I have been misunderstood on a few counts.

    Firstly, Rogalach:

    I would certainly hope that they do not endorse it, but they have not spoken out against it. Which is what I would like to see happen.


    Of course the survivor generation never came around to accepting it. Psychological scars of the magnitude that resulted from the holocaust are impossible to remove. How could one expect this of people who saw their families slaughtered mercilessly? Of course the natural instinct is to repopulate. That would never change. Strength in numbers is a survival mechanism that has clearly kicked into gear with the survivor generation.


    I would contend that unfortunately for the Jewish community, the conservative/exclusive elements are the norm. Even among the liberals, there has been a clear trickle-down effect on younger generations.

    I am not saying that the entire Jewish community is like this. In fact, most of my Jewish friends are quite the opposite. But a disturbingly significant proportion, 1 in 3 or 4, still hold this view. Sadly, these proportions are swapped for the older generations.

    It has had ramifications as bad as one of my mates who is “half-jewish”, whose grandmother said she could never love her because she isn’t “pure”. Now that is obviously an extreme case from a woman who has been seriously mentally affected by the holocaust. But this is the view that has been handed down to younger generations. People often talk of the mental scarring that was passed on to younger generations from their holocaust survivor parents. This is one such type of trickle-down effect that must be dealt with.

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  23. Daniel Levy says:

    Never said there should be legislation of any kind! I just want a statement from the authoritative bodies that the exclusionary attitude is not on. Obviously, the exclusionary effect is weakening from generation to generation, all I wish is to see the process expedited.

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  24. Rogalach says:

    1. You claim to always substantiate your arguments. This is a downright lie. Simply stating that you do so does not make it so.

    2. The AJN poll is meaningless as I have no idea how many people have voted and the methodology used (although I can guess).

    3. I have read most of this site (as painful as it may be) but still find that you do not come close to meeting even the lowest-level BOP.

    4. I am not particularly interested in the subject matter of this site but I do have an interest in crimes against critical thought. You belong in the Hague.

    5. You are correct in stating that your unverified numbers mean little to me. Perhaps though I should stop posting from different proxy sites (and different names) although it appears that little can be done to deflate your over-sized ego.

    Just for the record, I am Rogalach, Wolkenberg, Yiddishe Kopf, Shabbat Shalom, Heartened and a few others that I can’t even remember.

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  25. Daniel Levy says:

    Hmm SJ, I guess you’re right. People already committed to that belief aren’t likely to change any time soon. It’s just frustrating to see (in any community). Hopefully I’ll see it more or less disappear in my lifetime :)

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  26. Yoram Symons says:

    Heartened, Rogelach, Yiddishe Kopf etc

    This latest development is very disheartening.

    When you began posting as Heartened, claiming to be one of the community’s leaders, I thought, wow, someone from the leadership structure has taken notice and is willing to engage a new voice on its terms.

    To me this was a great vindication of all the better thoughts I have regarding the leadership of my community. That they are willing to recognise that the status quo is not perfect (and it never can be) and that perhaps a new way to engage and energise the community would be to actively debate issues around leadership and representation. And if there was ever a time that the community needed to be engaged and energised, that time is now.

    But given this latest admission, I am just not sure what to think. On the one hand you claim to be a communal leader, yet on the other you seem to engage in some really unpleasant stuff, especially the name calling that SJ alluded to.

    However, what strikes me is that whomever you are, the fact that you keep returning to the site means that either you are a little obsessive, or, despite claiming the contrary, you really do feel deeply passionate about some of the issues raised in this blog. If it is the latter then I would really like to know what your motivations are. You obviously feel strongly about all of this.

    I have never attempted to hide my identity on this site. Although certainly no great macher of any sort, I am involved quite heavily in one communal organisation, ie Auburn Road Centre, and in the past have been a Bnei Akiva madrich, an organiser of one major communal event (Relentless: The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East) and a few odds and ends here and there.

    As one individual who cares about the Jewish community to another, I want to know what you really feel. If you are one of our leaders and not simply a “troll” then I think this is important. If you are in such fundamental disagreement with the stated aims of this site, ie to open up discourse around communal leadership, why keep coming back? Is it an attempt to stifle such debate? Is it something else entirely?

    I mean, would it be such an awful tragedy for the Jewish people if the structure of communal leadership in Melbourne was challenged and possibly improved?

    I am more than happy to discuss this with you in a more private setting. My email address is

    I look forward to hearing from you.

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  27. The Hasid says:

    “Just for the record, I am Rogalach, Wolkenberg, Yiddishe Kopf, Shabbat Shalom, Heartened…”


    Love it! Thanks Rogalach.

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  28. Disinterested Observer says:


    re. my question in #28 and you answer in #30 (especially the last paragraph of #30).

    OK, it wasn’t at all obvious to me, but OK. I was just asking for clarity. Of course I knew that they were terribly scarred but it wasn’t obvious to me that it would manifest in *this* particular way. The only survivor that I know would not have that attitude, but this is a sample of one & didn’t help me to grasp the problem.

    Your example, on the other hand, is very clear and compelling and rather frightening, if I put myself in the place of the grandchild. This is a case of trauma being transmitted, unfortunately.

    BTW, I have known people from other minorities who have disowned children for much more trivial issues and they didn’t have any trauma to explain it.

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  29. mikeybear69 says:

    Regarding people posting under multiple pseudonyms here, you just need to look at the little graphical icon (avatar) for each posting and you can tell when it’s the same person as the image is the same. At least that’s what it seemed to me.

    I don’t understand why people need to hide behind pseudonyms. What are you all scared of?


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  30. sensiblejew says:

    Hi, Mikeybear and welcome.

    The avatars are inconsistent, unfortunately. Often the same avatar shows up for different posters (and their different IPs). Or different avatars show for the same posters (because they are posting from proxies).

    As for pseuds, there are many reasons people prefer them. You, yourself must have a reason. In our experience, fear is rarely the motivating factor.

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  31. mikeybear69 says:

    But I identity myself with my name, and my pseudonym links through to my facebook page which shows my real identity. Plus I’ve even gone as far as to put my photo up. I question why people feel the need to hide their identity.

    Michael Barnett.

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  32. Aaron Goldberg says:

    >>Also, we must distinguish between what is – and what can be. Just >>because the system right now is geared towards shutting out debate >>and partcipation, that doesn’t mean that we cannot change it.

    I’ll believe it when I see in the ‘real world’ not the ‘virtual’ world. For now, the major organs of communication
    in the Jewish community are as effective and controlled, as, umm, the Vatican?

    And this community is not governed by divine laws at all. It is governed by a complex tapestry of interworven, and interdependent threads, comprising a handful of men who are busy making very secular decisions on our behalf.

    >> A framework founded on Divine Laws is the more accurate example.

    Finally, calling our writing, “impotent warblings” is perhaps more a reflection of your own despair than the actual impact we are having.

    >> What are you a psychiatrist? Like I stated initially, while your
    >> blog has been effectively advertised in the mainstream press, I’ll
    >> believe it’s ability to impact change an a more ‘real’
    >> basis any more Andrew Bolt’s ability to convince people that
    >> Change belief is a new religion. He’s got a popular blog too ya
    >> know, couldn’t stop John Howard losing the election, but.

    We urge you not to despair, because despair is not indicated in this case, and because despair is really an abdication of our responsibilities to effect change where we can.

    >> I trust the future is in good hands. But then I thought the same
    >> when I was in Israel 20 years ago and they re-elect that guneff
    >> Netenyahu! I guess the voting population is made up of ex-Russians
    >> and ex South Africans these day. Ah, demographics.

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  33. michael says:

    Those who persist in arguing that the JCCV is indeed the “voice of the community,” cannot provide any evidence of a clear mandate. sj

    SJ/ Can you provide us with any evidence that JCCV do not have the support of the mainstream Jewish community? You are the ones making all these outrageous allegations against the Jewish organizations but have not provided your readers with one shred of evidence that your minority views represent the majority.Please do so to give your writers any credibility.

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  34. JL says:

    I for one have never been asked my opinion by anyone involved in the JCCV and as such they do not represent me.

    On the other hand, with regard to the rich running committees…just look at the presidents and voices etc of all the Jewish communal organizations and you really have to wonder if any of them need to work another day! There opinions are always heard and often treated as gospel.

    I have been on a number of committees over the years and as this is the only way I can “help”, I gave of a lot of my time and energies in a voluntary capacity. Unfortunately especially with the last committee I was on, my voice was not welcome, only my stamp licking prowess…so yes to those of you who have said they had similar experiences…another series of anecdotes unfortunately without my offering up any proof to those others who require it and can not simply accept what is. Had my bank balance been healthier, perhaps my ideas might have been more acceptable. We will never know. No more committees for me.

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  35. sensiblejew says:

    Heartened, perhaps you misunderstand the purpose of this blog.

    We do not intend to “use” anything “against” anyone. It is a place in which ideas concerning our community are discussed and debated. As yet, there is no other such place. You enetered into this discussion of your own volition. We wrote that we appreciated your contribution, and we most certainly did.

    To expect, however, that we will not examine that contribution, especially as you have identified yourself as one of our leaders, strikes us as odd.

    Why would your contributions be less prone to debate than anyone else’s? This is not a matter of good faith/bad faith. We did not quote you out of context, nor did we attribute to you anything you yourself did not write. We made no inferences about your personal motivations, nor did we engage in any other underhanded tactics.

    That you find debate and discussion of your views in counter to good faith, seems to indicate a deep intolerance of any sort of critical analysis of our institutions.

    Of course, we hope youwill return. And we also hope, that upon reflection, you will realise that no bad-faith gesture was made.

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  36. sensiblejew says:

    Disinterested Observer, far from a naive question, you raise a very good question!

    The system you mention is one of many possibilities.

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  37. sensiblejew says:

    Shabbat Shalom, indeed, we cannot know whether Heartened is indeed a leader. We never claimed that he certainly was, only that he described himself as such.

    As for our attitude to what you call, “criticism,”: you’re right only inasmuch as we do not tolerate content-free personal attacks. They are boring, pointless, and damage debate. Genuine debate and discourse, however, have always been encouraged here. There would be no point to this blog, otherwise.

    As for pot-shots: tomayto, tomahto: you may call it pot-shots because you object to our content. We call it vigorous debate, because we do not think blind assent has ever produced good governance.

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  38. sensiblejew says:

    Rahab, you presented no alternative beyond, “show up, or shut up.” This addresses none of the issues we have raised regarding legitimacy, representation, and transparency.

    Nor have we mischaracterised your remarks in any way. We quoted you verbatim.

    Participation means far more than simply attending a meeting. How does one even find out about such meetings? You have not addressed our leaders’ extreme aversion to responding to inquiries from Jews without protektzia.

    And even if we could find these meetings, the number of stories we have heard about the concerted effort to exclude everyone unwilling to toe a particular political culture, completely contradicts your assertion.

    How is our argument about the old, sick, and financially squeezed fallacious? You fail to prove this assertion, beyond exhorting such folk to show up to meetings. Our point about people in crisis, however, was made in direct response to your Aaron Sorkin quote. Like we said, a snappy TV line does not necessarily make good policy.

    Be assured, there was nothing flippant in our reference to Gandhi, Suu Kyi, and King.

    We were quite serious that these leaders are so revered precisely because their vision of democracy and representation always took/takes into account the need for the less fortunate not to be disenfranchised.

    That Martin Luther King encouraged his followers to vote in no way diminshes our argument. The vote that King referred to was a genuine vote. There was a real franchise, a real constituency, and real representation. There were checks and balances. There was transparency.

    Nothing like that exists in our community. Your “alternative” is more a slogan, than a model.

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  39. sensiblejew says:

    Dvash, have you read the post?

    We refer to many, many communal actvities in which Jews participate, in order to demonstrate that claims of apathy are a myth.

    Similarly, your assertion that the dissatisfied are/have been inactive in the community is entirely without foundation. We have stated elsewhere that Yvonne and I, as well as many of our commenters have been involved in countless communal projects. Indeed, our tucheses are tiny from all the activity.

    We are sure your bubba is lovely; however, unless she can provide us with more substantive evidence that our leaders are indeed responsive, representative, and transparent, we’ll politely decline the offer.

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  40. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Dvash.

    You say you’ve read the post, yet your only disagreement seems to be with our anecdotal evidence. Our arguments range far beyond this particular element, yet you fail to address any of them.

    We also remind you that in the absence of any hard data (Andrew Marcus’s research is a while off publication, and other efforts at collating anything like research on communal attitudes have been stymied), the anecdotal is the only remaining evidentiary resource available.

    And not all our sources have been anonymous. If you have been following the debate here since May 12, you will see some individuals celarly identify themselves and their experiences. Others, for various reasons, wish to remain anonymous and we will not, under any circumstances, compromise the trust they have placed in us. As you are probably aware, anonymous sources are a mainstay in investigative journalism. If it’s good enough in that arena, it will do here as well.

    You are probably also aware that, “enlightened, modern societies” require a high degree of transparency in order to ensure good governance, yet you argue so vociferously against it.

    Accusations of “witch” hunting are emotive, and not based in fact. The foundation of the witch-hunt is a disdain for evidence, in favour of hysteria and superstition. We, on the other hand, make no assertions without supporting evidence. We challenge you to demonstrate superstition, hysteria and disregard for evidence anywhere in our posts.

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  41. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Aarpn Goldberg, and welcome.

    Thank you for your perspective. Your comment on “rich kids” and popularity could be applied to any community and in any society. The rich have all sorts of advantages, and we don’t think our community is particularly distinctive in this regard.

    Also, we must distinguish between what is – and what can be. Just because the system right now is geared towards shutting out debate and partcipation, that doesn’t mean that we cannot change it.

    And this community is not governed by divine laws at all. It is governed by a complex tapestry of interworven, and interdependent threads, comprising a handful of men who are busy making very secular decisions on our behalf.

    Finally, calling our writing, “impotent warblings” is perhaps more a reflection of your own despair than the actual impact we are having.

    We urge you not to despair, because despair is not indicated in this case, and because despair is really an abdication of our responsibilities to effect change where we can.

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  42. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Dvash,

    Firstly, this site’s blogger is anonoymous, and her communal experience cannot be verified. This is a truism. If you feel, however, that this removes all credibility from what is written here, why do you bother contributing and arguing?

    Yvonne Fein is not, however, anonymous and has devoted much of her adult life to various communal charities, projects, and causes. Manny Waks is not anonymous. David Werdiger is not anonymous. Yoram Symons is not anonymous, and for anyone with knowledge of what’s going on in the community, Malki’s identity isn’t that mysterious either. We augment evidence from our anonymous sources with accounts from these well-known people. We strongly advise you to read previous posts and comments to get a feel for what’s actually going on here, before you next comment.

    As for fact checking and editorial oversight, we check our facts, but we also make mistakes. We appreciate when these mistakes are pointed out to us, and we correct them. Should you find any factual errors in our writing, and can support your assertions with credible evidence, we will undertake to correct any errors. Once again, we encourage you to read the posts and comments, because this could have saved us from what is a very pedestrian and unnecessary diversion from the topic at hand.

    Dvash, your objections to our latest post are vociferous, and – we are assuming you have actually read the post by now – one of our primary concerns is transparency. If you are indeed for transparency, and you are also a defender of the status quo, please demonstrate how these two phenomena are currently working together in our community. Evidence and examples would be appreciated.

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  43. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Daniel.

    The problem is, there is almost no research that the community conducts on itself. So we have absolutely no hard data on what the proportions of liberals to conservatives are. We can only go on gut feeling. I know of people who have married out and had no problems at all. I know of one guy who was threatened by his family with being disowned because he had a non-Jewish girlfriend (they were secular, by the way). Maybe it’s the people I know – and they may be different from the people you know – but I just keep hearing of intermarriage after intermarriage. And all those intermarrying are grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. Things were different in their parents’ generations, but even back in the 70s, there were quite a few examples of intermarriage that did not result in anyone being disowned.

    Anyway, this sort of issue cannot be legislated for. You can’t write up rules forcing people to be decent to non-Jews. You can, however, look around at some nice examples of the community benefitting from fresh perspectives.

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  44. sensiblejew says:

    Hi Daniel.

    I know: I was using the term “legislate” flippantly. Think of it this way: those Jews who are into exclusivity will not accept such direction from leadership. Those who are inclusive already believe what the message you advocate. There is no point to such a statement except to cause yet another intercommunal slanging match over something that is a) solving itself, and b) can’t be solved ithough any top-down mechanism anyway.

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  45. sensiblejew says:

    Roagalach, thank you for admitting your true identity.

    If you are indeed Heartened, we we thank you for your sophisticated attempts to derail discussion by cutting and pasting encyclopedia entries into multiple comments. It was a brave tactic that was, unfortunately undone by the power of the moderator’s delete button.

    If you are “Wolkenberg”, then you must be proud of the sleazy, cowardly attempt to appropriate someone else’s name in order to troll.

    If you are Yiddishe Kopf, you must be very proud of calling Yvonne Fein a slut and impugning her daughter’s virtue/chastity/commitment to ethnic purity.

    In short, we hope that you are not too overcome with pride, as stunning as the above achievements are.

    But to deal with your points:

    1) You claim that we lie about substantiation. Please present relevant evidence.

    2) The AJN poll would be far less meaningless to you, we suspect, had it gone the other way.

    3) Again, we challenge you to present evidence of our failing to meet burdens of proof. And we wonder at possible masochistic tendencies that would compel you read something so painful.

    4) We recommend you lodge a complaint with the International Court of Justice. We were always partial to holidays in the Netherlands.

    5) Why indeed are you posting from proxy sites? Are you involved in other trolling activities? We had thought we were somehow special.

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  46. sensiblejew says:

    Hasid, I just think I burst a blood vessel laughing so hard! Beautiful!

    Daniel, sure. The best thing will be when the community fully embraces the non-Jews that marry-IN and make sure that our continuity is not tied to threats of being disowned.

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  47. sensiblejew says:

    Mikeybear, asked and answered. Your comment is off topic. Let’s put this side-line to rest.

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  48. sensiblejew says:

    Micahel, this is a variation on a question that has been asked and answered numerous times. We advise you to read the relevant posts and the subsequent comments.

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  49. sensiblejew says:

    JL, amid the flurry of new commenters since The Age article, I can’t remember if we’ve welcomed you yet. So just to be sure, hi, and welcome!

    Thank you very much for writing about your experiences in our institutions. Such accounts provide us all with valuable insight into how these institutions are actually run. The most visible people, our leaders, are not the people doing the nuts-and-bolts work that actually keep our community running. Those taks are left to volunteers like you. There seems to be a real disconnect between the communal “foot-soldiers” and the leadership.

    At the time of this week’s AJN publication, 85% of respondents to the weekly poll indicated that they did not feel represented by the roof bodies. If you look at the completed poll now, the percentage is actually 91%. Even though such polls are not “scientific,” such a massive number indicating dissatisfaction must surely give our leadership pause.

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