≡ Menu

American Jewish Leaders Rake in Big Bucks Despite Failing Brands

abe foxman

Abe Foxman

Just as many CEOs of major corporations manage to increase their compensation despite miserable profits and stock performance, so it is with the leaders of the largest and most influential American Jewish organizations. The Forward, earlier this month, reported the compensation  of many of the most prominent among them. Here are some of them (latest salary information is for 2010 unless otherwise noted and in a few cases I have updated information to include full compensation including benefits, if the Forward didn’t):

Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman
$690,000  (2009)

American Jewish Committee’s David Harris
$736,000

Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Marvin Hier
$760,000

Aipac’s Howard Kohr
$581,000

Republican Jewish Coalition’s Matt Brooks
$482,000 (2009)

Conference of Presidents’ Malcolm Hoenlein
$627,000 (2011)

Jewish National Fund
$410,000 (2009)

Zionist Organization of America’s Mort Klein
$363,000

Birthright Israel
$353,000

The Israel Project’s Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi
$200,000

Most of the salaries listed above are borderline obscene. They place their recipients squarely among the Jewish 1% and distance themselves from the rest of us. This is yet another reason most of the organizations listed above have long passed their Jewish “sell-by” date.

One measure of this (though not the sole one by any means) is their fundraising. The two of the three highest paid executives on my list, Harris and Foxman, run organizations whose fundraising has dropped dramatically over the past several years. The ADL’s has declined by over 30% between 2006-2010. AJC’s funding levels dropped by a similar amount in the same period. Their executives’ salaries, of course, have not. While we shouldn’t make the mistake of judging a non-profit’s ongoing relevance solely by it’s fundraising prowess, it is one indication of how much excitement there is for the group’s mission among donors and other funders.

I would maintain that these groups have lost their way and their relevance to all but the oldest members of the community. While times have changed, they have not. They continue to attempt to be all things to all Jews, which actually means being nothing to anyone but the alter-kockers.

I also don’t buy the explanation/excuse offered by the groups themselves for the declines registered. They say it’s because donors want more control over their donations and no longer are willing to give unrestricted gifts. The more likely reason is that as Jews become more integrated into American life, with attendant higher income and social status, they are sought after as donors and directors to local, regional and national non-profits outside the Jewish sphere. Jews now give extensively to the colleges and universities they attended, museums, symphonies, operas, political parties, social justice and environmental groups than they ever did in the past. This is money that in previous generations would’ve gone directly to Jewish causes. Now, it’s gone and there is very little money from the younger generation to replace it. All this means that the general interest Jewish groups are in the midst of an inexorable decline. I’d predict that even the single-interest pro-Israel groups mentioned below will be effected by this decline eventually.

All of which means that as these groups lose funding, their missions will also suffer. The good deeds and projects that benefited the Jewish community, plus the positive values they represented (long ago, though less so now) will gradually disappear. I don’t know what, if anything, will take their place. All this could lead to an inexorable decline in the quality of American Jewish life.

The groups that have thrived in this environment have been the single issue, largely pro-Israel ones like Aipac (+30% over past five years), The Israel Project (+30% from 2008-2010), Stand With Us (+40% between 2007-2010), and J Street (its funding increased by 300% from 2007-2008, the J Street Education Fund increased 400% from 2009-2010, and the J Street PAC increased by 200% from 2008 to 2010). These statistics are an expression of the increasing fragmentation of the Jewish community and its realignment largely around a single issue: Israel. There seems little that holds much of the organized community together except the state formally-known as the Homeland of the Jewish People.

Partially, this reflects a certain impoverishment in Jewish identity. Partially, it represents a major error made by American Jews and their leaders of putting all their eggs in Israel’s basket. When Israel crushes these eggs, then what is left for Jews to believe in?

We need an identity that includes Israel, but is not limited to it. We need to jettison the single issue Jewish identity hawked by fat cat ideologues like Michael Steinhardt and Sheldon Adelson. Their Jewishness is a dead-end. Those who are fooled into following these Pied Pipers will discover in the long run that they’ve made a fool’s bargain. They may have fat coffers, but they will stand for nothing, or at least nothing that will nurture the next generation and offer it something substantial and value-based as sustenance.

Bufferfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditlinkedintumblrmail
youtube

{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Morris Katz December 27, 2011, 7:20 AM

    The one salary that stands out is that of Marvin Hier, who made over $700,000 raising money to bring 90-year-old Nazis and suspected Nazis to justice. So far the best he came up with recently is a 90-year-old who served seven years on Israel’s Death Row for being someone he wasn’t, before the Israeli Supreme Court, to its great credit, let him go. So Hier and the Wiesenthal Center, fearful of losing donations, pressured the US State Department to re-revoke Demjanjuk’s passport and ship him off to Germany, to stand trial for being someone he may or may not have been. As there were no witnesses to testify against him we’ll never know whether Demjanjuk was a rabid killer of Jews, some Ukranian schnook who was captured by the Germans and given the job of guarding an empty field, or none of the above. I suspect the second, but again, without witnesses, we’ll never know.

    But if convicting a 90-year-old schnook who’s already been to the wall on charges which turned out to be incorrect will somehow absolve present-day Germans of the crimes of the Third Reich; hey, they’re already absolved, but maybe Demjanjuk’s conviction will raise a few bucks for the Wiesenthal Foundation, and give hypocritical German prosecutors a chance to say we’ve brought this notorious Nazi to justice, so we can all absolve ourselves of our grandparents’ crimes.

    Oh, did I mention that Hier’s wife makes over $300K, and son another $150K or so. Nice pay for tracking down 90-year-olds in their dotage.

  • Concerned Citizen (US) December 27, 2011, 9:37 AM

    But all the examples you gave are supporting Israel and on the Right. How about the Jewish Federations of NA, a tad higher than Foxman? What on earth do they do?
    Foxman measures anti-Semitism and runs programs on tolerance and puts himself on the line by speaking out in an increasingly complex world, in which Israel for all its flaws is a beacon and the Jews, as they have always been – for all their flaws – are the canaries in the coal mine.

  • delia ruhe December 27, 2011, 1:52 PM

    Those are astounding fundraising statistics for such a wishy-washy organization as J Street. If the trajectory of Jewish money continues like this, in a few years it’ll be two huge armies on the Israel battlefield: AIPAC vs. J STREET. And that is, of course, what the founders of J Street had in mind.

  • Denis December 27, 2011, 8:06 PM

    It’s a bit off topic but this thread could use some life . . .

    . . . didn’t I see the suggestion on this blog a couple weeks ago that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may not be among the living anymore?

    I haven’t seen anyone else suggest that, but it’s interesting because it occurred to me today while reading the latest threats out of Iran that I hadn’t seen Mahmoud in the news for quite a while. These latest threats are coming from the Supreme Vice Whoopee-Dude Mohammad Reza Rahimi. And last week’s came from the head naval honcho.

    Anybody seen Mahmoud?

    • Richard Silverstein December 27, 2011, 10:59 PM

      No, you read a pro-Israel hack commenter quoting some lame-assed propaganda site making such a claim.

  • jjcostandi December 28, 2011, 4:52 AM

    @RichardSilverstein

    In response to your quote reproduced below, I suggest you read Gilad Atzmon’s book “The Wandering Who?” — http://www.amazon.com/Wandering-Who-Gilad-Atzmon/dp/1846948754

    RS quote:
    “We need an identity that includes Israel, but is not limited to it. We need to jettison the single issue Jewish identity hawked by fat cat ideologues like Michael Steinhardt and Sheldon Adelson. Their Jewishness is a dead-end. Those who are fooled into following these Pied Pipers will discover in the long run that they’ve made a fool’s bargain. They may have fat coffers, but they will stand for nothing, or at least nothing that will nurture the next generation and offer it something substantial and value-based as sustenance.”

    • Richard Silverstein December 29, 2011, 12:20 AM

      My views are quite far removed from Gilad Atzmon. He goes much, much farther than I do and denounces Israel and its very existence as far as I understand.

    • Parah Salin December 30, 2011, 1:17 PM

      You might consider this critique of Gilad Atzmon and Israel Shamir. louisproyect gives them and the surrounding controversy a good treatment, along with the comments.

  • Parah Salin December 30, 2011, 1:04 PM

    “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution,” – the shirkey principle

    Just iike the banks, I see:
    IRS records indicate the group has shrunk from 528 employees in 2008 to 427 in 2010. Foxman’s salary, meanwhile, has increased at an average of 3.45% annually over the last three years, from $563,024 in 2008 to $621,470 in 2010.

    AJC is now “advocating energy independence”, and I’ve seen a right wing blog (NRO) suggest that pushing for alternate energy sources and protesting against Keystone XL is a postion of self hating jews or plain old anti-semitic.

    if it’s taking money from oil companies that want to drill in North America, it’s renting its self out as a front for greenwashing.

    p.s.. re “alter-kockers”. it’s koch.

Leave a Comment