Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Trees in Israel and the Playboy Mansion... An Odd Mix

Yaacov Agam and Rabbi Jason MillerTwo weeks ago I attended the Jewish National Fund Michigan Region's annual event at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, Michigan. To raise money for the JNF and its programs in Israel, works of art by world renowned artist Yaacov Agam (pictured with me at right) were auctioned off. In fact, Agam was a guest at the event and I was thrilled to have the chance to meet him. No one would dispute that it is appropriate for an organization such as the JNF to auction artwork by such a revered Jewish artist as a fundraising mechanism.

However, auctioning off a subscription to Playboy magazine and an all-expenses-paid trip to a VIP party at the legendary Playboy Mansion in California might not be the best idea for a Jewish organization. That is what the Greater New York branch of the JNF planned to do for its "JNF Sports Bonanza," but in the end they created the "Playboy Scandal" for an institution committed to planting trees in Israel and improving Israel's water sources.

Of course, Jewish feminist groups and some Israeli officials were none too pleased with this fundraising idea. And so this week the Jewish National Fund decided that it would no longer auction the Playboy package for charity.

The JNF released the following statement:

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.

I'm sure in the future JNF will vet its donated auction items a little closer.

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