July 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

JFNNJ’s Dan Shlufman Wants Jews to ‘Stay on Message’

JFNNJ board members Stephanie Cohn and Andrew Jacobs stand with Federation Board President Dan Shlufman (center).

The president of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, based in Paramus, is frustrated that the Arabs, Palestinians and Hamas are beating the Jewish leadership at the public relations game mainly because there is no leadership at the top for the Jewish community.

“I’m totally frustrated because we do one thing and it morphs into something else. This is a well- organized opponent we’re facing,” Daniel Shlufman, Federation president, told The Jewish Link. “For us as Jews, we have a very hard time staying on message because Jews are taught a lot of times to argue. It’s part of our Torah. It’s part of our Talmud to discuss and to argue but at times of crisis, which is where we are now, we need a leader. Everybody can’t be a leader.”

He compared how the Jewish side is poorly handling the marketing campaign as compared to the Palestinians being more on point, even if the message is hogwash.

“Why are the Palestinians doing such a better job with public relations? Because they have a unified message and people follow that message,” Shlufman said. “They have that horrendous chants, ‘From the river to the sea,’ ‘Zionism is racism,’ ‘Israel is an apartheid state,’ but they stay on message.”

The issues in northern New Jersey, which encompasses Hudson, Bergen and Passaic counties, is not a region where the Jewish communities coalesce for any one purpose. “What’s important now for the Jewish people is that we have to be united and one of the biggest problems we have in northern New Jersey is that we have tremendous diversity, which in a lot of cases is our strength, but right now is becoming our kryptonite,” Shlufman contended.

“We have a very large Orthodox population,” he continued. “We have a large Conservative population and a large unaffiliated population or Reform movement. In general, they don’t interact well together and it’s very difficult to get them to realize that we are one people and antisemitism affects us all. We are trying really hard at Jewish federation to bring the community together. Besides fighting the external battles against the antisemites, against the pro-Hamas faction, we’re fighting an internal battle to organize a community to follow along the path.”

At a veteran’s community breakfast hosted by the Paramus-based Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, pictured are (l-r) President Dan Shlufman; veteran of the Korean Army Michael KyungMun Nam, 39, executive director and CEO of the Korean Community Center (KCC); Dalia Zahger Levy, director, Civic & Community Engagement with the Federation; and Englewood Police Department Detective Ronald Layne, 36, of Matawan, NJ. He served in the United States Army and was discharged with the rank of captain. The breakfast occurred on November 11, 2022.

Shlufman, 59, said his daughter attends Cornell University, an Ivy League school in Ithaca, New York that is trying to tackle antisemitic issues on that campus with the president basically being silent on the matter.

“These are not college students we’re facing. We’re not facing off against Palestinian college students. We’re facing off against a well-organized social media and media campaign that is funded by Arab countries and probably by terrorist organizations as well,” Shlufman said. “I know the United States government through several congressmen. These are coordinated campaigns. The groups going onto these college campuses and raising h-ll are not students. It’s a very slick marketing campaign. It’s constantly morphing. It’s a cancer where each time you try to fix it, something else morphs.”

The Cornell campus was hit with a spate of antisemitic graffiti a few days prior to parents’ weekend in late October.

“What happened was, on a Tuesday night, there was graffiti all over campus. The graffiti said things like ‘F – Israel,’ ‘Kill the Jews,’ just heinous things,” Shlufman explained. “The students woke up Wednesday morning and saw it. Nothing was done [by the administration]. Nothing was said, other than the school cleaned it up. The [maintenance staff] washed it off. They painted over it. [School officials] did not issue a statement. They didn’t say we’re going to find the person or people who did this. They didn’t say there’s going to be consequences. They didn’t say this was not typical. [University officials] did none of those things. That was on Wednesday.”

Shlufman and a few other parents called for a meeting on Sunday, Oct. 29. The provost, Michael Kotlikoff, who is second in command at the university, attended the meeting along with approximately 300 parents. Kotlikoff, a professor of molecular physiology, became the 16th provost of Cornell in August 2015. As the university’s chief academic officer, chief budgeting officer and first deputy officer to the president, he works to enhance the university’s excellence in teaching, scholarship and outreach, according to the Cornell website.

“The [administration] was letting Students for Justice for Palestine run rampant on the campus. They weren’t just doing protests. They were marching throughout campus, which is not permissible,” said Shlufman. “They were blocking students. Students who tried to take photos of [the graffiti] were being blocked so their rights were being infringed upon. The provost read a prepared statement basically saying ‘we care about what’s going on but we’re not going to impinge on people’s free speech rights. This is permissible.’”

In the aftermath of this meeting between the provost and the parents, Shlufman found himself in a place he didn’t want to be. He is an attorney and mortgage broker with offices in Manhattan and New Jersey.

“Now I’m now on a parents committee, Alums for Campus Fairness, which is a national group, another free speech one that I’m on. Now I’ve become one of the leaders in this movement unintentionally,” Shlufman said with much chagrin.

One additional point of frustration for Shlufman is how differently university officials treat Jews and other groups. “They [students] can say ‘Death to Jews.’ They can say ‘from the river to the sea’ if they want to. All of these things are violations of the code of conduct that the school has set forth,” Shlufman bemoaned. “This would not be permitted if it was against any other group. Substitute Blacks, substitute LGBTQIA+ and see what the reaction [would be from the university officials.] Some of what is going on is free speech but most of it is not.”

The cancer, as Shlufman called it, is seeping into communities where one would never expect such hatred to exist.

“What we are seeing now are people who are advocating for murder. This is a different level. You’re seeing acceptance and even support for Hamas, which has been declared a terrorist organization by the United States,” Shlufman said. “A walkout at Teaneck High School was approved by the Board of Education and the superintendent, which is wrong for so many reasons. You don’t let kids walk out during a school day. You also shouldn’t approve of political speech. You don’t condone this stuff. The Jewish students, the Jewish staff, the Jewish teachers are terrified. Students in support of Palestine are the ones walking out.”

This hateful rhetoric is going beyond the school system in Teaneck. “This kind of stuff is divisive. It doesn’t bring communities together. It tears communities apart and that’s what we’re seeing,” Shlufman said during a wide-ranging 50-minute interview. “We’re seeing a lot of tension between Arab and Palestinian communities, Muslim and Jewish communities, and that’s playing out in Teaneck.”

The prestigious New Brunswick-based Rutgers University, which is part of the State University of New Jersey university system, sponsored a program on Dec. 7 that roiled Shlufman.

“Rutgers had a heinous program comparing Palestinian rights to genocide and apartheid and colonialism. All these movements that are not related in any way to what Israel is or ever was,” Shlufman said. “It’s just lies that have permeated and would never have been permitted before. The absence of truth is a real problem. We’re going to have to get a handle on it and we’re going to have to somehow bring it back. If it doesn’t happen, our society, not just Israel or the Jews, is in a lot of trouble. Antisemitism is the canary in the coal mine of the total overthrow of the Western civilization. That’s where we’re heading if this continues and if this doesn’t get checked.”

Shlufman said fighting antisemitism sidetracks the federation off their main goals.

“Jewish Federation’s mission is a social mission. We’re not here to fight antisemitism. There are certainly other organizations, like the ADL, and we stand with them. This is not what I want to be doing,” Shlufman said. “Most of us don’t want to be scared. There will always be antisemitism. We’ll always be fighting antisemitism. It’s exploding everywhere.”

On a side note, in the Albany, New York area, a pro-Palestinian Israeli spoke at the Bethlehem Public Library on Dec. 5. Two days later, on the first night of Chanukah, a United States citizen who was born in Iraq and resided in Schenectady, New York was arrested after firing two shots into the air in front of an Albany synagogue, Temple Israel. The shell casings from the shotgun landed on the steps of the synagogue.

Mufid Fawaz Alkhader, 28, is reported to have shouted “Free Palestine” while in police custody. Alkhader appeared in federal court on Dec. 8 dressed in an orange jumpsuit and a gray overcoat. He had the charges read to him by United States Federal Magistrate Christian Hummel. He is now in the Albany County jail pending his next court appearance. Alkhader admitted to authorities he regularly uses marijuana. He was charged with possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, a felony that could land Alkhader in jail for up to a decade. Under federal law, marijuana is considered a controlled substance and is considered prohibited for someone to possess a firearm, such as a shotgun.

The speaker at the Bethlehem Public Library, 10 miles from the city of Albany, was Miko Peled, an Israeli who fought in the IDF. While he was told the ground rules for speaking at the library was not to use any incendiary speech, he did. This incited negative comments from Jewish members in the audience who wanted the speaker event to be halted. Library officials refused to pull the plug on the event but issued a stern warning to the organizers of the event, Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace. The event continued without further incident.

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