Monday, September 17, 2007

An Open Letter to JNF - Jewish High Holidays '07

Props to JTA and JewSchool for bringing the below story regarding JNF to light. An interesting example of social media used as a spotlight. Special props to leaders like Deborah Newmeyer of Moving Traditions who speak out.

This open letter to the Jewish National Fund was sent September 16th.

Ms. Jacobs:

I was extremely troubled by news in JewSchool of your organization's decision to auction off a Playboy event. Furthermore, your statement that Playboy does not objectify women is astounding.

I am a graduate student at USC's Annenberg School for Communication Program for Online Communities (APOC). In a digital age, images are extraordinarily powerful. While grown men and women are free to enjoy all forms of sexual imagery, your belief that children are not impacted by images that prioritize naked, often surgically-enhanced breasts and "dumb-blond" female archetypes is both ignorant and disturbing.

As my attached blogpost points out (link), your decision both demonstrates problematic decision and a Jewish philanthropic world cast adrift from what is most transformative and appealing to us many progressive. Jewish organizations like yours will have to look hard at your own identity, decide whether to engage in actions with more transparency and utilize the range of social media technology tools that will appeal to younger Jews.

Adults should choose whatever sexuality and play is available, but when a leader such as yourself is quoted in such a troubling context and when your public, leadership position requires that you consider how such actions send messages to Jewish youth, I respectfully hope that your organization reverses course and finds another way to appeal to Jewish men and make Judaism "attractive."


Lewis Haidt

Postscript: Write up one Jewschool, new/social media success! Received from Anita Jacobs, 8:36, pst:
Thank you for your concern regarding the auction of more than 100 items including the Playboy Mansion golf tournament item at a local New York JNF event.

JNF more often than not gets things right, but of course sometimes we don’t. Clearly this is a case of poor judgment.

The item in question was donated by local New York lay leaders who were only trying to help raise money. If JNF could reverse its course we would, but since we can’t, we apologize for accepting the donation and have removed the item from the list.

Wishing you a Shana Tova.

Jewish National Fund
Now this is type of humility and action that gives one a reason for optimism, if we start small and take action...



Blogger Deborah said...

Speaking for Moving Traditions, we find heartening the JNF decision to repair its mistake and say no thanks to the Playboy gift. This shows the power of the press, the power of speaking up, and that change is possible.

So to people who are ready to throw up their hands in defeat, take note! Take heart!

Thanks to you Lewis for spreading the word.

Shana tova/Have a good -- and activist --year,

5:07 PM  
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