Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I had decided some months ago to spend some time writing a book. Even as I initially thought the title might be the question I am most often asked -- Who Told You About That? -- as my book had nothing directly to do with United Jewish Communities, I found a more appropriate one -- Judgment Fled...The Musings of a Wandering Jew. I have been spending my free time trying to finish this collection of thoughts and observations, hopefully humorous, compiled over my decades of involvement in Jewish life.

A couple of examples:

"The NOAM"

copyright November 2007

Richard L. Wexler

Chicago, Illinois

Here I was, catching up on my Chicago newspapers on my return from a trip to Israel when the following article in the Chicago Tribune caught my eye. (I am not making this up.)

"Ritual Circumcisers Convene; Politics and Religion Follow

Every trade has its professional meetings, replete with souvenir mugs and other tchotkes, tabletop forums for lame jokes and tricks of the trade. So why should it have been any different when NOAM met at the Hyatt Regency Hotel last week?

'I'm more afraid of taking off too little than too much," observed Victor Borden at the opening luncheon.

A seatmate picked up a pen inscribed to commemorate the organization's 20th Anniversary. Thicker than most, it had a retractable point.

'It looks just like a...," the fellow said.

NOAM stands for National Organization of American Mohelim -- Ritual Circumcisers to the Reform Wing of the Jewish Faith."

This was all too hard to believe. "Reform Ritual Circumcisers" -- oxymoronic in the opinion of some!! And the redundancy -- "National" and "American" -- who creates these titles? So on the next visit of the NOAM Convention to Chicago, I snuck off the the Hyatt to check out what was going on (and I am making some of this up).

Here are some of the topics for the Conference's Agenda:

  • Tips on Tips

  • 'The Boy Who Peed from his Ear" and other stories'

  • Liability Insurance in a litigious age

  • Keynote: Steven Nasatir, CEO, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, "The Circumcision as an Entry Point into Jewish Communal Life"

  • The tools of the trade -- does a virtual circumcision count?

  • Stories to tell/Songs to sing

  • When the snippers slip

  • Continuing professional education -- do we really need it?

Back to reality, as reported in the Tribune, the Regional Director of the Reform Movement, Rabbi Dan Rabishaw noted in his address to the throng, as "[H]e exhorted conventioneers to strive to be more than mere circumcisers. 'Are you a cutter? A snipper? Or are you a Jewish identity facilitator?"

This is big stuff -- or, perhaps, little stuff.

Me, I can't wait till next year."


...and, there is this one...


copyright January 2008
Richard Wexler
Chicago, Illinois

Only in America.

Immediately after Thanksgiving 2007, the following article appeared on The EaterWire Blog following-up on entries on Huffington Post. (I know you are wondering: "huh"?)

"FalafelGate: 'Too ridiculous to be true' says FBI
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

About a month ago, reports surfaced that the FBI tracked falafel sales in San Francisco with the hopes of unearthing Iranian secret agents in the Bay Area, much to the collective 'nuh-uh!' of an unsurprised nation. Well, after several weeks of intensive research, the FBI PR department has determined that the FBI did not engage in such practices and would like to tell everyone that tracking falafel sales with the hope of finding terrorists is just plain silly.

'We at the FBI were surprised to read about a supposed FBI program to monitor the sales of Middle Eastern food products in the Bay Area in support of counterterrorism intelligence gathering' ('FBI Hoped to Follow Falafel Trail to Iranian Terrorists Here,' November 2, 2007).

Having never heard of this, I spoke to the counterterrorism managers, who in the story were identified as having hatched the plan, as well as everyone else who would have had any knowledge of it. Nobody did. At one point in the story, writer Jeff Stein opines "as ridiculous as it sounds,' in reference to the alleged food monitoring plan, which reportedly was described to Mr. Stein by 'well-informed sources.'

In this case too ridiculous to be true.

While the story above may have been the source of some amusement, I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight on something that touches on something so important as national security and civil liberties."

Duh? I must admit it was hard for me just to reprint this exactly as it appeared in EaterWire. It deserved so much more. But, I thought I showed unusual restraint. Then, FBI denials notwithstanding, through secret sources, I was able to obtain the confidential transcripts of FBI San Francisco-based special agent Petey Ford's notes of recorded conversations taking place at Greenstein's Falafel Deli in San Francisco's SOMA District. These notes, incoherent as some may be, follow:

"Danny (inaudible)": "Some shmekel at Table 7 wants more tehini in his pita."
"Morty (inaudible)": "So, give the putz a little more tehini. The customer is always right."
Agent Ford in his notes: Must check meaning of words shmekel, putz, tehini...and pita. (This is almost straight out of Lives of Others.)

Morty: "That guy at Table 7 must be some kind of Iranian -- he still wants more tehini and now he wants tzatzili sauce. What a shmuck...probably an Iranian terrorist!"
Danny: "Tell that Iranian -- Klog tzu meineh sonim a broch tzu dir!!"

Agent Ford's notes: We got 'em. Iranian terrorists at Greenstein's Falafel Deli.
Agent Ford: I sent Agent Murphy to sift through the garbage at Greenstein's. He came upon a paper printed in strange hieroglyphics. (Upon review by the FBI forensics lab, it turned out to be The Forward Yiddish edition.)

Yes, only in America.


And I should waste my time on a Blog about UJC? Hah!! Not when I can waste my time like this!! Now, please don't send me critical comments about my Musings, I can't stand criticism.


Monday, January 28, 2008


I first became aware that a Disunited Jewish Communities Blog had been published when, as was the case with many others, an UIA Board member sent me the link along with the comment "How sad." I read the Posts and the Comments with interest and shared concern. Others, understandably, were more focused on the question: "who are the bloggers"? Many of those so concerned began to spread the word that I must "be the one." I received a number of phone calls each with the question: "Are you writing that Blog"? I wasn't; I'm not, but I am writing this one.

Those who know me, and I include Howard Rieger, Joe Kanfer and Kathy Manning, UJC's leadership troika, know that if I have a concern, a criticism or observation about UJC, I have no qualms about writing them and signing my name. In a moment of folly I even wrote a book about UJC's formative years -- United Jewish Catastrophes....A Love Story -- in my name. Yet, I fully understand the reasons that the "Boys/Girls of UJC" have chosen not to identify themselves. I appreciate their (his/her) passion and their concerns.

I am totally committed to the success of UJC, our collective enterprise. Sould UJC fail, many of our dreams will be at risk as well, None of us can afford to let that happen. All of us, not alone UJC's lay and professional leaders, have a real stake in UJC's success. At heart I am a fund raiser, so I always have hope. I have always believed that Joe, Kathy and Howard have a far greater commitment to the successes and achievements of UJC than any of us. They are committed leaders capable of recreating UJC as we had envisioned it at the time of the merger...or better. That is their charge. My differences with them are, have been and will no doubt be l'shem shamayim -- perhaps, someday, they will come to understand that.

Friends, if the federation professionals -- not alone the Large City Executives but the chief professional officers of all federations of every City-size -- engage fully and constantly (and, if appropriate, critically) and the lay UJC Board members demand proactive engagement consistent with their fiduciary obligations, then UJC will succeed beyond measure. For if UJC's owners -- the lay and professional leaders who are the representatives of their federations --abdicate their ownership obligations then surely, the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, it is in ourselves.

More to certainly follow.