New York Jewish Week editor and publisher Gary Rosenblatt has a fascinating column about a study commissioned by the national policy-making body on Jewish community relations to look at duplication and excessive competition between Jewish defense organizations such as the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress and Anti-Defamation League — 60 years ago.
The long-since forgotten MacIver Report, undertaken by a Columbia University sociologist in January of 1960, looked at six national groups then involved in Jewish advocacy and called for consolidation. The groups rejected the idea and what has followed over the past six decades is the creation of dozens more groups — and ultimately, argues Rosenblatt — a weakening of many of them.
"Still, even after all this time, there is much in the report that is eerily relevant, from the charges of excessive duplication and waste, to the insistence by each of the national organizations that its work is unique and cannot be consolidated or shared, and that fundraising cannot be pooled," he writes.
Rosenblatt follows that critique by talking with the heads of several of these organizations, such as Marc Stern of the American Jewish Congress and Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council on Public Affairs, and finds that despite their weakened positions they are still holding onto their provincial ways.
"And so it goes. Conversations with the principals in various national organizations result in each one casting his organization in a key role, and describing other groups as performing a lesser service," Rosenblatt writes. "And maybe that’s the point. Each of our national organizations has its own culture, constituency and outlook. And for better or worse, the logical proposals of a MacIver Report are never going to happen in today’s American Jewish community."