But They Can’t DO That — Can They?

The students at New Voices magazine were distressed to learn that their funding will be cut; they will receive only $10,000 from the UJA-Federation of New York this year. Last year they were given $30,000, could have received $40,000 this time around, and — adding insult to injury — this year’s reduced funding also requires that they run advertisements for two pro-Israel advocacy groups free of charge.

The Forward seems to bemoan the reduced funding, quoting the editor of New Voices and one of its advocates, and discussing the layoff caused by the cut. The New Voices editor clearly seems to take the position that the UJA should simply hand over the money, whether or not New Voices is to the UJA’s liking:

The magazine’s editor, Ilana Sichel, said she believed that displeasure with the coverage of Israel in New Voices was the reason for the reduction. “The translation, as far as we understand it is: We publish articles that present Israel as a real political entity with real problems,” Sichel wrote in an e-mail. “And that doesn’t serve the advocacy agenda.”

Unfortunately for Ms. Sichel, the Golden Rule of donations is that he who has the gold, makes the rules. There’s nothing wrong or insidious with the UJA having a pro-Israel agenda.

In fact, given what New Voices publishes, my question is whether the pro-Israel advertising explains why the UJA is still investing $10,000. It is possible that the UJA, after discussing the sum of $40,000 last year for this year’s budget, didn’t want to cut the cord entirely.

The issue featured an article about Birthright Unplugged, a tour of the West Bank and Israel that challenges the authenticity of the popular Birthright Israel trips and bills itself as an opportunity for participants to “meet Palestinians and learn about daily life under occupation.” In the October issue that just went to press, a student editorial titled “Our Hearts May Be in Israel, But…” encourages organizations to deemphasize Israel issues in favor of issues facing Jews in the United States.

For the record, I don’t disagree with the latter article. I do think it’s strange for the UJC General Assembly to be hugely Israel-focused when there are plenty of issues to deal with here at home. But I can see where the UJA, as a branch of the UJC, might not want to fund a journal sharply critical of the UJC. And if New Voices is doing articles about the occupation of “Palestinian” territories captured in self-defense in 1967, I wonder how many articles they have done focusing upon the daily lives of victims of Palestinian terrorism — the reason why every Israeli effort to relieve the “pressures of occupation” has proven to be a costly mistake.

The cover article concerns Palestinian activists participating in the gay “WorldPride” and importing their political agenda. It begins with the antics of a cross-dressing “bride” of Palestine. Given this range of articles, I don’t know how the UJA explains even its reduced contribution.

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10 Responses

  1. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Sadly, our school system often neglects to teach students the basic facts of our economy. For example, that freedom means freedom to use your own resources to do something. If you want to publish a magazine and say whatever you want, make sure it is interesting enough that people will pay enough to read it to cover expenses. If you need somebody to subsidize it, make sure it is something they want to subsidize.

    My impression, which could be wrong, is that too much of the US Jewish activity, at least Heterodox Jewish activity, is based on grants and donations. Things that are self-financing (which could include donations from their users) are a lot more stable.

  2. Bob Miller says:

    I’d like to see UJA’s original rationale for supporting this rag.

  3. Miriam says:

    I’m not sure why Ms. Sichel is being painted as naive and whiny. It seems to me that she simply calls a spade a spade, both in her comments about the funding cut and in the content she publishes in New Voices. That is a valuable quality, whether the UJA chooses to support New Voices or not.

  4. DMZ says:

    I was a regular reader of New Voices back in college. Believe me when I say that it was a piece of trash. They regularly ran articles bashing Orthodoxy and associated institutions. You were lucky if there was _one_ article in the issue that had any sort of redeeming value.

    I think they were trying to come off as edgy and hip. In reality, they came off as leftist and ignorant. Too bad.

  5. Daniel says:

    I was also a regular reader in college and I agree with DMZ’s comment. In addition, the articles were very poorly written. They tended to be incoherent and/or rambling, with numerous spelling and grammatical errors. UJA should insist on getting more for their money’s worth.

  6. Calev says:

    I think it’s a smart move for the New York Federation to maintain a significant amount of funding for this magazine while linking it to pro-Israel ads. To sever the connection immediately would simply open it to slurs of heavy-handed Zionist censorship. I’ve never seen the magazine but it sounds like so many student rags that are available on campuses across the free world: self-indulgent, full of sound and fury – a display of undergraduates’ supreme belief in their own wisdom (a little learning is a dangerous thing). The editorial team of New Voices clearly believe they have the right to dissent from the mainstream Jewish communal mindset. Surely, then, they should not be so hypocritical as to complain when a few pages of their own organ voice dissent from their views.

  7. Larry Lennhoff says:

    An alternative perspective can be found at JewSchool. I guess the issue is what the money is being given for. If it is to subsidize an approved party line, then yanking funding for failing to toe that line is completely reasonable. If it is to encourage the development of a new generation of Jewish thinkers, then I think cutting them off because you don’t like their thoughts might very well be shooting yourself in the foot.

    Additionally, the point is made that New Voices, by providing a realistic rather than an idealized view of Israel, actually empowered people on campus to be more effective advocates for the state.

  8. Ori Pomerantz says:

    College students are supposed to be:

    1. Adults, capable of directing their own lives.

    2. In a university, where they have access to thinkers of all kinds to model and to bounce ideas off of.

    Given this, is it really necessary to fund something to encourage them to develop into a new generation of thinkers, Jewish or otherwise?

  9. Bagelblogger says:

    mmmm kind of reminds you of the saying “You don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”
    The Mag can publish what they like, and organsations can sponsor who they like, to think otherwise is to lack practicality


  10. Miriam says:

    Believe me when I say that it was a piece of trash.
    DMZ, why not encourage people to investigate for themselves and make their own judgments?

    If Orthodoxy and associated institutions are in the right, they will stand up to critical analysis. If they aren’t, it’s important for people to be aware of the flaws so that they can act accordingly.

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