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Monday, November 29, 2004

Losers and Refugees

How did I miss this?

According to the OU's new President:

"People are starting to go to Israel for the right reasons. Years ago aliya was for people who were running away from something. They weren't successful. They didn't have a successful marriage. They were coming because there was a reason. They weren't role models. But today I see really successful people. Young people. Doctors, lawyers, business people, finance people, who are giving it up not to come here to starve. Not to schnorr from their parents."

I beg your pardon?

The above referenced statement was delivered just three hours into this guy's term as OU president!  I guess he wanted to hit the ground running, so to speak.

Well, as far as I'm concerned, he can keep right on running... far, far from here.

What he's saying is that all of the people from North America who have previously given up successful careers, financial security, proximity to friends and family, as well as whatever standing they may have had in their former communities... all in order to live with impossibly high taxes and a lower standard of living... these are apparently all just figments of Zionist mythology???

It sounds like he is trying to liken us to Australia's early immigrants; refugees and outcasts from a society in which we all failed miserably.  Apparently, it is only the current wave of immigrants that are coming for the "right reasons" and who are proper "role models".

Give me strength!

This pompous fat cat is the very sort of person who turned down the opportunity to return to the land of Israel from Babylonia when it became permissible.  After all, it was much more comfortable in Bavel.  I can't blame Ezra one bit for refusing to allow this sort of person the opportunity to participate in the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Every few years the North American Jewish community starts making noise about Israel not paying attention to the wants and needs of the Jews in the diaspora.  Well listen up folks - it's because your 'wants and needs' are being expressed by insensitive, wrong-headed leaders like this that we don't listen very closely.

Since I moved here within the past two years, Mr. Savitsky probably thinks of me as  part of this 'good aliyah'. 

Thanks, but no thanks.  If you have to lump me with someone... I'd much rather be counted with the brave, selfless, idealistic Americans who came before me... for all the RIGHT reasons!

I want two things from Stephen Savitsky (in no particular order):  An apology and his resignation.

[hat tip -  and a more reasoned treatment of the issue: My Obiter Dicta ]


Posted by David Bogner on November 29, 2004 | Permalink


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» Apologize, You Big Jerk! from An Unsealed Room
The incoming president of the Orthodox Union, Stephen Savitsky, decided to plant his foot firmly in his mouth just hours after taking office, offering up this gem in the Jerusalem Post. People are starting to go to Israel for the... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 29, 2004 12:48:32 PM

» OU Have to be Kidding from Israellycool

In a Jerusalem Post article last week entitled New OU president pushes aliya, the new president of the Orthodox U... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 29, 2004 3:05:52 PM

» No surprises from the OU from Faith in Nathan
The English-speaking community of Olim is having a conniption (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) over lame comments by the Orthodox Union's President smearing Olim. The comments in question: "People are starting to go to Israel for the right... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 30, 2004 11:56:03 AM

» Thanks a Lot, Mr. Savitsky from Elms in the Yard
(For more takes on Steven J. Savitsky’s unfortunate statement, check out Allison Kaplan Sommer at An Unsealed Room, David at Treppenwitz, Sarah, Alisa and Dave.) [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 30, 2004 2:36:06 PM

» Foot, meet mouth from Piled Higher and Deeper
The first words from the Orthodox Union's new president, Stephen Savitsky, has not been received well by Anglo-Israeli bloggers. After reading this quote, I can understand why: People are starting to go to Israel for the right reasons. Years ago... [Read More]

Tracked on Nov 30, 2004 6:04:42 PM

» Foot, meet mouth from Piled Higher and Deeper
The first words from the Orthodox Union's new president, Stephen Savitsky, has not been received well by Anglo-Israeli bloggers. After reading this quote, I can understand why: People are starting to go to Israel for the right reasons. Years ago... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 5, 2005 7:51:12 PM


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Oh you have such a cute kid! (Yonah).

Posted by: Hatshepsut | Nov 29, 2004 2:22:11 PM

Hatshepsut... Thanks, we think he's pretty cute too. I guess what with you being from Iceland and all, today's rant didn't hold much interest for you. ;->

Posted by: David | Nov 29, 2004 2:27:47 PM

The text reads like tough words (he is blue-eyed, what a coincidence, huh)...is it really the full interview and reproduced in a correct framework? I wonder. Not to defend anyone, just really really wondering.

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | Nov 29, 2004 3:24:32 PM

mademoiselle a. ... I too was bothered by the 'blue eyed' comment. Clearly the Jerusalem Post writer was attempting to make the guy sound either non-orthodox... or even like a non-Jew/convert... but the text is an exact quote from the Jerusalem Post (the link is in the first sentence of my entry).

Posted by: David | Nov 29, 2004 3:39:34 PM

No - I know YOU were quoting it right. My point is...in how much has this interview probably been truncated by the Post and therefore oscillates beyond its intended message?
Blue-eyed also refers to a concept of naivety; the attributing was striking in every respect, though. Maybe both should be taken off their jobs.

Posted by: mademoiselle a. | Nov 29, 2004 4:58:48 PM

Mademoiselle a.: I applaud your attempt at dam l'chaf zchut! I too am trying to hope that Mr. Savitsky was misquoted instead of being horribly misguided, but even "out-of-context" his statement fails to recognize the monumental significance of North Americans whose aliyah paved the road for those coming now.

I wonder how many of the "new" olim would have the patience to sit hour after hour in office after office, only to be told their documents are insufficient and they need to return day after day to correct things?!

Or to be the first Anglos in a community, with no other English speakers to help you or your children with your klita?

I am so very grateful to the thousands of olim who preceded me! They are my heros! Through their successes I learned that I, too, could be successful! Their invaluable advice, their so-called-failed-attempts at making a living, their desire to escape WHATEVER – they showed me that it IS possible to reinvent yourself and to make a sustainable home and pursue happiness in our homeland.

When I read Mr. Savitsky's words, my heart hurt for the former olim who welcomed us into their homes on our pilot trip. These selfless people – some who've lived here more than 30 years – are so infused with a love of our land and our people that they open their homes 3, 4 and 5 times a year to groups like Tehilla to educate potential olim and to offer emotional and logistical support.

I also thought of the many former olim who've dedicated their professional lives to easing the path for new olim: many (if not all) of the staff at the Nefesh B'Nefesh offices, the folks at the Sachnut (Jewish Agency), the folks at Tehilla, AACI, the list could go on indefinitely.

And even if his comments didn't actively insult olim whose aliyah was "years ago" – don't you find it odd – perhaps even a tad [note the dripping sarcasm here!] hypocritical that these comments are being made by someone who has YET to make aliyah?

I deeply understand that the decision to make aliyah (or not) can be difficult. Separating yourself from family, friends, language, country, etc. is a monumental task. Some people require more time to work up the courage to take this step.

Certainly, new olim are deserving of encouragement, admiration, and recognition; BUT, to honor them at the expense of those who've not only preceded them but improved their lot, is just plain wrong!

Posted by: zahava | Nov 29, 2004 5:35:25 PM

I am not excusing this man because I completely disagree with him. But sometimes when we feel uncomfortable or insecure about things we discuss them in less favorable terms so as to make ourselves feel better.

He may not even be aware that he was doing this.

Posted by: Jack | Nov 29, 2004 6:29:30 PM

FYI I've quoted part of your post, and part of Zahava's comment, on my blog -- and added my own response to Savitsky's statement.

Posted by: Sarah | Nov 29, 2004 6:35:22 PM

mademoiselle a. ... I'll be satisfied with just the one head rolling, thanks.

Zahava... as usual you said it better than I could have.

Jack... This is the president of one of the largest (if not THE largest)orthodox Jewish organization in the world! If he doesn't know he is being offensive to a large portion of Israeli Jews, that is absolutely a reason for him to step down.

Sarah... Thanks, I hope many more bloggers will get the word out since the Jpost article didn't really address how offensive the remarks were.

Posted by: David | Nov 29, 2004 8:58:06 PM

Well it's good to know that if/when I make aliyah to Israel from Canada I will be doing it for the RIGHT reasons. Where, I feel better.
It's a wonder the guy could speak after that, what with the foot in his mouth and all. Jerkoff.

Posted by: celestial blue | Nov 29, 2004 9:15:59 PM

To paraphrase Claude Rains:"I am shocked, shocked, to find an official of the OU act like an asshole......"

Posted by: jordan | Nov 30, 2004 4:33:36 AM

Speaking of loser outcasts making aliyah... Today is the 57th anniversary of the UN resolution approving the partition plan that gave the Jews living in the British mandate (then called Palestine) a Jewish State. Those pathetic losers then were attacked by the surrounding Arab armies, fought and won the War of Independence and declared the State of Israel. IsraPundit is participating in a "BlogBurst" to publicize this important anniversary. (I learned about it via LGF.) How unfortunate that the OU story broke today!

Perhaps his foolish comments bug me less than you because, though I belong to a modern Orthodox shul (synagogue), I don't really think of the OU as speaking for me. (I don't differ with your assessment of his comments.) I detest all denominations equally! I adore my Rabbi and my shul but I feel no allegiance to Orthodoxy. I would love (and I think my Rabbi would as well) to see a post-denominational Judaism in which some Jews were more religious and some less, but without different institutionalized "kinds" of Jews. Like it was before the denominations (which was only about 200 years ago) only with the modern understanding that Jews will vote with their feet if their Rabbis lead them astray.

Sorry for the long comment. I always get frustrated when Jews say or do moronic things that hurt other Jews. We have enough enemies without fratricide.

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Nov 30, 2004 8:26:45 AM

Celestial... Zahava and I had a good chuckle over your comment. Thanks. I agree... about the shoe, and about the other part.

Jordan... To paraphrase Bogart; This may well be the end of a beautiful friendship (between Americans in Israel and the OU).

Posted by: David | Nov 30, 2004 8:27:39 AM

drat! we cross-posted. :-(

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Nov 30, 2004 9:01:48 AM


No one said that you had to have common sense, intelligence or anything else that matters to be president of the OU. All too often we find ourselves with leaders who are there because of the influence of others, not necessarily because they are best suited for the job.

On a side note, here is a brief story from my past. Many years ago I worked for a manufacturer of diamond tools. It was a colorful group of people, several of whom were in and out of jail.

One particular day I caused a near riot with a comment I made. It was 5 o'clock and I said where did the day go? The large Italian man behind me was certain that I had made a racial slur and had to be restrained by two other employees.

It cost three beers to calm that hot head down. Anyway, enough of my tale. I'd be interested in hearing what the man has to say about this now.

This is his opportunity to explain himself and you can decide whether it is spin or just stupidity.

Posted by: Jack | Nov 30, 2004 9:23:38 AM

I think everyone should take a deep breadth here, at least I will. I am disappointed by Mr. Savitsky's comments, for many of the passionate reasons that don’t need to be retyped. However, I know Mr. Savitsky and have worked with him in the past. He is a very good and decent fellow. His CV of dedication, sincere volunteer work for the Jewish community is particularly impressive. Unlike others who have occupied leadership positions in the OU, I have always sensed he lacked the pompous, megalomaniac character traits that are so common in these top positions. I'm not sure where these comments or perceptions came from and I wont make excuses for him. But he is a good guy that said something very stupid. People make mistakes. Don’t we all? I think he will get and has received a very quick education on the aliya issue and in the future he will learn how to be more sensitive and politically astute. Steve is a lay leader; he is not a paid professional. His stepping down will not solve anything. Educating him on the history of aliya, in a constructive way will have a much greater impact. Aleh V’hatzliach

Posted by: DM | Nov 30, 2004 12:02:45 PM

Doctor Bean... That happens some times (cross posting).

As to 'denomination-free Judaism', that only works if Jews basically agree on more than the sum of what divides them. I'm not going to get into the whole issue now, but make note that on this date I said I thought Judaism wasn't yet ready to tear down the walls.

Jack... so far a big fat nothing is coming from the OU and its president on the subject. That (meaning silence), in my experience, is how they handle most of their scr*w-ups.

DM... Let me understand this. You're telling me that because he is a 'good guy' I should excuse the head of the largest orthodox organization in the world for insulting the entire population of North American olim who have moved here up until now? He heads an organization which has stated its wish to make aliyah its highest priority, right? Just checking.

I don't care if he gets a penny or a million bucks for acting as head of the OU. He is clearly ill suited for the position if he thinks that any American who made aliyah before today did so to escape some personal failure.

If he were an intern or a junior level staffer I could excuse him and chalk it up to a learning experience. But he is the top guy! You don't get on-the-job-training at that level. You succeed of you fail. The fact that he not only failed, but has thus far refused to own up to his failure, makes the case for his uselessness better than I ever could.

If this is the best face the OU can put forward, they haven't learned a damned thing since the bumbling Lanner days.

Posted by: David | Nov 30, 2004 12:58:40 PM

CR:Why did you come to Israel?
HB:I came for the peace and quiet.
CR:There's no peace and quiet in Israel.
HB: I was misinformed.

Posted by: jordan | Nov 30, 2004 8:56:02 PM

In response to Dr. Bean. I'm not saying Savitsky should not be held accountable. What I am saying is that maybe he made a mistake? Maybe he'll apologize. Not that this situation can be compared to anything but, recently the CEO of Tnuva said something VERY disparaging against Jews in Yesha....that includes many of us! In response, Jews in Yesha boycotted Tnuva. Subsequently, the CEO "sort of" apologized that his remarks were misinterpreted. Now the boycott is over (for some.) Expressions of protest in the OU situation are warranted. Lets see if there is some type of clarification, retraction, etc. Lets see. Invoking the Lanner (please please, please, I do not want to get into this at all) days is predictable. It only demonstrates to me, that what ever future mistakes OU leadership will make, they will be held to a elevated standard of scrutiny, no matter how far removed the situation may be from the Lanner affair. I mean did anyone here blog their outrage about being offended by Tnuva CEO Ariel Reichman’s comments that called a Jewish presence in Yesha a “malignant cancer?” Umm, That was a rhetorical question.

Posted by: DM | Nov 30, 2004 11:45:04 PM

Actually, invoking Lanner is well founded. Not because anyone is suggesting that Savitzky is in any way, shape, or form remotely connected to anytrhing abusive. Rather, the problem is part of what plagued the OU in that case, which is total cluelessness regarding how their organization is perceived, and tone deafness to the actions and words of the community.
I mean, beside the fact that Savitzky insulted two generation of North American Aliyah, did anyone notice who was elevated by his remarks? "Doctors, Lawyers, Business People, Finance People." What's wrong, teachers and musicians and sanitation workers and cops are not worthy of attention from the OU? Only those petit bourgoisie who fit the cookie cutter model of the OU board need be taken seriously. You know, fuck you, OU,

Posted by: jordan | Dec 1, 2004 5:17:28 AM

DM... You know I love you dearly and respect you both personally and professionally. So hopefully you'll accept the following statement in the spirit it is offered:

You are too close to the picture (having been an employee of the OU) and your first and only reaction seems to be as an apologist for the OU's history of wrong-headed management.

He screwed up. Big itme. He made the kind of gaff from which one doesn't recover. This reflects a type of thinking that has no place at the top of the OU, and I don't give a rats ass if he is a nice guy. When he wanted to be, Lanner was a heck of nice guy too... but if he had laid a finger on my kid, they would never have found his body.

Jordan... It is clear that the OU's leadership is always going to court the big money because, let's face it, there aren't too many big gifts coming in from school teachers and welders. I can't blame them for recognizing where their bread is buttered. But as an orginization you can't say that aliyah is your highest priority and then insult everyone who has ever made aliyah up to this point.

Posted by: David | Dec 1, 2004 9:01:52 AM

WOW! Look at all the testosterone! Boys... you're gonna have to play nice or we might have to take the blog away....

Posted by: zahava | Dec 1, 2004 10:25:25 PM

Do not invoke the testosterone clause wih me. My groin was kicked enough by Lanner to know that mine has to be doled out very caefully, and I am certainly not going to waste it here. My thoughts are the product of calm reasoning. If they sound a little harsh, it's because the OU deserves it.

Posted by: jordan | Dec 2, 2004 12:48:00 AM

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Posted by: Sandra-yw | Jul 31, 2007 1:06:40 AM

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